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Haunted Sideshow

Dustin Putman

Dustin's Blu-ray Review
The Complete Second Season
Reviewed by Dustin Putman

The Show
3 Stars
(Release Date: April 8, 2014) – A sitcom about two aspiring horror filmmakers, each episode teeming with genre paraphernalia, inside references and a dream collection of game guest stars that include Kane Hodder, Danielle Harris, Bill Moseley, Bailee Madison, Sid Haig and Seth Green? Sign me up! The brainchild of writer-director Adam Green (he of "Hatchet" fame), "Holliston" is a bold, one-of-a-kind experiment that works like gangbusters most of the time. Billed as FEARnet's first original series, the show, set in Green's hometown of Holliston, Massachusetts, casts the auteur in the semi-autobiographical role of, well, Adam, a ne'er-do-well working alongside best friend/roommate Joe (Joe Lynch) at the local cable access TV station. As the two of them scheme to shoot their first movie, a hockey-with-zombies splatter flick called "Shinpads," they face all sorts of wacky misadventures with Joe's sweet/ditzy Colombian-artist girlfriend Laura (Laura Ortiz) and Adam's one true love, ex-g.f. Corri (Corri English). The road to stardom is going to be a very bumpy ride, but getting there is enormously entertaining.

The first season of "Holliston" was a promising start, but there was the sense that Adam Green and his co-stars were still finding their footing and trying to navigate an untrammeled path that hadn't really be attempted before. Made completely independently and then picked up by upstart horror cable network FEARnet, the series is stylistically satirical complete with intentionally canned laugh track, is usually over-the-top (characters can die in one episode and be well and thriving in the next), and delights in mixing a "Friends"-like premise with copious amounts of bad taste and gore. Underneath this rowdy, off-the-wall aesthetic, though, is a surprisingly affecting emotional core, one that takes its relationships seriously and cares about its characters. Adam Green clearly loves these people he has created, and this includes a scene-stealing Dee Snider as colorful cable station manager/rock star wannabe Lance Rockett and GWAR's Dave Brockie (who sadly passed away in March 2014) as Adam's costumed imaginary voice of reason Oderus Urungus. This obvious affection shines through during every frame of Season 2's ten 22-minute episodes and 50-minute Christmas Special.

Season 2 Episodes:
   The Christmas Special
   Episode 1: Suicidal Tendencies
   Episode 2: Halloween Girl
   Episode 3: Hobgoblin
   Episode 4: Honesty
   Episode 5: Rock the Cradle
   Episode 6: Joe's Soda
   Episode 7: Blobby
   Episode 8: Cursed
   Episode 9: Kevin's Wedding
   Episode 10: Farm Festival

Blu-ray Picture/Sound

Image Entertainment has opted to release "Holliston: The Complete Second Season" exclusively to Blu-ray (no separate DVD release is planned), and once fans of the show see it in the glories of 1080p high-definition there should be no grumblings about this decision. The series is primarily shot on soundstages (one exception is the hysterical "Blair Witch"-inspired found-footage episode "Hobgoblin"), but every inch of the production design comes to life. Clearly, Green & Co. spent a lot of time perfecting how Adam and Joe's apartment would look, and the horror memorabilia and posters on display are enough to pull the viewer in all by themselves. Furthermore, there is a pleasing dimensionality and depth to the image, while the smallest details in facial features and clothing are pulled off with striking clarity. The 5.1 HD-DTS Master Audio is unexpectedly dynamic, as well, particularly for such a dialogue-centric show. The laugh track is low and non-invasive, but still accomplishes exactly what is intended in its parody of conventional multi-camera situational comedies. The music is where things really impress, with the score consistently full-bodied and the opening and closing theme songs boasting mighty range across the sound field.

Blu-ray Features
Audio Commentaries on 9 episodes and the Christmas Special by creator/writer/director/star Adam Green, director Sean Becker, executive producer/star Joe Lynch and star Laura Ortiz; Behind the Scenes (14:22, HD); Bloopers (5:18, HD); Table Read (29:14, HD); Music Videos: "Can You Hear Me" (4:16, HD), "Love It Down Your Throat" (3:11, HD), "The Road Behind" (5:40, HD)

Bottom Line
"Holliston" has built a relatively small but insanely passionate following, one that deserves to only grow in size once more people learn about it and give it a shot. As a lifelong horror fan, the series often feels as if it was made just for me—a sense that anyone who is remotely a genre buff should also get once they start watching. The decision to shorten the episodes for season 2 to a tight, breezy 22 minutes after season 1's were approaching twice that length has only helped the series' pacing and the story's creativity. That there is a heart beating beneath the absurdist humor only makes it better. The Blu-ray of "Holliston: The Complete Second Season" comes highly recommended. If you haven't already, pick up the first season while you're at it and get prepared for a new show to start obsessing over.

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© 2014 by Dustin Putman
Dustin Putman