In this episode we talked about Creeped Out, created by Bede Blake and Robert Butler.
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Intro music is by Maki Yamazaki, find her work at makiyamazaki.com
Outro music is by Joe Kelly, and his band Etao Shin are at etaoshin.co.uk
Artwork is by Letty Wilson, find her work at behance.net/lettydraws
Adam's article about why Creeped Out is better than Black Mirror can be found here
Ren: Welcome to Still Scared: Talking Children’s Horror, a podcast about spooky, creepy and disturbing children’s books, films and TV. I’m Ren Wednesday, my co-host is Adam Whybray and today we’re talking about the 2017 CBBC series, Creeped Out. Enjoy!
Ren Hi, Adam! So we’re coming up to the modern day in this one, after tooling around in the ‘80s and ‘90s quite a bit. Creeped Out is from last year.
Adam: Hey kids, we’re right up to date! Like Steve Buscemi in that meme.
Ren: Yep, that’s us. Pretty excited to talk about this, because, well, you watched it when it was on —
Adam: — Yeah, and it was the kind of thing that I thought had gone forever from the television. I know there’s Doctor Who and such, but I mean, maybe I should have guessed with anthology shows coming back into fashion, like Black Mirror and Inside No.9, that there would be something like this for kids.
But it just totally blindsided me, and I thought it was great! Really thrilling, really ghoulish with some genuinely nice twists. It bought back what I really liked about Goosebumps or Are You Afraid of the Dark but obviously with much better production values, and some really great cinematography as well.
Ren: As you said it’s an anthology show, made between Britain and Canada, so some episodes are filmed in Britain and some in Canada. They each tell a different story but they’re linked by a masked character called The Curious who appears at the beginning of each episode and has an object that’s related to the story and his whistle is said to indicate that something creepy is about to happen.
Adam: And his face is obscured by a smooth clay mask. Kind of like if a kid had to try and make their own hockey mask at home, and just had some papier-mâché or clay, and they went to school and everyone was creeped out by them. Maybe that’s the reveal! We don’t know who The Curious is, so if there’s another season as I very much hope there is, there’s a potential story for them.
Ren: That’s how he came into existence.
The protagonists are between about thirteen and seventeen, I’d guess.
Adam: A range of teenage characters, yeah.
Ren: And it’s very cool and creepy and I really like it!
Adam: I think this one gets both our thumbs up.
Ren: So how many episodes were there in this series?
Adam: There were thirteen episodes, appropriately. But the season was split into two parts, so there was a bit of a break at the end of the year and then it finished off in the new year.
Ren: So Adam sent me a list of his favourite ones to watch, so Adam’s seen all of them and I’ve just seen the selected highlights. And it’s still possibly too many to talk about.
Adam: We’ll try to cover all the bases at least very briefly, but we’ll focus on a select few. It’s worth noting that the series is created by Bede Blake and Robert Butler, and they mostly write as a pair but occasionally individually all of the episodes except episode ten, Shed No Fear, which was written by Dennis McGrath.
Which I did think had a slightly different tone to it than the other episodes, it was more of a sci-fi adventure. It felt a bit more like a Spielberg film from the ‘80s, which was nice in its own way, and quite charming, but it felt tonally quite different to the other ones, which makes sense when I found out that Butler and Blake did write all the other episodes.
Ren: So shall we start at the beginning?
Adam: Sure! With Slapstick?
Ren: Yeah, episode one, Slapstick. Which hits all my buttons. It has puppets in it!
Adam: We both love creepy puppets. Did you watch it with Bert?
Ren: Oh, I should have. Bert is a puppet that Adam made for me, who has a head made out of a coconut and a little floral dress. Bert’s lovely. I’m sure he would have enjoyed it.
Adam: Or maybe he would have been a bit upset by the puppet representation.
Ren: Ah yes, that’s true.
Adam: So, what’s it about?
Ren: So, Slapstick is a kind of classic ‘be careful what you wish for’ episode. Jessie, who’s about thirteen, is really embarrassed by her parents, who are quite loud and boisterous and have fun in a kind of way that she finds incredibly embarrassing.
They embarrass her in front of the cool girls that she wants to impress, so she storms off and sits down on the beach, where there’s a puppet show happening. And afterwards the boy who’s collecting the money says ‘someone wants to speak to you’ and she goes up and it’s a puppet, it’s Mr Blackteeth who is —
Adam: — not a dentist by any means.
Ren: He’s wearing a suit and a cravat and has a pale face and dark eyes and wild hair.
Adam: He’s quite rakish in his way. Reminds me of Edward Ka-Spel of the Legendary Pink Dots, actually.
Ren: And he has a proposition for her, which is that she can make her parents do whatever she likes, and all she has to do is knock on her head three times and say ‘that’s the way to do it’.
So she does, and he laughs maniacally and she runs back to her parents and the next day she finds that her parents have become like puppets, and just do what she tells them to do.
Adam: So in a way, the plot’s like an inverted Big Kids. Do you remember the programme Big Kids? It’s about a family who goes to a hypnotist and there’s a trigger word or words that over the course of the series the two kids have to figure out, but the idea is that at this trigger word the parents revert to being children, and start acting very immaturely and chaotically and the kids have to be on their lookout and sort things out.
So in a way it’s an inversion of that formula in that at first the parents are very silly and chaotic and embarrassing and the protagonist Jessie, played by Sydney Wade, wants the parents to be more adult and more sensible.
Ren: So she gets them to come to the party of the most popular girl, whose parents are very polished and the opposite of hers.
Adam: Equipped. Capable. Connected.
Ren: And her parents just do what she’s told them to do, which is have this rictus grin whenever anyone talks to them. And in the tradition of the ‘be careful what you wish for’ episode, she realises that this isn’t actually what she wants, her parents being expressionless and robotic —
Adam: — automatons for her desires.
Ren: And in one of the creepiest moments, possibly of the series, is when Jessie gets tired of her parents being puppets and says ‘Go back to how you were!’ and they both turn to her in unison and say expressionlessly ‘And how do we go back to how we were’.
But there’s the further horror that it doesn’t reverse after Jessie’s learned her lesson. She goes to find Mr Blackteeth again, and in order to reverse this she has to find ‘understudies’.
Her parents have become the puppets in the puppet show, they’re now performing the Punch and Judy show and she has to entrap a new teenager who’s embarrassed by their parents to do the same thing that she’s done, and find understudies to take the place of her parents in the puppet show.
Adam: In a presumably infernal cycle. Which is quite a cruel twist! It’s not just enough that she learns her lesson, there’s a kind of malevolence to the fact that despite having learned her moral lesson she’s then morally implicated into this maniacal puppet’s scheme. So she ends up being in the position of being puppeteered, at least morally, by the puppet.
In a sense it reminded me - have you read any Thomas Ligotti?
Adam: I don’t always like him, sometimes he’s a bit clever-clever, but he’s an adult horror writer and he uses puppets a lot in his stories as embodied representations of humans not having free will, essentially. I think he sees humans as just being these hollowed-out vessels that see themselves as being self-determining but aren’t actually.
And this struck me as being Thomas Ligotti for kids, basically. You can’t escape the machinations of power, basically. She ends up ensnared in this awful system by the end. Just the fact that it offers no hope and no get-out clause, for the first episode of a new kids’ TV show, is pretty gutsy.
Ren: Yeah! You might expect that she would overthrow Mr Blackteeth but his scheme goes on uninterrupted.
Adam: So was there anything else that you found unexpected about the episode? Did you have certain expectations going into Creeped Out? As the representative of this is what this series is going to be like.
Ren: I think it lived up to my expectations. I was hoping for creepy stories and I got them! I was interested in how it used technology, the stories around technology and how it incorporated that.
Adam: Well, you’ve got to meet kids where they’re out. I keep struggling with this, obviously I don’t teach kids, I teach undergrad students who are eighteen, nineteen. But I teach film and I notice that they have very different viewing habits than I have, or that I had when I was younger. Some of them just don’t go to the cinema, or haven’t gone for years, and they watch films on a phone or on a tablet.
And, this is a generalisation, but lots of them watch things with one eye on a game, or a programme, or while texting, and at first I found this quite frustrating, I didn’t want them to look at their phones. But I’ve tried to accept that they engage media in a different ways and that is what that is. I’m trying to write a module at the moment called ‘Not going to the cinema’ and it’s about how that’s not how most young people take in media anymore.
And it didn’t feel like two old fuddy-duddies lecturing kids about the dangers of internet addiction.
So did you want to talk about Marti?
Ren: Yeah, that does segue into Marti which seems like it might be a story about the perils of technology and spending too much time looking at your phone, but actually that’s not where the horror ends up coming from at all.
Adam: I’d agree with that. At first you think it’s Black Mirror for kids, but it’s actually doing something more sophisticated.
Ren: So in Marti, this is one of the Canadian ones, so the high-school age protagonist Kim wants to become more popular, so she orders a new phone but it has these capabilities that are beyond anything she could have imagined.
It has this AI helper called Marti who quickly boosts her social status by composing texts and posts and things for her, and getting her into the clique. But after a while his interventions become — ‘his’, but he definitely starts to take on a personality as he begins to control Kim’s life with threats that he will destroy her new-found popularity if she doesn’t go along with treating Marti as her boyfriend essentially.
Adam: She’s coerced into taking Marti to the prom, and has to dress ‘him’ up in a little tuxedo. A tiny phone tuxedo.
Ren: So Marti won’t let her talk to any other boy, and she tries to destroy the phone but it can’t be destroyed. Which leads to an evocatively horrible line, which is: ‘I can’t be broken Kim, but you can’. So at the school dance she leaves her phone in the bathroom to get a dance with the boy that she liked, but Marti takes revenge by airing all her friends’ dirty laundry in public and then it takes her old friend, who she’s sidelined, to tell her that now Marti has no power over her because he’s done what he was threatening to and destroyed her social standing. So she pushes the phone into some wet concrete and entombs Marti outside the school.
Adam: Although there’s a slightly sicky-making twist at the end, that Marti is still being visited.
Ren: Yeah, she still sometimes kneels down to talk to him.
Adam:In the concrete. It’s a little bit like in The League of Gentleman where Herr Lip buries teenage boys in the soil, and they’re left with a breathing tube. You see him come back to Royston and kneel down over the soil whispering to the boy through the tube.
They didn’t do this, but originally they planned in the third season to go to a field or a park and there just to be all these tubes sticking out of the ground. I guess this is something that goes back to Edgar Allen Poe, entombed alive. It’s hard to say if Marti would get claustrophobic.
But for you this wasn’t really about the perils of technology?
Ren: No, I think this definitely evolved into being about abusive relationships. Marti becoming increasingly controlling and coercive and isolating Kim, and not allowing her to talk to boys or do anything that he disapproves of.
Adam: And I think really this shows the power of allegory at its best, because a lot of programmes, like Hollyoaks say. I thinks Hollyoaks is actually surprisingly good with progressive issues. My sister loves Hollyoaks, so I’ve watched a fair amount of it, and I’m often surprised by how decent its politics are. But it’s very heavy-handed, and I think the danger with soaps or programmes like Grange Hill or Byker Grove is that kids feel like they’re being lectured to, potentially.
And also in a way it’s easier to recognise things on screen when you’ve got these characters and these character archetypes. So you might see a character you know on Grange Hill getting into an emotionally abusive relationship, and you might potentially think as a child, oh well, that’s them, but you wouldn’t be able to square that with yourself necessarily.
But something I think that allegory is very good at doing, because it’s clearly not just something that could happen as is, there has to be this imaginative process for the viewer to think ‘okay, what’s really going on, what does this mean?’ so allegory invites some kind of reflective engagement. And I think that actually in terms of communicating these difficult but important things to kids that’s going to be a lot more effective. I think it treats kids as more intelligent viewers as well, and I think kids are intelligent viewers and most of them will be able to work out what’s going on, and by the end of it will understand what this was about.
Ren: And I think it definitely shows that kind of transition of a relationship becoming abusive…
Adam: And the episode gives enough time to show the slow drift, right?
Ren: Yeah, and that it is charming at first but then that gradually goes sour.
Adam: Yeah, absolutely. I was very impressed by the Home Office’s ‘This is abuse’ campaign from a few years ago, there were some films for teenagers. And I think they were very good and hard-hitting, but because of their length, they were just tiny micro-films, they could only focus on moments. And that’s good too, but I think the power of something like this where you have half an hour or so to open up a narrative means that you can really show it as a process.
So I did think it was quite powerful, although not without its moments of comedy. There was a curious bit that my sister found very funny. I don’t know if it was something about how the phone spoke, but there was a bit where Marti ‘sees,’ I suppose, Kim talking to another boy and says (phone robot voice) ’Ah! In front of my eyes!’, kind of like the enraged robot radio we were talking about with Paperhouse last week. Phoebe said it reminded her of something Eric Carman might say from South Park: (Cartman voice) ‘In front of my eyes!’.
Ren: There’s definitely something quite funny about this very angry but impotent phone.
Adam: In terms of technology it is quite relatable. I do the Wii Fit, and I’m not trying to say that the Wii Fit is abusive, but it does sometimes feel like it’s designed to make you feel bad. Like when you step on it it goes (tiny put-upon robot voice) ‘Aoww’. And then if you don’t use it for a while it’s like (smol robot) ‘Where have you been?’. And it does these really passive-aggressive things, like one time I hadn’t used it for a couple of weeks, and it said (passive-aggressive robot) ‘It’s been a while. Phoebe?’. And it knows I’m not Phoebe, I put my user name in. There’s no way that it was genuinely mistaken, so all that was was a dig at me for not having used it for a while!
I don’t use Siri, but I do like her tendency to laugh inexplicably at random moments. And it’s quite fun when you go round someone’s house and they’ve got Siri, because you can have endless fights commandeering the music system. Because you can just go ‘Siri, play Stairway to Heaven’, and someone else will go, ’No, Siri, play Beethoven’s Fifth’, ‘No, Siri, play Taylor Swift’, ‘Volume 10!’ ‘Volume 0!’.
Ren: Speaking of music on a phone!
Adam: Bravery Badge.
Ren: Bravery Badge. Do you want to talk about Bravery Badge?
Adam: Maybe to a degree, but I hated Scouts! Bravery Badge is about a Scouts-like organisation and I might have said this before, but I went to Beavers, Cubs, Scouts and then Explorers, and the only reason I stayed in the movement after Beavers, which I enjoyed, because Beavers was legitimately fun, was because you take that awful pledge to God and the queen. You say ‘I pledge to God and the queen to uphold the scout’s code’ something like that. So I thought that if I left the organisation it would be the double-whammy of both treason and blasphemy.
Ren: Oh no!
Adam: So I was like, I don’t want to risk that! Upsetting God and the queen in one! So I just stayed in the movement out of fear.
Ren: You just suffered through.
Adam: Yeah, I hated it! Having OCD I hated camping, not having a proper toilet and having to wee outside was awful. I still can’t do knots. I think the only thing I really enjoyed was the back woods cooking, which for a long time I thought was backwards cooking. I only realised a couple of years ago that it was in the back of the woods, I thought it was backwards cooking because it wasn’t very good. But I enjoyed that, you could wrap up a banana in tinfoil, put it on the bonfire. I got a lot of the badges! I was very dedicated. But motivated by fear and obedience to the lord and the queen rather than actual enjoyment, sadly.
So Bravery Badge focuses on a character who also doesn’t like this outdoors organisation she’s forced to be a member of, but she’s just too cool and cynical for it, not like I was as a kid. But she hates it too, and she’s very cynical about the whole thing. So they go out into these woods on a camping expedition and the leader tells them a typical creepy story around the fire about how a previous troupe of kids had gone to these woods and got lost, never to be seen again.
A lot of the kids are scared, but our main character’s like ‘yeah, yeah, sure’. But then the kids do start disappearing and it turns out that there is something uncanny in nature itself, that spores of sort or some kind of alien organisation are being released from these plants.
You know those spores that commandeer ants brains?
Ren: Oh yes, it’s very much like that. I mean, they don’t burst out the campers’ heads.
Adam: Can you remember how these spores with the ants work?
Ren: Not exactly. They end up inside the ants somehow, they ingest them somehow.
Adam: They infiltrate the ant’s brain.
Ren: Yeah, and burst out the top of their heads.
Adam: I think they commandeer the ant and its nervous system, and get the ant to climb to the top of a blade of grass.
Ren: What. I’d forgotten this!
Adam: Yeah, in order to spread the spores over as large a surface area as possible. So the ant climbs its way up and then it bursts out the top of the ant’s head.
Ren: It’s an old David Attenborough one isn’t it?
Adam: Yeah, David Attenborough’s horror show.
Ren: So these spores crawl into the camper’s ears and infect them with this music.
Adam: This kind of ring-a-roses —
Ren: — creepy lullaby.
Adam: So they become zombie-like.
Ren: And they all have this horribly vacant smile —
Adam:— this rictus grin.
Ren: Which all of the actors do incredibly well.
Adam: Especially the scout leader!
Ren: Yeah, they’re running away and they see the scout leader and she turns around and has this expression on her face!
Adam: I’ve written down ‘Kubrick’s grin of evil’. Stanley Kubrick in The Shining and Full Metal Jacket he always has this moment when a character has an awful leering grin, and she’s doing the Kubrick grin and it’s great.
Ren: And they’re lurching along and humming this tune, and it eventually takes over all of them except the main character, and she’s running through the woods and then she finds that she’s listening to heavy music on her headphones the whole time, and she finds that this repels the people who are infected with the spores.
Adam: It’s true, because flowers hate metal.
Ren: So she starts taking off her headphones and blasting music at them, and they curl up in pain as the spores wither up and die and wriggle out of their ears.
Adam: It made me think of a sentient version of the gunge you used to get in ‘90s TV shows like Get Your Own Back.
Ren: It’s pretty gungey. And then right at the end, they’ve rescued the rest of the troupe by blasting music at them, and then the first person who disappeared reappears, and she’s found the old scouts, the original troupe who disappeared in the ‘80s. And are now in their 30s and 40s, still lurching along.
Adam: You wonder what kind of life they’ve made for themselves in the woods.
Ren: You do! Wandering around the woods for 30 years.
I found this one of the creepiest of the series, and I watched some ‘Kids react to’ videos, and this seemed to be the one that creeped out the most kids.
Ren: It’s pretty creepy! The suspense of not knowing when people are going to turn, and the kind of zombie movie thing of the friends becoming infected and having to run away from them, and the group dwindling.
Adam: And as I’m sure Blake and Butler are well aware, it neatly literalises the term earworm.
Ren: Oh yeah! And it’s another interesting relation to technology as it’s their phones that save them in the end, and there’s an image of them all holding up their phones playing music at the troupe that have reappeared to kill the spores.
Adam: A happier ending than slapstick. It perhaps would have been too downbeat after all that horror if it had ended on a more defeatist note.
The other one that scared me is Cat Food. Which involves a Ferris Bueller style obnoxious kid who fakes being ill, but ends up like Bart, in Bart After Dark, the Simpsons episode where Bart ends up spying on Ned Flanders with his telescope through the window.
The kid spends his time looking through the window and sees this old lady up to various suspicious activities and she turns out to be something akin to the grinny, so a demonic alien old lady from folklore who bathes herself in cat food, which seemed to be one-upping the comic relief baked beans challenge, I thought.
But mostly I liked this one for the pitch-perfect casting of the elderly lady. I’ve written down, and I don’t mean this to be cruel, but I’ve written ‘Jim Broadbent face’. And I don’t mean that she looks exactly like Jim Broadbent, but I find Jim Broadbent pretty disturbing. He seems like a pretty decent human being, but when he’s in roles that require him to be disturbing, like Moulin Rouge, say —
Ren: — his face just sort of turns into evil putty.
Adam: Yes! Evil putty face. Precisely. It just looks too soft. There’s something soft and slack.
Ren: ‘Just me and my little knife!’. Sorry, that’s Brazil again.
Adam:There’s just something about his face. He looks like a kind old man but actually. So if they can get Jim Broadbent for the next season that would be ace.
Ren: Yes, definitely. And the idea is that the old lady’s a kind of parasitic host-type deal, where she has to find a new body to inhabit to keep herself alive.
Adam: Kind of like being John Malkovich, which is one of my favourite films.
Ren: Like Being John Malkovich, or, we’re making loads of references this episode, but it’s fine. Like a creepy or non-consensual version of the Trill, in Star Trek.
Adam: Or a little bit like The Ancestor, a very creepy manga. In that one each ancestor somehow remains joined at the skull to each preceding ancestor so they end up as a ridiculous ancestral worm, joined together.
Ren: Wow. So there’s quite a few parasitic body-swapping stories out there.
Adam: So what’s the episode you found scariest?
Ren: It’s possibly Kindlesticks.
Adam: It’s a great title.
Ren: Which is a great title. I really enjoyed this episode and it has a great twist at the end. So Kindlesticks is about Esme, who’s a proudly terrible babysitter whose schtick is that she terrifies kids she sits for into submisson by telling them a story about the Night Night Man, and then at the critical point of the story she has her friend burst through the door covered in leaves, pretending to be the Night Night Man and chasing the kids to their beds.
So you can have the house to herself for the evening. And she’s been doing this quite successfully for a while, but then she babysits for a kid called Ashley, who is not only not scared by her Night Night Man antics, but tells her that she’s going to be punished by a figure called Kindlesticks, for being mean to kids.
So various uncanny things start happening in the house, and Ashley tells her that it’s Kindlesticks. Her friend who she’s trying to seduce, I guess, gets scared out of the house and and Kindlesticks shows her pictures of the kids she’s sat for in tears, like ‘this is what you did’, and chasing her around the house, objects flying everywhere. She huddles in a cupboard with Ashley who’s then taken by Kindlesticks. She’s hiding in this cupboard by herself, with these red eyes approaching from above her, and then the light turns on and it turns out that it’s Ashley with some torches painted red, and she’s like ‘Oh, it was you all along! I learned my lesson!’.
Adam: But, do you want to say what the twist is?
Ren: But, the twist is that when the parents come home — it’s an interesting androgynous name twist. They say: ‘Ashley, she’s been asleep all night’, and Esme’s like ‘Ashley’s a girl?’ and goes into the bedroom and Ashley’s asleep in the bed and it’s a little girl, not the figure that she’s been seeing all night. ‘Wait, that’s Ashley?’ and she runs out of the room and on the stairs is the kid that we’ve been seeing, who is Kindlesticks and his eyes glow red.
It was quite enjoyable, I did like that.
Adam: It’s quite a ghoulish episode! I like that the Kindlesticks kid seems to be dressed up like Max from Where The Wild Things Are, in his romping suit.
It was the episode that reminded me the most of the Goosebumps TV series. It had the most Goosebumps-y acting, and the dynamic and slightly flamboyant cinematography. I’ve noted here that a bin gets a POV shot at one point. I’m very much in favour of inanimate objects being given point-of-view shots in films.
I mean effectively it plays out like a haunted house episode. It’s quite episodic, it has quite stop-start rhythms, but because it keeps you on your toes so much it doesn’t matter, you’re very much waiting for the next thing to pop out.
Ren It’s a very clear moral in that one.
Adam: Yes, that’s true. Don’t be a babysitter. Some kids are tougher than they look.
Ren: And there’s a creepy guardian of children who punish you.
Adam: So only bully the kids —
Ren: Only bully the smallest —
Adam: Only bully the smallest kids — (Adam gets nervous) I’m worried now, don’t write in and complain, parents!
Ren: Don’t bully any kids.
Adam: Don’t bully any kids. Not even if you’re Kindlesticks. Let’s do (miscalleanous horrible scraping noises) Texture of the Week!
Ren: (microphone tappings and squeakings) Texture of the Week!
Adam: I’m going to have to start buying instruments. Kids ones, like a toy tambourine. I guess my texture was going to be the gunk from Bravery Badge. I liked how it seemed gelatinous and insectoid at the same time. Quite Kronenberg-y.
What about you?
Ren: I don’t know, I kind of struggled to find one this week, which is odd as there definitely are good textures. I decided on the baby tangled up in seaweed from the episode The Call which we haven’t mentioned, which is about sirens. They find the main character as a baby on a beach, and she’s all tangled up in a patch of seaweed, which I quite enjoyed.
Possibly also Jessie’s mum in Slapstick, pushing marshmallows into her mouth robotically. Filling her cheeks with marshmallows.
Adam: (as if his cheeks are full of marshmallows) Fuzzy bunny, fuzzy bunny!
Possibly the nose of the bully in Trolled.
Ren:Ah, I haven’t seen that one!
Adam:Well, it liberalises the title. Internet troll becomes a troll. But this happens gradually, and first his nose just swells up to a ginormous size. And looks very troll-like. That one isn’t the strongest, I thought it was a little bit pat. Perhaps just the metaphor’s too literal possibly. I mean, I liked the focus on the potential horrors of puberty. Body transformation is always effective in Kids’ horror, but there was a potential towards using facial deformities as a site of horror, I suppose.
It felt a bit like an episode of Round the Twist, but without perhaps the charm. Because Round the Twist could get pretty grotesque, it’s pretty gross-out, but it got away with it because it has a lot of charming characters. So even though it has some icky stuff like the spaghetti. I always remember there’s an episode where there’s a tv remote that controls time, and then a spaghetti-eating contest that’s put into reverse. And anyone, OCD or not, would find that pretty nauseating.
Some of the episodes are more sentimental than others. Albeit, sometimes effectively. A Boy Called Red is quite good and reminded me quite a lot of William Sleator, and brought up feelings for me around my father. It’s about a kid befriending his own father when they were a kid through time travel. It’s important to remember sometimes that your parents were children too, and try to remember them as children. It’s a healthy activity.
Ren: I think the series definitely did a good job of showing how horrible it is to be thirteen, or around that age.
Adam: Yeah, which I think is what you want in kids horror. You want something that feels empathetic but creepy at the same time.
Ren: Do you have any other observations?
Adam: Just that it’s thoroughly recommended really. I made a Buzzfeed post giving reasons why it’s better than Black Mirror. Slightly tongue-in-cheek, but I actually do enjoy it more than Black Mirror. There’s individual Black Mirror episodes I enjoy very much, but I just find the cynicism exhausting. I find the relentlessness of its pessimism just wears me out, and sometimes it feels a bit pleased with itself.
I’m very fond of Charlie Brooker, so I don’t want to be too disparaging. But the last season I just found a bit heavy-going, and I don’t know. Creeped Out’s a kid’s show but I think it does a better job of balancing horror with a basic belief in human beings potential for kindness and compassion.
Any last thoughts?
Ren: I think Punch and Judy is a great source of horror.
Adam: Oh well, undoubtedly so.
Ren: And I’m all for things that mine that particular frightening vein.
Adam: So you’re hoping for a future episode about a terrible crocodile who steals some sausages.
Ren: Yes. Do you have a sign-off for us?
Adam: Oh, God! Every time!
This is how you sign-off, and that’s the way to do it!
Ren: That’s the way to do it, creepy kids!
See you next time!