Suburban Gothic Review – Toronto After Dark 2014
“It’s sort of like a kids movie for adults…I was holed up in my room watching Are You Afraid of The Dark?, reading Hardy Boys novels, and watching Scooby Doo cartoons, and this is what came of it.”
A more accurate description of Suburban Gothic will never exist. Right from the opening scene, the tone of the movie is set: sarcastic, sharp, and just awesomely silly.
Richard Bates Jr (director), announced via a small clip prior to the film that he had been having trouble making movies, due to the extreme graphic nature (remember Excision? Yeah.). So he decided to go back to his childhood, channel the things he loved most, and bring them to the big screen.
And oh my goodness, did it WORK.
Matthew Gray Gubler stars as Raymond, who begrudgingly moves back in with his parents when he can’t find a job. He really, really doesn’t want to do this – we learn why the moment he pulls up to his parents’ house – his father is basically the worst human ever, to a point of hilarity. We learn that Raymond, much to the very vocal distaste of Dad, has a rather troubled past, believing he could see ghosts as a child. But when spooky things start happening to the yard workers, and he begins to have particularly disturbing dreams and hallucinations (the ceiling light…I just can’t), Raymond begins to realize that his childhood troubles were much more than just his imagination. With the help of a girl from his past, Becca (Kat Dennings), he decides to figure out exactly what is happening, and how to stop it.
I love pretty much everything Gubler and Dennings are involved in, and seeing them team up was a great treat. They work amazingly well together… I’d like to imagine their personalities on screen aren’t that far off from reality. Gubler portrays adorably awkward as if he was born into it, and Dennings is perfect as the give-no-fucks local bartender who actually DOES give a fuck about the few things that matter in life: friends, alcohol, and solving ghost mysteries. Basically I want to be her best friend.
However, without the minor characters, Suburban Gothic wouldn’t be nearly as successful. Raymond’s hilariously abhorrent, super racist father, played brilliantly by (Ray Wise), his doting, blissfully in denial mother, the local douchebags from high school who are still douchebags (I can totally relate to this one)…even the short appearance by John Waters is absolutely on point. The smaller roles add to the film exponentially; every single one is fantastic.
Raymond and Becca pull out all the stops to save themselves and Raymond’s family, no matter what they damage or break into, or get dumped on them (aaaaugh…) in the process. The moments during the film where the audience wasn’t laughing, were few and far between; oh man, I’ve been there laughing, that man is AWFUL laughing, Matthew Gray Gubler has the best girl scream ever laughing, but mostly that’s so gross/emabrassing it’s hilarious laughing. Just to name a few.
The special effects were a bit campy, but honestly? It fit. I think anything super realistic looking would have taken away from the mood of the film, which even when the audience audibly groaned along when Raymond’s father said something horrible, was endlessly witty and light-hearted.
Is Suburban Gothic scary? No. Is it fun? SO MUCH. But you know what? It was never meant to be scary, and if you don’t like fun, then…well, I can’t help you. You should like fun.
A great way to kick off Toronto After Dark, and a fantastic second film by Bates Jr.
He really discovered something here, and I hope he continues with it.
If you like stories involving ghosts, dysfunctional families, and language that would upset your parents, this movie is perfect. Actually, it's perfect anyway. So go see it.