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Brief but Well-Done and Frightening Horror Stories Start Streaming with 'Soul City'
April 30, 2020  | By David Hinckley
 


Television continues to play its part in the drive to reduce our attention spans to zero. Fortunately, some of the mini-content is not uninteresting.

Soul City is a new series of short horror tales that launch Thursday on the streaming service Topic.

Topic offers viewers, many who were raised on Instagram, content that is fast and snappy because they’ve presumably got so much other fast and snappy content waiting out there.

Soul City resembles recent content from, say, Quibi. It tells its stories at a rapid pace without a lot of polish in the production. It’s professional, just not slick.

This first series of Soul City vignettes are set in New Orleans, and one of its strong suits is evoking the city’s musical heritage. We hear gospel quartets and traditional jazz used smartly to maximum effect.

With stories that run 12-15 minutes, Soul City doesn’t spend a lot of time on subplots or nuances. It focuses on a handful of characters and a single story in each episode.

The horror runs toward psychological. The supernatural always seems to be lurking around, but Soul Cityisn’t about vampires or shape-shifters. It’s more about the ways in which seemingly ordinary people can become disturbing.

The first episode, "Grace" (top), revolves around a young girl, Althea, whose mother died a year earlier. She seems to have fallen into the care of other women who are deeply religious and not always nice.

Althea doesn’t say much. She’s quiet and obedient. She loves to color and to play a ballerina music box that seems to be one of the few things her mother left her.

In the end, which of course comes pretty quickly, all that feeds into a single twist. It’s a good one, reminiscent of the sort of punchline that used to be found in horror comics or magazine stories.

The second episode features Chad Coleman (The WireThe Walking Dead) as a man who can’t get a decent night’s sleep because he’s been plagued for years with nightmares.

He gets directed to a creepy old fellow who runs something called The Pillow Shop. With the right pillow, the old fellow says, the nightmares will disappear.

And so they do. But at what could turn out to be a steep price.

The horror in Soul City, while evident, comes more through hints and implications than anything explicit. That’s often, of course, the most effective kind.

Producers Coodie and Chike, unsurprisingly, got their start in the music video game. They have since produced sports and other more traditional documentaries and films. With Soul City, they’re clearly hoping not just to ride the new wave, but to help shape it.

 
 
 
 
 
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