201My review of filmmaker Ricky Bates’ first movie, EXCISION, was one of my earliest, and looking back at it, I found myself wondering two things: 1) why didn’t Scott kick me out of Anythinghorror for my verbosity and pomposity? and 2) I wonder what Ricky Bates has come up with to follow this?

Well, the answers are clear now: 1) I have copies of the photographs of Scott with Courtney Love, so he wouldn’t dare kick out, and 2) SUBURBAN GOTHIC, a fast-paced, sly horror-comedy that proves to be a real departure from EXCISION, and which proves to be both its strength and detriment.

We don't allow no gang colors in our hood, boy...

We don’t allow no gang colours in our hood, boy…

It opens on Raymond (Matthew Gray Gubler, better known as the wunderkind Dr Reed on TV’s CRIMINAL MINDS, which I believe has been on the air since 1924) who has graduated from business school months before but has yet to secure a job, possibly because of his penchant for colourful scarves, but maybe also his desire to wait until he’s offered an upper management position. Whichever the case, Raymond is forced by this lack of success to return to the suburban whitebread paradise inhabited by his parents Don (Ray Wise, TWIN PEAKS: FIRE WALK WITH ME) and Eve (Barbara Niven, THE RAT PACK). Eve is happy to have her little boy home again, but Don, giving us his best Archie Bunker impression when it comes to dealing with the Mexicans landscaping his back gardens, is frankly disappointed in Raymond.

"Oh my Gawd, they've put our shows on at the same time!"

“Oh my Gawd, they’ve put our shows on at the same time!”

Raymond, for his part, is disgusted with having to come back to the environment where he was frequently bullied by the losers who still live there. It doesn’t help that he’s picking up flashes of what will later turn out to be the re-emergence of suppressed psychic abilities, focusing on communicating with the dead… about the only real ally he has is his old friend Becca (Kat Denning, from TV’s 2 BROKE GIRLS), who proves a little kick-ass and punk in her attitude. They drunkenly flirt with each other, but nothing more comes of it (I thought the initial impression we were supposed to get was that Raymond was gay, as obvious as the stereotypes are, but this proves not to be the case).

SALVAGE HUNTERS turns dark..

SALVAGE HUNTERS turns dark..

Meanwhile Don is forced to bribe the landscaping crew to work through the night, and as they do, they unearth a wooden box, and within the skeleton of a young girl. The crew bolts in fear and their foreman covers up the body again (“A bunch of Mexicans around the body of a girl… that shit can’t end well…”) but not before taking a locket from around her neck, clearly demonstrating that he has never seen a horror film in his life.

For Raymond, the visions continue, with his seeing supernatural smoke emanating from an antique clock, an eyeball in the bathtub drain, his toenails dancing to some tune, and in one sticky sequence, when he sits down to his PC to load up some porn (he prefers Latina women) and do a crafty wank, a certain familiar substance rains down on him from above (hint, it’s not salad cream…)

Coming next: NUDIST ZOMBIES!

Coming next: NUDIST ZOMBIES!

But is he really seeing these things? His childhood doctor (Jeffrey Combs, in a frankly wasted cameo) reveals that Raymond’s long-term prescription for high blood pressure medication has been, in fact, anti-psychotics, prescribed long ago when his Dad got fed up with Raymond’s vision-induced episodes. But now Raymond’s been taken off them, because his Dad is a cheap bastard on top of being a bigot. But when Becca finally witnesses something spooky as well, they team up to find out what the ghost needs to have her spirit rest.

Oh you crazy kids with your funky hand tattoos...

Oh you crazy kids with your funky hand tattoos…

SUBURBAN GOTHIC was very reminiscent of the movies of the 80s for me, with the rapid-fire punk rock feel of it all (not to mention the soundtrack, mostly from Bass Drum of Death), the hair and clothes of the young lead, as well as the MTV video-style camera pans and satirical skewering of the American suburban white man’s dream (having John Waters appear in a cameo doesn’t take away from that feel). There are a few laughs to be had here (though Gubler fares better when he’s being deadpan than when he’s delivering the Lou Costello-style screams). The chemistry between him and Kat Dennings’ character is palpable. And Ray Wise delivers the goods as usual, making his character too buffoonish to be truly despicable despite all the outrageous things he says.

John Waters, an obvious friend of the director

John Waters, an obvious friend of the director

Anyone looking for genuine scares here will be disappointed. Really, the horror aspect felt so incidental I’m surprised they even gave it a denouement, despite the entire story being about Raymond trying to solve the mystery of the ghost. There’s cameos from Oscar nominee Sally Kirkland (for 1987’s ANNA) as a psychic, and a blink-and-you’ll-miss-them-if-you’re-lucky shot of the Soska Sisters.

But it’s the comedic aspects of the son having to move back to his parent’s house that felt more prominent. In one scene, Raymond, trying to reconcile with his father, pours his heart out about how he knows how much he’s disappointed his high school coach dad by being what he is, and his father responds with a firm hand on Raymond’s shoulder and the response, “Raymond, you are my son…” And that’s all Raymond gets. It plays better on film than the way I describe it, as does a subsequent scene involving a, uh, “broken bone”.



A lot of other reviewers I’ve checked out have praised SUBURBAN GOTHIC. It wasn’t bad, to me, but it felt very *slight*, in that, semen gags aside, there was nothing here you wouldn’t see on any paranormal detective style TV show. The effects were minimal and cartoonish, and the finish subdued and lacking any Oomph. Nothing to write home about, really.

SUBURBAN GOTHIC is currently available on VOD, and the trailer is below.

Deggsy’s Summary:

Director: Ricky Bates

Plot: 3 out of 5 stars

Gore: 1 out of 10 skulls

Zombie Mayhem: 1 out of 5 brains

Reviewed by Deggsy. Not so much paranormal as paralytic.

One Response to “SUBURBAN GOTHIC (2014)”
  1. Damnit, Deggsy … you said you’d never mention those damn pictures of Courtney Love again!!!

    Great review. I’ve been on the fence about seeing this one but will definitely check it out.


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