‘Two Sentence Horror Stories’ scary, thought-provoking

Rick's Reviews

“Manifest Destiny” is one of the upcoming episodes of “Two Sentence Horror Stories.” (Photo courtesy of CW Network)

(KGET) — The use of science fiction, fantasy and horror genres has been a way for creators to discuss serious topics on TV and in film for years. “Star Trek” tackled race issues while Rod Serling dealt with anti-war topics through his anthology series, “The Twilight Zone.”

The CW Network anthology series “Two Sentence Horror Stories” is continuing that practice. Each episode – that airs 8 p.m. Tuesdays – on the surface looks like just a tale of the creepy and the bizarre. But, a closer examination reveals tales that take on tough and often controversial issues.

Executive producer Liz Levine and her team attack each episode in different ways. There are times when a setting or story idea will be the catalyst. Other times, the work starts with what topic is to be addressed.

Either way, all of the elements are wrapped in the horror genre.

“The genre of horror was created and used as a place to talk about things that we deal with in everyday life,” Levine says. “The truth is we are getting away from the serialized slasher content that horror has become over the years and going back to the purpose of the genre.

“You look back as far as Frankenstein and see that horror is a place where we can talk about things. Those tough things can become the monsters.”

Through two seasons of “Two Sentence Horror Stories,” episodes have tackled addiction, school lockdowns, trans bullying, greed, contagions, brown girl super-powers, vanity and whitewashing of culture.

The topics can be complicated but eventually get distilled into a simple statement as each episode ends with two sentences (thus the title) that are both a recap and a commentary on what has just transpired. This has been the concept since the series was created by Vera Miao as digital shorts and then as a network series.

Levine explains the two sentences are the last part of the episode to be finalized as original ideas often change once the filming is done. Writing those two sentences is one of the biggest challenges as every word is discussed to make sure the greatest impact is achieved.

“It is really the hit at the end of each episode,” Levine says of the concerns over the two sentences. “The two sentences have to be perfect.”

“Two Sentence Horror Stories” is different from other television dramas as it is made up of two half-hour offerings. This more condensed format was a good fit for Levine who has produced a long history of short film projects. This has helped her think in the tighter confines of the series plus given her a knowledge of talent available in the Vancouver area where the series is filmed.

Her other credits include producing Kyra Sedgwick’s directorial debut in “Story of a Girl” plus Douglas Coupland’s television series “jPod.” Before getting into the TV and film world, Levine got a master of journalism degree at the University of British Columbia. She has written for The Vancouver Sun, “The National Post” “Playback magazine.

Levine has long been a fan of horror although she got away from it when the films became more obsessed with gore than scares. She’s happy that recent movies – think “Let Him In” or “Babadook” – have made scaring people fashionable again.

That’s what Levine and her team wants to do and she’s really excited about the Feb. 9 episode “Alone in the Morgue: I Hear Little Footsteps.” A young girl has to hang out at the morgue as her mother works, only to find herself the target of a terrifying ghost. Isla Sunar, Michelle Arvizu and Carlos Albornoz star. It will be followed by a repeat of “Elliot.”

The episodes being broadcast Feb. 16 are “Ibeji” and “Manifest Destiny.” 

One of the challenges – and for Levine one of the best things about the show – is that each episode is different because it is an anthology. That means new locations, stories and cast each week. This opens up a wide number of horror avenues that can be taken.

Those journeys did come with some restrictions during the filming of the second season. Work was just getting started in mid-March when the pandemic shut down all productions. Once Levine and her team got the word work could resume, they moved forward under strict safety protocols.

It all has been worth it for Levine as she is proud of the way “Two Sentence Horror Stories” has been able to produce scares while maintaining the legacy of dealing with serious topics.

The season two finale of “Two Sentence Horror Stories” will air Feb. 16.  If you miss those episodes or any of the others in the second season, all 10 episodes will be available on Netflix starting Feb. 24.

Work has already started on season three with more sentences being written.

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