Thursday, August 15, 2019

Two Sentence Horror Stories: “Legacy” & “Hide”

There is a reason why horror has been such an effective genre for social commentary. That is because fans have long acknowledged the dark side of human nature. It certainly looks like Vera Miao is charting a course for Two Sentence Horror Stories that follows in the George Romero-Rod Serling socially conscious tradition when the second two stories (or four sentences), “Legacy” and “Hide” premiere tonight on the CW.

Miao’s “Legacy,” written by Pornsak Pichetshote directly addresses the awkward subject of domestic abuse, which sounds like a heck of a lot of fun, right? Yet, it is easily the best of the series (including the online first season), so far. While he was alive, Angela’s recently deceased husband Jin drank to excess and frequently beat her physically. Horrifyingly, he continues his pattern of abuse as an angry spirit. However, there is much more to this story.

In just a whisker over twenty minutes, Miao pulls off some shocking revelations and stages a dramatic exorcism session with fresh wrinkles worthy of the Insidious and Conjuring franchises. She steadily builds tension and stage manages the escalating bedlam quite masterfully, while cinematographer Paul Yee gives it all a suitably dark and creepy look.

The small ensemble is also uniformly terrific. Kim Wong and Wai Ching Ho keep the human element—the fear and the pain—compellingly front-and-center as Angela and her mother-in-law. Benjamin Ye is also a smart and convincing standout as Harold, the mild-mannered exorcist. It would be interesting to see his character reappear in another story somehow. Regardless, this is one of the scariest works of network programming since the 70s glory years of made-for-TV horror movies.

For the most part, Rania Attieh & Daniel Garcia’s “Hide,” is nearly as frightening, which is quite a surprise, given the vastly different tone of their best-known directorial collaboration, H. (our review might have used words like “ambiguous” and “pretentious”). The horror business of “Hide” revolve around a brutally violent home invasion. It is Araceli’s bad luck to be working for her wealthy employers on this fateful night, but she will do whatever she can to protect their autistic daughter Gracie from “Yellow” and “Red,” the two sadistic teen girls out to commit slasher-style murders for sport.

The problem with “Hide” is the denouement, which goes eye-rollingly political. Yes, it is a bit of a cliché already, but more importantly in this context, it has nothing to do with the second sentence whatsoever. Nevertheless, Greta Quispe is impressively intense as Araceli, making her a refreshingly mature and working-class alternative to the airheaded teen “final girl” babysitters so familiar from most every other slasher that came before. Conversely, Sarah Irwin and Kyli Zion are wildly creepy and unsettling as Yellow and Red.

Even though “Hide” fails to stick the dismount, its pairing with “Legacy” represents an unusually tense and suspenseful night of network horror. Highly recommended for fans of genre anthologies and short films, the second two tales of Two Sentence Horror Stories premiere tonight (8/15), on the CW.