THE BANANA SPLITS MOVIE

It’s a pretty wild idea: Take some classic, beloved characters, make them bloodthirsty murderers, but keep it a little charming and funny. Somehow, some way, it absolutely works for THE BANANA SPLITS MOVIE.

This campy horror movie has absolutely no qualms about what it is. It embraces the weird niche it’s put itself in and capitalizes. You may think you know what to expect with this movie, and in many ways, you’ll be right. All of the fun and terror you’re looking for is in there. Yet, THE BANANA SPLITS MOVIE finds ways to surprise its audience, too, and those moments are absolutely delightful.

After getting a sneak peek at this unique film, I was able to break down what the hell I just saw with director Danishka Esterhazy and writers Jed Elinoff and Scott Thomas. Check out their thoughts on THE BANANA SPLITS MOVIE below, then check out the premiere on SYFY this Saturday at 9PM/8c. It’s the perfect movie to add to your Halloween binge!

Directing THE BANANA SPLITS MOVIE

ComicsVerse: What drew you to this project?

Danishka Esterhazy: I loved the characters of Beth and Harley. Of course, most people will watch the show because they want to see how we turn a classic children’s television show into a R-rated horror movie. But I hope that what they will remember, along with the scares and the thrills, is a story about self-discovery and self-acceptance. A story about being true to yourself rather than trying to fit into society’s expectations.

THE BANANA SPLITS MOVIE
THE BANANA SPLITS MOVIE — Pictured: (l-r) Snorky, Bingo, Fleegle, Drooper — (Photo by: Marcos Cruz/Warner Bros. Entertainment/SYFY)

CV: How would you describe THE BANANA SPLITS MOVIE in a few words (if that’s even possible?)

DE: It is a bit difficult to describe, isn’t it? It’s a darkly comic horror movie. A horror version of a children’s television show from a psychedelic era. And it’s a story about learning that the most powerful thing you can do is to love yourself and stop trying to be what other people want you to be.

CV: There are several moments throughout this film when I thought out loud to myself, “Wow, that’s a beautiful shot.” Specifically, there’s a moment when Paige turns around and sees one of the Splits (Drooper, I think?) in the hallway. It’s terrifying and effective, but also beautifully executed. Many of the shots in the climactic scene also fall into this category. How do you go about striking that balance?

DE: I love cinematography. Lighting, lenses, camera movement – I am a complete geek about those elements. I am most happy when I can tell a story beat well AND make it beautiful. I actually got into trouble in film school because I wanted to make every shot darkly beautiful. Gothic and creepy yet alluring. It is a not a style that everyone loves. But I had a great creative partner in my cinematographer Trevor Calverley. He is brilliant with lighting and we had an amazing time during prep planning the shots together. I was lucky enough to be reunited with Trevor recently when I shot two episodes of SYFY’s Vagrant Queen. That series is going to look GORGEOUS.

CV: Speaking of balance, can you talk about the importance of leveling out the jump scares, gore, suspense, and other aspects of horror?

DE: In a story like BANANA SPLITS, my first job is to entertain. I want people to have fun watching the film. To enjoy the scares, the laughs and the characters. I think all those elements work if I have succeeded in creating an interesting story world and characters the audience can care about.

THE BANANA SPLITS MOVIE
THE BANANA SPLITS MOVIE — Pictured: Drooper — (Photo by: Marcos Cruz/Warner Bros. Entertainment/SYFY)

CV: The tone of this movie is so unique — you take an innocent, beloved cast of characters like the Splits, and make them the stuff of nightmares. How did you bring that concept to life?

DE: It was Josh Van Houdt (Vice President of Development at SYFY) who came up with the idea of turning The Banana Splits into a horror movie. He was working with Peter Girardi at Blue Ribbon Content to develop some projects from the Hanna Barbara library and Josh pitched this wild idea of a children’s show that turns very dark and gory. Warner Bros loved the idea! So they brought on writers Scott Thomas and Jed Elinoff. And they brought me on board to direct. We all agreed that the original Splits characters were quite (unintentionally) creepy and disturbing. So, it didn’t seem like a big stretch to turn them into murderers!

CV: What is your personal approach to a jump scare? What makes it effective?

DE: I love a classic jump scare. I know that some horror fans look down their nose at a jump scare but I love those moments when a sudden surprise makes me want to jump out of my socks. Bring it on! I love those moments in the theater when the whole audience yelps and screams. That communal reaction is one of the greatest things about horror. And the embarrassed laughs that always follow. Did I really fall for that? It is a shared joke between the director and the audience. Fantastic.

Writing The Madness of THE BANANA SPLITS MOVIE

CV: What drew you to this project?

Elinoff & Thomas: Blue Ribbon Content brought the project to us. We had a relationship with them from earlier projects, and they called us one day and asked us if we’d want to do The Banana Splits as a horror movie. We immediately said “Yes.” We knew exactly what the movie could be. People in giant animal suits stalking and murdering victims? What’s not to love?

CV: How would you describe THE BANANA SPLITS MOVIE in a few words (if that’s even possible?)

E&T: It’s a bizarre mashup of kids TV and horror movie that takes the subversive nature of the Banana Splits to its diabolical extreme.

THE BANANA SPLITS MOVIE
THE BANANA SPLITS MOVIE — Pictured: (l-r) Drooper, Bingo, Fleegle, Snorky — (Photo by: Marcos Cruz/Warner Bros. Entertainment/SYFY)

CV: Are you guys alright? I’m just kidding, but in all seriousness, where did the concept for this movie come from? It’s wildly different from many horror pieces I’ve seen before (in a good way.)

E&T: Yes we’re alright, but in all seriousness, not really. As for the concept, once Blue Ribbon and SYFY told us about their idea for a Banana Splits horror movie, we instantly knew we wanted to set it in the world of children’s TV. We have a lot of experience in this world and knew it’d be a lot of fun to skewer it (both figuratively and literally).

CV: The characters in this movie are sometimes cliches or caricatures, but the movie is very aware of that. It almost uses those tropes as jokes, and sometimes turns those concepts on their heads. Can you speak to that, because it was one of the most interesting aspects of the movie for me?

E&T: We knew there was going to be an instant camp factor to this movie, so if we made it overtly comedic, it would have been too silly. Instead, we took the cliches and concepts we know and love from these kinds of horror movies and played them straight. There were many movies we took inspiration from in piecing together the plot and characters, including ALIEN, CHOPPING MALL, the 1973 movie WESTWORLD, and the original CHILD’S PLAY. There’s a nostalgia factor that goes along with doing a project like this, and we wanted to lean into it. We also wanted to play up the absurdity of some of these characters, like the Instagrammers and the Stage Parent, but it’s not far off what we’ve encountered in this business.

THE BANANA SPLITS MOVIE — Pictured: (l-r) Bingo, Fleegle, Snorky — (Photo by: Marcos Cruz/Warner Bros. Entertainment/SYFY)

CV: This may seem like a basic question, but I’m still interested. How do you decide who to keep alive in a horror movie like this, and who needs the axe? (Pun fully intended.) Does that change throughout the writing process?

E&T: Since 80s slasher movies were very much an inspiration, we knew that the most annoying characters would get the bloodiest, most brutal deaths. Even when you’re writing them, you get to a point where you want them dead. That’s the fun of a horror movie like this. We stacked the deck with some characters who people would enjoy seeing killed. But we also wanted to put a mother and her kids at the center to carry us through the carnage and give people someone to root for.

CV: Do you guys have ant personal connections to The Splits? Did you used to watch the show? If so, how did that inform the script?

E&T: The show was a little before our time. We were obviously aware of it, but we weren’t hardcore fans. That helped because we didn’t approach it with so much reverence that we were afraid to push boundaries. But we knew there was a legacy we had to respect even as we were turning it on its head. We grew up loving shows by Hanna Barbera and Sid and Marty Krofft, so we wanted to make sure everything was done with the best of intentions. That said, the Splits aired in the late 60s, so we felt like it was time to do something kind of insane with the franchise.

Want to see just how insane they got with it? I promise you, you’ll enjoy the ride. Tune in to SYFY on Saturday, October 12th at 9/8c.

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