Shining Vale literally needed only two phrases, made up of four words, to get us interested: “horror comedy” and Courteney Cox. We knew, after two decades of watching Cox over and over again as the Gale Weathers in Scream that she was a master at striking just the right balance between fun and fear. So, yeah. We were intrigued and definitely thought this series could speak to us for that reason alone.
The obvious question is, of course, whether or not our curiosity paid off. The short answer: Yes. The longer one: It’s kind of complicated?
It’s expected that a horror comedy would feature dark humor. As a viewer who is into that sort of thing, I thoroughly enjoyed the seven episodes of Shining Vale made available for advance reviews. And, for the record, it’s definitely aimed at being much more comedy than horror.
At the risk of making too many comparisons to Scream—as if that’s even possible in this house—the series does follow that other Cox project’s lead in terms of using the “scary” elements to drive the comedy. But it’s also completely different, both in being not-at-all scary and just, you know, not following the slasher formula whatsoever. In fact, for all the different horror tropes that are cleverly sprinkled in here, there are…no stupid killers with knives. Ghosts are welcome in Shining Vale. Ghostfaces, not so much. (Though, Pat Phelps would totally fight Gale Weathers for the right to tell his story if he did show up. Ok. Shutting up about that now.)
Shining Vale is, of course, not a one woman show. I could probably just name-drop every other cast member, and say how wonderful they are here, without at all embellishing. But with Pat Phelps being the central character, and everyone else just kind of suffering the consequences of her…whatever it is (madness? Possession? Something else?)…the big one to point out is Mira Sorvino.
Without her portrayal of Rosemary, and the chemistry between Sorvino and Cox, this series would not work. At all. On any level…Well. Except, possibly, the one-woman-show part.
With that being said, we do need to warn potential viewers: This series mentions mental illness and, as a large part of the story, exposes some grim realities about the way patients, particularly women, are treated. Honestly, if there’s anything really providing the horror here, it’s the very serious mental health aspect.
But then, hilarity ensues. Or, potentially not, depending on the viewer.
Some thoughts on Shining Vale
- I did not sign up for a series that captured the utter madness and loneliness of trying to write. And yet, here we are. Called out.
- Ok. I lied when I said I wasn’t going to just start gushing over the cast members. Here’s one more: Dylan Gage. This kid. I came here for Courteney Cox—totally haven’t made that obvious by now, I’m sure—but the way he just stole every scene…Wow.
- Monica Geller, one half of Romy and Michele, and Angela Bower…all in one thing…together. Thank you, Shining Vale, for feeding the (elder) millennials and Gen Xers.
- Y’all really moved to this creepy-AF-looking house and expected your life to get better? Ok.
- I just. Why are men? Throw them all out, especially the gaslighting physician types.
- It’s the way it all starts so well, with maybe a weird moment here or there, and then just spirals completely out of control.
- No, really. Buckle up. Every single episode turns the unraveling up a notch.
- Hear me out: Women. Directors. Do. It. Better.