It’s been a hot second since DreamWorks put out a new serialized animated show not based on an existing film franchise. And in the wake of some bigger animated darlings like The Owl House ending, it’s the perfect time for the studio to flex. Fright Krewe, from horror director Eli Roth (Hostel) and YA science fiction author James Frey (I Am Number Four), is a bold swing, ready to step into the void with its horror-focused overarching plot and funky cast of characters. Just in time for Halloween, the new animated series has what it takes to be the next big thing — so long as it gets the time and attention for it all to mesh together.
[Ed. note: This post contains some slight setup spoilers for Fright Krewe.]
Fright Krewe follows a group of high school students who accidentally awaken a malevolent demon. In order to stop the villain from wreaking havoc across New Orleans, the five teenagers are blessed with powers from “voodoo queen” Marie Laveau and an assortment of loas, the spirit guardians that make up the voodoo pantheon. As it turns out, all the myths and legends about paranormal creatures in New Orleans are true, and the gang is thrust into a newfound supernatural world.
The framework of teens getting superpowers is tried, true, and totally fun. But in just the first four episodes, Fright Krewe especially excels at using those powers to highlight the characters’ distinct personalities and really fuel the delightfully dysfunctional dynamics between the group. Misfit Soleil (Sydney Mikayla), who adores the macabre and works as a ghost tour guide, is gung-ho about their mission — and getting pyrokinetic powers is pretty dandy too. New kid Pat (Terrence Little Gardenhigh), who practices voodoo himself, is stoked to be blessed with communication powers that allow him to understand animals and languages.
On the other end, wallflower Maybe (Tim Johnson Jr.) would very much prefer not to get sucked into the shadow realm and assist ghosts, thank you very much. Popular girl Missy (Grace Lu), who already resents Soleil due to backstory reasons we’ll definitely find out later, is terrified of the newfound uncontrollable super-strength she’s been bequeathed (especially after a freak accident). Right in the middle is affable jock Stanley (Chester Rushing), who has a pretty innocent power — when he touches things, he is immediately given incredibly detailed knowledge about their history — and thus takes to the supernatural in stride.
And if you’re a fan of spooky legends like Soleil, then this paranormal world is a fantastically creepy romp. Roth and Frey build on existing legends, but don’t shy away from integrating some of the scarier elements — the sheer bloodlust of werewolves, for instance. Fright Krewe isn’t an adult show, so nothing is ever too gory or shocking. But it is aimed at a slightly older audience than other kids’ animation, so the scares are a little more gruesome and the stakes are a little higher (without spoiling too much, the second episode ends on a huge cliffhanger with someone’s life up in the air). It’s not quite a complete tonal shift from something like The Owl House, but it’s enough of a step away to carve out its own niche, with slightly older characters and slightly more mature obstacles, à la The Legend of Korra, Young Justice, or the original Teen Titans cartoon. Adding to that, the gorgeously rendered backgrounds help to bolster this captivating world and set it apart.
There’s an especially nice attention to shading, texture, and lighting, which elevates the overall look of the show. The characters reawaken the ancient evil while in a graveyard, and that graveyard is particularly evocative, with dark corners and austere mausoleums. It’s rare to see traditional animation on television with that level of detail, especially in America. However, the frame rate is a bit on the choppier end compared to something like She-Ra and the Princesses of Power. That, blended with the otherwise elevated look of the show, can be a bit jarring. Nevertheless, it’s still refreshing to see DreamWorks once again returning to 2D animation and taking it up another notch.
The unique animation and the fact that Fright Krewe is focusing on underserved genres — horror for younger audiences and animated shows for slightly older kids — gives it a distinct edge. The show already has all the elements of a solid hit: a compelling overarching plot and a whole web of mythology to unravel, an eclectic cast of characters with interesting relationships, and a nice balance of supernatural antics and high school shenanigans. If the first four episodes are anything to go by, Fright Krewe has all the makings of a show that could be the next big thing — and maybe even redefine audience expectations for all-ages animation.
Fright Krewe hits Hulu and Peacock on Oct. 2.