Suburban Gothic & The Neckerchiefs: TADFF
Suburban Gothic (2014) – dir. Richard Bates Jr.
I generally don’t need a lot to get me excited about a movie. I didn’t know much about Suburban Gothic going in but, as Laura mentioned in her review, once director Richard Bates Jr. mentioned that the movie was inspired by hours and hours of watching Scooby-Doo and Are You Afraid of the Dark? I knew this would be the movie for me. Toss in some Matthew Grey Gubler with neckerchief game on point–like, On. Fucking. Point.–and I am pretty much ready to change my name to “Suburban Gothic Jr” and spend the rest of my life singing its praises.
In Suburban Gothic, Gubler plays Raymond, a young man who recently graduated from business school and can’t find a job. It might be because he has the worst guidance counsellor ever (you’re still a goddess to me, Shanola Hampton) or it may be because of that stupid purple scarf he wears. In any case, he ends up having to move back home with his parents, played by Ray Wise and Barbara Niven. Hypothetically speaking, if Ray Wise and Barbara Niven were my parents, I’d be pretty effing stoked, but in the world of Suburban Gothic his father, Donald, is a snarky, unloving bigot and his mother, Eve, while loving, is a bit oblivious and really likes sombreros. His dad isn’t too happy to have him back and jobless, but I think it’s mostly that he doesn’t understand European fashions.
Immediately after returning home, Raymond starts to experience strange visions. Is this just real life? Or is this fantasy? If only Freddie Mercury was around then we could ask him. Instead, Raymond is left to fend for himself as things around his house get stranger and stranger. I’m talking eyeballs in the bathtub drain kind of strange. Creepy gross goo in the light fixture kind of strange. *shudder* He teams up with local bartender Becca (Kat Dennings), because the tips of her hair are nice, and together, with an amazing collection of shoes and neckerchiefs, they set out to solve the bizarre-o ghost mystery.
Suburban Gothic truly is a “Scooby-Doo for grown-ups.” It’s fun and absurd, with just enough grossness and mystery to keep you drawn into the story without wanting to cry or cower (very important for big babies like myself). The dialogue is snappy, with one of my favourite lines–and probably the most inappropriate–being delivered by Ray Wise when he apologizes to some football player house guests for his wife forgetting the grape soda because, they’re, you know… do I really have to explain more than that? Um, yeah. There’s plenty of visual humour as well; never has a character repeatedly dropping an ice cream cake (don’t worry Raymond, the five second rule doesn’t apply to ice cream cake) or an old man scooting a chair across a room (JUST FUCKING PICK IT UP ALREADY, RAY WISE) been so laugh-out-loud funny.
Some may find Suburban Gothic a little too silly–the effects are admittedly campy and even the most tense scenes are undercut by the fact that Raymond has the most girly scream ever. But for those who are fans of campy and absurd; and Ray Wise being a wildly inappropriate racist; and Sally Kirkland getting all hot and bothered by good auras (rawwwrrr); and Mackenzie Phillips having a son with wide fingers perfect for fingering; and the most amazing garage punk soundtrack ever; and, ugh, all those amazing neckerchiefs…well, my friend, THIS IS THE MOVIE FOR YOU. FINALLY.
Suburban Gothic has been screening at a handful of festivals since the summer. If you missed it at Toronto After Dark last night (for shame), you’ll have to cross your fingers and pray to the spirits it finds its way back to you soon.
This is the kind of absurd horror-comedy that will have you wishing you could reach out to the paranormal and solve a rad mystery. Or maybe just eat some ice cream cake.