A quick and partial mea culpa for Amazon LoreNetflixs Unsolved mysteries reboot and several other semi-recent creepy fact-based anthology series that I gave mixed reviews for due to general unevenness and because I’d seen the same format used in many superior shows over the years.
That’s not it Lore And Unsolved mysteries suddenly became good shows in my memory. But look at Peacock’s new creepy, fact-based anthology series Suburban Screams by John CarpenterI was struck by how often episodic I found myself longing not for episodes of the genre’s top shows, but only for the competent comfort of uneven mediocrity.
Suburban Screams by John Carpenter
It comes down to
The audience is unlikely to scream.
With John Carpenter’s name on it The screams in the suburbs is not entirely symbolic. He co-wrote the series’ forgettable musical theme and directed one of the six episodes. However, the truth is that putting on the ‘John Carpenter’ brand only makes it worthy of being judged, not positively judged. At his best – you can pretend that Carpenter’s part, ‘Phone Stalker’, is his highlight – The screams in the suburbs is a generic, reenactment-heavy true crime series without a meaningful accompanying POV or performances or a visual sensibility to mask its unremarkable Eastern European production values.
Without the addition of Timmerman’s name, The screams in the suburbs would just be negligible, but probably not rated. With its name it’s disappointingly negligible and here we are.
In an opening voiceover, Carpenter sums up the show’s ethos this way: “In our suburbs, evil lurks behind closed doors. True stories that are so terrifying because the horror is real. You will never look at your neighbors the same way again.”
Let’s just ignore the fact that none of the six episodes of The screams in the suburbs It’s truly terrifying no matter how far you stretch that definition, and that – I assure you with 100 percent confidence – it won’t change your ability to view your neighbors in a consistent way in the slightest. That’s a pretty meaningless statement of purpose, right? Timmerman, of course, knows about the shouting in the suburbs. Halloween is a quintessential slice of suburban horror, as pure as you could ever hope for. Christine And The fog its more ‘small town horror’, but Suburban Screams by John Carpenter I don’t really know what “suburban” means either, so why whine? Kinda Not-Urban Screams by John Carpenter is not alliterative.
There are several episodes set in the suburbs of Washington, DC. That really is a suburb, as is the only episode that usually takes place in San Diego County. But then there’s an episode set in Long Island and another one set in Miramichi, New Brunswick, which is entirely a city, just a very rural Canadian town. Or yes The screams in the suburbs Consider ‘Canada’ a suburb? And does it matter, since the entire series was shot in and around Prague and in exactly zero instances does the Czech setting resemble any of the places it’s supposed to? Not to mention that every external reenactment appears to have been filmed on the exact same gloomy and cloudy day (probably with no budget for second takes). The traditional Spielbergian and Carpenterian version of the suburbs is that they are meant to be reminiscent of everything, but all six episodes of The screams in the suburbs give the impression that you are not taking place anywhere.
So The screams in the suburbs has a loose definition of “suburban” and certainly a loose definition of “true.” Yes, you can google some of the facts mentioned in various episodes, especially the Miramichi set “A Killer Comes Home,” focusing on serial killer Allan Legere. But the bland reenactments and the insistence on treating those reenactments like conventional horror fiction films keep everything from feeling noticeably “real” in most of the stories. There are two variations on the venerable House With a Bad Past Turns Its Owners Into Monsters genre (“House Next Door” and “Cursed Neighborhood”); one Playing with a Ouija board leads to a story of ghostly misadventures (“Kelly”); a story about a local urban legend with no personal connection (“The Bunny Man,” which also had an episode). Lore); and a Crazy Voyeuristic Stalker episode (“Phone Stalker”).
The episodes consist of three or four minutes of talking head interviews with the people involved and over forty minutes of reenactments starring random British and Czech actors who could be brought in for production, without being asked if any of them agreed to do so. state was. regionally specific accents. The talking head interviews are all so staged and overly polished that they might as well be actors themselves, and the actors are all so wooden that they might as well not be actors. The reenactments contain perhaps 15 percent more blood than you’d expect from one Unsolved mysteries reenactment. Yes Yes?
Let’s take a closer look at the most notable of the six episodes.
“Phone Stalker” is Carpenter’s first directing credit since then The district in 2010 and his first TV directing since Showtime’s episodes Masters of horror. In a blind taste test, I promise you that any viewer who claims to identify Carpenter’s directorial stamp would be lying. But in any case, it is a tightly edited story about escalating paranoia in which a woman receives increasingly obsessive and threatening communications from a mysterious voyeur. Is it her ex-boyfriend? Her possessive male best friend? A scorned friend who thinks she’s moving in with her husband?
You don’t care at all, partly because of the clumsy reenactment performances and partly because of how non-specific and conventional the story is. It’s obviously terrible when people have rampant stalkers, and of course modern technology has made stalking even scarier. But ‘Phone Stalker’ was one of six The screams in the suburbs entries – yes, all of them – which left me wondering how these particular stories ended up on the production’s radar and why the series’ curators thought they were representative of what the series should be about.
Honestly, “Cursed Neighborhood” was the closest I came to a story that made me think, “Yes, this is what the best version of the series could look like.” A family moves to a neighborhood in Charles County, Maryland, and begins to experience a terrifying experience tied to the area’s brutal history of conflict between settlers and indigenous people. When you have a black family that moves to the suburbs and experiences white apparitions telling them they don’t belong, you have some provocative text and subtext there. Directed by Michelle Latimer, best known for the Canadian TV drama Cheater and controversies over Indigenous identity, the episode at least wants to be about something, even if it can’t commit to what it wants to be about.
Regardless of its success or failure, “Cursed Neighborhood” is a specifically American and specifically suburban story, one that fits the series title much more than just “Our Town Had a Serial Killer!” or “I thought a Ouija board was just a game, but it wasn’t!” But if the best examples of what your series could be aren’t very good, it may not be worth having a high-profile director’s name to put your show on the radar of TV critics.