Toronto After Dark 2014 kicked off last night, with screenings of Suburban Gothic, and Housebound. First up is Suburban Gothic, which I enjoyed quite a bit. Jeff will be chiming in later, with a recap of his first day at the festival, which he will be doing all throughout the week. I will be reviewing several of the films featured at the festival as well. It’s going to be a busy week, but there are some really great films to look forward to, so stay tuned for more coverage of the event, the attendees, and the films themselves.
Richard Bates Jr. follows up his acclaimed horror film EXCISION with a supernatural comedy about an unemployed graduate (CRIMINAL MINDS’ Matthew Gray Gubler) who returns to his small-town family home, only to encounter a vengeful ghost and a mystery that must be solved before everyone’s lives are lost. A spooktacular treat of a movie, SUBURBAN GOTHIC features an endearingly quirky script with numerous fan favourites in scene-stealing supporting roles, including Kat Dennings (THOR), Ray Wise (TWIN PEAKS), Jeffrey Combs (RE-ANIMATOR) and John Waters (PINK FLAMINGOS).
Suburban Gothic is the new film from the writer and director of Excision, Richard Bates Jr. If you watched Excision, well I can’t promise you that it’s going to be a similar film, but I can say that if you dug the quirky and sarcastic nature of that film, then you’re likely going to enjoy Suburban Gothic. This film is even more sarcastic in its overall tone than Excision was, which was quirky in all of the right ways, but a more serious film.
The way Raymond is able to see spirits was handled in a clever way. He has always attracted people from beyond the grave, but something was done to him to suppress it, and now that said something is no longer a factor, the spirits come rushing back. Well, technically I suppose spirit would be a more accurate retelling of events. The haunting portion of the film does focus on one specific spirit, and much of the film is spent trying to figure out what can be done to put it to rest, so that it will leave Raymond and his loved ones alone. I’ll be honest, it’s an important part of the plot, but the haunting is often not the main focus of the film. The pacing is almost as quirky as the characters we meet, and that’s not a complaint. I like to see filmmakers trying to do a little something different, even while treading familiar territory. If I were to compare Suburban Gothic to any films in recent history, I would probably say Dylan Dog, John Dies At The End, and Odd Thomas. That’s not to say that this is anything like those films, because it really isn’t, but it does share a similar type of story.
As much as I liked the film, I have a feeling it is going to divide audiences. Most people these days, when they watch a film about a haunting, expect the next big Blumhouse haunted house flick, or something similar. There are some creepy scenes peppered throughout Suburban Gothic, but this is not the type of film that bombards the viewers with constant editing tricks and jump scares to create tension. It takes its time, introducing to a whole host of oddball characters, and setting things in motion. It’s not a straight-comedy so much as creates an odd world in which to tell its story. Like Excision, there is a brief cameo from John Waters, which is awesome, and Jeffrey Combs plays a vindictive family doctor. Despite not being your typical jump-scare “haunting” movie, Suburban Gothic is probably one of the best I’ve seen lately. It’s a quirky little smart-ass ghost story, with a great soundtrack, and loads of love and talent poured into its creation. There is an audience for Suburban Gothic, and I am a member.