Archive for cartoon network

OVER THE GARDEN WALL: A Modern Classic

Posted in Halloween, Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 27, 2015 by smuckyproductions

Animation has been at the forefront of the avant-garde television movement, with countless shows – “Adventure Time” and “Rick and Morty,” to name just two – combining vividly unique styles with subversively brilliant storylines. It’s a genre-bending, form-defying renaissance. And from this revolution has come a great Halloween gift: OVER THE GARDEN WALL.

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When reading a logline or seeing the poster for the first time, this Cartoon Network-produced miniseries sounds fairly typical: two brothers get lost in a spooky wood and must find their way home. In execution, the show transcends this premise and fills it with subtle, sublime brilliance. The brothers encounter characters who reveal dark but poignant themes about isolation and loneliness, and also travel on their own philosophical journey, struggling with a purgatorial loss of hope and purpose.

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Through the music, the character design and the general atmosphere, the show places itself in an amorphous early-1900s period that is purely enchanting. The supporting characters range from animals dressed in old-fashioned clothes, grotesque witches, and skeleton-dressed pumpkins. And the forest through which the brothers must find their way is stunningly designed. The animation is luminous, with soft oranges and browns that evoke autumn perfectly. It evokes something akin to “Wind in the Willows,” with a gentle aura that can sometimes turn sinister.

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But these are just style elements. The true genius lies in the characters and stories. Throughout the ten episodes, the brothers encounter about as many different characters – my particular favorites were Auntie Whispers (voiced by Tim Curry) and the pumpkin people – who each evoke something of the lost purpose that the brothers feel themselves. And the villain, a terrifyingly simple creation called The Beast, stands as a testament that the greatest evil is often the most invisible and enticing. I won’t reveal the theme that this creature represents, but suffice to say, it culminates in a heartbreakingly beautiful finale.

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“Over the Garden Wall” also holds itself as one of the greatest examples of animated horror that I’ve seen. The Beast being the greatest example, but supported by a number of other ghouls and wicked creatures, this show displays an unsettling ability to scare the viewer – all without breaching its target audience of young viewers. For this reason, and because of the atmosphere, it’s ultimate Halloween viewing – standing alongside “The Nightmare Before Christmas,” I dare say. Horror does not have to be hardcore to unsettle; in fact, subtle can sometimes be scarier.

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With terror, philosophy, and beauty combined, “Over the Garden Wall” feels like a classic birthed in our modern era – not only for its craft, but for its sincerity. No note of this show comes off as false or pandering. The creators truly believe what they’re making, and each frame is instilled with that passion. It feels honest and raw, which causes it to touch the viewer so much more intimately. The humor, the fear, and the sadness all come from a real, truthful place. It’s cathartic, in the end – and who ever thought a children’s show could be cathartic? That’s why it transcends its boundaries and creates something universally brilliant. And, it so happens, one of the best Halloween watches of all time.

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Best TV Shows to Binge Watch in October

Posted in Halloween with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 10, 2015 by smuckyproductions

We’re in full swing this month, gathering costumes and setting out the queue for dreadful movie nights to celebrate the spirit. With an influx of horror on TV now, there’s much more content to explore this season – but how to do pick out the true terror from the trend-following bile?

From classic chills to modern grotesqueries, here are a few spine-tingling shows to immerse yourself in as the autumn winds rise.

TALES FROM THE CRYPT

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HBO, beloved still for Game of Thrones and True Detective, still made a killing in the 90s with this nasty, grimy, and hilarious anthology. Introduced by our favorite pun-loving corpse, the Crypt Keeper, each episode told a different story of bad people meeting worse ends – and always with a crazy twist. The celebrity cameos from actors soon to be famous (think Steve Buscemi) are also gloriously fun. This show set the tone for gory comedic horror, and its black humor still resonates just as disturbingly now.

PENNY DREADFUL

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This one might be a little controversial – but it’s undeniably perfect for October. Full of grand Gothic castles, baroque camerawork and a legion of legendary creatures, not to mention literal buckets of gore, “Penny Dreadful” holds its own. It’s a lot of fun for its faithful adaptations of classic Victorian horror (I’ve rarely seen a more authentic, brooding Frankenstein’s monster), but it’s also intelligent, and packs an emotional punch with its characters. For a bit of high-brow horror that doesn’t skimp on gore, this show is perfect.

AMERICAN HORROR STORY

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I know, I know. Many self-respecting horror fans despise this show for its soap opera tendencies and complete lack of plot. But it’s hard to deny that this is a veritable funhouse of different horrors. Watching a season is like walking through a sprawling haunted house attraction – there’s aliens, ghosts, devils, mutants, zombies, witches, everything under the moon. On top of that, the camerawork is stunning, and the acting… it’s hard to find a better ensemble on television. Don’t expect pure horror, but on many other levels, this show delivers.

COURAGE THE COWARDLY DOG

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We all got nightmares from this one as kids. And now that it’s on Netflix, we can have nightmares again. This show is amazing for its bold animated vision, and its willingness to show its young audience something far darker than most shows dare to try. It’s truly disturbing, but in such a wacky way that you can laugh… or can you? Childhood traumas aside, this show proves that you don’t need to be R-rated to be scary.

THE X-FILES

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Not all of the episodes are suitable for Halloween, but this show goes down in history as one of the most consistently frightening on television. There are several episodes that made me afraid of the dark. Whether you want alien conspiracies or just a good monster of the week, Mulder and Scully always stumble upon something chilling, and often the horror goes unresolved – as any fans of Lovecraft know, that is the surest way to keep your audience scared. With the revival coming next year, it’s a must to watch this one. The truth is still out there.

There are a few honorable mentions – The Twilight Zone, Twin Peaks, American Gothic, and Gravity Falls – that don’t quite say ‘Halloween’ to me, or that I haven’t seen yet, but are worth bringing up as genius genre television. If I missed any others, let me know. And happy horror viewing, ghouls.