DVD REVIEW: Todd and the Book of Pure Evil - Complete First Season
"Army of Darkness, the high school years"...
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A little background: when it comes to reviewing DVDs I usually go for known quantities, either TV/movies I’ve already seen or stuff I’ve wanted to but didn’t catch the first time around. This time, however, I went out on a limb and signed up for something I had never seen or heard of previously: Todd and the Book of Pure Evil. A Canadian high school horror/humor series, the show has been shown here in the US on FEARnet with the second season playing now. Just what the heck is “Todd?” Let me tell you!
Todd and the Book of Pure Evil was originally a short film that gathered enough popularity and attention that it was turned into a full-fledged television show in 2010 on Canada’s Space Channel. In the series, a demonic force has appeared in small town Crowley High School. Taking the form of a book with a pentagram and “devil horns” hand gesture on the cover, the pure evil tempts students into unleashing its power. The book picks up on the thoughts of its reader and makes his or her innermost desires come true... but in a twisted, evil way that usually results in death and carnage. Only Todd and his friends can combat the evil, but at the same time a shadowy cult seeks to exploit the book and bring about even more mayhem!
The hero of this tale is Todd, an unpopular, untalented wannabe heavy metal guitarist played by Alex House. In the first episode he becomes possessed by the book and nearly kills the entire student population via demonic music at a battle of the bands. His best friend and partner in crime is the one-handed Curtis (Billy Turnbull), and joining them in the battle against evil (and a love triangle with Todd) are goth girl Jenny (Maggie Castle) and nerdy but brilliant Hannah (Melanie Leishman). Both girls have back stories featuring mysteries connected to the book. While that foursome forms the core cast there are two more standouts who steal just about every scene in which they appear. Jason Mewes plays the always helpful high school janitor Jimmy, while Chris Leavins is amazing as the soft-spoken satanic guidance counselor Atticus Murphy Jr.
“Todd” doesn’t have a huge budget, or amazing actors, or the best special effects. But what it does have is that rare combination of good writing, characters you immediately get to know and love, and a cool mix of horror and comedy. It really is like “Army of Darkness the high school years” with the same kind of camp and horror with a wink that the classic movie captured so well. Take the first episode for example (some spoilers ahead); loser Todd reads the Book and to accommodate his desires it turns into a demonic guitar. When he plays it those listening bleed from various orifices which results first in a very funny gross out gag involving his cool kid rival and later a bloodbath at the concert. A couple episodes later Hannah creates a homunculus with the Book that’s supposed to look like Todd... and it does a little bit even though it’s a pretty cheap puppet. Of course as the series progresses the evil gets bigger and bigger, leading to the massive and hilarious finale involving a giant evil arm, evil destiny, and mysteries solved!
While the show is very funny, it’s also very adult. I was surprised by the language and constant references to sex (especially masturbation) and drug use in a show that seems aimed at teens, so this isn’t one for you to watch with your kids or younger siblings. And while I liked Todd and his friends, I must admit that the marijuana use and jokes got pretty old, but then again I’m probably at the upper limit of the target audience. My biggest laughs came at the expense of poor Atticus and his demeaning jobs watching Todd and trying to track down the book.
Season One of Todd and the Book of Pure Evil on DVD brings you all thirteen episodes along with some fun special features. Three episodes (Monster Fat, The Phantom of Crowley High, and A Farewell to Curtis’ Arm) have additional cast and crew commentary. Deleted scenes bring you more Todd, while outtakes and bloopers add even more fun. Then there are Q&As, extended musical scenes, the original short film (kind of anti-climactic once you’ve watched the far superior show), season one promotional clips, and promos for Todd’s season two. If you’re a fan of low budget, funny horror like Army of Darkness and its ilk, then you should check out Todd and the Book of Pure Evil. It’s campy, it’s funny, and it’s a lot of fun. Season One is available now on DVD, you can also head over to FEARnet to check out season two.
Review by Scott Rubin
Review Sample Courtesy of Entertainment One