Judge Gordon Sullivan's never found a Book of Pure Evil, just a few Paperbacks of Intermittent Mediocrity.
Way back in 2003, a couple of guys (Craig David Wallace and Max Reid) created a short film about the effects of a satanic book on a high school. The film premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival that year, and six years later was picked up for development as a television idea by Canada's Space channel. It premiered there in 2010 with a thirteen-episode season. Now American fans of horror comedy can enjoy the mayhem.
Many years ago, some secret Satanists founded a small town in Canada, and in that town is Crowley High. Deep in the bowels of Crowley High is the Book of Pure Evil, a tome which grants the holder a wish, but at a terrible price. Enter Todd (Alex House, Jane and the Dragon), a metalhead who enlists his group of friends to track down and destroy the book, which has a nasty habit of disappearing. Each episode follows the consequences of a Crowley High student using the book. All thirteen episodes of Todd & The Book of Pure Evil: The Complete First Season are presented on two discs:
The idea that wishes are dangerous is as old as the stories of the genie and the lamp, but the first real use of the terrible price of wishes was the story "The Monkey's Paw" by W.W. Jacobs, published in 1902. The basic idea is that some object (in the story, a monkey's paw; in the show, a book) grants the bearer a wish, but only with unintended consequences. For instance, the bearer might wish for a million dollars. Immediately, they'd discover that 1) their wife/sister/mother had a heretofore unknown life insurance policy for a million dollars and 2) that the wife/sister/mother is dead. It's a brilliant idea (and I remember the short story fondly), but I'm flabbergasted that this is the first time I've heard of a serial program using the premise for more than a single episode. The idea of basing an entire series around the conceit is so darned good I'm amazed it hasn't happened a million times before.
That brilliant conceit gets wedded to the usual tropes of the high school comedy. This isn't Buffy the Vampire Slayer, where every week we're saving the world and learning what it means to be mature. Nope, Todd & The Book of Pure Evil sticks fairly solidly to the comedy side of things. Individual enjoyment of the show is likely going to come down to tolerance for the vicissitudes of the high school comedy. For me, the use of horror breathed some new life into the tired stereotypes of high school (like the show's metalhead-hero Todd), and the addition of comedy made some of the horror ideas fresher.
Two things help the show stand out for me. The first is the fact that the show (unlike a show like Buffy) gets to throw in profanity. Apparently the show records both a "clean" and a profanity laden version of the script. Luckily, we get the latter. Though this is hardly a 2 Live Crew record, the occasional bits of cursing help give the show a distinctive flavor that lots of teen shows can't match due to airing in the more restrictive American market. The second thing is the appearance of Jason Mewes of Kevin Smith's Askewniverse fame. For most American viewers, his name is what's going to get the show it's draw. He's not a huge part of the show, but his presence is appreciated, and he joins a cast full of other talented misfits.
This is also a solid DVD release for the show. Its 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer looks like broadcast-quality video, with a bright, clean look. No serious digital artifacts are a problem. The show's Dolby 5.1 surround track is focused mainly on dialogue, but that's well-balanced and easy to understand. Extras stand out. They start with commentary tracks by the cast and crew on three episodes. They're jokey (as befits the show), but worth a listen for fans. We also get a set of bloopers/outtakes/deleted scenes and extended musical numbers, along with a Q&A with the cast. The most interesting bit of extra material is the inclusion of the original short that got the whole Todd phenomena started.
Todd & The Book of Pure Evil requires a certain affection for both horror conventions and the antics of high school comedies. Though the show's blending feels fresh, some people might find the show's use of genre tropes tired. Also, those used to more circumspect American shows might find the show's profanity problematic.
Fans of high school comedy and horror comedy should give Todd & The Book of Pure Evil a shot. The disc's solid presentation and decent extras make it easy to recommend for a rental or purchase.
Rock on, Todd. Not guilty.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Image Entertainment
• Episode Commentaries
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