If Pretty Little Liars
can often be spooky and unsettling, spinoff Ravenswood
takes the scares to their natural horror movie conclusion. In the new show there's a scare around every corner, a ghost in every mortuary, and an ancient curse haunting every group of attractive teenagers.
By this point the town of Ravenswood has been well established, with the girls from Pretty Little Liars taking several trips to the locale. Fans of the flagship franchise already know Ravenswood is a creepy town where Mrs. Grunwald wanders around with her piercing eyes being weird to teenagers, and groups of people routinely gather in the cemetery to stare at angel statues.
It's a town that seems like it could have been dreamed up by Alfred Hitchcock or seen on an old Twilight Zone episode, and the premiere has no problems playing up the town's unsettling past.
The scariest prospect for Ravenswood, however, might be whether the show can survive as an entity separate from Pretty Little Liars. The premiere episode plays a good deal off events from the Pretty Little Liars Halloween special. That's where Caleb's (Tyler Blackburn) new friend Miranda (Nicole Anderson) is introduced. As the episode begins, we get a quick download of their bus ride bonding and the cemetery excursion that leads into the main story arc of Ravenswood.
Which begs the question: is Ravenswood only a show for Pretty Little Liars fans, or can it stand on it's own? The premiere relies heavily on what it assumes the audience already knows about some of the Liars characters. Caleb gets a quick line about being a foster kid, while Grunwald makes a passing comment about her time as a sorority house mother.
To succeed, Ravenswood will have to throw off the sepia filter of it's Pretty Little Liars past. (Thankfully, that sepia filter is nowhere to be found in the premier and may it rest, permanently, in peace.) Luckily for the show, there's a lot to like in the pilot episode and lot of promise shown throughout the first hour.
While Ravenswood indeed relies too much on assuming an audience's knowledge of the town and the characters, it truly does feel like a different beast than Pretty Little Liars. Sure they share some common DNA, including attractive teens and a central mystery, but Ravenswood is much more genre. There are plenty of supernatural occurrences and a few moments that made me jump. This is not a show to watch alone in the dark.
The atmosphere on Ravenswood is well-done; perfectly moody and strange, like a town the Adam's Family could comfortably call home. This is helped along by Miranda's Uncle Raymond (Steven Cabral), who seems more comfortable with dead bodies than living people by an extremely large margin. Thankfully he lives in a haunted old mansion where that creepy little girl from The Ring occasionally pops up to say hello and scare the bejesus out of you.
Ravenswood's strongest attribute, however, is probably its compelling lead characters. As the two main Scooby Doo detectives, Caleb and Miranda make a good and evenly matched pair. (Even though Miranda seems to have a worse fashion sense than even Aria. I swear to all that is holy, she has on a pair of fingerless gloves and her skirt is on backwards. She looks like what would happen if 80's Madonna had gotten dressed in the dark.)
The other characters who round out the main five, Remy (Britne Olford), Olivia (Merritt Patterson), and Luke (Brett Dier), all have compelling storylines and personalities already present when we meet them. Best of all, in the premiere each character has a reason for interacting with the others, which dramatically cuts down on the awkward exposition which is usually the hallmark of pilots.
With a compelling central mystery, plenty of chills, and a strong cast of characters, Ravenswood looks to have positioned itself as a new drama to watch. If it breaks further away from Pretty Little Liars in the next few episodes and stands on its own, it might even attract an audience more interested in spirits than secrets.
In summary, you have to like any show which finds such a killer use for The Civil Wars "The One That Got Away." Pun fully intended.
Ravenswood premieres October 22 at 9pm EST after the Pretty Little Liars Halloween Special on ABC Family.
(Image courtesy of ABC Family)