Richard Bates Jr.
Richard Bates Jr.
Matthew Gray Gubler
THIS REVIEW IS BASED UPON THE RETAIL BLU-RAY RELEASE PROVIDED BY ANCHOR BAY CANADA ENTERTAINMENT FOR REVIEW
Richard Bates Jr. burst onto the horror scene in 2008 with his short entitled Excision, which he would expand upon in 2012 for a feature length release. Cut to a few years later and he has put together somewhat of an all-star cast for his follow-up film, Suburban Gothic. Featuring an interestingly eclectic cast highlighted by Matthew Gray Gubler (Criminal Minds), Kat Dennings (2 Broke Girls) and Ray Wise (Twin Peaks), the film also features appearances from Ray Santiago (who will no doubt soon become a favorite of horror fans as he stars in the incredibly anticipated Ash Vs. Evil Dead later this year), Jeffrey Combs (Re-Animator), John Waters (the legendary director of Pink Flamingos and a personal favorite of mine, Serial Mom) and even a brief appearance from Jen and Sylvia Soska(the directors of American Mary and See No Evil 2, among other films). With such a fantastic cast thrown together there’s no way that the film couldn’t be at least entertaining, right?
Suburban Gothic tells the story of Raymond (Gubler) who has returned to his hometown after finishing business school that he was forced into. Raymond is a bit of an oddball, and also happens to have a bit of a connection with the paranormal. Raymond ends up begrudgingly moving back in with his parents, his loving mother Eve (Barbara Niven) and his ridiculously old school father Donald (Wise, in an absolutely uproarious role). While Raymond has moved back in, Donald has had a crew working on the property led by Hector (Mel Rodriguez) and they discover the remains of a little girl buried on the property. After unearthing the remains, strange things begin happening and it appears that only Raymond will be able to resolve the issues, with the help of Becca (Dennings), the local bartender who grew up with Raymond and seems to be the only person who believes any of the strange things happening.
Horror and comedy are two genres that upon first glance seem to go hand-in-hand, but very few films seem to get the proper balance. Classic films like Young Frankenstein and Shaun Of The Dead are in a class all of their own in terms of merging the two genres, but there are a series of other films that can somewhat blend them well enough to be memorable but never quite hit that “classic status” (think along the lines of Broken Lizard‘s Club Dread). Suburban Gothic falls into that realm, where the horror and comedy blend well under the watchful eye of director Richard Bates Jr. but it just misses hitting that mark of becoming a film that attains classic status. But don’t take that as a slight, as there are enough laugh out loud moments (the cameo scene from John Waters almost had me in tears I was laughing so hard) as well as creepy moments (the black and white flashback scenes are incredibly well done and could easily get under the skin of many people who may not be hardened to the horror genre).
Undoubtedly the strongest aspect of the film is the cast. As I’ve already mentioned you get appearances from many people that will immediately make any genre fan have a huge smile across their face, including the aforementioned appearance from Waters and getting to see Jeffrey Combs tap into his aggressive and funny side. But all of these appearances pale in comparison to Ray Wise as Raymond’s old-school racist, almost scumbag-like father Donald. Wise has shown his comedic side with a spectacular run as The Devil on the cancelled way too soon Reaper but he gets all the best lines in the film and absolutely nails the delivery. Some of the interactions between Wise and Gubler will absolutely leave you wanting the two of them to continue making films together until the end of time. They are able to bounce off each other so well. And that is not meant to take anything away from the rest of the cast, who all do well with their parts, they are just unfortunately overshadowed. Gubler as Raymond carries the film competently and shows that he certainly has a future in film outside of being stuck on a terrible police procedural show like Criminal Minds.
Suburban Gothic is one of those films that slips under the radar of the mainstream, but I can see becoming a bit of a cult classic amongst genre fans. Richard Bates Jr. established himself with Excision a few years back, and has shown that he isn’t a one hit wonder of a director. I can safely say he is one of those directors that genre fans will certainly want to keep an eye on, because if his next film is even half as well done as Suburban Gothic then viewers are in for one hell of a treat. And I really hope that he finds a way to reunite both Gubler and Wise because those two are absolute gold together.
Suburban Gothic is currently available in stores everywhere from Anchor Bay Canada Entertainment as a Blu-Ray/DVD Combo Pack with artwork exclusive to Canada as seen above.