During last year’s Six Weeks of Halloween marathon, I watched a record 61 movies. Part of that came at the expense of watching horror related television, despite some good stuff happening there. Since I’ve already been thrown off my pace this year by travel and other happenings, I might as well switch gears a bit and check out some new shows. I haven’t delved particularly deep just yet, but I’ve been watching some stuff that I found interesting, so I figured I’d share some thoughts:
- Creepshow S1:E1 “Gray Matter/The House of the Head” – Shudder’s new Creepshow series is dropping one episode at a time for… six weeks (culminating on Halloween itself). It looks like each episode will feature two segments (each about 20-25 minutes long). This first episode starts a bit slow but ends strong. The first segment, “Gray Matter”, is based on a Stephen King short story, and it takes place during a big storm. A kid shows up at the local convenience store to pick up a case of cheap beer for his father, who has been drowning his sorrows in alcohol since his wife died. But grief has turned him into something altogether different… Some nice atmosphere and decent creature effects, but ultimately kinda straightforward. Enjoyable, but not going to light the world on fire. The second segment, “The House of the Head”, is altogether more successful and effective. A little girl plays with dolls in her dollhouse, but a mysterious severed doll head shows up, and her dolls start moving on their own.
The head has murderous designs on the quaint family the little girl built up in the house, and she must figure out a way to help them. Now this is the stuff. You never see the dolls move, but the still shots you see are very effective and menacing. The little girl makes some interesting attempts to solve the problem, but because this is Creepshow, they don’t really work out. Not exactly a bummer, but very creepy and entertaining…
- Creepshow S1:E2 “Bad Wolf Down/The Finger” – A platoon of American soldiers gets trapped behind enemy lines and takes refuge in a local police station. It appears that the Germans in the station have been slaughtered by some sort of wild animal. Surrounded by enemy soldiers, the Americans find a novel way to fight back. It’s silly and fun and pretty much all you could ask for out of this one. “The Finger” is a little less successful, though it has some nice moments and the idea at its core works well enough. A man finds a finger on the ground and brings it home to research where it came from. Then the finger starts to grow, at first another finger, then a whole arm, then a whole little gremlin thing… that likes to watch soap operas and eat popcorn. Ultimately it just sorta peters out, but it comports itself well enough. As per usual, these anthology series are a bit uneven, but each story is short enough to keep interest going. I’m looking forward to watching more of these as the season progresses.
- The Twilight Zone S1:E1 “Where Is Everybody?” – I’ve obviously seen lots of episodes of the Twilight Zone, but I thought it might be fun to go back and start from the very beginning with this 1959 episode in which a man finds himself in an empty town and slowly grows crazy in the isolation. A neat little tale, not one of the best episodes to be sure, but short and sweet, and pretty indicative of the types of stuff we’ll see in the rest of the series.
- The Twilight Zone S1:E2 “One for the Angels” – A street salesman (i.e. a pitch man) comes home one day to find that Death is waiting for him, sez he’s scheduled to die that night, gives him time to set his affairs in order. The salesman attempts to appeal, settling on the idea that he’d like to make a really big pitch before he dies, you know, “one for the Angels!” Death agrees, but when the salesman attempts to welch on the deal, Death tells him that he’s going to have to take someone else’s life instead, and chooses a local neighborhood girl. Will the salesman be able to find a way to save the little girl? This is a really nice episode. I don’t normally think of The Twilight Zone as being heartwarming, but this episode strikes the right balance. Great performances here too, which certainly helps sell the experience.
- The Twilight Zone S1:E3 “Mr. Denton on Doomsday” – A western about a town drunk and former quick draw champion whose past catches up with him, with a little help from the personification of Fate. Another neat little episode with a happy ending, but no less effective because of that.
- Evil S1:E1 “Pilot” – This new show from the creators of The Good Wife is about an investigator for the Catholic Church looking into reports of possession and miracles, etc… The first episode involves a defendant trying to use insanity/possession as a defense against murder charges. There are some effective little bits here and there, and I like the debunking aspects of the episode, but it also feels like they’re trying to have their cake and eat it too. This sort of thing could potentially be worked out over time though, so maybe this will end up scratching that X-Files monster-of-the-week itch. It’s an easygoing show akin to your typical CBS procedural, but with a more supernatural flair. Some bits are perhaps too on the nose, but it’s a decent enough start. I’ll probably watch more of this.
I’m definitely planning to dive deeper into The Haunting of Hill House this year, and may check out some other series if time permits…