After a long day at New York Comic-Con that started by waiting on a 90-minute line for Ash vs Evil Dead at 9:30AM, I sat down at the Stan Against Evil screening at 5:15PM. And I could not have planned a better opening/closing part to my day. Stan Against Evil was created by Dana Gould, a former stand-up comic who has written for The Simpsons. The television show focuses on a heartbroken widower, whose life spirals out of control when his wife passes away. Soon, he is fired from his job as police chief of Willard’s Mill, NH, and is forced to salvage a relationship with his quirky daughter whom he barely knows. If this sounds all doom and gloom, fear not my friends… Willard’s Mill is beset by witches and demons and somehow, it’s up to Stan to save the day.
Stan is played by Scrubs star and veteran actor John C. McGinley. At his wife’s funeral, a decrepit-looking old woman seems to be mocking him. She exposes herself as a demon and he attacks her. Now to the general public it seems Stan, the police chief, is beating up an elderly woman. Soon there is a new police chief in town, and much to the chagrin of this backward town, it’s a woman, Evie Barrett (Janet Varney). They rub each other the wrong way right away. McGinley does a great job of balancing sincere depression and misogynistic banter. Many fans in attendance drew parallels to McGinley’s most famous character, Dr. Perry Cox from Scrubs, where he was cantankerous and hilariously aggressive towards his hospital subordinates. The actor said in the panel discussion, he drew inspiration from the stone-faced manly men of classic cinema, such as Sterling Hayden, Lee J. Cobb, and Robert Shaw. He also connected to the character from the side of Stan’s loss of wife Claire.
The plot is moved along when Stan finally enters Claire’s always-locked “sewing room” to find the walls adorned with crossbows, axes, guns, and other weapons straight out of the Buffy-verse. There is also a book written in ancient code. Turns out his sweet old wife was a demon hunter, and she kept the town’s cursed history away from him and their family. But now that she’s gone, the demons are gnashing their teeth.
I don’t want to give away too much, but suffice to say the pilot episode grabs you quickly. The show is only 30 minutes, so there’s little time to screw around. It was funny, paid homage to some horror classics, and provided some legit scenes of horror. I cannot recommend this show enough, especially for fans of Ash vs Evil Dead, or the X-Files, a show which Gould referenced several times.
Once the pilot was over, Eric Goldman hosted the panel featuring Gould, McGinley, and Varney. Gould immediately told the crowd that Stan was based on his grandfather. They described the complex shooting schedule necessitated by the small budget the show had. They filmed the eight episodes in two blocks, 1-4 and 5-8, and shot on the sets until completion, meaning, like a play, the show was not at all filmed in order. McGinley said that galvanized the crew, and you can tell from their banter they genuinely get along.
A Q&A with fans got off to a touching start as a father of a child with Down Syndrome thanked McGinley for his efforts. McGinley, who has a son with Down Syndrome, is a board member for the Global Down Syndrome Foundation. This brought the crowd to tears as McGinley gave a beautiful little girl a big hug. Other fans asked about the actors’ prior roles including Varney’s turn in Legend of Korra. I asked the actors what their favorite horror films were, and to my happy surprise, Janet Varney and I share a love of A Nightmare on Elm Street Part 3: Dream Warriors. And then in the moment that made my day, John C. McGinley called me Susan and told to get my head out of my ass! I had asked him to mock me as if I were JD (Zac Braff) from Scrubs. Life goal: unlocked.
Stan Against Evil premieres on IFC on Halloween night (October 31), then broadcasts episodes 1 and 2 back to back on November 2, 2016.
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