WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD!
In the year 1968, Hanna-Barbera Productions and Sid & Marty Krofft Television Productions introduced television audiences to The Banana Splits Adventure Hour. In the show, the group known as The Banana Splits Bunch (Fleegle, Bingo, Drooper and Snorky) were used as wrap-around hosts for various animated and live action serials. With corny jokes, slapstick humor and live segments filmed at locations such as Six Flags Over Texas and Coney Island Amusement Park in Cincinnati, the show became a hit. While the original broadcast filming only lasted two seasons and 31 episodes, the show had a long run in syndication. Then, like so many Hanna-Barbera shows of that era, The Banana Splits faded into obscurity, destined only to be a memory for Baby Boomers and Generation Xers.
Then, in the year 2014, along came a breakout hit mobile game named Five Nights At Freddy’s. Inspired by the creepy-as-all-get-out Showbiz Pizza Time Theater and Chuck E. Cheese animatronic shows of yore, this horror survival game spawned many sequels, a lore worthy of any horror film franchise and many people (including me) almost breaking their phones by throwing them in terror at the game’s many jump scares. Naturally, the popularity of the game series sparked talk of a film adaptation.
Honestly, a Five Nights At Freddy’s movie would work really well, considering the creepy premise. Yet the movie never materialized, despite several scripts being written for it. Rumor has it one of the rejected scripts was taken, resold to Warner Bros. and molded into The Banana Splits Movie. If this is true, then this script should have stayed rejected.
Set in a world where The Banana Splits are still somehow on the air and producing new episodes, annoying idiot Harley (Finlay Wojtak-Hissong) and his equally unlikable family attend a filming of the show for his birthday, along with a young girl forced to be Harley’s friend for the day. Unsurprisingly, Harley’s love of the show and other eccentric actions make him a weirdo to others in his age group and his father (Steve Lund). At the show, we learn that The Banana Splits are not people in costumes, but animatronic robots with free movement who are programmed to react to their surroundings. Sure, we’ll go with that.
Just as the show goes live, a programming malfunction makes The Banana Splits more aware of their surroundings. Somehow. And then they find out the show has been canceled. This drives them to go absolute coo-coo nanners and start killing people, faster than you can say Skynet.
Honestly, if done right, this premise could have worked. However, if the story is true that this movie was made using a rejected Five Nights At Freddy’s script, it shows. The entire film feels less like the show it was allegedly based on and more like being trapped in a Chuck E. Cheese from Hell. Only in this Hell, the torture comes at you at the pace of a 100 year old turtle walking across the street.
Due to this, any tension that the film might have had is lost. At a few points, I found myself just screaming at the screen “JUST KILL THE DAMN PERSON, ALREADY!” As for the kills themselves, the gore is there for gore hounds, but there is no originality to it. In fact, one kill rips off the iconic kill Sam performs with his lollipop in Trick’r’Treat.
Another big issue is the fact that the film does not have one likable character in it. While half the fun of a movie like this is watching unpleasant people die, you still need to have someone to root for, even if it’s the killer. Unfortunately, it’s impossible to root for the robots. Throw in a subplot involving Harley’s parents marriage falling apart that would make even Lifetime say “OK, you know what? This is too dull even for us,” and you get one meh of a film.
The worst part? The film has a decent third act. There are a couple of twists and campy fun that occur near the end, but it left me asking where this spirit was during the first two acts. It was a weird reversal, because it is usually the case in horror films like this that the third act that is the weakest part of the film. That said, any chance of a third-act redemption is ruined by a horrible ending that makes you wish you could get back the money you wasted on renting this turd.
After watching this movie, I am filled with questions. Who exactly was this film’s audience? If it was the Five Nights At Freddy’s crowd, then why bother licensing these characters? Why use characters that practically NO ONE under the age of 40 are going to recognize? If the goal was to use the Banana Splits name to satirize Five Nights At Freddy’s, why do it with such a terrible script? Why was this movie filmed in Cape Town, South Africa? And most importantly, what can I do to erase my memory of watching this, the worst film I have seen so far in 2019?
(Yes. Even worse than Dark Phoenix.)