'NOS4A2' Review: This Genre-Bending Horror Story Will Become Your Newest Obsession

Vampires have been popular in horror stories for decades, with various mediums attempting to find new ways to interpret characters who feed on the life forces of their victims. Author Joe Hill took a page from the vampiric playbook and delivered readers a story about a character who uses supernatural abilities to drain the life forces of his victims, reminding audiences that monsters come in all shapes and sizes. Hoping to follow in the footsteps of adaptations of The Walking Dead and Preacher, AMC will deliver audiences NOS4A2 this summer, with the series pilot finding a unique blend of drama, small-town charm, and supernatural horrors, which will surely become every horror fan's newest obsession.

In the show, a seemingly decrepit Charlie Manx (Zachary Quinto) abducts a small boy from his home in the middle of the night in a Rolls Royce, taking the young boy on a long road trip to "Christmasland." Strangely, as the journey progresses, Manx grows more youthful as the boy grows more monstrous. Meanwhile, Vic McQueen (Ashleigh Cummings) struggles with life in her small town as she discovers a mysterious bridge that was rumored to have been destroyed long ago,which allows her to transport to the exact places she needs to be.

(Photo: AMC)

The show's title is a direct reference to Nosferatu, though the pilot episode and the upcoming journey of the series has a lot more to offer audiences than just a story about creatures who drink blood and avoid the daylight. The pilot episode and the overall narrative's strength rests in its unconventional mix of a number of genre elements. Not only is there a life force-sucking old creep, we also get a character who can travel through time in space in addition to being teased with a character who can reach into a bag of Scrabble tiles to solve mysteries. As compared to what other genre fares offers us, NOS4A2 feels more like it exists in a parallel dimension in which such otherworldly abilities are common occurrences.

The genre elements all work for the series, even if they might be overwhelming for the viewer, but the drama is what helps connect the viewer to the events that unfold. Vic is understandably overwhelmed not only by her supernatural discovery, but also her desires to escape her town and make something out of her life. This is easier said than done, as neither of her parents can offer her the financial or emotional support necessary. Heightening that tension is the fact that one of Vic's biggest supporters is incredibly charming, but is hiding a dark secret, reminding audiences how rarely do we get idyllic characters in our own lives and can overlook someone's shortcomings against our better judgment if they happen to be charming enough.

In addition to the unconventional mix of genres and storytelling, showrunner Jami O'Brien utilizes unconventional cinematography and editing to help the show stand out from the crowd. Whether it be lingering shots of Charlie Manx's car cruising through cornfields or depicting the physical toll Vic's travels on the otherworldly bridge takes on her, O'Brien finds a unique tone which doesn't necessarily feel inherently terrifying so much as it conjures a chilling and unnerving feel that makes the viewer feel uncomfortable in their own skin. Making the series feel all the more unsettling is Mike Patton's jarring music, with the audio and visual pairing making for a wholly unique experience.

Horror fans who thirst for blood and gore might be turning to networks like HBO or Netflix to get their uncensored carnage, but NOS4A2 delivers an ambitious blend of genre elements that makes it feel like no other show on TV. Rather than being a perplexing failure, all of the ways in which the series fails to be defined or compared to any other series will cement itself in your head, craving the next installment. With O'Brien previously having teased that this first season would cover the first third of the book, the potentially limited nature of the series -- which could merely last three seasons -- feels like a much more digestible experience for the viewer as compared to jumping into The Walking Dead and the nearly decade-long commitment initial viewers were faced with.

No matter how weary you've grown over genre TV series in recent years, NOS4A2 will sink its teeth into you to become your latest horror obsession thanks to its ambitious genre-bending narrative and compelling characters.


Rating: 5 out of 5

NOS4A2 is set to premiere on AMC this Summer.