Nov 1, 2016

Channel Surfing: Stan Against Evil - "Dig Me Up, Dig Me Down"

Scene from Stan Against Evil
Welcome to a new column called Channel Surfing, in which I sporadically look at current TV shows and talk about them. These are not ones that I care to write weekly recaps for and are instead reflections either on the episode, the series, or particular moments. This will hopefully help to share personal opinions as well as discover entertainment on the outer pantheon that I feel is well worth checking out, or in some cases, shows that are weird enough to talk about, but should never be seen.
If you're a horror TV show, there is almost always ONE rule that has to be followed. You have to have a premiere episode released on Halloween night. It is, after all, supposed to be the spookiest night of the year. Following The Walking Dead's successful turn six years ago, shows like Ash vs. The Evil Dead have taken up the mantle of giving audiences a little bang for their bucks. This year marked IFC's turn to participate in the fun, and to say the least it didn't quite go on without certain skepticism. The plot is simple: an average Joe named Stan (John C. McGinley) fights evil. If it sounds a tad familiar, one doesn't have to look far - just one night to be exact. The plot sounds like a knock-off of Ash vs. The Evil Dead, but without Bruce Campbell's chiseled good looks.
This isn't a problem necessarily. All good horror spawns from itself. You can't have the serial killer Jason Vorhees without Michael Meyers. All content should be judged on its own merits. Show runner Dana Gould is a known cinephile when it comes to horror. His monthly podcast The Dana Gould Hour constantly explores the macabre side of Hollywood history. His well of knowledge and penchant for goofy jokes make Stan Against Evil all the more promising. In fact, it should make it a runaway success upon initial launch, especially with IFC taking the series directly to order.
The show isn't without charm. It may be far less masochistic than Ash vs. The Evil Dead, but it clearly is attracted to the same Sam Raimi-style crowd. There's constant confrontations and violent moments scattered throughout a decent exposition episode. There is a strong sense of who Stan is and why he starts the series a bit disheveled. He even fights an evil being at a funeral. If nothing else, Stan is a promising figure in that he'll achieve redemption through fighting evil and winning back over the support of the people that he's let down. He may seem a little too cocky and clueless in the moment to realize it, but he still cares.
The issue mostly stems from the brevity of sitcom structures. A half hour isn't enough time to pack in the action with the exposition and have it flow effectively. One cannot help but feel like they're watching a knock-off of Ash vs. The Evil Dead because there's not enough time to see anything else. Even then, Raimi's direction definitely had an immediacy that made it promising and exciting. Stan Against Evil has a bumbling sense of direction that is itself promising, but falls more in line with a conventional style that isn't done any favors. This may be a show that never makes it outside of the comparison circles, but it could also potentially find ways to be authentic. After all, Gould is passionate about horror. To suggest that a show centered around his aesthetic would flounder is a bit disconcerting.
It is a great pilot? Not exactly. It's far from the worst thing that could be seen on Halloween. Just be thankful that the show, airing from now on during Wednesdays, has a competence and charm that could grow. It all depends on what the second episode looks like, and if this will be one of IFC's better series. Whatever the case may be, it is a show with an uphill battle that is made a bit easier by McGinley's solid performance and a reliable supporting cast. All that's needed is more assurance in direction and tone. Hopefully that will be achieved sooner than later.

No comments:

Post a Comment