Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Film Review: Suburban Gothic (2014)

Copyright: New Normal Films
Praise is the horror comedies, the long-lost genre that was perfected in the fires of the 80’s. To watch Suburban Gothic is something like being transported back to that golden era, but while keeping hold onto the humor and the weirdness of the modern age.

Thanks to this distinctive groove, which is both wacky and enticing, its director Richard Bates Jr. made, first and foremost, a great comedy. In it, there are threads of terror, but also (totally unexpectedly) of drama that offers real emotional impact (if only for seconds).

In the film Raymond, a young man with a very hip sense of style (which is also prone to attracting bullying) returns to his small-town parent’s house after he receives his MBA. There his parents greet him while he is quietly devastated by the notion of living once more with his condescending, covertly (or not so covertly) racist and verbally abusive father Donald.

He tries to make the best of it, but he soon begins to realize that something is amiss in his old home. At the same time, memories of his childhood, filled with ghostly apparitions, begin to return.

I have the sense that Bates went a lot more for comedy than horror with this film and I can see why. He had a cast that is comedy gold, mainly in the form of a son - father duo played by Matthew Gray Gubler and the legendary Ray Wise as his old man Donald. The delivery of clever, sharp and sassy jokes is mostly perfect, which can be seen in a large number of gags that run over the expected joke into something much funnier (for example, Donald’s favorite actor that narrated the documentary about meth).

Both Gubler and Wise found their characters with laser precision. Others in the film, even the short appearances by people like Jeffrey Combs or John Waters, only sweeten the deal. This ease which actors entered the characters reminded me of Christian Bale in American Hustle, which is a terrific role, but one that was created with many more millions of dollars in the movie’s budget. In spite of a great script and awesome actors, I’m happy to say that the director also utilized framing to a substantial comedic extent, showing things entering and exiting the movie’s frames in strange and often hilarious fashion.

At moments, Suburban Gothic may seem sluggish in its plot development, but I didn’t mind this, mainly thanks to its general nature of quirkiness and disregard for any regular plot devices. The ending sequence even managed to seem sad and gentle, which isn’t a small accomplishment for a film that includes a lot of jerking off jokes.

Watch Suburban Gothic and see what a great horror comedy can deliver with a bit of good writing, acting and directing.