Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Review: TODD & THE BOOK OF PURE EVIL

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Todd The Metal God
How To Make A Homunculus
This Canadian horror-comedy premiered way back in September 2010, but is only now making its UK debut on Syfy. Todd & The Book Of Pure Evil (hereafter Todd) is another of those cheap-and-cheerful TV shows, aiming to be the next Buffy The Vampire Slayer, but sorely lacking the key ingredients of good writing and engaging performances to achieve that aim. The other strange thing about Todd is how retro it feels, as I could easily believe this show was made in 1992, given its chintzy special effects and a general rock/goth vibe that recalls the "grunge" era of Nirvana.

Todd Smith (Alex House) is your typical high school dreamer, with a one-armed best-friend called Curtis (Billy Turnbull) who plays the drums in his tone-deaf band, and a crush on the local sweetheart Jenny Kolinsky (Maggie Castle). But after discovering the mystical "Book Of Pure Evil", which transforms into an electric guitar, Todd suddenly becomes the world's greatest guitar player, allowing him to publicly humiliate the school bully and win a Battle of the Bands-style contest. The setup of the series revolves around the idea that the titular Book keeps being rediscovered by various characters, who each find it grants them a wish, but with a sinister and malicious twist. The second episode concerns science nerd Hannah (Melanie Leishman) creating a homunculus for a science fair, which soon runs amuck.

Based on a short movie I haven't seen, there's certainly some potential to the idea behind this show, even if it does lean very heavily on clich├ęs and utter silliness like a teacher, Atticus Murphy Jr (Chris Leavins), being part of a cult who covet the dangerous Book for themselves. The "be careful what you wish for, you might just get it" moral to every episode also has merit—in a teenage-version-of-the-Wishmaster-movies sort of way. It's just impossible to feel anything but disappointment about Todd, because the writing's atrocious, the jokes are lame, the performances are stiff, the production looks cheap, and the direction is tepid at best. Even the fact Todd's been allowed to show some edginess by Canada's SPACE channel doesn't really amount to much, because the existence of an "uncensored version" with swearing doesn't fix any of the show's problems. Maybe if the content was more overtly grisly and shocking it would have some ghoulish appeal (Buffy-meets-Hellraiser?), but even then I can't imagine Todd holding my interest for long.

Overall, Todd & The Book Of Pure Evil may develop into something better (and technically has/hasn't done so already, given that Canada's already aired season 2), but if the pilot is indicative of its quality I see no reason to persist with it. It's hokey, unfunny, weakly acted, and despite clearly wanting to merge together Scooby Doo, Scott Pilgrim, Buffy, and The Evil Dead, that's almost impossible when there's no Edgar Wright, Joss Whedon or Sam Raimi involved. At best, there was a pleasing use of puppetry over CGI for the second episode, but this will only really appeal to fans of Troma movies, or people with subzero taste.

written by Charles Picco & Craig David Wallace (1.1) & Craig David Wallace (1.2) / directed by James Dunnison (1.1) & James Genn (1.2) / 6 March 2012 / Syfy UK