50 States of Fright is the latest horror anthology presented by executive producer Sam Raimi (The Evil Dead) for Quibi, a new app that allows viewers to stream content via their mobile phone. In a time where almost all of us are quarantined due to the COVID-19 pandemic, having an additional way in which to consume media is not such a bad thing. Plus, who’s going to say no to more horror content, especially when it’s from one of the masters of the genre. I’m sure you’re wondering what exactly 50 States of Fright is – per the press release, “the first season of 50 States of Fright will explore stories based on urban legends from Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Oregon and Washington taking viewers deeper into the horrors that lurk behind the surface of our country.”
THE GOLDEN ARM is the premiere episode of 50 States of Fright and features Rachel Brosnahan (The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel), Travis Fimmel (Vikings), and John Marshall Jones (Paradise Lost) and is directed by Sam Raimi who also co-wrote along with Ivan Raimi. The short film is broken up into three sections which run anywhere between 5 – 10 minutes. In THE GOLDEN ARM, we meet Heather (Rachel Brosnahan) and Dave (Travis Fimmel), two lovebirds who live what appears to be an idyllic existence on a farm. However, after a tragic accident results in Heather losing one of her hands and part of her arm, she insists that Dave design her a replacement made entirely of gold. What ends up transpiring is a horror story reminiscent of folk tales that we as youths used to spread around like wildfire.
Initially, I wasn’t sure what to expect from this series or if the format of short-form content viewable via phone would be something that people would be interested in. Admittedly, I have watched movies and TV series on my phone when I’ve needed to, so I found the execution of this series less bothersome than I’m sure others will. That said, I was surprised by how blown away I was with the high production value that each segment offered. Everything was crisp and clean, with beautiful lighting and cinematography to capture that comforting feeling of being on a farm. I’m not saying it’s movie-level quality, but it’s pretty damn close.
Along with the high production value, the practical effects and makeup hit their mark. There are little hints that we are given in the first and second episode to better understand what is eventually to happen. However, if you’re not paying attention to that, they can be quickly overshadowed by the more grotesque moments. When Heather does lose her arm, the camera doesn’t shy away from the gore. I like that as a whole, this episode didn’t lean too much into the gore and bloodshed, but when it does occur it’s quite jarring and surprising. I don’t want to give away anything that happens at the end of the third segment, but I will say that the climax of THE GOLDEN ARM features some gnarly prosthetic work as the horror of what Heather has become unfolds.
As for the acting, both Rachel Brosnahan and Travis Fimmel do a terrific job portraying a genuine, loving couple. There seems to be real chemistry between the two actors which only helps in amplifying the believability of their relationship. Even when Heather begins to turn into a less-than-stellar human and her obsession with beauty comes to the forefront, Rachel’s portrayal of that transformation is done in a way that’s not sudden. I think a lot of this has to do with how the character was written and the subtle clues we are given which allow for the execution of her character, and the bigger changes she experiences, to feel more believable. Meanwhile, Travis does a superb job of making the audience feel sympathetic to his needs. Dave isn’t a character that has a lot of dialogue, but we are able to pick up on the happiness, pain, and horror that he experiences just through his physical performance, especially in his eyes.
In all, I’m really excited to see what else 50 States of Fright has to offer. I think Raimi and the rest of the cast and crew set the bar high with this first episode. I like that each individual segment leaves viewers on a cliffhanger though I can understand how that might be frustrating for some. I’m not sure how Quibi will fare as they have a lot of competition in regards to streaming services as well winning over people who otherwise wouldn’t consume video content on their phones – but, hopefully, the short runtime will get people interested. Time will only tell, but in the interim, I think Quibi has a solid addition to their lineup with 50 States of Fright. THE GOLDEN ARM is now available to view on the Quibi mobile app and for those interested in downloading it, you can get a 90-day free trial as long as you sign-up before April 30.