Archive for television

Family-Friendly Horror in GRAVITY FALLS

Posted in Dark Musings, Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on February 16, 2016 by smuckyproductions

Last night witnessed the finale of television’s greatest modern kid’s show, GRAVITY FALLS. Had someone pitched this to me and said “it’ll be a massive hit for Disney,” I would have laughed at them. How can a family-friendly Twin Peaks with hints of X Files and Lovecraft become a hit? As awesome as that sounds, today’s market for kids has become so PC and watered down that we would never expect Disney to greenlight such a dark premise. And yet, here we are.

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One of the contributing factors to this show’s success was its older audience. Millennials, people in their twenties, latched onto Gravity Falls and made it their own. In addition to attracting the Disney demographic, its intelligence and darkness widened the audience ingeniously. I think that’s a great sign.

I fell in love with this show because it was clear that Alex Hirsch loved the same things I did. He offered a part to David Lynch, references Lovecraft and John Carpenter all the time, and was not afraid to make things freaky. I’ll never forget the Summerween Trickster or Bill Cipher’s horrible laugh. Seriously, how did those things get into a kid’s show? Didn’t it traumatize people? Yes, it probably did – but I forget that I had my own traumatic content as a kid, too. And I loved it.

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Kids are far more resilient than we tend to believe. My generation grew up with safe  bubblegum shows too, but we also had Tim Burton, Scooby Doo, Snow White, Harry Potter and much more – all brands targeted at children, but featuring some seriously messed up shit. And I’m pretty sure we turned out fine. Being frightened in this controlled way taught us about darkness, and also taught us how to overcome it. Sure, we were still protected by a TV screen, but we understood what fear meant. That’s vital.

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Gravity Falls finds its boldness in its willingness to frighten, to thrill, and to break hearts. The monsters in this show are not easily defeated – the lead villain manipulates people’s minds and reveals their darkest desires, for God’s sake. Even I, a horror film maniac, got chills from some of these episodes. Carpenter’s The Thing makes an appearance, ghosts turn people into trees, and a dimension of nightmares opens to wreak havoc on a town that we’ve come to love.

And through this, Hirsch builds a story about growing up, familial bonds, and the prevailing strength of friendship. He couldn’t tug at our heartstrings so painfully without raising the stakes. So, against the normal child-safe mold, the Falls finale becomes a life-or-death fight for humanity. The plot structure is brilliant and the unfolding is shockingly terrifying. Without giving away the denouement, though, I’ll say this – Hirsch does not play it safe. He ends his show with tenderness, but also tough truth. And through that realism, the viewers feel what it means to grow, to change, and to celebrate those things. It’s not hackneyed or cheap – Hirsch earns these themes.MABEL, DIPPER

I could ramble on for several posts, but I’ll leave this one here. I hope that the success of Gravity Falls allows children’s media to explore the dark, the serious, and the scary – because it is important to encounter those emotions. Let this usher in an era of smarter and deeper content. Kudos to you, Alex Hirsch, for giving us this amazing series.

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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.