Precocious big-city teenager Marshall Taylor (Omri Katz) finds his life turned upside down when his family uproots to the small town of Eerie, Indiana. On the surface, Eerie displays all the characteristics of joyful small-town life: a quiet, peaceful existence with friendly neighbours and none of the crime and pollution that plagued city life. Marshall however, sees something the rest of his family can't realize. Under this picture perfect surface, Eerie isn't all it seems, and Marshall uncovers a pattern of eccentric and sometimes horrific behaviour. Aided by his neighbour Simon Holmes (Justin Shenkarow), the teenager sets out to record these incidences and collect evidence that proves that Eerie, Indiana is "is the centre of weirdness for the universe".
Aired way back in the very early nineties and cancelled after just one season, Eerie Indiana is somewhat of a forgotten endeavour, now dusted off from the archives for this DVD release. In many ways it's easy to see why this show never found enough of an audience to survive the dreaded first season cull, as it's weird as hell and more than a little disturbing. This of course, makes it highly enjoyable.
What's immediately noticeable in this show is the work of the tremendously underrated Joe Dante, whom directs five of the episodes and also worked as creative consultant. Dante was a perfect choice for input, as Eerie follows many of the themes and concerns of the director's own work, primarily the notions of a twisted underbelly of suburbia, and the feeling that chaos lurks just under the veneer of idyllic small-town life. In this respect, and with eccentricity aplenty, Eerie works well as a children's companion piece to David Lynch's Twin Peaks in their exploration of small-town life gradually going cuckoo.
The problem I think with Eerie is that it finds itself trapped between two stools. The fact that it's a show primarily for children means it can go gung-ho in creating outlandish and fantastical plot lines, such as the thirty year old twins kept in a state of permanent childhood thanks to sleeping in giant Tupperware boxes. It's fiendishly inventive throughout, with the shows producers delighting in how out there they can work the most preposterous of storylines. Unfortunately, the very fact that it's aimed at such a young demographic somewhat blunts the potential of the material. When watching, you get a sense of a malevolent simmering undercurrent never truly allowed to come to the fore thanks to the constraints of its format. It's still slightly disturbing in a creepy carnival kind of fashion on a few occasions, but it would have been nice to see something with this originality and potential given the freedom of expression that a more adult-orientated show would have allowed. I want to see Eerie really get nasty.
Eerie Indiana is a fresh and inventive piece of programming, with the kind of wide-eyed originality that seems reserved solely for children's television. It's in turns humorous, creepy, and memorably staged, with some great idiosyncrasies. The fact it was cancelled and has slipped under the radar somewhat in later years is less a comment on its quality and more on the fact that the masses probably just couldn't feel at home with its off-ball weirdness.
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