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  • Writer's pictureRob Binns

John Carpenter’s Suburban Screams (Season 1) Episodes: Ranked

On the spooky date of 13 October 2023, John Carpenter’s Suburban Screams was unleashed upon the world – imposing not the fear of ghouls, demons, or vampires onto our screens, but the “real” horror of (ostensibly) “true” stories.

Prefacing each episode with the vague disclaimer of being based on true events, Suburban Screams presents itself not as the delicious horror anthology we might have been expecting – see Creepshow or Guillermo del Toro’s Cabinet of Curiosities for that – but instead as low-rent, low-budget true crime from sinister American suburbia.


Panned almost universally, I had to take a look. To sift through the show’s already smouldering ruins, and try and pick out any survivors. Basically, I flushed five hours of my life down the poop-hole: ranking each episode of Suburban Screams so you don’t have to.


Before we jump into John Carpenter’s Suburban Screams episodes ranked, I want to add my own disclaimer – that this was no easy feat. I can only compare this show to a long, monstrous turd, with little in the way of storytelling nous or engaging subject matter to separate one episode from its faecal fellows.


Yes, folks, Suburban Screams really is that bad. Less “suburban”, more “subpar”; not so much a scream as a timid, exhausted whimper.


With that said, let’s start at the bottom.


6. House Next Door (Episode Three)


Suburban Screams is a show that wants to have its cake and eat it too; to profess to be portraying real life events, while serving up no end of the paranormal.


The most egregious example of this? The third episode, “House Next Door”.


The story follows a guy who lived next to a supposedly haunted house in his childhood, and chronicles his interactions with the domicile, and its denizens, during his time there. What follows is an uneasy mix of soppy – occasionally gross – reminisces of the guy’s relationships with the daughters of the house’s owners over the years. (At one point, he remembers – and I quote – “the warm, soft caress of her lips”.)


From the get-go, the thing plays as a low-budget revisioning of Disturbia (2007), with visual homages to the house on Neibolt Street (It, 2017), The Shining (1980), and even The People Under the Stairs (1991).


Heck, our main interview’s name is Torrence – and his friend is Mike Myers!


Torrence really chews the scenery here – you’ll notice, as the series progresses, that the more outlandish and unbelievable the stories, the more effusive and unconvincing the interviewees are in their telling of them – and there’s a point when he shed tears that feels truly cringe-y.


The episode finishes bottom here because at its best, everything about this piece of television – from its setup, to the storytelling, to its climax and absurdly, unbelievably satisfying denouement – simply isn’t very good. And worse, exploitative in the extreme.


Avoid.


a screenshot from episode 3 of John Carpenter's Suburban Screams, titled "House Next Door"

"House Next Door" – in my estimation the worst of the lot – delivers on the part of the series' title that promises "suburbia". Just no "screams"!


5. Kelly (Episode One)


Much of the above points apply here to "Kelly", Suburban Screams’ curtain raiser.


It's a story about a young man who, after a few amateur advances with a ouija board, becomes obsessed with the story of the missing girl whose spirit it conjures up.


Again, so many elements here don’t add up. Our interviewees – particularly the main man, who really hams it up – don’t feel like people who are recounting events that truly shaped their life, or that lie beyond the boundaries of the known, corporeal world. They feel like actors; or at least folks simply happy to be here and cash Peacock’s fat pay cheque.


Still, the episode doesn’t land rock bottom, simply because it’s kind of a fun capsule of its time. The song that Dan, the main character, fixates on as a connection to the missing girl’s spirit – which is a surrogate in the show, but according to Reddit is Evanescence’s Bring Me to Life in actuality – is apt. But ultimately, “Kelly” represents predictable, turgid drudgery from the get-go, and works neither as convincing true crime or paranormal escapism.


a screenshot from episode 1 of John Carpenter's Suburban Screams, titled "Kelly"

The first episode of John Carpenter's Suburban Screams, "Kelly", is predictable, and fails to synthesise supernatural themes with its promise of real-life action.


4. Bunny Man (Episode Four)


Like “Kelly”, the position of “Bunny Man” in these rankings owes less to its own scant merits than to the sheer incompetence of the episodes below it. But it isn’t without its highlights.


The tale follows the legend of the Bunny Man, a masked killer whose spectre has fallen over multiple generations of people living in Virginia’s Fairfax County.


The interviewees here are likeable, but ultimately unconvincing. And, bar one interesting reconstruction – a scene in which the Bunny Man terrorise a couple necking in a car – the episode lacks genuine scares. More intriguing are the conjectures of the interviewees (all long-time Fairfax County locals), who contend that the Bunny Man is a kind of one-rabbit bastion against the inexorable encroachment of urban infrastructure and values on the county’s rural, traditional way of living.


For the sceptics – and here, there should be many – the myriad contrasting “eyewitness” accounts should give pause for thought. As should the lack of any convincing evidence as to the Bunny Man’s existence. What’s more, the multiple time periods and frames the episode covers give it a patchwork, cobbled-together feel that, in these hands at least, bungles and confuses – rather than giving a sense of the Bunny Man legend's intergenerational pervasiveness, as I'm sure was the episode's creators' intention.


Skip it.


a screenshot from episode 4 of John Carpenter's Suburban Screams, titled "Bunny Man"

The ambitious attempt to tell the stories of multiple time periods and frames gives "Bunny Man" a peculiar patchwork sense that erodes the episode's effectiveness.


3. Cursed Neighborhood (Episode Five)


The fifth entry in the Suburban Screams canon deals with a family that moves into a house in Maryland’s Charles County to escape the city and gain a more peaceful way of life.


They don’t find it.


Opening with a brutal 17th-century scene in which settlers fight First Nations people in a forest, this episode starts well. And its attempts to draw parallels with the plight of modern minorities – though admirable – ultimately fall short in a mire of muddled storytelling.


The episode falls into the trap that most Suburban Screams episodes do, in that it tries to balance the real-life horror (domestic violence, the disintegration of a marriage, the breakdown of the nuclear family, and the difficulty of settling in a new neighbourhood) with supernatural horror. Often, we see the bloodied ghost of one of the white settlers walking around the family’s home, and the odd time or two when these shots are effective only serve to undermine the more prescient themes the episode is trying to tackle.


Still, we do get a smattering of body horror, and the episode is far less predictable than the fare the show serves up in “Kelly” – or the sheer silliness of “House Next Door”. If you have a moment to spare, it’s worth a look; and the ending is a real sucker punch.


a screenshot from episode 5 of John Carpenter's Suburban Screams, titled "Cursed Neighborhood"

"Cursed Neighborhood" invokes some visceral imagery in some tight flashback scenes, but its present-day timeline is a jumbled thematic hotpot that leaves viewers with more questions than answers.


2. A Killer Comes Home (Episode Two)


Suburban Screams’ sophomore story – mercifully free of paranormal elements – tells the tale of Allan Legere, an infamous serial killer and rapist who terrorised the small Canadian community of Miramichi in the 1980s. It's the creepiness and sheer brutality of Legere that carries this otherwise middling episode to the vaunted place it occupies in these rankings. Watching his crimes exhumed here invokes that feeling of wandering into the horror movie section of the local DVD rental store as a kid; it scares you, but you just can’t help look.


The episode also benefits from the personal connections the interviewees had with Legere; given the small size of the Miramichi community and how depraved the killer was, you get the genuine sense that those reporting on him – who we hear from in the episode – were never safe. It adds the requisite stakes and drama that most of the other episodes here lack, which makes for more entertaining, engaging viewing.


That said, the episode isn’t without its faults. There’s a long, almost gratuitous scene in which Legere breaks into the home of two elderly residents: beating one to death with his bare hands before sexually assaulting the other and torching the place. The actors in the reconstruction do an excellent job, but it feels unnecessary; like filler to pad the run time.


The episode starts and finishes with a bang, despite spinning its wheels a bit in the middle. Still, it’s worth a watch – especially if, like me, you aren’t already familiar with Legere’s case.


a screenshot from episode 2 of John Carpenter's Suburban Screams, titled "A Killer Comes Home"

"A Killer Comes Home" tells the story of the journalists bent on exposing serial killer and rapist Allan Legere – even at their own personal risk.


1. Phone Stalker (Episode Six)


John Carpenter’s Suburban Screams saves its best for last, closing the loop with an entry directed by the eponymous GOAT himself.


Here – and perhaps only for the second time in the series – we have interviewees that actually feel like they have a story to tell. (And, who knows; perhaps even a veracious one at that!) Ronnie is particularly loveable, and the actors responsible for reconstructing the story do a good job: physically and in mannerisms nailing the essence of their real-life counterparts.


“Phone Stalker” follows a woman who, after breaking off an engagement to her boyfriend, begins receiving sinister, threatening messages over the phone. The storytelling is tight and the direction predictably strong, although the story suffers from unexplained plot holes (why, for instance, is the victim of the harassment so convinced the stalker isn’t her ex?) and the whole affair’s lack of finality or resolution.


Despite the lack of a payout though, this episode keeps you guessing and on the edge of your seat. If Peacock’s execs gulp down enough hallucinogens to renew Suburban Screams for another season, that fresh batch of episodes needs to be more like this one.


a screenshot from episode 6 of John Carpenter's Suburban Screams, titled "Phone Stalker"

The John Carpenter-directed "Phone Stalker" hits on some prescient themes , and tells its tale in a tight, taut way that should appease horror and true-crime fans alike.


John Carpenter's Suburban Screams Episodes: Ranked


So, there we have it – every episode of John Carpenter’s Suburban Screams, ranked. Here’s the full list again:


John Carpenter’s Suburban Screams episodes, ranked:


6. “House Next Door”

5. “Kelly”

4. “Bunny Man”

3. “Cursed Neighborhood”

2. “A Killer Comes Home”

1. “Phone Stalker”


John Carpenter's Suburban Screams: TT VERDICT


Peacock's Suburban Screams: corny, silly, unbelievable, and at times unwatchable.


Flat, poorly shot, lifeless, cheap-looking. And, while I don’t use the word “crummy”, it feels apt here. (Sorry, JC.)


In this show, we have something that:


a) Doesn’t need to exist

b) Is exploitative, and in fact shouldn’t exist

c) Could be half the length, if you stripped out all the filler and silliness


STILL – there are a few gold nuggets worth mining here. Jump in for Carpenter’s “Phone Stalker” and stream “A Killer Comes Home” for a unique perspective on a spate of killings that shocked and shook a pleasant Canadian community. Jump into “Cursed Neighborhood” for a few bumps and starts – plus a genuinely disconcerting ending.


As for the rest, you do you – but I suggest you check out the latest season of Creepshow instead, or dive into my upcoming review of V/H/S/85 (2023) for a horror anthology that actually does what it says on the tin.


That’s it, gang. Until next time!


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