“STAN AGAINST EVIL” (TV Review)Movies/TV,News,Reviews Ken W. Hanley
For those of us who are equal parts horror and comedy fans, the name “Dana Gould” should be more familiar than not. In the latter category, Gould is best known as a comedian, writer, and performer whose hilarious nd esteemed stand-up career is as prolific as his writing on acclaimed series such as THE SIMPSONS. However, Gould has been making a name for himself in the former as well, appearing in SOUTHBOUND, TALES OF HALLOWEEN, and now, serving as the brains behind IFC’s new horror comedy series STAN AGAINST EVIL, a small town monster killer series that leans closer to the Monster Kid-friendly BUFFY than the balls-out explicitness of ASH VS. EVIL DEAD.
For the unfamiliar, STAN AGAINST EVIL follows Stanley Miller, a crude, Archie Bunker-esque former town sheriff, who is mourning the sudden death of his wife when evil forces descend upon Willard’s Mill, New Hampshire. To combat these newfound monsters, Stanley teams with the new town sheriff, Evie, as well as his socially-maladjusted adult daughter Denise and his fairly incompetent deputy, Leon. But little does this group of ragtag warriors know that the evil forces aren’t exactly a stranger to Willard’s Mill, and that they all might be much more involved in this battle than they could have predicted.
While those looking for unrelenting blood splatter and weekly doses of dismemberment may be left wanting, STAN AGAINST EVIL really embraces the weirder side of the macabre, with fully-fleshed out, practically achieved monsters that are as silly in concept as they are sinister. In essence, this allows the horror angle of the show to have relatively low stakes; after all, the show couldn’t catch much grounding if it brought about the end of the world in the first six episodes. But at the same time, as over-the-top the show can be at times, STAN AGAINST EVIL really treats its characters as emotionally fruitful, with the series often presenting Stan’s vulnerabilities between his offensive or smartass grumblings throughout each episode. Even Evie and Denise get their own chance to explore other dimensions of their characters, even when posited against the resident weirdos and misfits that inhabit Willard’s Mill.
But at the end of the day, STAN AGAINST EVIL is quite a lot of fun, and very funny, with Gould’s humor shining through the smaller environmental details and Stan’s one-liners. Whether it’s a throwaway line on a newspaper, invasive black veins that grow on a character during a romantic montage, or character’s arguing about the status of a relationship during demonic possession, there’s a very matter-of-fact charm to the comedy in STAN AGAINST EVIL, while the blue collar battles against witches, monsters, and other demonic forces don’t quite feel as heavy or stylized as those in ASH VS. EVIL DEAD. If anything, the only real downfall of the comedy being as fluid as it appears to be is that it poses a bit of confusion regarding the series’ continuity: while the show references battles in episodes prior as well as plot points that serve the over-arching narrative, it feels like many of the gags on the show don’t quite leave as lasting of an impact, with the proceeding episode virtually hitting a reset button surrounding the carnage on display.
Luckily, the cast of STAN AGAINST EVIL is hilarious and totally game for whatever Gould throws their way, which bolsters the show above its small faults. John C. McGinley is superb as the titular Stan, who offers a character that’s as salty and dismissive as he is guarded and emotionally wounded. Meanwhile, Janet Varney impresses as Evie, offering a rough-and-tumble sheriff, even though STAN AGAINST EVIL benefits from the moments in which Varney has a bit more fun as the character, especially in the season’s later episodes. And both Nate Mooney and Deborah Baker Jr. are great as Leon and Denise, respectively, each serving as the unconventional foil for our leads.
Overall, STAN AGAINST EVIL is a fun and sillier horror comedy alternative this fall, guaranteed to please those who have been looking for a solid stand-in for BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER. With Gould’s humor and appreciation for the genre, as well as the natural charisma of the cast on display, STAN AGAINST EVIL certainly rises up and delivers monsters and mayhem, even with its tongue planted firmly in cheek.