Seeing as though we’re living in the Golden Age of Television, it seems like I should be taking advantage of that in this Halloween Marathon of Horror. All the cool kids are doing it, so I might as well play along. Without further ado, here are some TV shows I’ve been watching of late:
- From Dusk till Dawn: The Series – S1E1 – Pilot – Based on the Tarantino scripted, Rodriguez directed 1996 film, this series appears to be nothing more than an expanded retelling of the same basic story. It is very slick, well produced, and generally competent in its execution, but it suffers from familiarity (if you’ve seen the first movie). This pilot episode is an expanded take on the little pit stop that marks the beginning of the film. It is very well done, tense and well paced, but again, we all generally know how it’s going to play out.
There are some minor differences here, as we get a closer look at the police officers in search of the Gecko brothers and some more details on the Gecko brothers’ alliances across the border, but they all seem like minor differences. It’s not at all bad, and in fact, this is a pretty tight episode. I imagine that if you haven’t seen the movie, it would feel very effective… it’s just that I’ve seen this story before and I feel like I know where it’s going to end up. I like it enough to keep watching, but like a lot of Rodriguez’s recent work, I’m not entirely sure it needs to exist…
- From Dusk till Dawn: The Series – S1E2 – Blood Runs Thick – This second episode flashes back to the bank robbery that is only hinted at in the movie, and once again, it’s well executed, but we all know where it’s going to end, with mitigates the tension a bit too much. We are also introduced to the preacher (played by Robert Patrick, who is fine, but no Harvey Keitel) and get some more details into why he’s doing what he’s doing. We also see the Gecko’s Mexical ally in more detail here, and it starts to diverge a bit more from the movie. It seems that Richie Gecko has some sort of value to the Mexican side of things (read: the vampires) that is not entirely clear to Seth Gecko (or, for that matter, us the viewers, as this was not really in the movie). It’s still following all the beats of the movie, but I can kinda see the seeds of some twists and turns that might be different later on. I’m inclined to keep watching.
- The X-Files – S2:E13 – Irresistible – I’m following along with Kumail Nanjiani’s The X-Files Files podcast, and this was one that was recently covered. I forgot just how effective this particular episode really is. It’s about an “escalating fetishist” who has gotten a taste for murder. It is exceedingly creepy. The X-Files was always good at casting, but when it comes to amazingly creepy dudes, they almost always hit it out of the park. Think Tooms (where the actor seems to be almost as creepy in real life as he is in the show), but also the dude in this show, who has a thing for women’s hair, amongst other things. Really effective episode, and since I’ve been rewatching the entire series (because of the podcast), it actually made a bit more sense. This is a standalone, but it makes more sense when you realize that Scully has just been kidnapped by aliens and returned (or something like that). And of course, Mulder and Scully have great chemistry, even when one of them is suffering from some sort of issue. This episode also represents the growth of the show from wonky alien conspiracies and supernatural monster stories to more prosaic serial killer themes, something that was quite popular in the 90s (perhaps kicked off by The Silence of the Lambs). It’s something the series wold come back to often, and while there are some glimpses of something that is perhaps supernatural, it is one of the epsiodes that is well based in reality (the visions of some serial killer survivors describe similar hallucinations of the killer appearing demonic at one time or another, for instance). One of the better standalone, monster of the week episodes.
- The X-Files – S2:E14 – Die Hand die verletzt – I’ve already mentioned this before as one of my favorite X-Files episodes, and I have little to add to that. It’s a great take on the old, hoary satanist fears of the 80s, simultaneously dismissing and reinforcing such fears. I love the idea of lapsed satanists being taken to task by more dedicated members of their own “religion”, even if this is one of those episodes where Mulder and Scully really don’t have much impact on the outcome of the story (except to act as witness).
I don’t want to ruin anything and I’ve probably already said too much, but this one hits on many of the things that make the X-Files so great.
- American Horror Story – S1E1 – Pilot – Despite the above, Horror television isn’t all that common, and this is one of the few currently active horror tv shows. It’s a sorta anthology, except that each story takes up a full season. This particular story, basically about a haunted house and the dysfunctional family who moves in, was the first season story. The second season was about an insane asylum, the third season about a coven of witches, and the forthcoming fourth season seems to be about circus freaks. This initial episode really runs the gauntlet of horror tropes. We’ve got a haunted house, a Harbinger (in the parlance of The Cabin in the Woods), ghostly twins (a la The Shining, except male), a former resident of the house (perhaps also playing the Harbinger), a gimp suit (!?), a maid who appears differently to some members of the family (also akin to The Shining in some ways that I won’t go into). Despite some shotgunning of tropes, this particular episode held my attention pretty well, though the cracks were clearly visibile and I expect them to widen in future episodes. Still, it was better than expected and I expect to watch a few more episodes. That being said, nothing about this show really appeals to me. I get the impression, even from this first, solid episode, that things will get pretty ridiculous and nonsensical as the series grinds on, and that it will be mean-spirited enough that I can’t really see myself rooting for anyone in the show. I’d love to be proven wrong, and so far, the show is certainly compelling enough, but I could see this sort of thing quickly devolving into something less appealing to me. I suspect that I won’t even finish this first season (full disclosure, I watched about 4-5 episodes of the second season and pretty much gave up on it, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the first season goes the same way). But there’s only one way to find out!
That’s all for now. Stay tuned for what I’m hoping will be a recently released horror weekend.