This Stan Against Evil review contains spoilers.
Stan Against Evil Season 3 Episode 7
“Invite me in or live in this hell forever…”
Stan Against Evil has turned out a rather impressive season that’s largest downfall is that it can become repetitive due to its tendency to stick to a firm formula. A standard episode of the series usually has a deeper message to hang its hat on in order to elevate the familiar structure, but “Intensive Scare Unit” runs into problems when its deeper message is well-trodden territory within the series.
The episode tells a story about sacrifice and illusory worlds, which is not an inherently flawed premise, but it’s just nothing new for the show. Accordingly, the larger framework of this episode may feel regressive at times, but it hopes to make up for this with the fact that quite a bit happens in terms of the series’ greater plot and it packs in some incredible visuals along the way.
“Intensive Scare Unit” is the season’s penultimate installment and it appropriately cranks up the mythology just in time for the finale. Gerard DuQuette and Kumbhakarna have now decided to plague Stan’s dreams with his tempting offers of incredible power. None of this is exactly new information, but what does come as a surprise is just how ready Stan seems to be to accept the demon’s deal. This possession situation is most certainly not as cut and dry as Kumbhakarna makes it seem and Stan should definitely know better, but the demon exploits how tired Stan has gotten over this routine.
The demon promises Stan that if he allows him to take over his soul then not only will he be strong enough to defeat Constable Eccles, but that he’ll finally be free from this never-ending demon slaughter-a-thon that he’s found himself in. This dreamscape interaction between Stan and Kumbhakarna does the necessary work to get this larger dilemma back on everyone’s minds since it turns into the lynchpin of the episode.
The basic setup for this episode involves Stan undergoing a physical at the hospital. This routine task becomes considerably more paranormal when the anesthesia that puts Stan under seems to have adverse effects on him and traps Stan in a supernatural mental coma prison. Stan’s doctor in said coma prison is played with perfection here by Maria Bamford. Bamford is great as an eccentric doctor, but it’s even better that she gets to play some hellscape demon that’s the gatekeeper of some nightmare hospital.
“Intensive Scare Unit” taps into that “creepy hospital vibe well, but it’s a little less effective considering the season’s premiere explored extremely similar themes. Perhaps if the show could have found a way to combine these two ideas they could have created an even more effective installment. That being said, this setup does allow for John C. McGinley to sneak in a few Scrubs references, so all is well. There are plenty of excellent creepy details that litter this dreamworld, like the tiny terrifying mouths on the surgical equipment or Bamford’s demon makeup, which looks like something from out of Fright Night.
Thankfully, “Intensive Scare Unit” doesn’t take too long to show off its hand and even though it has all of the trappings of an evil hospital setup, it’s actually something much deeper. Stan finds himself trapped in purgatory that doesn’t seem to have any sort of escape. This results in a lot of aimless wandering courtesy of Stan while he tries to avoid certain death and find a way out of here. He happens to befriend a lost girl who appears to be caught in a similar situation.
This unlikely pairing is one of the best things about the episode and it’s satisfying to see Stan bounce off of such a different character. The two don’t have much of a plan, but they head towards the hospital’s eerie basement and hope that they have a “reverse Poseidon Adventure” situation on their hands.
News hits that a “small viral outbreak” is loose in this dream hospital, which puts everyone on edge and causes Bamford’s detached doctor to flip out. This outbreak appears to result in the eyes and mouths of the victims getting horribly sewn up as they exhibit aggressive symptoms. This terrifying obstacle becomes an even larger problem when it’s revealed that any damage that Stan takes in his nightmare coma he’ll also receive in real life.
Back in the actual hospital in the real world, the inadequate and casual staff (led by Matt Braunger) flounder at what to do here. These shoddy hospital workers didn’t really land for me as a gag, especially when so much time is devoted to the awkward silences of these professionals. On that note, it doesn’t exactly feel like a lot happens throughout this episode. Stan is almost immediately sent to the hospital and then the episode circles around the same idea for most of its first and second acts.
The fact that Evie is absent through a large portion of the installment also gives “Intensive Scare Unit” less to cut to and doesn’t get a chance to escape the hospital material. It might have been a better approach for the episode’s structure to put Stan under the anesthesia in the episode’s second act and to find a smaller story to fill up the first act.
Stan and this girl get further ensnared in this labyrinthine hospital and when push comes to shove he makes the noble decision to sacrifice himself in favor of sparing the child—who he really doesn’t know at all. Clearly this is all meant to prepare Stan to make a similar sacrifice with Gerard DuQuette, but then the episode strangely cuts to the chase. It turns out that Bamford’s hospital doctor is DuQuette and the girl he’s been looking after is Kumbhakarna.
The reveal that Stan’s predicament is all another DuQuette dream isn’t surprising, but this all comes together in a rather chaotic nature. It doesn’t feel like the mystery of this episode so much gets solved as it just recedes into the background as a new one presents itself. A few more minutes devoted to firm structure and answers wouldn’t have been the worst thing here, but I understand that part of the episode’s goal is to invoke the feeling of getting lost in a fever dream.
Once Evie shows up she recognizes how useless the hospital staff is and decides to go the Weekend at Bernie’s route to get Stan out of the hospital. Once the game of deception is over, she plans to run through as many spells as possible to pull Stan out of his slumber. Evie eventually figures out how to “astrally reunify” Stan’s body to his consciousness, but it comes at a conveniently awful moment. Stan gets backed into an unfortunate astral corner here and it forces him to make the dire decision to give into DuQuette’s demands.
Due to the ironic timing of all of this, Evie and Denise assume that they’ve been successful with their ritual, but the reality of the matter is that a Haurus-possessed Stan has come back to Earth. This may seem like an encouraging turn for the battle against Eccles, but I wouldn’t be so sure if this is an evil that knows how to lay down and roll over after its purpose has been served. It’s probably more of the “get everyone else to play dead” type.
Much of “Intensive Scare Unit” involves Stan cautiously walking through ominously lit hospital hallways as the lights malfunction. Stan Against Evil nails it in this regard and creates some truly gorgeous lighting and cinematography work in this installment. Stan gets bathed in reds, blues, and greens as he makes his way deeper into this nightmare. Even if moments in this story feel thin, there’s at least the comfort that the entire episode looks beautiful and never stops being visually interesting. On top of the lighting effects, the episode also resorts to handheld night vision and drifting dream-like visuals. All of these add an effective otherworldy anesthesia quality to the episode.
“Intensive Scare Unit” is frustrating in the sense that it feels like it’s a necessary building block to get to the season’s conclusion and not much more. The episode leans more into a surreal atmosphere than a comedic one and it once again struggles to find much of a purpose for Denise and Leon. This is absolutely an episode that’s more style than substance and it feels like the primary objective here was to create a trippy episode rather than a deep story.
Accordingly, “Intensive Scare Unit” taps into a strong fever dream energy and is plenty of fun to watch, but it also feels like it really just boils down to the episode’s final scene, which is just prologue for the ensuing finale. That being said, boy does it look to be a great finale.
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.