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Another great Community Halloween episode, yet I can't help but think that last week's "Remedial Chaos Theory" somehow stole "Horror Fiction in Seven Spooky Steps"' thunder, even if just a little. I'm not implying that last week was a better episode (I'll just flat out say it was) but a part of me senses that had the two intricately, and similarly, structured shows not come out back to back, this week would have seemed even more special.
Yes, it was still special and Greendale's study group scared up more than a few laughs. The real accomplishment is the episode's writing (by Dan Harmon himself) because all the stories are not just told from the character's point of view but to the point where it actually feels like they are telling the story. From the choosing of who's in their tale, right down to the dialogue, Community's writers have crafted such well defined characters that you could turn on any of the segments mid-way and probably guess who's telling it. So let's get to the stories.
"One member of our study group has homicidal tendencies."
The episode is structured around Britta, the over enthusiastic psychology student/investigator, trying to figure which one of the study group members' tests showed psychopathic potential. It's worth noting that this was set up in last week's tag, when everyone took the tests to begin with, which is pretty rad since not many series work the Halloween conceit into the season's narrative. Anyway, one of the group is deeply disturbed and Britta's determined to find out who it is, hence the lame and seemingly impromptu pre-party (although, that's probably just her way of throwing a party). After a visit from the Dean and some delicious Dorito puns, the plan to examine everyone's scary stories commences and it wouldn't be Community if they didn't throw in a whole bunch of references so all the tales parody horror sub-genres tropes.
"In the news tonight. Top Story. An escaped convict from the asylum has escaped and he's mental and he's on the loose and stuff."
Britta kicks off the story telling with her rendition of the 'kids killed at make-out point' urban legend. The dialogue is extra rambling and all over the map, the story is rushed and a little self-conflicted. Like I said, you can tell who's telling the story. Britta and Jeff are making out in an old car at some cliched perch over the city when they hear a noise. Jeff investigates and is brutally (?) hacked (scratched) to death. Cut tp the group as she wraps up the yarn and quickly puts on her sleuth cap, asking Abed how he felt about that story. He and the others were all embarrassed, presumably for her and her poor storytelling. Seems fair.
"No. We should call 911 on my fully charged cell phone. Lock the doors and then stand back to back in the middle of the room holding knives."
Abed finds Britta's story to be completely illogical and full of stupid characters doing stupid things, so it was basically like most generic horror crap pumped out these days. He decides to set his tale in a deserted log cabin the woods scenario but, being the Vulcan that he is, his horror story plays out a lot more, hm, logical. Cut to the muzak, which Troy seems to have heard before and is the only one enjoying, before we're back to the story. I did get a kick out of Abed and Britta kissing and the ensuing shushed I love you. Plus all the over the top camera work on the otherwise mundane story worked pretty well.
"Wait... Teach me to read."
But not well enough for Annie, who prefers her stories a little more on the bloody side. And also kind of like Twilight, if Edward were illiterate. Of course, her leading man is Jeff in a tale of a young maiden and a vampire with a heart of gold. Instead of biting the innocent Annie, Vamp-Jeff turns to his skanky concubine Britta for a much needed fix. When she flees in disgust, Annie not Britta (who is totally okay with it), he melts her heart by asking her to teach him to read (I know, left field). She's able to teach him his letters but unfortunately not how to quell his monstrous nature. Good thing she's a a monster - a werewolf - and can, and does, rip him to shreds. A twist! And a horrified study group, especially Jeff.
"You tried to destroy us but you only made us MORE AWESOME!"
Troy's story is a riff on the mad-scientist archetype, with he and Abed playing fallen fighter pilots who find refuge in what appears to be a very similar cabin to the one that Abed and Britta were trapped in a few threads back. Come to think of it, Annie's story takes place in that set too! Moving on, inhabiting the cabin in the middle of nowhere is Pierce the, you guessed it, mad scientist. After drinking something 'so medical' out of a couple of wine glasses, TroBed wake to find themselves literally TroBed, since they are now one after Pierce sewed them together at the hip. Only this time, being forced to be together forever obviously isn't a bad thing, it gives them super powers which they use to become telekinetic, telepathic and genuinely more awesome. Oh, and to sew Pierce's butt on his chest and then swap his feet with his hands. "Feet hands."
"That wasn't even a ghost story. It was like an episode of some show we're all too young to have heard of."
Pierce feels like he's been picked on - "I'm your crazy, old, racist friend... I was anyway, now I'm not so sure" - so it's obviously his turn to deliver a Halloween horror story. However, since it's Pierce his completely misses the point and also comes with a healthy does of both misogyny and racism! I guess home invasion is a sub-genre of horror but it usually involves weirdos in masks and unsuspecting victims, not stereotypical gang-bangers and what can only be described as an aging porn-star. "You. Are. Still. Relevant." I'm also quite certain he knocked Troy out with his penis. "What the hell was that?"
"Bye! I forgive you."
Oh Shirley, usually I'm not the biggest fan but this week your self-righteous and religious bent worked perfectly for the parodic episode. The group, sans Shirley, is partying away in that same damn cabin (very soon to be damned cabin), enjoying many vices, including a sweet pot bong when, oh no, the rapture hits. Tornadoes, locusts, frogs, it's like New York out there. The good Christians were swept away leaving the cool kids behind to deal with the Devil-Dean, "Hell-O," and his strategy of scorpions, enemas and a demon that eats your genitals. Thankfully, Shirley comes to their rescue, well, for a second, mostly just to lecture before leaving them to be chainsawed to bits by the Dean. "Gay marriage!"
"One of us? You took that test too, right?"
Shirley's vibe manages to ruin the Britta pre-party and ruining "a Britta party, that's like letting poop spoil." Shirley's sermonizing makes the group disperse, so Britta has no choice but to spill the beans and tell everyone about the sleeper sociopath. And even though they think that's stupid, she tells them that if they leave they might get axed, knifed, poisoned or strangled by a crazy masked member of the group. Of course, this puts everyone on edge, and instantly suspecting her - and each other - just in time for the lights to go out. And suddenly everyone's rocking their weapon of choice (Troy's Wolverine pencils would win, obviously) except Jeff who, as usual, has to calm everyone down.
"I'm no sociopath. I always know what I'm doing is wrong. I'm just a guy who doesn't like taking tests, doing work or getting yelled at."
Jeff quiets the surging mob and tells his own more calming story. One that makes Chang - in his only and very brief appearance - the killer, something that seems natural and perfectly okay by the group. Especially after he admits he's just a little misunderstood and looking for a hug. "You're welcome." What? Pierce pulls the 'gayest thing he's ever heard card' while the rest of the group grows suspicious of his disarming nature. When finally forced to point out his test he can't because, well, it's just a bunch of bubbles he filled out randomly. Probably something he should have mentioned a while ago, not that it mattered since Britta ended up Britta-ing the test results after all. They can all rest easy, there isn't one maniac amongst seven normals but vice versa... only, who is the sole normal? They don't know but we're shown that it's Abed (not to nitpick but that doesn't mean Jeff isn't also sane because his results are not accurate).
"Troy and Abed sewn together!"
The tag brings us back into Troy's world with Pierce the mad scientist still butt-chested, foot-handed, hand-footed and strapped to the operating table. TroBed are also still sewn together and using only their telepathy to communicate leaving old 'feet hands' basically in solitary. They're content to stay sewn, consume his brandy ("that's terrible") and maybe take a spin in their mind-power-fixed F-18. Jinx! Overall, another strong episode for a season with a sluggish start. How does it rank among the previous Community Halloween episodes? Well, you can be your own judge of that but I thought it had a great and complex conceit yet, and most importantly, was still really funny. However, if you were wondering how "Horror Fiction in Seven Spooky Steps," stacked up against the other Halloween themed NBC Thursday night comedies, just check out Eric's scientifically determined rankings.
Show and Tell:
Inspector Spacetime and Constable Wigglesworth.
Lights Flickering for Halloween. Halloween Week. All Saints Day... Month.
Free taco beef from the army.
Troy dancing to Abed's musak.
"I love you"-"Shhh!"
"Stifle your slacken maw you drained and tainted bitch dog."
Cut to Britta on the words the skanky concubine.
Community CGI werewolf? WTF? Here comes 20 bottle episodes for that cash (good thing they rock!)
Cutting the sandwich.
"Still am Pakistan, you want to try me?"
Troy's Wolverine pencil claws.
Britta'd. Pulled an Abed. Don't Pierce.
8 steps? Because Britta had two stories, no?
Community airs on NBC, Thursdays at 8 p.m. ET/PT. It stars Joel McHale, Gillian Jacobs, Alison Brie, Danny Pudi, Yvette Nicole-Brown, Donald Glover, Jim Rash, Ken Jeong and Chevy Chase. It was created by Dan Harmon.