BINGE-R #7: Crazyhead + Stan Essentials
Streaming Service: Netflix
Availability: All six episodes now streaming
Let’s get this out of the way: Netflix’s new horror-comedy Crazyhead will often remind you of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. With its irreverent take on mythology, undead sprees, and wisecrack-laden dialogue, the creative DNA of Joss Whedon’s much-loved series is apparent throughout this British successor. What matters is that Crazyhead stands up on its own – it’s no mere tribute, and the sharply surprising plotting and youthful resilience (not to mention a frisky lexicon Buffy and Spike could never recite) make for a catchy, concise experience you may well devour in a few viewing sessions.
Created by Howard Overman, Crazyhead approaches the unbelievable with matter-of-fact bemusement and mines the everyday for amusingly balmy detail. Soon after Amy (Cara Theobold) is told by Raquel (Susan Wokoma) that the hallucinations of demonic figures she’s long seen, and treated as a mental illness, are in fact real, the pair are fighting off demons and attempting an exorcism via an internet checklist. The two twentysomethings Londoners are seers, although as Raquel points out, “I prefer demon hunter, or kick-ass hell bitch”.
Just beneath the quick wit is an exploration of female companionship, as Amy and Raquel are thrown together and, initially, do not bond. The former is reticent and run down, having had her life side-tracked by the hallucinations, while the latter masks her lack of confidence with a ferocious public persona. Both young women, along with Amy’s best friend Suzanne (Riann Steele), are navigating a world where it’s hard to distinguish between the leering gaze of your average young man and the altogether hungrier look of a demon.
Every time you think the storyline has gone conventional, such as the introduction of the brooding, seer-friendly demon Sawyer (Luke Allen-Gale), Overman offers an unexpected twist even as he personalises these characters beyond their adversarial roles. The demons, who have a master plan that involves Raquel, enjoy their own pithy concerns: “This is the last time I possess a single mum,” one remarks while sorting a babysitter, “there’s no support”. Likewise the direction generally makes good use of comic suspense, enjoying the horror tropes it plays with even as they’re stretched out. I like these kick-ass hell bitches.
>> Bonus Binge? All five seasons of Crazyhead creator Howard Overman’s previous supernatural series Misfits are streaming on both Netflix and Stan.
In BINGE-R #6 I covered the foundation shows that would set every Netflix subscriber onto a rewarding streaming path, so today Stan gets the same treatment. Any of the following top five titles should hopefully have you repeatedly succumbing to “Next episode starts in…” syndrome.
1 – Billions S1: A series about the pernicious rivalry between a New York hedge fund billionaire (Homeland’s Damien Lewis) and the city’s powerful U.S. Attorney (Paul Giamatti) could easily be a privileged soap opera, but Billions is so attuned to the pair’s distinct personalities that the plotting has a psychological plausibility that underpins the drama. Their feud is illustrated by not only financial and legal detail, but also intimate human connection (and corruption).
2 – The Girlfriend Experience S1: Steven Soderbergh’s 2009 film supplies just the title and concept, with American independent filmmakers Amy Seimetz and Lodge Kerrigan sculpting a labyrinthine series about pleasure, identity, and the modern workspace around the dual careers of law firm intern and high-end escort Christine Reade (the outstanding Riley Keough). Few shows are as coolly observational or emotionally abrupt.
3 – Mozart in the Jungle S1, S2 + S3: Reviewing the most recent season of this classical music comic drama in the very first BINGE-R, I noted its whimsical dedication to the vagaries of creativity. Anchored by the great Gael Garcia Bernal as a conductor allied to the New York Symphony, it’s full of vibrant eccentricity and comic interludes. Every season has one WTF episode, except the third. It has two.
4 – No Activity S1 + S2: A crime procedural focused on the interminable waiting instead of the dynamic action, the two seasons of this farcical Australian comedy are astutely composed in their dry exchanges between mismatched pairs of bored foot soldiers, most notably police detectives played by Patrick Brammall and Darren Gilshenan. Very simple, very funny.
5 – Transparent S1, S2 + S3: If I had to nominate the very best show the streaming services have produced, it would be Transparent. Jill Solloway’s story of a Los Angeles clan whose patriarch (Jeffrey Tambor) is transgender and now identifies as a woman encompasses family, relationships, emotional desire, economic need, and spiritual force with a heartbreaking insight. Few screen lives are as richly complex as those revealed here.
WORTH TRYING: Blunt Talk, Deutschland 83, Preacher, Unreal (S1 essential, S2 wonky), Younger.
DO NOT BOTHER: 11.12.63, Good Behaviour, Roadies, Wolf Creek.
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