Quibi, the new streaming service from Jeffrey Katzenberg and Meg Whitman, launched a week ago and will steadily drop new TV series and movies-in-chapters. Even though the service’s premise seems simple — quick bites of content in 10-minutes or less — that doesn’t make the continued roll out less confusing. We’ve dug into whether Quibi’s worth it and also looked at the best-and-weirdest-looking projects (including revivals) that the service has to offer. Aside from the comedies, cooking shows, and sports-related offerings, you might be wondering whether the flagship horror project from Evil Dead maestro Sam Raimi lives up to its pedigree by offering genuine scares, or not.
A bite-sized series begs for a morsel-sized evaluation, so here we go: so far, I’m really liking 50 States Of Fright! Granted, Quibi’s playing things close to their sleeve by only releasing a few episodes to critics at a time, so I can’t predict whether the whole season (of an anthologized series that dances though different directors and actors for each story) will be consistently excellent. However, the show from Gunpowder & Sky’s horror brand, ALTER, makes a strong start with the Michigan-based “Golden Arm” story, which should get folks in the door for more.
This is a brutally efficient story. The whole thing takes place over roughly 30 minutes. Done and done. And if this story’s any indication of what’s to come, the show’s taking its Quibi niche seriously. Sam Raimi’s not simply branding his name as producer onto this project. He also directs “Golden Arm” (and co-writes with his brother, Ivan Raimi), which acts as a cautionary tale to those who’d like to see a fairy tale come to life.
The basic setup here has a ball with the trope of horror characters making objectively dumb decisions. We’ve got a married couple, Rachel Brosnahan (The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel) as Heather and Travis Fimmel (Vikings) as Dave, doing those stupid things. She’s the toast of their small town, and he’s placed her on a pedestal, which includes digging himself into a hole to support her expensive tastes. As narrated by Andy, who’s portrayed by John Marshall Jones (he’s everywhere now, from The Curse of la Llorona to Bosch), Heather and Travis sprint head-first down a dangerous path.
I don’t want to spoil this story, but the title itself reveals that there’s a golden arm, front and center. That makeshift limb comes into existence through the weaving of a twisted fairy tale, and let’s just say that the Raimis have mined the terrifying depths of human weakness to get there. Dreams come true at a terrible price and deliver an ultimate warning that will stick with the viewer. Further, the story gives and takes in all the right places and somehow accelerates and winds down the story with a pitch-perfect pace. It’s damn fine stuff and the right amount of scary, even while delivered onto smart-phone dimensions. The bite-sized concept also allows the three chapters to end at chilling moments, when I genuinely looked forward to seeing what was to come.
However, the manner in which Quibi’s releasing 50 States Of Fright is, well, complicated to describe. The structure of this anthologized project places each story in a different state, where the audience can dive into horrors that can be found “just beneath the surface of our country.” With most of the stories, three episodes will form each story, and only one episode will drop daily. Suspense sounds like the name of the game for this show, but Quibi’s feeling generous enough with “Golden Arm” to release all three parts of this first story at once: on Monday, April 13.
50 States Of Fright will eventually feature Christina Ricci, and over the next few weeks, the show will release these installments:
– The Oregon folklore-based story, Scared Stiff (written and directed by Ryan Spindell, starring James Ransone and Emily Hampshire)
– The Kansas tale, Ball of Twine (directed by Yoko Okomura and starring Ming-Na Wen)
– The Minnesota story, Grey Cloud Island (written and directed by Adam Schindler Brian Netto and starring Asa Butterfield)
– The Florida tale, Destino (written and directed by Alejandro Brugués and starring Danay Garcia)
Eventually, we should see all 50 states from this show, if it survives long enough to cross the whole country. And if the first tale is any indication, the show will retain enough subtlety to not make the Oklahoma story about thrill-seeking vampires hitching rides on tornadoes. Although — let’s face it — I’d probably watch that, too, after digging the Michigan-based “Golden Arm” from Sam and Ivan Raimi.
Quibi’s ’50 States Of Fright’ is currently streaming the ‘Golden Arm’ episodes.