To say Suburban Gothic is a weird film, would probably be an understatement. I feel in two minds about this film, in some ways I enjoyed it, but it is probably not something I would ever revisit again.
Suburban Gothic follows Raymond, who moves back home after failing to find a job. Raymond is the odd one out in this conservative town. Hating his home life, with an overbearing father, he goes to a bar, where he meets the bartender Becca and they become friends. When in his family home, he starts being haunted by a ghost that threatens the lives of his mother and father. Unfortunately for him, they refuse to believe this wild tale, so he recruits his friend Becca to combat this spirit and help save his family.
Suburban Gothic does manage to successfully pull off zany off-the-wall comedy fairly well. Apart from the one scene, where I just hate where they include some faecal matter and vomiting, but that is more of a personal hate. I find this a bit too much on the crude side, but thankfully it quickly passes that. It does heavily play on the cooler-than-the-rest-of-them trope, making fun of the less enlightened suburban people. This might be particularly grating to some viewers, and is not exactly original. However, I would say that it is Suburban Gothic’s self awareness about this theme that makes it less grating than other films which take the same route for comedy.
Raymond and Becca (played by Matthew Gray Gubler and Kat Dennings respectively) both are charming in their roles, and it is probably due to them that I stuck through with the movie. Raymond’s quick wit about his terrible father and other caveman like characters are the high points of the film. And it is largely this character which keeps the film interesting, even if at times his character is a clichéd man-child.
However, it is unfortunately the story that makes Suburban Gothic a fairly limp feature from Richard Bates Jr. To be honest, to say that the plot is almost non-existent would be pretty fair. Not a lot happens or even changes in this story. After a body is discovered in their backyard, Raymond starts to be haunted. He goes through various things to remedy this, investigating the background of the deceased, trying to talk to the ghost and trying to bring them to peace.
None of this is anything we haven’t seen before, and it is rather dull to watch. They don’t rock the boat in any shape or form. It is a pretty tame ghost story, that although it has a bit of charm to it, is largely forgettable.
There is nothing to write home about with the special effects either. They reuse the same red smoke over and over, which becomes a bit tedious after a while. Unfortunately, it doesn’t manage to evoke much emotion from the audience such as laughter or fear. Some of it, like the floating head, would be more suited to a teen movie than this.
Suburban Gothic definitely leans more on the comedy side, with the horror seeming much more like an afterthought or just a handy vehicle to base the comedy on. Suburban Gothic has a small budget, so we shouldn’t judge it too harshly, however, I felt that they could have been more creative with their special effects.
But considering the main crux of the story is the ghost, the conclusion, due to these issues, rather than ending on a bang – ends on a whimper. Though the characters are charming, there is no real reason to make you feel invested in them at all. And it is this soft touch safe approach to the story, that is ultimately its undoing. Having watched it not too long ago, I would be hard-pressed to really recall the ending, as it leaves little to no impression on you.
Even with all its flaws, I did still enjoy it regardless. Like I said, it is definitely not one of those films that will be kept in my memory for long. But as a light horror comedy, it is not a bad way to spend an afternoon. Suburban Gothic however is so middling in its approach, that it neither evokes praise nor hate.
Suburban Gothic is available to stream on Prime Video.