Holliston is not an easy to pitch to someone. It’s an original series created for and by horror fans, but it follows the traditional sitcom format. After several years of false starts, the show debuted on FEARnet in 2012. Following overwhelmingly positive response, the show was picked up for a second season after just two episodes aired. Nearly a year after the second season premiere, it’s hitting Blu-ray via Image Entertainment.
Holliston has become one of my favorite shows. If, for some reason, you haven’t given it a chance, here are 10 reasons to watch Holliston: The Complete Second Season.
1. It stars an awesome cast.
Holliston stars Adam Green, the real-life filmmaker behind the Hatchet series and Frozen. Green is also the shows’ creator, showrunner, executive producer, sole writer and occasional director. He and Joe Lynch (director of Wrong Turn 2) play wannabe horror filmmakers who are stuck making local cable commercials while they develop Shinpads, their movie about a zombie soccer team. Corri English (actress and singer of the country band Brokedown Cadillac) is Adam’s childhood sweetheart who moves back to Holliston, MA, kicking off a series-long will-they-or-won’t-they story arch. Laura Ortiz (best remembered as Ruby from The Hills Have Eyes remake) play’s Joe’s sweet and ditzy girlfriend. Largely told from Green’s perspective, many of the story elements border on autobiographical. The main characters go by the actors’ real first names, further blurring the lines between fact and fiction.
2. It has a unique supporting cast.
Holliston boasts the most unique supporting cast in television history. Twisted Sister frontman Dee Snider plays Adam and Joe’s cable station boss, Lance Rockett, who is essentially a caricature of Snider himself. Eternally stuck in the ’80s, Rockett plays in an “original Van Halen cover band” called Dyver Down and parades around in outfits inspired by (but more over-the-top than) Snider’s vintage wardrobe. The late, great Dave Brockie plays his Oderus Urungus character in full Gwar regalia. Befittingly, he plays the role of Adam’s imaginary alien monster friend who lives in his closet. Given his recent death, the show truly won’t be the same without Oderus’ priceless banter.
3. It features impressive guest stars.
Holliston features guest star spots and cameos from some of the most recognizable names in horror and beyond. The second season includes appearances by Kane Hodder (Friday the 13th Part VIII-X), Danielle Harris (Halloween remake), Sid Haig (The Devil’s Rejects), Bill Moseley (The Devil’s Rejects), Seth Green (Buffy the Vampire Slayer), David Naughton (An American Werewolf in London), Bailee Madison (Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark), Derek Mears (Friday the 13th remake) and Colton Dunn (Hatchet II), along with filmmakers James Gunn (Guardians of the Galaxy) and Darren Lynn Bousman (Saw II-IV). It’s fun to see these recognizable faces playing against type.
4. It’s undeniably original.
While the mainstream horror genre continues to grow stale, it’s impossible to deny the originality of Holliston. Billed as a sitcom for horror fans, the show delivers just that: a multi-cam show that is faithful to the sitcom tropes – including a laugh track! – while delivering the horror references, plot points, quotes and actors that fans love. It’s also unique for being independently created by Green’s ArieScope Pictures (which licenses the show to FEARnet as their first original series). The show wears its individuality as a badge of honor; fourth wall breaks are common occurrences, and it’s never afraid to get bloody, weird or ridiculous. Season 2 ups the ante with stories based around found footage, werewolves, a cursed video tape and even an animated episode.
5. It’s filled with horror references.
Coming from the mind of Adam Green, it’s no surprise that Holliston offers plenty of nods to our beloved genre. From the obvious to the semi-obscure, every episode references horror films to some extent. They’re not shoehorned in to cater to the audience; because Green is an unabashed champion of the genre, the references are organic. Season 2 riffs on Halloween 5’s non-conclusion, The Devil Inside’s awful ending, An American Werewolf in London’s bizarre Nazi scene, Dr. Giggles’ tagline, Scanners’ iconic head explosion and plenty more. Perhaps the funniest horror-related plot of the series thus far is Kane Hodder on suicide watch after discovering that he was recast in Freddy vs. Jason.
6. It has improved since Season 1.
I was a big fan of the first season of Holliston, but I think even Green himself will agree that the second season is an improvement. The show has really come into its own with a newfound sense of confidence, while the audience found its groove as well. The result is even funnier and more engaging. Additionally, the episodes now have a more succinct runtime of 22 minutes, making them easy to binge watch while leaving viewers wanting more.
7. It’s really funny.
Although it’s laced with horror references, Holliston is, first and foremost, a comedy. Even viewers who aren’t horror aficionados will find plenty to enjoy. Not every joke is side-splittingly hilarious, but each episode will put a smile on the face of even the most hardened of viewers. The show offers something for everyone, bravely shifting from pitch-black humor to lighthearted sitcom laughs to lowbrow potty jokes, all within a single scene. Its unpredictable nature means that even if one joke doesn’t land for you, you always know that plenty more chances are just around the corner.
8. It has a good, relatable story.
The aspect for which I most admire Holliston is that it’s not all throwaway jokes and formulaic sitcom scenarios; there’s real human emotion on the line. The humor is always present, but the story being told is compelling and full of heart, reminiscent of How I Met Your Mother with a dash of Dawson’s Creek. As a lovesick aspiring filmmaker, Adam is the lovable underdog for whom the audience roots with a struggle with which we can all relate. The second season introduces a number of drama-inducing storylines, including Adam getting a new girlfriend, Adam and Joe losing their jobs, Laura getting accepted to an art school in Germany and a cliffhanger finale that will have you salivating for the next season.
9. The Christmas Special is included.
Although it might seem strange for a Jewish horror director to make a Christmas special, Green makes it work for Holliston. Produced between the first and second seasons, the hour-long special serves as a flashback episode that gives insight into how the gang’s relationships were formed while setting up for the events of Season 2. Viewers learn how Adam and Corri met, how Joe met (goth) Laura, how Joe and Adam became best friends and how Adam and Joe met Lance Rockett. More importantly, it marks the show coming into its own, balancing the comedy with a dose of drama. Look no further than the episode’s brutally honest, tear-jerking conclusion.
10. It has great special features.
Image Entertainment has chosen to release the film on Blu-ray and not DVD due to the cost of production, but those who pick up the physical copy are in for a treat. The disc features most of the standard stuff: commentaries on all but one episode, behind-the-scenes footage, bloopers, deleted scenes, two music videos (one from Brokedown Cadillac and another by Dyver Down!) and Green’s spirited lip synching of Gwar’s “The Road Behind.” The highlight of the extras, however, is the band’s live table read from the Rock and Shock horror convention. The cast participates in a read through of an original script written specifically for the event with two lucky fans (one of whom sits in for Snider) and a handful of celebrity guests. I had the pleasure of seeing it in person, and it remains the most entertaining experience I’ve ever had at a convention.
Still not convinced? Where else can you see Kane Hodder dance like Jennifer Lopez, Danielle Harris hump Adam Green in a ball-gagged Michael Myers mask, Green call out Sid Haig for doing Creature, or Dee Sider get made fun of for looking like Sarah Jessica Parker? These are just some of the many surreal, uproarious scenes in Holliston: The Complete Second Season.
Green has said that Holliston is his favorite project he has ever done. It’s no surprise; his heart and soul are on the screen for all to see. The future of the show is currently unknown, but Green and company seem confident that a third season will happen one way or another. They’ve made a lifelong fan out of me, and after watching Holliston: The Complete Second Season, you too will join me in anxiously awaiting the return of Holliston.