All-ages horror is a really difficult tightrope to walk. Go too dark, and younger viewers may be too frightened by the material. Go too light, and older viewers will find it silly or cheap. In recent years, one could argue that there’s been a decline in strong horror properties for kids, with most material skewing towards the latter lighter approach over something more mature. And to be frank, that isn’t typically my cup of tea. So when I dove into the first two episodes of Eli Roth and James Frey’s Fright Krewe, to my pleasant surprise, I found myself enjoying what felt like a return to form for the Amblin-esque family horror that defined multiple years of my childhood.
Indeed, Fright Krewe is a really ambitious, but finely executed piece of all-ages animated horror. It is a ghoulishly macabre series with a delightfully devilish first impression. It treats its younger audiences with a sense of maturity and adventure they deserve, and in doing so, the series makes for a really entertaining piece of content for older viewers as well.
The series revolves around a group of teenagers from completely different walks of life in New Orleans. There’s Soleil, the horror nerd. Missy the popular high school dance captain. Stanley, a dumb football player. Maybe, a shy, quiet kid. And Patrick, the new, sensitive kid. And they inadvertently release a demonic presence, once imprisoned in a tree, that seeks to destroy the world. With the help of voodoo priestess Marie Laveau, and several famed icons from New Orleans voodoo history, the “Fright Krewe” must ban together to stop the evil they released and set things right once and for all.
The show is essentially Breakfast Club meets Buffy by way of Guillermo Del Toro’s Trollhunters stories. And I’m all here for it! It’s fun, freaky, and incredibly captivating in how it immerses its audience in the rich mythology of New Orleans’ history and the voodoo subculture. Roth and Frey, along with their terrific team of writers and animators, have really taken the mythology seriously and are schooling us in lessons for a culture very seldom explored – especially in family animation!
Huge praise should be showered on showrunners and writers Joanna Lewis and Kristine Songco. Though Fright Krewe may have some corny moments here and there (it’s still a show aimed at younger audiences), it still manages to retain a huge sense of maturity and terror, while managing to still be still pretty funny. There’s digs at social media culture being someone’s whole identity, and a few other relatable moments of levity, in between a lot of the darker themes pertaining to the real-world pressures of dealing with resentment and negative emotions. To mix that in with monsters and demons, all while educating masses about voodoo Lwa and their abilities is not only fascinating, but brilliantly executed as well. In short, there simply aren’t a lot of cartoon shows that are doing what Fright Krewe is doing, and that’s a great thing.
The voice cast for the show also deserves a bit of praise. Veteran voice actress, Sydney Mikayla (who That’s It LA recently interviewed for Transformers: Earthspark) takes on the lead role of Soleil. She brings all the quirkiness and playfulness to Soleil, making her macabre, but fun, yet also empathetic and a natural leader for the group. Terrence Little Gardenhigh (Coffee and Kareem) adds a lot of heart and sincerity as his role of the sweet-natured Pat. Stranger Things alum, Chester Rushing brings in much of the humor as the dimwitted Stanley, who is a complete idiot, but also completely endearing. And Grace Lu (Disney’s Bunk’d) adds a lot of “queen bee” energy to her role as mean girl, Missy, a former friend of Soleil’s.
Additionally, the animation and the character design of the main cast, as well as some of the demons, monsters, and Lwa are stellar! In particular, the show taps into French mythology and introduces audiences to its version of a beast akin to a werewolf called a Rougarou. Within the second episode, we see it in action, and it’s incredibly uniquely designed; both from a coloring perspective and the overall look of the character. Between that, and several demons and mythical Lwas appearing, there’s something gorgeously creative about how they present these mythical elements on screen; either making them scary or warm and inviting.
The backgrounds of the graveyards, and the streets of New Orleans are vivid and surreal. But more than that, the show has the challenge of depicting these locations and characters both within the land of the living and the spirit realm. So the look and feel of both realms needs to be unique for audiences to understand which land they’re being transported to: the real world or the spirit world. And the show is able to accomplish this beautifully and simply. The spiritual side looks a lot more muted, with a bit of a forcefield effect swirling around. It showcases the creative decisions the team successfully executes on when putting details about how the world and the rules of the supernatural work within it.
The only real issue about the show, which is something alluded to earlier in this review, is that it sometimes has a tendency to get cheesy at times. This is completely forgivable given the demographic it’s aimed towards. However, not all the jokes or character beats hit well. I think children will get a kick out of some of the over-the-top silliness from the characters and the high school situations at times; perhaps the more slapstick moments. But not everything landed with the adult audience viewing the first two episodes, even though, for the most part, general reception was enthusiastic overall.
According to Roth, the episodes are going to get darker and more mature as future installments drop on Hulu and Peacock. And to be honest, if that’s the direction the show is going, I’m going to be incredibly happy. There needs to be a lot more horror-tinged family series – especially animated ones. When shows can come together for all ages, but still manage to scare and entertain, without treating their younger viewers in a condescending way, I call that a win. And in this case, Fright Krewe is a huge win! It’s funny, it’s fascinating, it’s gorgeously animated, its characters are, so far, interesting, and above all, its treatment of voodoo culture and New Orleans mythology is reverent, but spooky and compelling. It’s a show that deserves a great audience, and one that lives up to the tradition of classics like Danny Phantom, Eerie, Indiana, So Weird, and the grandfather classic of all time, Scooby-Doo. Let’s hope we see more from this “krewe” soon!
Fright Krewe hits Peacock and Hulu on October 2nd!