PRIMAL SCREEN is the first in Shudder’s line up of original content. The short documentary series is helmed by Rodney Ascher (ROOM 237, THE NIGHTMARE) and features a discussion on what scared people as children and how it affects them as adults. Ventriloquist dummies and the trailer for MAGIC (1978) are at the core of the two narrators’ childhood fears in the first episode, “Wooden Boy.” The episode is a combination of re-enactments with narration, skipping the common “talking head” aspects of most documentaries. While the focus is not on the narrators themselves, but rather the stories they tell, it relies on the audience having mutual childhood experiences and a fear of automatons to capture the audience’s sympathy.

Instead of capturing the audience’s interest in childhood fears and how they came to be, “Wooden Boy” successfully plays like a 30 minute advertisement for the film MAGIC, which is also available to stream on Shudder, fulling the experience of watching the episode. It will be interesting to see if the rest of the series acts as advertisements for other material available for streaming. It is, however, fascinating to see how horror film marketing has affected young minds to either face their fears or forever stay away from them. Some more insight into that from a psychological perspective would have given the episode a little more connection for viewers without the shared experience.

PRIMAL SCREEN: “Wooden Boy” remains intriguing with its unique style of documentary storytelling and a little history of ventriloquism, but it would benefit from more factual information to balance out the personal experiences. It is only the first episode, however, and more childhood horrors and traumas are expected to be re-imagined and hopefully, for those of us who thrive on the adrenaline horror gives, re-experience.

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