[Early TV Review] 50 States of Frights: Almost There (Iowa) (2020)

Director: Scott Beck, Bryan Woods

Cast: Taissa Farmiga, Ron Livingston, Katie Stuart

Screenplay: Scott Beck, Bryan Woods

approximately 21 mins. Rated TV-MA.

I was recently invited to check out an upcoming set of episodes for the second season of Quibi’s 50 States of Fright. I had already done the trial subscription to Quibi earlier this year and was able to catch the entire first season of the series, finding it to be probably the best thing on Quibi and certainly the only show that I would subscribe again for a second season, at least from the shows I’ve seen. To clarify, for those of you that don’t understand Quibi’s format: Quibi stands for Quick Bites, and the title of the service is in reference to its episodic presentation. No episodes of Quibi series will ever be over 10 minutes in length. These are meant to be consumed on your phone, in little sections. Some of their content is “Movies in Chapters,” meant to be a singular story running 90-120 minutes total but separated out into chapters each less than 10 minutes. Other series offered by the streaming platform are meant for multiple seasons. 50 States of Fright is one of those. The first season offered up 14 episodes covering 5 states (each state is dedicated 2 or 3 episodes to tell their story, so really they end up being closer to 20-30 minute tales much like The Twilight Zone or Tales from the Crypt), and Season 2 is set to have 10 episodes covering 4 more states. Tonight, we’re going to cover the 3 episode event for Iowa, titled “Almost There.”

NOTE: THIS SCREENING WAS NOT CONDUCTED ON A PHONE AND I WAS UNABLE TO TEST THE MULTIPLE ANGLES FOR VIEWING. THIS REVIEW WILL BE BASED ON THE HORIZONTAL VIEWING.

Hannah (Taissa Farmiga, The Final Girls, Justice League Dark: Apokolips War) is still haunted by a horrific event in her childhood, one which has only worsened her fear of heights. It’s been 20 years, but this electrical engineer still struggles with nightmares of that one night. When she awakens late in the evening with a phone call from Blake (Ron Livingston, The Conjuring, The Professor), asking her to come repair a damaged wind turbine in a howling storm, she is forced to confront her fears and her traumatic past all at once.

Looking purely at the story here, this episode is a little light and fluffy. There isn’t an overly elaborate plot running here compared to earlier episodes of the series like The Golden Arm or Grey Cloud Island. This is a young engineer battling her fears and her past in a big wind turbine. Simple as can be. I would have liked a little more background of Hannah’s past considering most of the horror in the episode is derived from that past. She mentions a few hints of what happened, and of course, the first episode shows us what happened, but I could have used some more clarification. “Why?” was a question I kept asking. I wanted to know more. What we got was serviceable, but it would have worked better to dive in. From what we got, though, we spend enough time with our two lead characters that most of the plot movements focuses on the two of them, rounding out two nicely written, interesting and likable leads.

I really like the chemistry between the two leads. Both Farmiga and Livingston work very nicely off each other. Both are charismatic enough on their own, but together, there’s a level of comradery that doesn’t feel out of place. Livingston’s Blake is rather over-the-top and bombastic, but Farmiga’s a more reserved and thoughtful portrayal, as she is the focal point of the story, we find ourselves connecting more with her and what’s she dealing with.

Almost There is surprisingly low on scares; it’s more of a mood piece. Most of the previous tales from this anthology series have focused specifically on wild imagery, horror pushed on with jump scares and disturbingly weird content, but in Almost There, it takes its time to get us to the finish culminating in an interesting bit of horror storytelling which combines the two running plot lines of the past and present in an rather enjoyable way.

Almost There is another solid set of episodes for this series, and while it doesn’t do anything that hasn’t been done before, there’s a very nice tone here which plays well with the well-drawn characters of Hannah and Blake, both played very captivatingly by Farmiga and Livingston, along with a capable direction from Scott Beck & Bryan Woods (Haunt, Nightlight). If there’s a series worth checking out Quibi for, it’s this one.

3.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

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