By: Addison Wylie
Suburban Gothic is…weird. And, not that good kind of “weird” that Toronto After Dark joyfully uncovers through obscure titles. It’s a movie that makes you ask questions. Questions like:
What is Suburban Gothic? Better yet, what genre is Suburban Gothic? Is it a comedy? Is it a horror? Better yet, is it a horror/comedy? If so, how can it be a comedy when it’s this stupefyingly unfunny? How can it be a horror when the scares have been so cheaply derived?
Who stars in Suburban Gothic? Who’s Matthew Gray Gubler? He’s on Criminal Minds, right? Where else have I seen him before? Wasn’t he an intern on Steve Zissou’s revengeful expedition? Why did he emote more in that movie than in this one?
Why was his character, Raymond, so undefined? Why was Raymond such a bore? Why was the reason as to why Raymond was such a numbing mumbly sap revealed within the final act? Did co-writers Richard Bates Jr. and Mark Bruner think audiences were just going to accept a character so annoyingly underwritten because he has sarcastic wit? Was that sarcastic wit? Or, was Raymond being serious half the time?
Was his character straight? Is he gay? Is he bi? Why did Bates Jr. and Bruner think this sexual greyness was funny when it’s an obvious distraction from the story? Why did Gubler choose to blend Raymond’s mannerisms altogether into a confused bunch? Was this Gubler’s decision? Why was he directed to act this way?
Is that Kat Dennings as Raymond’s pal Becca? Did she read the script and decide carrying most of the weight on-screen was going to be fun? Did she see a challenge worth taking playing a monotone sidekick to an off-kilter lead? Didn’t she learn anything from Defendor?
Is that Ray Wise? Why aren’t the absurd jokes working then? Wasn’t Wise a hoot in Big Ass Spider? Doesn’t he make us laugh under the direction of oddballs Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim? How does Bates Jr. take so many swings, yet misses entirely with this eccentric character actor?
What’s this story about again? Why did the film settle with such a lazily laboured paranormal plot involving seeing and speaking to dead people? Why didn’t this film take risks? Or, chances? Why does it tease us with a bit of an edge, but then never follows through with it?
Why am I getting thoughts of Dylan Dog: Dead of Night and Odd Thomas? Why does watching Dylan Dog and Odd Thomas back-to-back sound like more of a pleasantry, rewarding experience compared to what I just watched?
Richard Bates Jr. was also the director, wasn’t he? Do you think he’s watched a lot of Troma movies? Do you think he’s watched enough Troma movies? Do you think he’s a fan of John Waters’ Baltimore cheese? Why is the film framed like a Waters picture, but never fully commits to the outrageousness? Did he think the inclusion of Waters in a cameo role was enough of a wink towards the audience?
Did he think a mix between John Waters’ sense of humour and the grotesque likes of Sam Raimi was a good idea? Does he have a series of impressive storyboards that would’ve led him to think so? Where can I get a copy of those?
Is my funnybone broken? Am I as lifeless as a morgue? Was this film even in my wheelhouse? If it isn’t, who is this film for? Will this please hardcore horror fiends? Or, will they return home only to instantly forget about the “shocks and terrors” they witnessed? Will movie goers looking for a comedy embrace it? Or, will the conveyor belt of stale undead jokes and cuss words have them bummed?
Is this more of a movie suited for an event? Do you think this film will play well with a crowd? Do you think a crowd experience is essential to a movie that is this intentionally tacky? Does that mean the film gets a measly slap on the wrist because it might work…somehow? Or, does it still deserve a penalty because it wouldn’t survive outside of a festival setting?
How has this frustratingly inept and tedious flick sent me into a critical spiral? Will I be here all night? Can I parish from being immobile and asking too many questions? If I die, could Raymond speak with me? Better yet, could Richard Bates Jr. talk to me? We need to take care of a whole lot of unfinished business.
Suburban Gothic has its Toronto premiere at TAD on:
Thursday, October 16 at 9:45 p.m. @ Scotiabank Theatre
For more information on the festival, visit the official TAD webpage here.
Buy tickets here.
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