by Brody Rossiter
Horror takes itself so seriously these days. Hacking-up teens and getting lost inside the labyrinthine interior of a haunted mansion used to be a laugh, but now it’s either all or nothing when it comes to mixing chuckles and sustained bouts of terror. Injections of comedy have resulted in abominations such as the Scary Movie franchise and its many pretenders – this is most definitely not funny.
There’s the odd exception to the rule. Shaun of the Dead proved that classic horror conventions could be supplemented with a wicked sense of humour, but ultimately overshadowed its re-animated scares with slapstick sketches and pop-culture references.
2015’s Suburban Gothic effectively juggles its many off-kilter eccentricities with genuine creepiness, resulting in a peculiar and affecting horror curveball.
When Raymond (Matthew Grey Gubler) is unable to find work post-graduation, he returns home with a prestigious business MBA and his tail between his legs. The “City Boy” is forced to endure life in his childhood home alongside his overbearing mother, Eve (Barbara Niven), politically incorrect football coach father, Donald (brilliantly portrayed by Twin Peaks’ Ray wise), and the swathe of cretinous high-school acquaintances that haunt the local hangouts.
After rediscovering the spirit world sensitivities that afflicted his formative years, Raymond most use his gift to pacify a vengeful spirit before it runs rampant through his home and harms his mother and father. Fortunately, local bartender and vampy girl of your dreams, Becca (Kat Dennings) is quickly won over by Raymond’s many quirks and decides to help him quell the ghostly uprising bubbling beneath the surface of small town Texan life.
Besides the charming cast, the picture’s hyper-saturated, visual style will likely grab hold of many viewers.Vivid blocks of colour and locked-off, wide shots frame scenes as though they were Gothic portraits, mirroring the style of artists such as Edward Hopper and Grant Wood. It’s an accomplished and assertive style that elevates the picture above its one-dimensional competition.
Like a fairground ghost train, Suburban Gothic is quirky, eye-catching and ghoulish enough to scare when required. There are masturbation gags and politically incorrect jibes, but the storytelling and jokes never feel dumb and tender moments between Gubler and Dennings soften such outlandishness.
whether you’re stuck at home with the folks or not, if you’re in the mood for a highly inventive horror bolstered by a thrashy punk soundtrack, satirical laughs and a talented cast, grab a sheet, cut out some eye holes and break on through to the other side with Suburban Gothic.