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Psychoville Season 1 (2009)

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Gas and Acid Are for Faggots

Best described as a crossover between Little Britain and American Horror Story, Reece Shearsmith and Steve Pemberton’s brainchild is brilliantly stupid and outrageously funny.

After their Inside Number 9 anthology has successfully mixed horror and slapstick, the guys take over the revenge murder party format, playing some of the characters themselves in the grand tradition of British vaudeville. They also have recruited comic talents like Dawn French, here an obstetrics ward nurse nurturing a plastic dummy baby.

She is one of the various characters receiving an extravagantly calligraphed letter saying only “I know what you did”. Among them are Mr Jelly, the clown with a thousand hands, Mr Lomax, a wealthy blind recluse ready to anything to make his collection of beany toys whole with Snappy the Crocodile, a dwarf with an embarrassing past in porn who might have telekinetic powers, and a man-child obsessed with serial killers, living with his mother.

The first episode establishes the blackmail plot and the five leads each in turn are given a more specific treatment on the course of an episode The seventh and last episode wraps up the season in a tight bundle of absurdity.

Nonsense abounds, from a Clown Court straight from a Lewis Carroll nightmare to obese siamese twins being “the foe of E-Bay”, with some The Avengers (the British one featuring John Steed) set pieces and multiple movie quotes. You hardly have time to recover from a The Omen staircase death parody that a giant teddy bear scares a nurse in the ICU, then there is a musical montage on an amputee clown trying on prosthetic hands. It’s relentless.

One particular episode is lifted from Sir Alfred Hitchcock’s The Rope and is filmed in one single take around a Queen Ann wood chest hiding a corpse. It’s brilliant. The last episode plays like Murder by Death, the American 1976 spoof on the old dark house genre. Cherry on the cake: there is a second season, that one keeps for later. Cherry on the cherry: the same authors have penned a third season of Inside Number 9, which they present as “more horrific”. One can’t wait to both laugh and be horrified!

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