JOHN CARPENTER'S SUBURBAN SCREAMS (2023)
Limited Series [Premiere]
Aired On: Peacock.
Release Date: 10/13/23
"An exploration of true tales of terror that took place in seemingly perfect small towns."
Before reviewing the first episode of this “true stories” horror series, I feel I must make a statement that affected the way I engaged with the first episodes: I am a skeptic.
Spirits? Nah, fam. The only spirits I believe in are the spirits of Halloween and Christmas.
Jokes aside, the first episode of Suburban Screams hinges on how much you buy into the concept of the Ouija board, which is pronounced “wee-ja” here. It follows the story of someone, back in his twenties, plays a Ouija board prank on his girlfriend, but manages to communicate with the spirit of a young woman that went missing. As his connection with the spirit grows stronger, his search for the woman grows more manic to the point that he may end up losing everything.
It’s hard to really identify what this show is. It’s almost structured like a true crime docuseries, each episode interviewing an individual alongside some of those involved in the events to give a testimony. This testimony is used as exposition for a short horror film that is intercut throughout the episode, dramatizing the real-life events into a scary movie. However, it doesn’t seem to dramatize the events to paint a clearer picture, but instead uses the testimony to really just make a horror film.
It was hard for me to sink my teeth into it because if these stories of allegedly true events are just being used to make horror films, it can come off a bit exploitative. Of course, horror films such as The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Amityville Horror, and entries of The Conjuring Universe, just to name a few, are also allegedly based on true stories, and some of those cases lead to lawsuits. I think, for me, the uneasy feeling in this case stems from the fact that we see the real people involved in the story, that there is an effort to interview these people with the intention to make a generic-feeling horror movie out of it. In the mix of this, it feels like these real people’s suffering merely gets churned into content designed for our entertainment.
So did I like Suburban Screams? No. It’s not unwatchable by any means, and I do plan to jump straight into the episode directed by John Carpenter. However, the scariest thing about this series doesn’t have anything to do with the stories told, but instead the lengths some people will go for the sake of entertainment, even to someone’s detriment.