Dimension 404 may have snuck under most people’s radar, but for those with Hulu subscriptions, it’s definitely worth checking out. With three episodes being released today on the title-appropriate date of April 4th, and the remaining three appearing in the succeeding weeks, people who enjoy the self-contained content of shows like The Twilight Zone and The Outer Limits will certainly want to tune in to this joint production between YouTube juggernaut, RocketJump, and streaming giant, Hulu.
After watching the first three installments made available to the press, it’s easy to draw one simple conclusion: Dimension 404 is just simply fun. It’s the kind of show that seasoned geeks could share with their non-geek spouses, who, when the credits roll, will say, “That was really cute.” Even for the horror episodes! That may seem a strange way to praise the show, but honestly, its wide appeal and pure entertainment value is exactly why fans of all television, genre or otherwise, should give it a go.
As with any anthology series, part of the fun is seeing the wonderful guest appearances by recognizable faces, both from genre television and from more mainstream network offerings. For every Patton Oswalt, there’s a Sarah Hyland; for each Robert Buckley, we get a Lea Michele, and each of these pairings broadens the appeal of the show. And because these stars don’t have a multi-episode commitment to worry about, there could be plenty more enjoyable one-offs in the show’s future.
Another strength of Dimension 404 is the breadth of its coverage of science fiction and horror. Among the episodes being released this week, there’s a surprising twist on dating apps, a satirical look at 3D blockbusters, and a 90’s nostalgia time travel romp. With just the right balance of humor and suspense, the concepts the show explores are at once familiar and unique. The opening voiceover and episode narration from Mark Hamill, for example, is nearly identical to Rod Serling’s commentary in The Twilight Zone, but… it’s Mark freakin’ Hamill!
Unlike The Twilight Zone, however, Dimension 404 deals with the foibles of modern life with technology, and it invariably offers a cautionary tale against reliance on gadgets and the Internet. That being said, the show doesn’t take itself quite as seriously as BBC’s Black Mirror, and it doesn’t go overboard with its light-hearted approach either. This isn’t camp humor, but it’s also not biting satire.
For example, the first episode includes a freeloading roommate played by Breaking Bad’s Matt Jones who amusingly keeps stealing all the beer; the second brings Patton Oswalt’s trademark snarkiness to the character of a “cool” uncle; and the third brilliantly weaves in a secret crush, the awkwardness of which is enjoyed by the audience even though the protagonist, played Ashley Rickards, is completely oblivious. It’s all very subtle but powerfully played.
Because RocketJump is a production company known for its expertise with special effects (even down to their tutorial series, RocketJump Film School), Dimension 404 has a great look that doesn’t feel cheap in the least. The visual effects enhance rather than detract, but at the same time, they are never overbearing or obtrusive. Savvy viewers will be impressed, but those who don’t notice such things will find the visuals seamlessly integrated with the story.
There are moments of Dimension 404, especially in Oswalt’s episode, where viewers might accuse the show of overplaying its central concept, spending too much time on the same narrative element, but with each installment offering a new story, this is the kind of series that viewers will actively anticipate week-to-week, whether each tale is their cup of tea or not. Anthology series are on the rise, from American Horror Story to Channel Zero, and Dimension 404 is right up there with the best of them.
Dimension 404 begins today, April 4, 2017, with episodes one through three with additional episodes releasing on April 11, 18, and 25 on Hulu.