What makes an episode of South Park good, in my eyes, is whether or not I watch the repeat at 12:00 again. This was one of those episodes, and “A Nightmare on Face Time” should be remembered as one of the better Halloween episodes of the show. It doesn’t quite reach the ranks of ‘instant classic’, like “Korn’s Groovy Pirate Ghost Mystery”; the story was littered with on the nose references and way too much expounding on streaming. But, even being too preachy couldn’t prevent me from loving this episode, and I imagine it might be my favorite of the season so far.
The first thing I thought going in was: haven’t they done a Shining episode yet? I was shocked to find out (after a little research) that in fact since 1997, South Park has never done a full on spoof of Kubrick’s masterpiece. In fact, the set-up of the Marsh’s being in a haunted house is such a genius concept I was flabbergasted that they hadn’t used that before. And the further the story went, the bigger the smile got on my face, because they really stuck to The Shining, and it worked out as a perfect template. Randy is easily a top 10 character on the show, and it’s refreshing to see him be crazy and goofy in new ways season by season, and a Jack Torrance impersonation is not only fitting, but hilarious. The combination of his incoherent ramblings, random teleporting abilities, conversations with ghosts, and obsession with Blockbuster coalesced into absolute comedy gold.
The B plot was also stellar, showing the escapades of the town during Halloween night. Almost all of the jokes landed, and the back and forth between the multiple storylines merged into a great conclusion. Nothing was wasted here, and everyone’s costumes worked. Gangnam stlye? Apparently that’s the new Chewbacca mask in the South Park universe. Gangnam-stein? Even better. Butters as a Wereprechaun made me chuckle, and even the subtle ones like Mr. Garrison as Ryan Gosling from Drive only add to the wonderful attention to detail. The intricacies of the Blockbuster, the Kum and Go, the Monster Mash party, it all had the kind of obsessive perfectionist qualities of Kubrick. Tiny things most people don’t notice, like the music, the smash cuts to the title cards, a shout out to the Cosmic Cube as a “blue orby thing”, it all adds up to making everything memorable. The ghost bartender, the ending conversation about McDonalds, hell even the exact camera angles from the ending of The Shining, tracking Randy in his blood lust for Stan, go a long way to making it all better than the typical episode of South Park.
My biggest complaint is just how preachy it can sometimes get. The Red Box machine, the Xbox, the iPad Stan gives Randy at the end, after a while I got it. They should have reeled it in, because it got stale quick. I liked his rant on the statistics about how certain states don’t have enough bandwidth to carry Netflix (which is true, America’s internet infrastructure is horrible). But there wasn’t enough funny moments like that, just a lot of exposition about how times are changing blah blah blah. I wanted more Shining gags, more time spent at the Monster Mash with Butters and Psy Jimmy. Especially the police, who had some fucking great lines, were underused and a lot of potential was lost. And I never got a resolution on who won the costume contest, what happened to that? But, beggars can’t be choosers, so I’ll take what I can get. This was a very good episode, and while a lot of shows are forced to do holiday shows to spice things up, South Park has proven to master these things over time. Let’s hope that next week breaks the trend, and we get two good ones back to back, which hasn’t happened this season yet.