Episode 305: Horror Fiction In Seven Spooky Steps

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Stingo the Bandana Origami Pro

Happy Halloween, everybody! I had Disqus rigged to flicker because it's the Halloween review, but don't worry. It'll return to normal once you're done with the review once Halloween Review Week is over!

3×05 – "Horror Fiction In Seven Spooky Steps"

Part I: In Which I Attempt To Highlight An Overall Theme Within The Episode

"Fear. I kill because I'm afraid."

"Horror Fiction in Seven Spooky Steps" marks a bit of a departure from the previous Halloween episodes of Community. Stepping away from the Halloween-in-setting-only approach of "Intro to Stats" and the zombie movie pastiche of "Epidemiology", "Horror Fiction" instead looks to focus on the emotion that runs beneath everything related to the holiday: fear. Usually it's referred to in a less emotional way, as "scary" or "spooky", but in the end everything rolls back around to fear. Harmon, as the credited writer, uses the episode, with a structure quite similar to "Remedial Chaos Theory" (though with a very different framing device), as a springboard to take a look at the various group members' inner thoughts and fears as filtered directly through their own sensibilities.

Part II: In Which Now I Guess I'll Talk About The Stories

"We can go to the dance in a bit, but first, why don't we tell some scary stories?!"

Remember when I said that the episode takes a look at each of the group members' inner thoughts and fears? I hope you do, because it was only two sentences ago. It's also not entirely true. Most of the group (Annie, Troy, Pierce, and Shirley) tell stories that directly reflect their fears, while Britta and Abed tell ones that simply showcase their overall mentality, and Jeff's is merely a Winger Speech in barely-disguised form.

The first set of stories, the ones that deal with the characters' fears, are also the most problematic of the episode. Perhaps because of the short time each story has to work with, due to the constraints put in place by the episode structure, the four stories here are all only superficially insightful at best, and rarely tell us more than we already know. Annie's shows that she's clearly grasped the central insipid metaphor of those Twilight books she devours; Troy actually states his fear out loud ("Forced to be together forever!"); Pierce is, well, Pierce; and Shirley is Christian, keeping her firmly within her character boundaries for this season. A couple of these stories do have interesting bits to make them more success than failure (the latter two fall almost completely flat, despite some good jokes). Troy's story probably has it the best here; though the "Troy and Abed grow apart/fear growing apart/fear being together" story is nothing new, his acknowledgement that Pierce tried to destroy them, only to make them more awesome bodes well for him attempting to fix things with Abed rather than simply giving up. Annie's story is pretty much surface-level metaphor, though at the conclusion Annie turns into a werewolf that feasts on vampires, suggesting that she's ready to grow up and quit being jerked around by Jeff, a step she would finally take in "Virtual Systems Analysis" season four the future.(..?)

Interestingly, for an episode about fear and how it can color our perceptions, the two best stories are the ones that don't deal with that subject much at all, but simply parody the typical slasher movie. Britta's is an accurate, if brief, re-creation of one: nameless, personality-less characters make out, ignore warnings, do dumb things, get killed. There's possibly something to be said here about how she just views Jeff as "a horny man" who's only half-present, but mainly the story is quick and jokey, to get the premise going and let Britta secretly study everyone's minds. (Also note this story as being the first evidence of Britta's "sociopathy" that is revealed at the end of the episode.) Abed attempts to correct all of Britta's storytelling mistakes with his own tale, but overcompensates and ends up boring everyone– ironically, as this is easily the best segment of the episode. It shies away from providing insight into where Abed's at mentally right now, choosing instead to simply play around with the idea of what a "logical horror story" might be like, and is the better for it.

Finally, we come to Jeff. As mentioned earlier, his story is the typical Winger Speech put into story form in keeping with the structure of the episode. There's not a whole lot to add to that, as it's pretty straightforward; I just want to point out another parallel to RCT, in that once again Jeff nearly gets out of having to participate in what's going on (getting the pizza/telling a story), only to have to do so at the end, "saving" the group in the process. The difference being, of course, that here, the rescue is intentional.

Part III: In Which There's More To This Episode Than Just The Stories

"Jeff, one of our friends is… deeply disturbed!"

The framing scenes of this episode essentially establish it as one about Britta. Her overeagerness when it comes to psychology, coupled with her tendency to get ridiculous, bring good moments and drive the plot both at the beginning and at the end, tracing an arc from her studying the others' minds to realizing that she's been the "sociopath" all along (or, I suppose in this situation she would be a "htapoicos"). The "oops, I Britta-ed the test results" resolution is a better winky cop-out ending than the memory loss from "Epidemiology" (which gets referenced in this episode– what is this, season 4?!), and even provides a narrative payoff for the joke. The other characters are used in these scenes mostly to play off her, with a handful of exceptions. Unfortunately, because this is a relatively self-contained episode, there's very little in actual long-term character development for her (or anyone) here. But that's not what Halloween episodes are about, anyway, right? They're a chance to play around and see characters in new and unusual environments, and maybe find ways for those environments to illuminate aspects of the characters that we haven't seen before. "Horror Fiction" doesn't always accomplish this, and nearly fails completely at a couple of moments, but a solid episode construction, good jokes, and a handful of legitimately well-done insights ultimately outweigh the few overreaches Harmon makes here.

Epilogue: Stray Observations, Looking For A Good Home

"We've all learned an important lesson tonight. We should never make the Britta of Britta-ing each others' feelings."

– Abed and Troy's high-five: take note, Britta, that's how you turn it into a snake
– Michele Norris interviewing Errol Morris
– Jeff's costume strategy: wear something that allows him to buy a cool outfit that he can wear during other times of the year too. Stingo approves.
– The Dean in a costume? Now I've seen everything! (the dress thing has long since gotten old by this point, but I will never tire of the Dean wearing tiny hats)
Outfits Corner with Stingo: Abed's flannel over long sleeves: yes. Britta's cashmere sweater: no.
– "Would you like to do it again?" "No." Something tells me that's not the first time Britta's gotten that reaction.
– Abed's tired "Pew pew pew" during Troy's story
– Pilates is a demon that eats your genitals.

Discussions:

1. Are there things going on in Britta's/Abed's/Jeff's stories that tie into fears that they currently have? I've spent quite a bit of time thinking them over, to no avail. It may be a case of just needing someone more insightful than I or some group talk to work it out, though. Get to it.

2. The episode hints pretty heavily toward Britta at least having certain sociopathic tendencies (the superficial story, her descriptions of the murders), though it's fairly light about it and tries to walk back from it pretty quickly with the test results being wrong. I think I recall that bit of plot as being rather contentious around these parts. How likely do you think it is she'll be revealed as a serial killer in season five?  How well do these fit into her character? Does this seem like a character tweak for the sake of the episode, or is it not a surprise that Britta would end up making herself look that way, even by accident?

 

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On the AV Club: http://www.avclub.com/articles/advanced-introduction-to-finality,97134/#comment-989402272 (page 166)

 

Discussion

  • We know Britta is something of a megalomaniac, she's just lazy not very good at it most of the time. It goes right back to the pilot, where she actually drives the entire story's action. In the very introduction to her character, all we learn is just how terrible she is at Spanish, and everything that happens over the course of the pilot is driven by her manipulations to out maneuver Jeff in order to study. It continues on to her leading populist revolts against bitches in "Aerodynamics of Gender" and uniting Greendale's women against Jeff in "Anthropology 101."

    Britta being a sociopath makes some sense. Her view of people seems to be less that they are individuals with their own agency and more that they are causes. Britta's default position is to be needlessly defiant. She tends not to rationally observe which causes are justified and which aren't, instead taking up any campaign which she happens to notice leading to lots of groans from the study group. Which makes her both sociopathic and megalomanical.

  • I never took the test results seriously and don't put any weight on Britta being the supposed cool ranch lunatic of the group. And if, as Shirley said, the idea was to hold on to the comforting notion that any one of them could be the sane one (which is classic study group settling on a lie, Calligraphy style), then why tell us that Abed was the sane one (assuming Jeff's real result would show he's a sociopath too)? It comes off as Harmon just making the shallow joke of "Look at all these crazy people. Abed is actually the sanest one of them all!"

  • Damnit, that was something I wanted to mention but it slipped my mind. I'm not a fan of the superimposed names at the end either.

  • I'm not big on the joke either, but according to the commentary, Harmon was making a joke about how test results are incredibly unreliable in detailing someone's personality.

  • Like Lloyd says, it does play differently on the screen, though. The music coupled with the slightly-delayed fade-in of "Abed" has always read to me as "poignant" as much as anything else.

  • Yeah, that's why I'm able to dismiss it.  Or accept it.  That is, accept it bydismissing it.

    But, like Stingo says, the way it's presented does seem to undercut the intention.

  • "Look at all these crazy people. Abed is actually the sanest one of them all!"

    i always took it as "this test thinks the man who lives halfway out of reality is sane! it's fucking useless!"

  • That's what Harmon said in the commentary but the ending did imply the takeaway was meant to be more substantive and poignant than that.

  • I took the test results as Harmon making a statement on himself. Even though all the characters have Harmon-esque qualities, I'd say that Abed is as close to a Harmon analogue as the show could offer*. Showing Abed to be the one sane person struck me as Harmon saying he's the sane one in a sea of insanity, despite outward appearances.

    *Actually, now that I'm thinking about it, I'm wondering if Jeff's occasionally idealistic view of humanity is more closely aligned with Harmon's view of the same than Abed's Abed-ness. Still, I'm going to stick with what I said because my argument spins off of its axis without it.

  • The "Abed is sane" ending is something I've taken as an extraneous ribbon to tie everything together that was kind of silly, and probably not really exactly true, but not so bad that it truly harmed an otherwise great episode.

  • I've always wondered whether that's anything to the fact that at the end the tests are laid out like the NBC logo, with Abed's as the peacock head. The real sociopath is Bob Greenblatt!

  • Hey! Not cool, bro, not cool!

  • I enjoy this episode quite a bit, but I also have to view it as an episode that's just fun and doesn't really present any long-term character development. The "everyone's CRAZY except for Abed!!!" thing is a little dumb, and it's not really something I take into consideration about the show's canon going forward. It's an example of what's maybe my least favorite aspect of Season 3, which is that the show went from being a show about a band of misfits bonding and forming a makeshift family to a show that just wants to show anyone all of the super crazy concepts it can play around with. But since this is a Halloween episode and almost completely self-contained, I can let it slide and just enjoy the ride.

  • I'm from the "Treehouse of Horror" school of Halloween episodes: they get a free pass to do whatever they want and they can freely hit the reset button at the end. That's also why I don't have the problem with "Epidemiology" that others do.

  • It feels like I'm the only one here who really loves this episode (the ending shot excluded). I think I'd even call it my favorite Halloween episode.

  • I like it quite a bit too, to be honest. It's outright funny enough to patch over any shakiness in structure/subtext/thematic concerns.

  • Impromptu counterpoint? Impromptu counterpoint? Impromptu counterpoint?

  • i don't have time right now to look it up, but when jeff is claiming to be the sanest of them all, he lists off characteristics that are utterly sociopathic, if i recall correctly.

  • "No no, I'm no sociopath. I always know what I'm doing is wrong. I'm just a guy that doesn't like taking tests, doing work or getting yelled at. So if you think about it that makes me the sanest person here."

    Good call.

  • Isn't one of the defining characteristics of sociopaths that they do realize what they're doing is wrong, they just don't care?

    So, way to out yourself, Jeff.

  • Do the groupers know which characters they are in the stories? Like, Britta gasps at "skanky concubine", so is that her knowing or is that the camera pointing us to where we need to look? Does Jeff know he's the selfish vampire in Annie's story? They'd have to considering how pointed the stories are and they do point it out when it gets overtly personal, but then the episode never has them questioning or reacting to any of it either. The lack of contemplation and texture ("if you're gonna tell a scary story give it some texture") is the problem I had with it. It's very straight forward and tidy for something that should cause them to second guess and be upset with each other. That all gets washed away by the episode's Britta-centered conceit of finding the sociopath. I don't quite agree with Stingo that the insights are so superficial. They seem that way now but at the time many of us found them to be elucidating, particularly about Troy and Abed, but I also think they needed to "address it".

  • I think the joke was that they were all being passive-agressive about the characters in the stories being the actual groupers, only for it to become more and more obvious as the episode goes on. They do address it a few times, with Pierce asking Troy about the doctor in his story, "I mean you're not Shirley this is a story about strangers anywhoo…", and Pierce mistaking "Jango" for himself. I think they don't address the characters' reactions to their perceptions of each other more in-depth, because the characters calling that out would lead to them having to outwardly admit that they also did it in their own stories.

    Edit for clarity: I believe that the groupers avoided more blatantly pointing out how others were portraying them in the stories because they didn't want to bring up the subject and have to admit that they themselves had also been doing it. At least that's one way of rationalizing it.

  • I do agree that how I'm seeing them is probably colored by the passage of time and having seen all of the third season. But I was also using "superficial" more in the sense that what should be subtext is almost purely text instead. Something like Troy and Abed yelling "Forced to be together forever!" shouldn't be necessary, since the sewn-together conceit is already pointing in that direction.

    Annie's isn't quite as bad as that, but it has the disadvantage of really being something that's been explored before: her conflicted feelings about Jeff and how she views Jeff and Britta's relationship.

  • Commentary highlights
    -After Harmon talks about how they were over their budget even before this episode and Gillian thanks the padded bra for her breasts in Abed's story, Jim Rash quips "Gillian and I share the same padded bra for budget reasons."
    -Harmon: We used Alison's breasts to light the scene.
    -Shirley's story is based on the idea that she hasn't been to the movies since the 90s.
    -Jim Rash teasing Joel about the jacket throughout.
    -During Abed's story Harmon was talking about how the show needs more money spent on it and it seemed like he was abruptly cut off. Hi Sony.

    Stray observies and quotes
    -Troy frustrated that everyone "pins ribbons" on Annie and that she gets to be good at everything was an interesting little bit that was never explored again. It was just after Abed invited her to live with them and he was jealous, but there has to be more to it.
    -Jeff: Dog.. Hates.. Cats! … O, reason not the need! Our basest beggars
    Are in the poorest thing superfluous!
    -Britta: Jeff, can I have a quick conversation with you?
    Jeff: Doubtful, but I support the dream.
    -Britta just happens to be carrying around a switchblade? And Shirley breaks a bottle of alcohol.
    -Look at this shot, it's gorgeous: http://www.fishsticktheatre.co…. That's Community over budget, folks. They used the same set, probably Casa Trobed, for almost all the stories, yet it's far from obvious because of all the detail.
    -Yo, Jango, check it
    http://www.fishsticktheatre.co…
    http://www.fishsticktheatre.co…

  • With Abed as the outlier, there's a strong correlation between age and craziness, according to Britta's test. 

  • I can see why there would be wariness regarding Annie's story due to the well-trod material it covers, but I actually think this is a solid elucidation of the Jeff-Annie of it all.  And the Halloween context provides an appropriate twist.  It is a horror story, so Annie viewing her relationship with Jeff as one in which she is trying to fix him is perhaps her scariest vision of what they are to each other.  And it ought to be scary to her, because she never really has forced him to change.  Perhaps she is worried that if they actually were together, she would succumb to being that way.  Also, the gore and the intensity provide nice color to the report.

  • My apologies for the lateness in my reply to this excellent review /cheer.
    Work was rough so I finished late on everything ("It was like NEW YORK out there!").

    http://fishsticktheatre.com/TV…

    Great call on Jeff's attempts to flee the pre-party party as symptomatic of his behavior in RCT and the earlier parts of this season.  Much as in Modern Movement, he just doesn't know how to deal with himself this year and he's trying to work through some stuff (sharing like he did last season just ended up getting him hurt and he doesn't want/can't embody Full Jeff Winger© mode anymore without feeling like crap).  So he's just being Avoidant to the extreme (which I guess fits with his Hulk-out fear in CI— he's afraid of becoming Ax Man again.

    First things first– the infamous sanity test results.  Like certain parts ofContemporary Impressionists, I feel this tipped that scales from "jarring" and "unsettling to put the viewer neckdeep in the study group's chaos" to "way off the reservation" and "cartoon-ish." Great ideas, themes, and symbolism, but the execution colored everything way outside the lines for me, personally. 

    http://fishsticktheatre.com/TV…

    In particular the "why are you always trying to get us to put our weapons down" overt-paranoia seemed right over the line from "we're all crazy right now since we can't reconcile our past selves with our current selves and we don't want to change so we're doing a subtleThe Thing homage" to straight-up "everyone's gone off the deep end" sheer uncaring insanity. And I think comments Harmon made in the past (mostly with regards to Collective Calligraphy) about how "none of these people should be friends with anyone else ever" colored my impression of this episode to be a step too far on that idea he was pushing.  It's better to know he meant for the test results to be a joke about test results, but that does ameliorate everything perfectly for me about the issues of this episode.

    The way I view the test results to piece everything together: Everyone's stuck in neutral right now.  They're on their Hero's Journey but aside from Pierce to an extent, they haven't risen from the ashes yet– they see A PATH to head to for tomorrow, but it doesn't involve their old personas, their old defense mechanisms.  So they're afraid of tomorrow.  I could see that manifesting itself into sheer chaos and insanity– and I could see Abed being SO determined to keep the raft from falling apart that he's got his grip on everything (which only further exemplifies how far things have fallen in ITF when he FINALLY gives into despair and decides to saw off Jeff's arm).  Abed's the most determined to stay sane no matter how crazy things get (next to maybe Jeff), and everyone else is just trying to make sense of the moment.  So in that sense, I can accept the test results (beyond just being a joke about how those tests don't mean anything, that is).  

    Using Horror Fiction to Soothe One's Fears:  Maybe I've been watching too muchMadoka Magicka with its themes of wishes/curses/dreams/nightmares being distinguished by thin lines, but my take on the horror tales is that they serve as a means to relate to the fears of the storyteller in questions AND their current coping mechanism towards that fear.  Because these people are trying to scare each other from their perspective of "what's scary"– we gain insight into what's currently taunting them AND what they tell themselves to justify and soothe these fears as well.  And because they're all kind of like Dr. Venture– decapitation and monsters are nearly as scary as obsolescence, isolation, and real life conflicts.

    1.  Jeff's Horror Story:  In Biology 101– Jeff became and outsider and was stuck with Chang.  I feel the Chang who comes in to assault the gang in Jeff's tale IS Jeff as an outsider– the part of Jeff who's crazed about being left behind and never changing.  THAT Jeff attacked the Study Table with an Ax because of his fear, just like why this Chang attacks.  But Chang is a JOKE– JEFF"s not like THAT!  So this way, visualizing Chang as his own fear of being an outsider, Jeff can give his speech, reconcile everything, and there's nothing to be afraid of.  His horror story is also very bland and one note– a mirror image of the dream he had in Biology 101– simple and straightforward (just far less primary colors/singing/dancing on display).  It's all reassurance that WHO Jeff has been in the past will be good enough for anything that might hit them in the future.   Fear: Chang/Change/Being Left Out.  Reassurance: Jeff Winger Speech still works!

    2. Britta's 2 Stories: Britta's the needlessly defiant suddenly forging a path fo relative normalcy.  She needs something "to help" in order to feel she's not stuck in one place or selling out.  My course correction for that Bio/Chemistry book error in the pilot involved her in the bookstore, checking out the right book, seeing something to protest, protest it, then race to get to the study group in time, thus buying the wrong book but not realizing because she was self assured about her needless protest seconds earlier.  

    Not that that's remotely canon or anything– I just wanted to use that idea to illustrate her place here– she could just process the test results properly, but instead she sees something to protest, nitpick, or push against.  Or maybe she daydreams about someone from these tests needing her help– weird wish fulfillment ensues and now she HAS her new quest!  To save one of her own from insanity by getting them the help they deserve!   

    And when we enter her first horror story– it's just another variation of her basic personality– going through the rote motion to get what she REALLY wants to do– analyze the group, fix something, feel like she's helping.  And it also underscores what really terrifies Britta (which she tries to overcome by IGNORING)– that she's normal– that there's nothing unique about her mind frame.  Her horror story is the most generic tale you can possibly setup with minimal effort.  And the scariest thing she exclaims in the whole thing?  "OH MY GOD– I WAS RIGHTTTTT!!!"  Reminds me of that Homer line from the infamous Simpsons comet episode– "This is EXACTLY what Dad said would happen!  I know kids, I'm SCARED TOO!"

    Contrast this horror story with her later fantasy– if she can't help by figuring out who the psycho is– maybe what makes her stand out is that SHE IS the psycho! (DUN DUN DUNNNN).  Fear:  Being normal, not being special, not being able to make things matter for others.  Reassurance: Just ignore the naysayers and push through.

    3.  Abed's Horror Story: told as a counter to Britta's chaotic, mundane tale– Abed's has a place for everything, and everything in its place.  The fear here is OUTSIDE the story– no one enjoys it, sees it as worthwhile– nothing happens.  The perfect world Abed has crafted to keep things going "as it should" when things happen "when they've been EARRRNED" is stale and artificial.  It needs chaos.  So it's just an extension of Abed's fear from the previous few episodes, and again is an internalization of Jeff's fears in S3.  I guess we could also read Abed making out with Britta as Abed trying to court and subdue chaos, since Britta is the Wild Card.  In any event– again we have a direct parallel between one of Abed's creations/thoughts and those of Jeff– simplistic tales that are more soothing to the tale teller than to the audience.  Fear:  Chaos and irrationality will overtake everything.  Reassurance: As long as you're telling the tale and controlling the players, everything will be fine, Abed.

    4.  Annie's Horror Story:  Here's where the execution gets a little shaky again.  We can definitely see Annie's driven nature on display here, her desire to improve everything around her, and her desire to connect with her adult life (symbolized through the vampire/immortal Jeff).  But her being able to change/evolve/adapt to her surroundings and inadvertently consume Jeff seems more like JEFF'S fears of the encounter, and not Annie's (akin to what LB was discussing in these comments about perspectives being skewed/muddled).  

    Hence why I bring up the Fear/Reassurance angle, because this COULD be seen as Annie's coping mechanism with her fear of going into her adult life/bonding with Jeff.  "It's OK, Annie– if anything, you'll outgrow HIM and change/devour HIM anyway, so it's all for the best– this way we take control of our fears and eviscerate them!"   

    But I think it was MEANT to be a symbol/metaphor to Jeff's fears of a relationship with Annie (presumptuous on my part, but it really seems that way here).  And regardless of intent, the execution doesn't tie everything together as well as it could. 
    Good ideas though.  Fear:  Entering the dark adult world, Jeff relationship.  Reassurance:  You can conquer anything– the dark should fear you.

    5. Troy's Horror Story:  It's interesting post RCT to view the Pierce in this tale as Evil Abed Incarnate– "I totally sewed you guys together!"  But again, it's Troy telling the story so that muddles the intent, symbolism, and messages a tad.  It at the very least works as Troy's apprehension about connecting with Abed on so deep a level and never truly getting to know him or being connected as much as he'd like.  And Pierce can always represent the decrepit future– a time of isolation and separation and doubt.  Troy and Abed's fear and doubt about being away from each other drove them together, and made them only doubt more they'd be able to keep things going, but as Troy ends it– "you ONLY MADE US… MOOOORE AWESOME!"  His innate optimism for the future shines through no matter what.
    Fear:  Being so close to Abed and yet only being so close/connected to him ever.  Reassurance: Friendship rules all.  Hang in there.

    6. Shirley's Horror Story like you said, Stingo, this one's pretty straightforward too.  Shirley might resent Britta for having lived a life in travel, gone to places, etc so she lashes out at her the most, or what she represents.  Especially given that she's hooking back up with Andre and potentially at this point and time dropping her business dream.  And She reassures herself that the group might not accept her, but the Lord who gave her a piece of her new life will always take her in no matter what, and most likely shun them for their transgressions.  Fear: Being left behind by Kirk Cameron.  Reassurance: There's a greater love you'll always have.

    7. Pierce's Horror Story:  YOU ARE STILL RELEVANT!!!
    http://fishsticktheatre.com/TV…

    So yeah, I think if we view the horror stories as FEAR OF THE NEW SELF with REASSURANCE by the OLD SELF— it fits in well with this transitional state of reflection everyone has right now in the Study Group.  The execution could be better, but the ideas are still strong.

    Inadvertent tie to Season 4: Annie's conclusion to her tale, in all its horrid details, could be seen as a precursor to her connection with Forensics.  

    LB– great point about Troy's jealously towards Annie in this episode aside from some looks and lines from Nocturnal Vigilantism, definitely never explored again and a definite shame.  Good catch.

    Season 3 Doppeldeaner Count for this Episode:  Much like RCT it seems like every second of this one involves duplicates.  

    But to give a quick run through– we have the old selves vs. new selves of the Study Group, the several several different versions of the group members in each others' horror stories, we have the pre-party juxtaposed against the real party, Troy and Abed's regular costumes vs. the idea of them REALLY getting dressed up, the third and final Beetlejuice moment, the Michel Norris and Errol Morris line, scariness vs. lack of scariness, insanity vs. sanity, test results done properly vs. Britta'ed (inverted results), dual meaning for Pilates, the potential comparison between the Taco Meat at this Dean's Halloween party and the previous one, and Britta as a person vs. Britta as a verb (along with Shirley/Pierce, etc).  

    So yeah, I like the points this episode is trying to make very much, even if it went a little too far off the reservation to make those points.  

    And great call on Britta's relative sociopathic tendencies here– the horrifying exaggeration of her best traits amplified to the worst possible conclusion.  She's best when she ignores common sense and just sticks with what she knows is right (helping someone out by being herself).  And the problem in the past is that Britta either doesn't like herself or has no knowledge/real self, so she's just pushing a void onto people and being needlessly antagonistic until everyone "fighting" against her gives up.  What's good about her this season is accepting more and more of society and her friends' ways of doing things WITHOUT having to insert herself into everything– being comfortable with who she is even if that's not someone super "special" or "revolutionary" in her old school view of things.  

    Superb review and thanks for your time in writing it /cheer. 

    ….AND THEN HE CHAIN SAW THEM AGAIN, FOREVER!!!!!
    (….THANK YOU, Shirley….)
    http://fishsticktheatre.com/TV…

  • You know what's scary? Your brain. I wouldn't have thought of this stuff even if I watched the episode 30 times in a row.

    On this point:

    but my take on the horror tales is that they serve as a means to relate
    to the fears of the storyteller in questions AND their current coping 
    mechanism towards that fear.  Because these people are trying to scare 
    each other from their perspective of "what's scary"– we gain insight 
    into what's currently taunting them AND what they tell themselves to 
    justify and soothe these fears as well."

    Here is some great insight into how Dan Harmon thinks about scary stories from the man himself. He wrote a letter to a Kelly Oxford's young daughter after she had nightmares from seeing the Harmon-Schrab-written Monster House.
    http://kellyoxford.tumblr.com/…

    I think a good story, even if it is sad or scary while you’re watching it, should always make you a little less scared after you’ve seen it. Because even a scary story, if it’s a good scary story, takes us into strange, dark places that don’t make sense at first, and helps us see that they do make sense, and are therefore not so scary.

    And that didn’t happen in Monster House. The kids go inside the house, and everything’s scary in there, but nothing starts making more sense. I don’t know about you, but when I go inside a giant scary monster, I expect to be rewarded for my bravery. There should always be something inside a monster that helps you understand it, and makes you less scared of it, and able to make the monster go away. Not just a bunch of stuff that makes you more confused and scared.

  • Wow, nice connection to the awesome Harmon letter!  That's cool.  

    I love that letter– great stuff.  Makes me wonder what Harmon penned-Doctor Who or a Disney Pixar film would be like.  Probably deep, emotional, pensive, and evocative, but with a lot of drinking.  Wall-E could use a few though.