The Banana Splits Movie Blu-ray Review


Sid & Marty Krofft’s Friendly Critters Turn Killer

Remember that classic episode of the Simpsons (season six’s “Itchy & Scratchy Land”) that had animatronic Itchy & Scratchy robots turning evil at a theme park? Someone behind The Banana Splits Movie apparently did, reviving a forgotten Saturday morning show from the late ’60s into an R-rated and bloody slasher, duplicating that episode’s basic premise. Take characters originally made for children’s entertainment and have them turn into animatronic killing machines.

Making its home video debut before “premiering” on SYFY this Fall, The Banana Splits Movie reinvents the wholesome children’s brand as a low-rent, tongue-in-cheek horror movie. I guess that is one way to sell a campy brand from the ’60s to 21st Century audiences. This movie is intended for horror fans looking for something ironic and drenched in gory kill shots. Remaining fans of the original Banana Splits program should look away.

No one under the age of 45 likely remembers the original Banana Splits, a variety program with mascot-sized animal characters that only ran for 31 episodes on NBC. It survived via syndication into the early ’80s. The show’s costumes and sets were designed by legendary brothers Sid and Marty Krofft, creators of the landmark children’s series H.R. Pufnstuf. Their particular brand of goofy children’s programming with puppets and mascot characters dominated children’s television throughout the ’70s and into the ’80s.

…delivers many killing scenes and gets surprisingly gruesome if that is your thing

The movie is set in an alternate reality where the original show is still plugging along in today and remains popular with children. A boy named Harley and his family attend a live taping of The Banana Splits TV show for Harley’s birthday. The young Harley is a huge fan of the Banana Splits, dragging along his older teen brother Austin and their parents, Beth and Mitch. From the get-go, jerky stepfather Mitch is set up to be hated by the audience. Beth and her two sons drive most of the plot. The cast includes Dani Kind (Wyonna Earp) as Beth and Steve Lund as Mitch.

Things take a turn for the worse when the show is unexpectedly canceled and the giant animatronic robots go haywire, beginning an extended killing spree with a growing body count. Along the way we are introduced to the show’s harried producer Rebecca, and other members of the show’s crew, including a helpful young page you just know will survive until the end. The beats are all fairly predictable in the formulaic horror narrative.

Directed by Danishka Esterhazy, The Banana Splits Movie has a low-budget feel with disposable characters seen many times before. It’s a little more polished and fun than most of the schlock that passes for horror on the SYFY channel these days, but offers very little beyond its patchy humor, and the ironic horror twist on cartoonish characters originally made for children. It delivers numerous kills and gets surprisingly gruesome if that is your thing.

There is some fun to be had from seeing animatronic robots dressed up as giant animal characters named Drooper and Snorky killing anyone that crosses their path. The kid actor playing Harley isn’t great but tolerable as the hammy emoting prop that drives most of the narrative. More problematic is that few of the characters are likable beyond the children. We get annoying characters like a show business dad pushing his daughter’s career and a pair of YouTube “stars” obviously set up as intended victims down the road.

The Banana Splits Movie is entertainment you have to accept with tongue in cheek, or else its underlying flaws overwhelm everything else. It’s not great horror unless you love mindless gore, and almost works better as a behind-the-scenes parody of children’s television. Why the movie wasn’t set back in the 1970s with a retro period setting, when the original show was still a hot property, is the question everyone will ask.

Video

The direct-to-video horror film looks fantastic at 1080P resolution. Featuring outstanding definition in pristine clarity, The Banana Splits Movie has razor-sharp detail. WB bestows a perfect transfer from the digital intermediate, seeped in sepia tones. Shadow delineation and black levels are excellent.

The main feature runs 89 minutes on a BD-25, perfectly timed to fit in a two-hour television block. The AVC encode is free of artifacts. The 1.78:1 presentation avoids CGI for the most part since practical effects were used in making the film. That benefits the video’s overall sharpness and consistency, which barely wavers in picture quality going from exterior shots to interior scenes.

Audio

The 5.1 DTS-HD MA soundtrack has a serviceable surround mix with intelligent sound design. It’s not the most immersive audio experience but has decent bass and a well-defined soundstage. Separation and clarity are fine, occasionally highlighting the bloody killing scenes. Songs played by the Splits are loud in the mix.

Optional English SDH, French and Spanish subtitles play in a white font.

Extras

The Banana Splits Movie receives a straightforward Blu-ray and DVD combo pack from WB. The included Movies Anywhere digital copy redeems in HDX quality on MA providers. A glossy slipcover is available.

The Banana Splits: Behind The Horror (08:21 in HD) – Director Danishka Esterhazy and several cast members are interviewed in this breezy behind-the-scenes featurette. Danishka Esterhazy explains her goals making the movie.

Terror On Set (06:25 in HD) – Cast and crew members discuss the challenges and advantages of shooting a movie set on a soundstage.

Breaking News! The Banana Splits Massacre (01:59 in HD) – A faux newsreel with news anchors describing the massacre in a newsflash. More of a deleted scene than anything else.

TrailersJoker (02:32 in HD), IT: Chapter Two (03:04 in HD), Batman: Hush, The Curse of La Llorona, Critters Attack!

Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review. This has not affected the editorial process. For information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.

The Banana Splits Movie
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Movie

Reinvents a forgotten children’s television show from the 1960s into a gory slasher with mixed results.

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