This Stan Against Evil review contains spoilers.
Stan Against Evil Season 3
“She’s the skeptical one. It’s kind of our dynamic.”
“But I don’t want to believe.”
Stan Against Evil is not the first horror-comedy series and it surely won’t be the last. In order for a show of this nature to work properly, it has to have a certain awareness of what came before it. Stan Against Evil has no problem filling its episodes with hardcore horror Easter Eggs, but it’s even more satisfying when the series can really have a discussion about one of its major influences.
The X-Files was a major pop culture icon and a tremendous influence on television, both of a horror and non-horror nature, and it’s easy to see that show’s DNA in the character dynamics between Stan and Evie. While it’s arguable that a show like Stan Against Evil couldn’t exist without The X-Files, it’s also important to recognize the way in which these shows and their characters are very different. “The Hex Files” is very much a tribute to that classic procedural horror show, but it’s also a lesson on how much programs have evolved since The X-Files’ inception.
Stan Against Evil opens up on a mystery that very much feels within The X-Files’ wheelhouse. A relatively contained fire seems to have killed three witches, yet damaged nothing else and left one suspicious survivor behind, Judy. Judy becomes an increasingly interesting target when it turns out that she’s a witch too, but also an ancestor of Eudora Bishop, the founder of the Black Hat Society. This unexplainable phenomenon brings in the New Hampshire Bureau for Paranormal Phenomena’s (NHBPP) top talent, Agent Fleming and Agent Nesbitt, who of course look as close to Mulder and Scully as legally possible
As soon as Fleming and Nesbitt enter the picture they basically take over this case and bounce their skeptic/believer approach back and forth. Evie attempts to retain some sort of authority here, but she’s pretty much a third wheel to the NHBPP through all of this. Denise on the other hand is very much in support of the strong female influence that Nesbitt provides, even though Evie has confidently filled this role for years.
Nesbitt and Fleming are a lot of fun and it’s satisfying to see them bring up actual police procedure like acquiring a warrant, which are details that usually evade the Willard’s Mill police department. “The Hex Files” also gains a lot of mileage from simple touches, like music cues that intentionally ape The X-Files and the huge ‘90s-style cell phones that Fleming and Nesbitt carry. In fact, it would have made for a cute development if Fleming and Nesbitt had actually come out of a time portal from the 1990s.
Evie and Denise may support the NHBPP, but it’s no surprise to see that Stan quickly removes himself from all of this. He instead concentrates on Gerard Duquette’s clue that he needs to find a bigger evil to take out the evil that he’s fighting. This puts a dangerous demon named Haurus on Stan’s radar (also known as Kumbhakarna in Hindi culture), who requires a human body in order to survive. This prepares Stan to let a little evil into his life and compromise who he is if it means that he can get some peace of mind in the process.
The conclusion of “The Hex Files” pushes the idea that Judy isn’t entirely innocent here and that maybe she’s responsible for the death of the other three witches. Nesbitt and fleming also suspect that Judy may plan to summon Haurus and she just so happens to be the perfect human conduit for him. This causes both Stan’s shenanigans and Evie’s investigation with the NHBPP to dovetail together over this powerful demon.
The creepy, possessed Judy looks interesting and offers up a bit of an original take on demon possession. Haurus at the end looks very impressive, but what’s even cooler is how he eliminates Nesbitt and Fleming and leaves gooey piles of viscera in their wake. It’s an incredible visual, even if the circumstances behind it aren’t rock solid. It’s also makes for a strong introduction to what appears to be a crucial demon this season and perhaps Stan and Evie’s ticket to finally saving Willard’s Mill.
“The Hex Files” manages to go out on a surprising twist, which reveals that Fleming and Nesbitt are actually the real threats, but this revelation is beginning to have diminishing returns for Stan Against Evil. The show is becoming very Scooby Doo in regards to how the one unexpected character turns out to be the true bad guy in the end, but it hasn’t completely burnt out this idea yet. That being said, I did chuckle at the advent of how Daylight Savings Time not only played an important role in the story, but was also kind of the crux of the whole episode.
Stan Against Evil is smart to feature this strong, fun episode so early in the season so that they can grab everyone’s attention right from the start. “The Hex Files” has so much fun taking loving digs at The X-Files, but it feels like there could have been an even stronger take on this idea. The episode could have had more and more investigators continually overwhelming the community and play off of Kolchak, X-Files, Supernatural, Twin Peaks and every show of this nature.
Stan and Evie should be lost in a crowd of Dale Cooper, Fox Mulder and Scooby Gang surrogates as they have the simple answer to the solution from the jump, but get lost in a theory of endlessly ornate supernatural hypotheses from the peanut gallery. It’d be a telling way to pay homage to all of the shows that influenced each other and helped make something like Stan Against Evil possible in the first place. While “The Hex Files” hints at those themes, it could go a lot harder with what it’s pushing, especially since it’s no stranger to indulging in broadness in the past (imagine some demon explode over a dozen different Mulders and they all deliver some variation on, “Is there any way I can get this off me quickly without betraying my cool exterior?” in unison).
“The Hex Files” is an episode of Stan Against Evil that’s good at what it does and feels a little more successful than the premiere. There are some solid jokes here, but the whole thing feels a little toothless. It’s not enough to just have Fleming and Nesbitt say things like “trust no one” as synth-y music cues compliment them. Shows like freaking Reboot were doing that since the ‘90s. In fact, this episode feels like it could have come from the ‘90s itself and while certain elements of the installment, like the cold open, play into this idea, there’s not enough of that present in the episode to be an intentional touch of this storytelling. This is once more a serviceable episode that shows that Stan Against Evil has established a strong baseline by now, but I still want a little more from it and to see it try even harder. I want to believe that it can be even better.
Oh, and aliens are doing crop squares now. Spread the word.
Daniel Kurland is a published writer, comedian, and critic whose work can be read on Den of Geek, Vulture, Bloody Disgusting, and ScreenRant. Daniel knows that the owls are not what they seem, that Psycho II is better than the original, and he’s always game to discuss Space Dandy. His perma-neurotic thought process can be followed at @DanielKurlansky.
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