Friday, October 27, 2023

Curses!, on Apple TV+

The "restricted wing" of the Vanderhouven family mansion is sort of like the antique vault in Friday the 13th: The Series (unrelated to the movies) or the sinister collection of demonic objects (like Annabelle) assembled by the Warrens in the Conjuring films. The difference is the Vanderhouvens want to deaccession their collection, returning the objects to where they came from. They have their reasons in creators Jim Cooper & Jeff Dixon’s ten-part animated series Curses!, which premieres today on Apple TV+.

Twelve-year-old Pandora spends most of her time skateboarding through the halls of their stately, but eccentric mansion and devising new ways to act irresponsibly, while her older brother Russ concentrates on being a whiny introvert. Unbeknownst to them and their poor mother Sky, their father Alex is desperately researching occult means to reverse the curse afflicting the Vanderhouven family. Unfortunately, his time is up, which means he has been turned to stone.

When searching for their petrified father, the family discovers the restricted wing and meets his enchanted helpers: Larry, an eye-patch-sporting pirate skull and the more fastidious Stanley, a wooden totem or fetish. As they blunder around, the Vanderhouvens reawaken the powers of the collection amassed by Great-Grandfather Cornelius Vanderhouven, who was not unlike Uncle Louis Vendredi in
Friday the 13th. After corralling a wild baboon mask, the family deduces they might be able to reverse the curse, if they return all the antiquities Cornelius plundered to where they belong.

has been billed as gateway horror for kids, but maybe fifty percent of the time, the series is more like tomb-raiding (or rather restoring) adventure. They even jet-set around in a Grumman Albatross piloted by their tough-talking no-questions-asked family pal, Margie. Probably the coolest and most truly horror-like episode takes the family into a rare Japanese painting inhabited by demons, but there is also an excursion to the Himalayas that adds clever mind- and time-bending dimensions.

Regardless, there is a good deal of intriguing magic and cosmic mayhem. Fittingly, the legendary Robert Englund supplies the voice of nasty old Cornelius, who will have a role to play in this nefarious business. The kids need to be grounded, but Larry and Stanley are guaranteed to charm eight- to twelve-year-olds. They also look very cool.

Cooper, Dixon, and their contributing writers devised an intriguing collection of curses and rituals. The relics and exotic locations look great on-screen, but the characters running around them are pretty annoying.

Curses! is probably the best looking animated TV/streaming series currently going. There is good world-building and spooking stuff. The character development just needs a little work. Recommended for family Halloween viewing, Curses! starts streaming today (10/27) on Apple TV+.