Review: ‘Suburban Gothic’s’ fun cast helps bring it back from the dead

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The comedy-horror film is a tricky balancing act.

Pull it off and you’ve got “Shaun of the Dead,” but usually fans of both genres end up leaving the theater unsatisfied.

Richard Bates Jr.’s “Suburban Gothic” misses the mark, but thanks largely to its cult-worthy cast, the miss can still be fun.

Strange things begin happening shortly after slacker business-school grad Raymond (Matthew Gray Gubler, very much in the Michael Cera and Jesse Eisenberg mode) moves back in with his overbearing mom and redneck dad (Barbara Niven and a terrific Ray Wise).


The vengeful ghost of a murdered girl is responsible for the weirdness, so Raymond teams with goth bartender Becca (Kat Dennings) to figure out how to end the ghost’s reign of terror.

Bates and co-writer Mark Bruner seem to be going for a satirical tone that falls somewhere between David Lynch and Seth Rogen, but deliberately cheesy effects and a sluggish pace sink the early potential.

Ultimately the film is too self-consciously irreverent for its own good. But that inspired ensemble, which also includes John Waters, Mackenzie Phillips and Sally Kirkland, are so enjoying themselves playing fast and loose with the material, they frequently succeed in bringing the film back from the dead.


“Suburban Gothic”

MPAA rating: R for sexual content, language, violence, drug material.

Running time: 1 hour, 30 minutes.

Playing: Los Feliz 3, Los Angeles. Also on VOD.