It’s animatronic animals gone gory! Time to take a look at two films about lovable children’s characters that turn into psycho killers.
THE BANANA SPLITS MOVIE (2019)
Oddly, I was sure I blogged about this one when it was on SyFy two Octobers ago, but when I saw the Blu-ray for a good price and went to refresh my memory on what I thought about it and whether or not it was worth a purchase, there was no post on my site. So I just bought it.
It’s pretty much what I (barely) remembered—a fairly generic gimmick slasher that has its moments, but even those aren’t good enough to make it very memorable. It essentially reminds me of all the nudity-free slashers we were bombarded with in the wake of the Scream craze at the end of the 90s.
Why someone even decided to resurrect The Banana Splits to turn them into a horror movie is a real head-scratcher, but it is what it is.
So there’s this family—mother, older rebellious son, douche bag stepdad who hates the older son but has a hot bod, and young son who loves The Banana Splits. So for his birthday they all go to see the show being filmed live.
Unfortunately, the show is being canceled (despite the fact that it actually was like fifty years ago) and someone isn’t happy. So the Splits, a musical band comprised of cartoonish animals that are actually robots, is programmed to go on a killing spree. The victims are the unlucky people that have scored backstage passes after the show.
There are some gory kills and one or two campy moments, but this movie is surprisingly bland. There are no scares, there’s no suspense, attempts at atmosphere fail, and the characters are cliché and 2 dimensional.
No wonder I didn’t bother to blog about it two years ago.
WILLY’S WONDERLAND (2021)
It’s almost like the makers of Willy’s Wonderland decided to show The Banana Splits Movie how animatronic animal horror should be done even without a brand name to back it up. They even managed to do the unthinkable…they found a use for Nicholas Cage as an actor by casting him as a character that never speaks.
We never learn anything about Cage. He’s sort of a mute drifter driving down an isolated road when he gets a flat. A mechanic picks him up but will only repair his vehicle for cash. So Cage has to take a job cleaning up an abandoned family attraction.
The characters, just like The Banana Splits, play instruments and have a theme song. However, the Willy’s Wonderland theme song is an awesome 80s new wave throwback.
As Cage works, he quickly realizes the animatronic animals are coming to life and trying to kill him. So, in between cleaning and taking breaks (when he drinks soda and plays pinball), he kicks animatronic ass while raucous rock music plays. Totally Cage’s best role since Valley Girl (aka: only good role since…).
Meanwhile, a bunch of kids sneaks into the building to take on the killer animatronics, which gives us the more traditional slasher aspects of the film.
Willy’s Wonderland has everything The Banana Splits Movie is missing. The animatronic animals range from funnier to freakier, and when they’re creepy, they’re really creepy—and savage. There’s a sex scene. The atmosphere and tone are both better. There are some suspenseful encounters with the animals, including a fricking vent scene.
The animals have a much better horror backstory beyond being programmed to kill. And Cage’s fight scenes totally rock. And speaking of rock, his final theme song is “Freebird” by Lynyrd Skynyrd.
Personally, I think we need a Banana Splits in Willy’s Wonderland mashup sequel.