Comedy/Horror crossovers are the Labradoodles of the Horror breed. Rarely perfect and often caught pissing on the genre rug, these spliced satires fail more often than Lindsay Lohan’s court-ordered drug tests. When they succeed, we get gems like Zombieland and Shaun of the Dead and when they come out pretty okay we get films like Suburban Gothic (still mostly fun to watch but it’s not gonna blow your skirt off). It’ll ruffle the fuck out of it with a moderate-as-shit breeze, though.
Suburban Gothic follows Matthew Gray Gubler (of Criminal Minds) as “Raymond”, a recent business school grad and life failure who moves back home with Smother “Eve” (a hilarious and heartfelt Barbara Niven) and Derelict Dad of the Decade, “Donald” (the redneck pervy perfection of Ray Wise), channeling the offbeat and look-at-me-I’m-dead-inside-but-still-able-to-pull-off-a-sassy-ascot-and-banter spirits of Michael Cera and Jesse Eisenberg as he deals with parents who just don’t understand… That their house is haunted as fuck.
With whiffs of Beetlejuice alongside tones of Dead Like Me meets Ghostbusters at a Nancy Drew/sardonic Scooby Doo gangbang, Raymond sets out to rid his house of the angsty undead alongside a kickass Kat Dennings (killing it as childhood friend and sarcastic sidekick goth bartender, “Becca”). Suppressing supernatural abilities since puberty, Raymond races to solve the mysteries of how to tell his dad to suck it, how to get Becca to actually suck it and how to best suck those ghosts straight back over the border of the great beyond.
With less Horror and more Spoof, this crossover misses the mark on several levels but goddamn if it wasn’t fun to watch. The special effects too goofy to scare and the script a waffling tone between satire and vulgarity, Suburban Gothic bobbles the Beetlejuice vibe and falls short. Add to that the glacial pace, and the strength of the characters was the only thing saving this lackluster-adjacent Labradoodle from being taken out back and Old Yellered.
Gubler and Dennings have a delightfully dry chemistry that bounces off each other, as well as Nivens and Wise, with sparks in every scene (not to mention one with an awesome John Waters cameo). Denning’s “Becca” has some of the best lines in the film tossed at you so casually in bouts of anti-hipster banter quickly enough that you almost miss them in this near yawn on manicured lawns. Luckily I was mostly sober and caught a few. Some of my favorites include:
“Drink your beer and stop being a bitch.”
“You just dug yourself a vagina grave.”
On second thought, I’m pretty sure those lines were lifted straight out my middle-school diary… The 90’s were a rough time, y’all.
Director, Executive Producer, and Co-Writer Richard Bates Jr. is a second-time feature filmmaker with short film, Fashion Kills!, and short-turned-feature, Excision, the only other projects padding his resume and he makes the most out of a talented cast and semi-slick script, bogging down in a lack of creativity with a copy-and-paste plot and a pace so glacial even the Titanic dodged this bulky bullet; keep an eye out for this guy, though, he’s got chops.
The soundtrack nails a counterpoint to the nostalgic 80’s vibe with Mississippi garage rock by band Bass Drum of Death, contributing to the cartoony tone of the film in a mostly positive way. The physical effects of the haunting, FX-created roiling black clouds, piano-peeling toenails and more eyeballs than men tuning in to Women’s Olympic Volleyball, give Suburban Gothic a cheesy vibe that works well enough but didn’t ride the line close enough to disturbing to truly please.
Too bland to really push the crossover Comedy/Horror genre envelope, the film plays it safe and fails to be anything more than a great movie to watch buzzed with your hot neighbor who just got out of a long-term relationship and “isn’t looking to commit”. CALL ME, SCOTT. But I digress.
To recap, Suburban Gothic started strong and finished with a lackluster nobody-gets-banged. The laughs happen and increase in direct correlation to the less sober you get. The ending is pure resolution fluff on par with any Lifetime movie ever made, though, and only the character momentum built up by Dennings and Gubler throughout the film helped to push this ectoplasmic beast over the finish line. Suburban Gothic is a decent Horror/Comedy crossover that won’t be the worse thing you’ve ever done to kill a couple hours; it won’t even be worse than that one time *you (*I) got hammered and rap-battled at a Karaoke Bar (last week- that happened last week).