Sadly it has been over eight years since Buffy was last on our screens and frustratingly in the meantime we have been left with no real series to oppose its reign as the all supreme defender against the forces of darkness, let alone fill the void it left in out lives when it ended. Personally I had pretty much resigned myself to the fact that we wouldn’t be getting a show to fill that void, even though the Buffy and Angel universes had continued to expand via the graphic novel series, a format which to date has also given us the closest candidate with the incredible “Hack / Slash”. Then one night I stumbled across “Todd and the Book of Pure Evil” on SYFI a series which was not only reminiscent of the glory days of Buffy, but by the end of its first season had also become a strong contender to its throne.
Set around Crowley High, a high school based in a small town secretly founded by Satanists. Its here stoner and lifelong metal head Todd (Alex House) and his one armed best friend Curtis (Bill Turnbull), have teamed up with feisty Goth Jenny (Maggie Castle) and the super intelligent nerd Hannah (Melanie Leishman), to track down the book of evil. A book which not only has a mind of its own, but also grants the wishes of those who process it, often in much darker and sinister ways than they intended.
Based on the short film of the same name written by Max Reid and Craig David Wallace who returned to develop the short into a series alongside Charles Picco and Anthony Leo, while aiming to retain the feel of the original short as he expands on his original idea, as the mismatched team fight a new evil each week as different student stumbles across the blook and in turn unleashing a new terror on the school. Still unsurprisingly for a show being spearheaded by SYFI, this show seems to have flown under the radar of most folks, but when you showing it on a channel better known for DTV movies and questionable series which no one else really wants to show, it’s not going to be too surprising that most folks missed it. I know I for one was surprised that the channel had managed to pick up a show of this quality.
The group of questionable heroes are all born misfits, who have all in one way or another embraced their own individual social statuses, be it through a fierce exterior or sheer delusion, yet the quest for the book unities them together despite their differences, as it forces them to work together as what could be seen as a slightly less polished version of Buffy’s scoobies. However unlike the scoobies, none of them process any kind of special powers or abilities with the sole exception of Hannah’s intelligence, which largely provides the solutions to each weeks problem and in many ways it makes for a refreshing change from just having a group of super powered individuals saving the day each week, while in many ways it almost feels like a throw back to the equally cult and much fondly remembered “Eerie, Indiana”.
One of the main problems for any show of this type will always be trying to find a fresh new way of spinning the material, let alone giving the audience something they haven’t seen done a hundred times before and to this extent, the show delivers in spades for not only is our supposed hero grossly incompetent and more of a danger to himself, but the creatures he that he faces with the rest of the gang are truly the main strength of the show with this 13 episode first season seeing them battling a monster made of human fat, a giant baby aswell as a monster sized talking penis to name but a few, with the show constantly managing to surprise you with each episode with just what they are going to come up with that week. Still it has to be said that compared to Sunnydale High, it is slightly more hazardous to be a student at Crowley high especially if your in possession of the book, as it ultimately marks you out for a grisly demise like a red shirt on “Star Trek”. Still such frequent deaths is but one of the many tricks which the show keeps up its sleeve with the gore quota being one of its key draws, especially as this show certainly has no qualms about killing off characters and even less so if it means that they can do it in some form of spectacularly gory way and with the deaths including a deep fat fryer, being torn apart by a rabid mob and even being crushed by a giant baby, the show really ensure that each episode has atleast one pay off moment
Despite the surprisingly short episodes for a series of this type, with the episodes only running for 30 mins, it hasn’t stopped the writers from cramming in as much profanity, graphic violence, snappy dialogue and random horror nonsense as possible, in an intoxicating combination which leaves you not only craving the next episode, but also wishing that they were being given a more substantial 45 min run time.
The cast are all great in their various roles, with House and Turnbull making for a great comedy pairing, while completely believable as the clueless stoner heroes. Leavins however is the real draw of the show, with his almost permanent sarcastic tone, especially when dishing out his questionable advice as the school councillor and it was fun to see him go from being a mole for the local Satanists sect to finally becoming one of the team, before finally turning a full 180 by the end of the first season. Still despite having a cast with zero star power, it’s safe to say that like the Buffy cast, it’s likely that they will soon become house names, especially once the show finds the audience it truly deserves, especially with its decidedly cult status at present, though it is great to see Jason Mewes finally getting a regular role as the school cleaner and dispenser of slacker wisdom Jimmy, which allows him to finally break away from his all to well known role as “Jay” in best friend Kevin Smith’s films.
In these days were it constantly feels like you have six or seven different shows on the go, it can be hard to find the time to see every new show, but this is one which is really worth making the time in your viewing schedule for.