South Park “A Nightmare on Face Time” Review

When Randy spends the family’s entire savings on a Blockbuster franchise, the dominance of streaming video drives him to insanity. Meanwhile, Stan, unable to go trick or treating with the other boys in person, makes use of the iPad’s Face Time app to go along digitally.

Of course, not one single person ever comes to rent something from poor Randy, and in a parody of The Shining, he gradually descends into insanity over the course of the week. Randy does good crazy, and this story is a good match for his character. No one else in South Park could wander through the snow growling nonsense to no one in particular quite so well. I think just about every frame of The Shining has been parodied since its release, but setting it in a video store no one visits is a novel approach. It’s certainly a dying institution.

Randy at the blockbuster

I kind of side with Randy here. While it’s foolish to just bury your head in the sand and ignore the changes in the way entertainment is delivered to the masses, I too prefer my media as a physical copy that I can hold in my hands. Unless it’s not available any other way, a digital or streaming copy is, for me, simply a hold over until I can afford the DVD or BluRay disc.

As a child of the 90s, I loved the local video store. Wandering through seemingly endless rows of cropped 4:3 VHS tapes, taking in the smell of the popcorn and snacks was a magical experience for me. It’s almost like a library, in a way. I’m sure others’ experience may vary, but no one was ever very noisy in there. There was this hush throughout the video store that in my young mind lent it an almost mythic quality. Coming to this place was an event.

I remember that there was always this group of video covers that you’d gaze longingly at over and over again but you never did rent. For me, it was usually horror or science fiction films my fairly strict parents never allowed me to watch. I used to feel this little tingle in my belly as I looked over the video cases promising tales of monsters and killers and the things that lurked in the darkness of space. The Alien series, Halloween, the four thousand Friday the Thirteenth tapes, Terminator 2. I used to wander over to them every time our family visited and just stared at them, wondering what  truly amazing viewing experiences could lie within.

When I became older, my love of the video store evolved into a genuine love of film. New films, classic films, drama, comedy, action, romance, films domestic and foreign. I loved all of it. I became quite enamored with film as an art form, and I wanted to enjoy them as close to the original intention as possible. No pan & scan or dubs for me; I want subtitles and letterboxing. I cling to my physical media greedily. I want my audio commentaries and documentaries. Like Randy, I can’t help but feel that despite the greater convenience of digital distribution, something has been lost.

But the Redbox kiosks? Fuck those guys.

the boys as avengers

It was surprising to see (and hear!) Kenny out of his hoodie for so much of the episode, and the boy’s Avengers costumes were a hoot. Having Stan go trick or treating with the other kids via iPad was a pretty interesting idea, particularly the way Stan and the others treated threats to his iPad-self no differently than the would if he were really present. I loved how quickly Cartman abandoned any notion of amateur superheroics when he realized the criminals outnumbered them, as well as the running gag of people being unable to figure out just what he’s supposed to be. One person guesses Honey Boo Boo, which was a brilliant callback to “Raising the Bar” and a fine way of pissing Cartman off.

The South Park police department was on fine form in “Nightmare on Face Time” as well. It might be an obvious gag, but the officers’ discussion of the Monster Mash dance devolving into the lyrics of the song gave me the giggles anyway. Their gunning down of their own man was also very well executed, if you’ll pardon the awful pun.

There’s a lot of references to “Gangnam Style” during the last few minutes of the episode. The song is being played at the community Monster Mash dance, and at least half the people there are wearing Psy’s distinctive outfit. I guess it really is everywhere. I think it’s one of the greatest pop songs in years, and certainly one of the best music videos, but I could see why you might be just sick to death of it by now.

The writing for the rest of the episode is top notch. There’s some brilliant sight gags of Randy lurking in the aisle or peering around corners in the background while the other family members complain about the whole situation. Ending the episode with Randy just sitting frozen in the parking lot surveying the remains of the Blockbuster was amusing to begin with, but it was catapulted into hilarity when Mrs Marsh asks if he wants anything from McDonalds and he just sort of quietly grunts his order at her through his teeth.

This episode just got to me. It’s silly to say about a South Park Halloween episode, but it hit me right in the film-dork. It’s not Cinema Paradiso, but it left me full of nostalgia and, you know, it tastes just a little bittersweet.

Watch Full Episode Here: http://www.southparkstudios.com/full-episodes/s16e12-a-nightmare-on-face-time (available 11/24/12)