Community season 3 episode 5 review: Horror Fiction In Seven Spooky Steps

Halloween arrives in Community, giving its characters the chance to tell a few scary stories. Here’s Emma’s review of Horror Fiction In Seven Spooky Steps…

3.5 Horror Fiction In Seven Spooky Steps

Traditional though the Halloween episode might be, this one was had a slightly different take than we’ve seen before. Once again employing the mini-vignette device to great effect, Horror Fiction is essentially a Community spin on tales round the campfire – only it happens in the library (no one wants to let Pierce or Abed near a large fire), as mental arts practitioner Britta makes a clumsy and completely unsuccessful attempt to analyse her companions.

Convinced that one of their number is a psychopath in waiting, thanks to the Britta-ing of the psyche test papers, routing out the killer proves fruitless. But, it does provide the gang with ample opportunity to spoof, not just horror movies, but any movie they see fit. Quite right too.

As is perhaps inevitable, while the whole cast attacked the stories with relish, Horror Fiction belongs to Troy and Abed – it’s a Halloween T&A fest and nary a teenage girl in sight. The funniest element in the stories they appear in, particularly Troy’s homoerotic body mutilation fantasy, this is one of those episodes that gets funnier the more you watch, so tightly packed are the gags.

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And, it’s actually a little bit creepy; just in one place, and no, it’s not Pierce’s racist porn fantasy – it’s the feet hands. Scarily realistic… Troy and Abed get all those opportunities to be funny, of course, thanks to the vignettes, superbly crafted and with the obvious, but rarely employed actual character narration throughout the stories.

Having each character speak in the phrases and use the exact intonation of the storyteller works amazingly well, showcasing each group member’s broadly stereotypical view of the other members of the gang. Shirley’s everyone’s a sinner but me story, and Pierce’s above mentioned porn fantasy were spot on, but Abed’s story was perhaps the most telling – refusing a second kiss and hoping for fertility were just two of the genius touches in his story.

This is the second time in only five episodes that the vignettes have been used, and while that’s not a complaint – they’ve been brilliantly executed both times – it could perhaps be considered a little over-enthusiastic.  Of course, it turns out that, once the psyche tests have been “properly” analysed, there’s actually only one bona fide sane person among them – and it’s not really a shock to discover that it’s Abed. Everyone else is far too self involved and insecure to be considered fully sane – something they prove on a regular basis, particularly Jeff.

He is without doubt pathological. While Abed might see everything through a pop culture filter, he’s far more interested in what’s going on around him to really think too much about himself. While that might not be the healthiest way to live, it’s infinitely healthier than the enormous chip on Britta’s shoulder, Jeff’s addiction to being cool, Annie’s daddy issues, Shirley’s judgement issues, Pierce’s racism/sexism/generally insulting existence and Troy’s alternate planet existence.

There’s possibly also a little nerd wish-fulfilment going on here – anyone else get the feeling that there’s more than one Abed on the writing team? Now that the gang all know they’re likely to be committed at some point, let’s hope that Britta will rethink her chosen career in the mental arts – she’d only make it so much worse. 

Following the central Halloween tradition of spending the evening dressed as someone else, or in this case, as everyone else, Community gave us another textbook example of why this show works as well as it does. 

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Funny, smart, inventive, packed with references and performed with such relish that you almost wish you were there to see it happen, this is still one of the best and freshest shows on TV, and easily has the best joke to air time ratio. It’s because of this, despite having at least two of the most irritating characters ever to inhabit a sitcom, that Community is a show with a deservedly loyal and incredibly grateful audience. And in return for our gratitude, we get 20 minutes of comedy gold a week, 22 weeks of the year. A better deal you will not find.

Read our review of episode four, Remedial Chaos Theory, here.