Suburban Gothic (2014) – By Kirsten Walsh

Raymond has a prestigious MBA, but he can’t find work. He can channel the paranormal, but chatting with a cute girl mystifies him. Kicked out of his big city apartment, Raymond returns home to his overbearing mother, ex-jock father, and beer-bellied classmates. But when a vengeful ghost terrorizes the small town, the city-boy recruits Becca, a badass local bartender, to solve the mystery of the spirit threatening everyone’s lives.

Many would recognize the cast of “Suburban Gothic” from various other ventures in film. From Ray Wise (what isn’t he in these days?) to Kat Dennings (“Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist”) to Matthew Gray Gubler (TV’s “Criminal Minds”), the cast is far more vast than the film’s story. Even cool cameo roles from horror icon Jeffrey Combs, and cult icon John Waters can’t save this cluster of a cool idea that can’t straighten itself out.

Initially, the excitement for Gubler’s lead role was in place. He is quite the underrated actor on the TV show “Criminal Minds”, and definitely a unique personality- check out his wacky website ( http://www.matthewgraygubler.com ). However, his somewhat bashful character is more a victim of circumstance than an intriguing hero. The story follows the idea of an “Odd Thomas” idea, where the lead- Raymond- may be able to see the paranormal, and is being forced to move back in with his parents due to his lack to find a job after graduating business school. Once under his parent’s roof, their dysfunctional relationship is put forth, but it is too surreal to be relatable. Even with Ray Wise’s hilarious aloof attitude, there is no forward motion in the story.

Just before the film became unwatchable, finally something happened-the introduction of the paranormal oddities in the moment of the film- not in flashbacks- made their appearance. Quirky one liners and brief jokes aside, the film started showing some progression- the dead body of a young girl that was discovered Raymond’s parent’s property goes missing, and now Raymond must solve the mystery or suffer being haunted by the girl. While the haunting themselves are cheesy (a floating head chasing Raymond on an office chair while he is covered in a white goo- come on), at least this is better than spending the film watching Raymond getting chased by his childhood buddies. The haunting really kick in halfway through the film (forty five minutes in), and while I wouldn’t say the film entirely redeems itself, but it does make one wonder why they sat through the first half of the film.

The chaotic feel of the story gives an overall feeling of disorganization throughout the film, making it more of a cluster than is enjoyable. The use of the multi-room shot is overused. It initially is used to establish the characters of Raymond and his parents, but it is used again and again, establishing the characters more, but not necessarily to the film’s benefit. It appears that the film has an air of improv in the comedy lines, which wouldn’t be surprising knowing the backgrounds of Gubler, Wise, and even Dennings. This gives an odd feel to the script, as the lines that have an impact on the story come off scripted, but after the conversation is over, the jokes start and keep going, with a more fresh vibe, but one that contradicts what is going on in the film itself.
Ultimately, this film was somewhat of a let down to a fan of Wise and Gubler, but wasn’t a complete waste of time.

Would I watch this again? Probably not. Simple enough.

“Suburban Gothic” is now available on VOD, and more information can be found here: https://www.facebook.com/suburbangothicmovie