When my first kid was born five years back, I spent the first couple of years literally feeling my brain melt from within as I endured countless hours of Dora the Explorer, The Wiggles, and a soporific British import entitled Kipper that would send even the most hopped-up of meth-heads off into a whisper-induced lullaby nightmare. A year or so back, however, we found common ground with a pair of Cartoon Network offerings that, while thematically aimed at adults, were colorful and zany enough to appeal to the juice box and Lego crowd. The shows of which I speak are the brilliantly absurd Adventure Time, and the hilarious, 80s-obsessed mindfuck that I’m reviewing today; J. G. Quintel’s Regular Show.
So why, you ask, is a horror website reviewing a comedic cartoon that’s ostensibly aimed at children? Easy! Because I love it! Also, because this particular review focuses on the new, just-in-time-for-Halloween compilation, Regular Show Frightpack; a fifteen episode collection of the show’s many horror-themed episodes, most of which take their inspiration from many of the films we Horrorviewers (and Quintel, obviously) hold dear!
For those of you who’ve never seen the series, Regular Show revolves around a pair of anthropomorphic twenty-something slackers named Mordecai (a blue jay, voiced by J.G. Quintel) and Rigby (a raccoon with a Napoleon Complex voiced by William Salyers) who work and reside at a park. Constantly at odds with their rageaholic boss, Benson (a sort of human/gumball machine hybrid voiced by Sam Marin), and working alongside a bizarre assembly of supporting players, including Muscle Man (a green lout who is anything but muscular), High Five Ghost (a ghost with a single hand atop his head), Pops (a childlike old man with a massive head and a penchant for using lollipops as currency), and Skips (a wizened, centuries-old white ape voiced by Mark Hamill), each fifteen minute episode finds Mordecai and Rigby trying to contend with routine problems that almost always escalate into something completely outlandish. Whether it be a simple computer glitch leading to a full-blown war against a sentient computer virus or a the loss of a much-loved table hockey game that sees our heroes face off against the world table hockey champion in a battle to the death, nothing ever comes easy for our heroes and their faithful (or, in Benson’s case, tolerant) companions.
Steeped in 80s pop-culture references, with a heavy emphasis on obscure martial arts movies, heavy metal music, video games, slasher flicks, and b-movie sci-fi from the period, the show is a love letter to the decade of decadence, and instantly endearing to anyone old enough to remember leg warmers, Swatch watches, and Members Only jackets. In an average episode, one is likely to catch a reference (if not several) to anything from The Karate Kid to Suspiria, which is why I find the series’ appeal to children so downright fascinating! My five year old doesn’t know the difference between The Evil Dead and a Cracker Jack box, but, in the episode, Grave Sights (included in this set), in which a real zombie attack breaks out during a “movie in the park” night featuring an obvious Army of Darkness ripoff entitled Zombocalypse (3D Director's Cut!), he laughed his head off.
The other fourteen episodes in the set are equally entertaining, and their inspirations will be instantly recognizable to seasoned horror fans.
Ello Gov'nor features Mordecai and Rigby settling in for what they figure will be a laugh-riot British horror flick about a killer London cab that stalks its victims in the most unlikely of places. However, the film terrifies Rigby, and, soon, the killer cab is stalking them for real! Obviously a riff on the inexplicably popular killer car movies of the late-70s and early 80s, Ello Gov’nor pokes fun at the obvious improbabilities and overall absurdity of the plot device, but, as with all of the Regular Show’s many muses, it’s done with love.
Skunked offers a twist on the werewolf tale with the introduction of a Wereskunk who sprays Rigby, leaving it up to Mordecai to find a way to free his friend of the foul (smelling) curse, while Creepy Doll brings back a blast from Pop’s past in the guise of a cherubic doll who comes to life with an insatiable need to draw on people’s faces with black magic marker.
One of my favorite episodes of the lot, Death Bear, sees Mordecai trying to impress his paramour, Margaret , by reluctantly accompanying Rigby and Margaret’s best friend, the bespectacled beaver/human hybrid Eileen, to an abandoned zoo that legend says is the home to the mythical “Death Bear”. This one features nods to everything from Grizzly to The Blair Witch Project, and even sports a mock John Carpenter synth score.
Terror Tales of the Park parts 1 and 2 serve as mini anthologies, with each of the characters offering up “scary stories” ranging from a reincarnated Death Metal band to a simple wallpaper installation that turns the park’s house into a black and red labyrinth of doom (with nice homage to Stephen King's "It" in the finale).
Other standout tales include In the House, in which a trick-or-treating Rigby eggs an evil Wizard’s house with devastating consequences; The Best VHS in the World, in which a gnome living in the house’s heating ducts steals one of Mordecai and Rigby’s rental tapes (yes, I said tapes!), and Jinx, in which a simple game goes awry when Rigby attempts to rid himself of a jinx put on him by Mordecai, and inadvertently opens the door to another dimension.
The DVD from Cartoon Network presents all fifteen episodes in their original broadcast ratio of 1.78:1, and, given the show’s simple animation style and grungy aesthete, the image quality is top notch! There’s not much to crow about in terms of extras, but we do get a “villain gallery” and neat menus. Still, extras or not, the 176 minutes of entertainment contained herein is well worth the SRP of $19.95 (although you can score this platter for a little more than half of that at most online outlets!).
If you’re looking for some family friendly (but not TOO family friendly) frights for this Halloween, and enjoy nostalgia and loving homage to all things 80s as much as I do, Regular Show Fright Pack comes highly recommended! As Mordecai and Rigby would say; “Yeah-Yuh!”