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[personal profile] froodle
8/10

Eerie Indiana ran to only one series and probably because of this has acquired a wistful cult status amongst people who mourn the annual cull of shows. Rather than being content that it provided 19 episodes of watchable TV they speculate on what can now never be…yes I`m usually one of them. There are many shows that overstay their welcome and there are shows that leave you unsatisfied after their short life. This is somewhere in between. It has a fair crack of the whip with 19 shows and at least creativity is not stifled by this constant churning of material.

Omri Katz stars as Marshall Teller the hapless boy dumped in an average-average American town. He is best known(if at all) for his role as JR Ewing Jnr the child of lush Sue Ellen and scheming JR. Working with Larry Hagman was good preparation for the twisted tales of Eerie Indiana.

The first few episodes are directed by Joe Dante-a director who after showing some early promise seems to have faded out from interesting projects. He is listed as creative consultant for the rest of Eerie and shortly after made "Amazing Stories" for TV with Steven Spielberg.

Billed as an X Files for young adults this is an amusing look at the dark side of suburbia. Marshall keeps a chronicle of the weird happenings that lurk just beneath the veneer of normality.

I`d like to over you an overview of the series with a reasoned critique on whether it`s worth the money but as I have only been sent one disc I`ll have to wildly speculate using my memories and the titles list.

Episodes:

1.Foreverware

This rather clever skit on Tupperware works well. Directed by Joe Dante we meet Marshall bemoaning his less than ideal mother. Her housekeeping is lees than perfect until she meets the spookily perfect local mother who signs her up to Foreverware. But just how old are her twins?
Unfortunately this is not the series opener proper as the pilot episode was never filmed. Therefore you are thrown into the story with no set-up of the characters.

2. The Retainer

Marshall really doesn`t want a retainer and avoids his dental appointments. It`s not his fault it`s just that one of his friends had terrible trouble with dogs when he discovered he could hear their thoughts through his brace…
Hmm this is not the strongest of episodes but still is amusing enough.
Favourite line "bite the hand that feeds us". Writers of the recent Garfield must have seen this.

3. ATM with a Heart of Gold

Marshall`s Dad has invented the perfect ATM. But whilst Marshall is busy making new friends he doesn`t notice that his abandoned best friend Simon is pouring out his troubles the friendly face of the ATM. Soon he`s getting all his pocket money there and making new friends for himself.
Max Headroom in Eerie.

4. The Losers

When his Dad`s briefcase goes missing Marshall is convinced that there is something mysterious happening.
Soon he finds he is lost and must rely on good friend Simon to find him.
Guest stars: Henry Gibson (Rowan and Martin`s Laugh In, Boston Legal) and Dick Miller (character actor who has appeared in virtually all Joe Dante`s projects.

Video

This is a difficult one -the quality of the review disc was iffy but overall the picture reproduction was adequate. This is not high-end stuff though with a fairly tacky opening sequence and low-grade back projection (which could be deliberate irony who knows?)
Audio

The reproduction is adequate.

Features

Where have you been and what are you looking at? There`s nothing here move along now.

Conclusion

Closer to The Twilight Zone than The X Files this show is stuffed with references most of which will be lost to the supposed young audience it was aimed at. With 30 minute episodes it doesn`t tax your staying power and each episode is self contained so no problem with only viewing a few of them. There is no character development and it is made to be viewed as single incidents with Marshall and Simon being the common thread.

Of the few episodes sent to review it is as quirky and funny as a remembered from 13 years ago when it was shown on Channel 4 and if you are looking for some light relief its worth expending the few pounds for some nostalgia TV and in retrospect looks to be a high point of director Joe Dante`s career.
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[personal profile] froodle
Eerie Indiana (1991-1992)

Why the hell was there only one series of this? Such a great way to finish the series of Joe Dante's work since this has everything that is great about his work. Created in between Gremlins 2 and Matinee it feels like this was Joe Dante's golden era. I actually had seen the first episode about a family who keep themselves preserved in tuppleware before.

The leading role of Marshall is played by Omri Katz, who would go on to take the lead role in Matinee. However, real credit needs to be given to Justin Shenkarow who does a great job as his partner in crime, Simon. I was convinced that I'd seen Jason Marsden, who plays the mysterious Slash X towards the end of the series, in something before, but he actually mainly does voice work for cartoons and videogames (and appears to doing pretty well with that too).

Eerie Indiana is a comedy about a place that is supposed to be the most ordinary boring place in the world, yet Marshall and Simon discover it is actually the weirdest place on the planet. Bigfoot, Elvis and telepathic dogs are all fairly typical features. Each episode riffs on a new horror theme and sometimes references to classic horror movies are just randomly inserted into an episode. The whole thing feels like a cross between the randomness of Twilight Zone and the "kids solving stuff that adults miss" formula from Buffy. Essentially it's a pretty similar format to the first Buffy series (only Eerie Indiana came out more than 5 years earlier) and for absolutely no good reason, there's no second series of Eerie, so we have no idea if it would have progressed in a similarly successful way.

The series has way more hits than misses, it regularly had me laughing out loud and even though Dante only directed 5 episodes out of 19, it feels like he had his stamp on the entire project. (Heck, he even has an acting role in one of the episodes directed by someone else.)

If you love Joe Dante's work like I do, you really need to check this out.

A+
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I is for Influence:

During a decade that has seen high-quality shows like “Deadwood”, “The Sopranos” “The Wire”, “Six Feet Under”, “Mad Men”, and “Breaking Bad” dominate cable, and relatively complex and intelligent shows like “Lost” are allowed several-season runs on network TV, it’s easy to forget what an anomaly “Twin Peaks” was way back in 1990. A series co-created and often written and directed by a filmmaker as daring and artful as David Lynch was a major breakthrough in the medium that gave us “Full House” and “The Facts of Life”. The seismic influence of “Twin Peaks” struck immediately. Its critically and culturally vital first season had barely ended when CBS went to work on its own quirky North-Western fantasy. Joshua Brand and John Falsey’s “Northern Exposure” may have dropped the strong sinister undercurrent of “Twin Peaks”, but the series retained the dreamy atmosphere, supernatural elements, off-kilter humor, and little-town appeal. “Northern Exposure” owed such a deep debt to “Twin Peaks” that its creators were moved to acknowledge this via a weirdly tacked-on parody-sequence during the first-season episode, “Russian Flu".

“Northern Exposure” was just the first of the early-‘90s parade of “Peaks”-inspired series. There were “strange things happening in suburbia” exercises like “Picket Fences” and the kid-oriented “Eerie, Indiana”. There was the creepy, rural “American Gothic”, and there was “Wild Palms”, a self-consciously odd miniseries also created by a well-known cinematic auteur: Oliver Stone. Without question, the most successful of these series was “The X-Files”, which picked up on the “FBI Agents investigating weird phenomena” theme of “Twin Peaks”. The X-Files, themselves, are suspiciously similar to Major Briggs’s “Project Blue Book”. The show even starred “Peaks”-alumnus David Duchovny (minus the lipstick and high heels) and featured guest spots by other former TP residents, including Don Davis, Michael Anderson, Michael Horse, Frances Bay, Kenneth Welsh, and Richard Beymer. Still, “X-Files” creator Chris Carter, claimed he was not particularly influenced by “Twin Peaks”. More recent show-creators have been more forthcoming about the influence of “Twin Peaks” on their work. David Chase has often cited the use of dream sequences in “Twin Peaks” as a major inspiration for “The Sopranos”. The British sci-fi series “Torchwood” paid direct tribute to “Peaks” during the “Combat” episode, which featured a real estate agency called “Lynch/Frost”! Other recent shows that most certainly would not exist if it hadn’t been for “Twin Peaks” include sci-fi mystery “Lost”, soap opera-parody “Desperate Housewives” (costarring Kyle MacLachlan; Sheryl Lee was originally cast to play the dead woman who narrates the series, but was replaced by fellow "Peaks" alumnus Brenda Strong), and the upcoming “Happy Town”.
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There is a fundamental flaw with most multi-film horror storytelling. A single 90-minute film can usually get around it, but when a horror film series gets into the the fourth or fifth sequel, we have to face the problem of who the hero of the story is. You see, if a hero is faced with a supernatural killer, and they are successful in vanquishing their foe, then the story has ended. If the killer is resurrected for the sequel, you either have to have the same hero face them down a second time, making for a dull repetition, or you have to bring in a new hero to vanquish them, which would only serve to reveal how easily the supernatural killer can be killed; if anyone can do it, what’s the threat? The dramatic focus shifts away from the victim, and our sympathies begin to lie with the killer. And while I do revel in cheesy horror sequels as much as the next gorehound, I do get pangs watching a story arc form around a horrible murderer.

The best ways to tell a horror story are actually the shortest. A brief tale where someone is stalked, killed, or driven mad by an extreme situation, and are left triumphant in the best scenario, or dead in the worst. I’ve read Stephen King’s 1000-page horror tome It, and I have to say that by prolonging the tortures, the book becomes less scary. Far more scary is a ten-minute campfire story told at night to a group of skittish listeners. As Shakespeare once said, brevity is the soul of wit. A scary story is going to be scarier if you don’t necessarily know the hero or the villain, and anything can happen in the brief time you’re allotted.

Which brings me to the topic of this week’s list: Anthology horror. There are a few movies and TV shows in the world that have sought to capture this witty and scary brevity. Movies and that have, rather than stretching a horror movie into 90 minutes (pretty much guaranteeing cynical audience predictions about who will die next), tell three or four shorter movies together, connected by a storyteller of some kind. I love this approach to horror movies, and have always liked the horror form. The TV shows tend to do it even better, as it allows them to write whatever stories they like, disregarding distracting ideas like continuity and accumulating character arcs. They can just have a rotating bevy of popular actors, creative stories, and even vastly differing tones.

Here then is a look at ten pieces of anthology horror, five TV shows and five movies, that exemplify the form best.

Starting in the late 1980s, there seemed to be just as many anthology horror series for children as there were for adults. Thanks to the immense popularity of the Goosebumps books, conceived by author R.L. Stine, there was a great period in the early 1990s where kids got horror shows for themselves. It was during this time that we saw the TV version of “Goosebumps,” “The Nightmare Room,” “Are You Afraid of the Dark?,” “The Haunting Hour,” “So Weird,” and “Bone Chillers.”

The latter of these was probably my favorite, as “Bone Chillers” was conceived and directed by Richard Elfman, the mad genius behind weird-ass cult films like “Forbidden Zone” and “Shrunken Heads.” If you’ve seen his films, imagine that same sensibility applied to a low-budget horror series, and geared toward kids, and you’ll have a show that’s perfect to get high to.

The best of this wave of children’s horror, though, was probably “Eerie, Indiana,” a show about a young boy (Omri Katz) as he discovers increasingly bizarre occurrences in his small town. While the show did follow one young boy, I got the distinct impression that the creators tried really hard to leave him out of the picture as much as they could. It was the monsters that they really wanted to focus on. But that’s the thing about the show: It wasn’t just about monsters. It was about things like hyper-intelligent robots, or a mad being who keeps track of “lost” items.

In the shows’ best episode, a cursed record turntable begins to influence the mind of a local boy. He turns into an asshole metalhead, much to chagrin of his family. Our hero soon discovers that the record is implanting subliminal messages into the head of the listener, depending on their personal insecurities. At the end of the episode, we learn from the turntable that the boy has been abused by his father. It’s actually a brilliant revelation, and is not cheap in the very-special-episode kind of way that TV shows for kids usually pander to. It’s on DVD, and your better video stores will have them. Rent them.

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Eerie Indiana

September 2017

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