Crossing Over: “EAGLEHEART”, Adult Swim’s Love Letter to Gory AbsurdityFearful Features,Movies/TV,News Ken W. Hanley
Welcome, FANGORIA Readers, to CROSSING OVER, our newest column that highlights the films, series and content out there outside of horror that is fashioned towards or pays tribute to our beloved genre. By shining a light onto these projects, FANGORIA hopes to open a world of entertainment perfect for fright fans that lies just beyond the borders of the horror community. So without further ado…
For horror fans, there’s an almost secular understanding of what does and what does not constitute horror. Hell, even psychological thrillers that are genuinely terrifying will draw ire from those more used to the splattery cinema of horror. Yet in applying that mindset to the landscape of entertainment, horror fans will tend to miss out on some gems that truly appreciate the horror genre yet in a lens that is much more skewered towards a broader audience.
Chief among the purveyors of these gems is Adult Swim, the late night alter ego of Cartoon Network that brought not one but two incredible shorts that blurred the line between dark comedy and horror comedy in a big way. However, the programming block has long offered their own horror-adjacent entertainment, including METALOCALYPSE, TIM AND ERIC AWESOME SHOW GREAT JOB!, XAVIER: RENEGADE ANGEL and much more. But there are few comedy series in Adult Swim, or on any channel for that matter, whose sensibilities matched that of the horror audience as well as EAGLEHEART.
The brainchild of Michael Koman and Andrew Weinberg, this Conaco production initially served as a parody vehicle for comedian/actor Chris Elliott (alongside Maria Thayer and Brett Gelman) to lampoon procedural shows, chiefly WALKER, TEXAS RANGER. However, EAGLEHEART almost immediately subverted expectations into a show that was much more dark, provocative and violent than anyone could expect, wringing dark comedy from the absurd lengths to which the show would take it’s bizarre and often gruesome storylines. On top of some of the most splattery bloodletting in television history, the first season went as far as to include cannibalism, psychotic hallucinations, evil hypnotic twins and creepy puppets, all presented with the specific audio and visual cues that would make any fright fan proud. And that’s not even to mention the various death scenes on the show, which ranged from propeller blade evisceration to an exploding zeppelin to a “death punch” which incited spontaneous combustion from all of its victims.
However, EAGLEHEART pushed the envelope further into darkness; every punchline packed an even darker and more twisted edge, while the kills and references were more explicitly horrific. In addition to a hilariously unexpected reference to THE ISLAND OF DOCTOR MOREAU, doppelgangers, child organ thieves, exploding limbs, murder art and a sentient evil board game all populated the more ambitious and bloodier second season, whose humor could be best defined by the myriad suicide jokes and often bleak, non-canonical payoffs. The dark humor of the series often reflected the horrific real life implications of such absurdity, and the signature over-the-top violence of the show went to even more gruesome lengths; think AIRPLANE! by the way of EVIL DEAD II, and you might have an idea of what you were getting into.
But EAGLEHEART’s third season truly reached the crescendo of its horror influence, taking an insane, nearly Lovecraftian approach to its long-form storytelling and peppering it with brilliant horror moments throughout. With a bigger SFX budget, EAGLEHEART’s “Paradise Rising” storyline introduced ancient monsters, multiple woodchipper deaths, desecrated corpses, bisected and ripped open torsos, freakish clones and even an art installation for the sole purpose of killing its consumers to the EAGLEHEART model, on top of one of the bloodiest and most disgusting imagery on the show to date. Furthermore, EAGLEHEART took a surreal turn into the obscure, including a hysterical homage to ANGEL HEART that nearly knocked this writer off his seat. Hell, EAGLEHEART even introduced some tried-and-true genre performers into their guest slots this season, including CHEAP THRILLS’ Pat Healy, I KNOW WHAT YOU DID LAST SUMMER’s Muse Watson, NURSE 3D’s Paz de la Huerta and SOULTAKER’s Joe Estevez.
As a whole, however, EAGLEHEART was the perfect marriage between dark comedy, cop show spoof and love letter to genre entertainment that has unfortunately been underappreciated by the masses. With episodes only running 11 minutes long, EAGLEHEART makes for an ideal choice for binging, as horror fans can consume the brutal, flabbergasting and gory series as whole in a matter of hours. And for fright fans who are willing to step out of their comfort zone to watch it, who knows? Maybe they’ll get a laugh or two out of the grisly madness Koman, Weinberg and Co. put on display.
EAGLEHEART is currently streaming in it’s entirety, commercial free, on Hulu Plus, and is available to purchase in full on iTunes and Amazon. You can also see select clips and full-length episodes on Adult Swim’s official website.