REVIEWED: SEASON 1 (ALL EPISODES) | WHERE TO WATCH: AMC UK
With the venerable Supernatural finally about to die of natural causes and The Walking Dead starting to slow down, it seems the crown for ‘popular American supernatural drama’ is up for grabs. The latest attempt at stealing said crown is NOS4A2, which is arguably the spiritual successor to the granddaddy of all scary TV serials, Salem’s Lot.
Based on Joe Hill’s book of the same name, NOS4A2 is set in a sleepy Massachusetts town called Haverhill, the sort of place people dream about leaving. The title for the show comes from the registration plate of a Rolls-Royce Silver Wraith, owned by a 135-year-old pyschic vampire who traps the souls of children in a hellscape of his own creation while turning their bodies into monstrous creatures.
Our hero is Vic McQueen (played by Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries regular Ashleigh Cummings), a lady with the power to finds lost things. People with weird abilities in this world are called ‘Strong Creatives’, who can manipulate reality thanks to their powerful imaginations, usually by focusing through a physical thing that has meaning to them. The previously mentioned vampire, played effortlessly by Zachary Quinto, is also one such creative. This is not a typical ‘good versus evil’ tale however, nor is it ‘superheroes with fangs’. This is deep horror, the sort of chill designed to make you think back to it days later and shudder.
Star Trek’s other Spock versus Miss Fisher’s Dot might sound like a tough sell, but both Cummings and Quinto are electric throughout, and both actors tackle what are essentially very weird roles handily. NOS4A2 quickly grows into an archetypical American gothic style tale. All the hallmarks are there: weird obsession, long dusty roads, broken families, mundane hopes and desires crushed by petty things, and the fact that magic always comes at a terrible personal cost. The slow yet tragic narrative never fails to deliver shocks and moments of awe.
It really isn’t fair to compare Joe Hill TV output to that of Stephen King, but we’re going to anyway given the similarity of the work (and the fact that Hill is King’s son). Certainly, NOS4A2 suffers from the same sort of source material conversion problem familiar to fans to King’s adaptation. Hill’s work is dense and detailed, with much of the tension relying on pages and pages of steady build up. It also stretches across several decades. This doesn’t work well in a visual medium, but the show does it’s best to translate the high sense of weirdness and obsession present in the novel. The series so far has kept the spirit of the novel strong throughout, something that can’t be said about the majority of Stephen King adaptations.
This is excellent horror telefantasy. Check it out as soon as you can, and be aware that a second series is very much on the way.