The Horror Honeys: Stan Against Evil: A Reluctant Hero with a Heart of Coal

Stan Against Evil: A Reluctant Hero with a Heart of Coal

A Horror TV Honey Episode Recap with Kat W!

All photos courtesy of IFC
If you like your demons snarky and your demon hunters... snarky... then IFC’s new horror-comedy series Stan Against Evil might just be the delightful surprise you didn’t know you needed. It’s part Whedon, part Evil Dead, and, though the first two episodes struggle a little in finding their footing, there are enough undead hijinks and (at least the promise of) heart to keep you coming back for more.

Episode 1: Dig Me Up, Dig Me Down 

“Anybody ever tell you you look like a barrel of assholes?” Boy, does the dialogue in this show really know its way to a horror fan’s heart. Meet Stan Miller (John C. McGinley, of Scrubs fame), newly ousted Sheriff of Willard’s Mill, New Hampshire.

Dr. Cox: Demon Slayer
Stan’s wife just died, and thanks to a horrifying scene he caused at her funeral, he’s lost his job as Sheriff. Which is probably not a bad thing, considering Willard’s Mill has a long history of Sheriffs dying “early, horrible, violent” deaths, all thanks to a curse brought on by some pretty heinous (think exponentially worse in number than the body count at Salem) witch burning by the local constable in the late 1600s. After three days of living and showering at the police station (he can’t bring himself to go home, it’s actually heartbreaking), curmudgeon Stan is confronted by the arrival of Evie Barret (You’re the Worst’s Janet Varney), the new law-enforcer-in-chief. Evie is a modern woman who is not mouthy at all, but being a woman is seen by Stan as very mouthy. Stan has issues with women, okay?

Just look at that mouthy mouth.
There’s no honeymoon period for the new Sheriff, though. As the front page of the Willard’s Mill Beacon reads: “Anniv. of Witch Trials brings mysterious screams, pie contest” (which is just one of many whimsical details that reminds you that SAE was created by Simpsons writer Dana Gould). While Deputy Leon Drinkwater (the ridiculously funny Nate Mooney) fills Evie in on the town’s Sheriff curse, Stan, now back at home, enters his late wife Claire’s heretofore off-limits sewing room to hunt down insurance paperwork and hits the mother lode of freaky weaponry and mysterious occulty literature. As it turns out, Claire Miller: Witch Hunter may have been the the reason Stan survived as Sheriff for 28 years.

The undead element of Willard’s Mill has caught on to the fact that the town’s protector has died, and the craggly old haint of a witch that’s featured in this first episode wastes no time wreaking Raimi-esque havoc all over town. It doesn’t take Stan and Evie long to catch wise, and soon they’re chopping into her skull with an axe and reciting incantations to banish her from our realm forever. Evie reminds Stan that there are still 171 more undead demonic spirits to contend with, but for now, they walk happily into the foggy moonlight.

Episode 2: Know, Know, Know Your Goat

Wouldst thou like to live deliciously, Stan?
This second episode is where SAE comes a little closer to hitting its stride. It opens on a flashback of Willard’s Mill in September of 1954, which adds a depth and richness to the town’s history that episode one was lacking. We’re introduced to a Baphomet-style goat demon whose hobbies include performing glamors to fool townsfolk before tearing them apart limb from limb and trotting off with their severed heads.

Flash forward to present day, where Evie is attempting to establish herself as a Sheriff the town will respect and obey. The town crazy, Raymond Taft, is keen on warning passersby of the coming of “The Beast,” and ignores Evie’s pleas that he stop shouting about demons and disturbing the peace. Evie quickly realizes that, given the town’s history with actual witches and demons, she should probably listen to what Raymond has to say, and she follows the scent back to his filthy abode to get more information. Meanwhile, Stan’s kooky daughter Denise (Deborah Baker Jr.) heads off to pick blueberries and makes a goat-friend in the woods (ruh-roh).

I definitely won't turn into a demon and try to murder your whole family.
The rest of the episode is a fun and fast-paced race against time, with Stan and Denise trying to defeat the evil goat-man she inadvertently brought home, and Evie realizing the danger they’re in and battling obstacles to get to the house to save them with some of Claire’s magical weaponry, disguised on the wall of their kitchen for years as “salad things.”

What Deserves the Evil Eye 

There’s not a lot that’s wildly unique in SAE, and it’s easy to point out the similarities to Starz’s Ash vs Evil Dead. It’s not as bloody and certainly not as violent, but there’s enough black bile vomit, beheading, and light flaying to satisfy the seasoned horror fan.

The show is smart to utilize McGinley’s signature brand of fast-talking snarkiness, but the first episode tends to overstay its welcome with the verbose tangents, losing the thread a little. Thankfully, episode two strikes a better balance. And, beyond a couple of moments in the first episode, there isn’t much honor paid to the fact that Stan’s wife has just died, which does a real disservice to the deep feelings we need to have for these characters.

What’s Dead On

John C. McGinley does a lot to establish a blowhard-older-guy-with-an-axe-to-grind character that feels more like the kind of crass New England cop from a Stephen King novel than anything else in recent memory, which is so much fun. Dana Gould’s dialogue is delightful, and the show transitions nicely between a spooky, timeless fall feeling and the 21st century absurdity of characters arguing about the accuracy of a Jaws analogy to their situation of being besieged by a goat demon. The music is simple and often so tinkly and silly at times that it feels like a cross between early X-Files and Goosebumps scores (which is a very good thing).

There are hints that, despite his abrasive nature, the town of Willard’s Mill has a deep affection for Stan, their recently booted Sheriff. My sincere hope is that, as the first season unfolds, it does a better job of giving us even more heart to hold onto.

Kat W's rating: 140 out of 172 accursed town demons 

Stan Against Evil premiered on IFC on Halloween and airs Wednesdays at 10pm

Are you watching Stan Against Evil?
Tell Kat your feels on Twitter: @_allhallowskat

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