Suburban Gothic
dir Richard Bates Jr
prd Dylan Hale Lewis
scr Richard Bates Jr, Mark Bruner
with Matthew Gray Gubler, Kat Dennings, Ray Wise, Barbara Niven, Muse Watson, Sally Kirkland, Mel Rodriguez, Jeffrey Combs, John Waters, Ronnie Gene Blevins, Jack Plotnick, Mackenzie Phillips
release US 30.Jan.15
14/US 1h30
Suburban Gothic
Disturbing the dead: Gubler and Dennings

wise kirkland waters
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
Suburban Gothic Bright and cheesy, this camp horror comedy is underpinned by a clever script and some astute acting from the up-for-it cast, which includes several iconic figures. But it's so relentlessly ridiculous that it never becomes anything more than a dragged-out joke that's only mildly funny and never remotely scary.

Unable to find a job after completing his MBA, Raymond (Gubler) moves back in with his parents (Wise and Niven), who don't like his "more European" approach to fashion. Annoyed by the small-town attitudes, he is relieved to discover the rebellious Becca (Dennings) working in a local bar. They were fat-kid outcasts together in school, and share a general disdain for everyone in this backwater. Meanwhile, a gardener (Rodriguez) at Raymond's house find a young girl's grave, unleashing paranormal chaos But only Raymond seems able to see the angry ghost (Watson).

The film is shot in a lurid style with colour-soaked sets, a wacky comedy-horror score and relentlessly in-your-face vulgarity. Filmmaker Bates is clearly straining for a trashy John Waters aesthetic (including a cameo from Waters himself), but it's far too superficial to work properly. The script is packed with smart dialog and snappy jokes, but the plot takes forever to heave itself into motion and then develops in fits and starts, so it can't sustain interest.

At least it's silly enough to remain watchable, with laughably freaky touches all the way through. Gruber and Dennings offer some snarky attitude and offhanded charm. Like them, we are horrified by the idiots in this community, played broadly by an eclectic cast that's randomly packed with cameos by cult movie stars. But these are amusing suggestions of characters rather than the real thing, which makes the movie feel like it rattles on without ever quite clicking into gear.

Part of the problem is that vomit and excrement aren't funny merely because they're on-screen. Neither is the depiction of racial and sexual stereotyping, no matter how absurdly it's done. At least Bates tries to inject some social themes, including the film's central exaggerated idea about how everything back home feels surreal and claustrophobic after you've been out on your own. And childhood issues you thought you had vanquished are still swirling around you. But Bates seems to get so distracted by his nutty ghost comedy and his rants against small-minded bigots that he forgets to give the film a proper kick.

cert 15 themes, language, violence, sexuality 29.Jan.15

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