J.B. Spins

Jazz, film, and improvised culture.

Thursday, August 29, 2019

Two Sentence Horror Stories: Tutorial


It is the twenty-teens, well into the internet age. Many people would prefer to cocoon rather than explore the world. For those media consumers, home invasion horror hits them where they live and breathe—literally. There will be another breach of home and hearth, the second of the current season of Vera Miao’s anthology series Two Sentence Horror Stories, but there will be at least one big sinister twist in store for viewers of Tutorial, which premieres tonight on the CW.

The home in question belongs to a beauty vlogger, who probably represents some of the worst aspects of online culture. As she gushes over makeup, reasonably observant viewers will notice an intruder slinking through her house. It is all being broadcast over the internet, but apparently her followers are content to watch it unfold.

Initially, Tutorial is very much in keeping with the style and vibe of Blumhouse’s Unfriended franchise, but it suddenly swerves into some pretty shocking territory. However, it still presents a dark, pessimistic view of the internet and its impact on human psychology. Be that as it may, Tutorial is definitely scary. In fact, it could deeply disturb sensitive viewers (whoever they might be).

Regardless, Tutorial represents a radical and impressive change of pace for director Tayarisha Poe, whose debut feature Selah and the Spades did not sound particularly frightening when it screened at this year’s Sundance. It turns out she can crank up the tension and drop a surprising plot reversal quite adroitly.

Aleyse Shannon shows considerable range before engaging in some good old-fashioned scenery chewing as the materialistic vlogger. Mercifully, Poe and series cinematographer Paul Yee do not hand-cuff themselves with a strict lap-top’s eye view of the proceedings. In fact, he rather brilliantly frames two or three scenes. As a result, Two Sentence Horror Stories continues to be some of the scariest stuff on network television or commercial cable (while they last). Highly recommended for horror fans, Tutorial airs tonight (8/29) on the CW (but be wary of the constant commercials that intrusively interrupt viewing on the network’s app).

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