Three years ago, Black Mirror co-showrunner Charlie Brooker told NME how technology – usually considered to be his nemesis, given the subject matter of his shows – was working for him. Streaming services, he reasoned, are the perfect home for anthology series such as his, in which stories, characters and concepts are self-contained in individual episodes. “On a traditional network, it’s harder to get people to come back week after week because there are no cliffhangers. Whereas now, everything comes up to you in your magic online cupboard, so that doesn’t matter,” he said.
Since then, we’ve seen the return of The Twilight Zone under the stewardship of Get Out director Jordan Peele, the slow-burning success of the BBC’s superior but long overlooked Inside Number 9, an adaptation of ‘80s portmanteau horror Creepshow on horror network Shudder and – most recently – Bloodride, a recent addition to Netflix’s own ‘magic online cupboard’.
While it may have slipped under the radar for many since its release on March 13 (a Friday, excellently), Bloodride is more than worth the three hours of your self-isolation it takes to snack on the six half-hour episodes. Horror stories work particularly well in the anthology format because it gives the creators free reign to kill off characters and start with a blank slate, and indeed, Bloodride makes no bones about the fate of most of its characters, who appear on a hell-bound bus in the opening sequence. Mostly, its episodes show how much time is wasted in your typical, formulaic 90-minute horror film, because these stories are packed with deliciously twisty plots and tight scripts that carry zero flab.
We meet, across its episodes, the residents of a Wicker Man-like rural community whose animal sacrifices to a Viking god result in great wealth (Ultimate Sacrifice), three brothers who embroil an innocent girl in their twisted world (Three Sick Brothers), a woman who discovers her own destiny is being controlled by a scriptwriter (Bad Writer) and an idealistic teacher haunted by a past atrocity (The Old School).
Best of the pack are Lab Rats, in which a cruel pharmaceutical company owner imprisons his staff and wife on suspicion of stealing his revolutionary cure for depression and The Elephant In The Room, in which two amateur sleuths investigate the mysterious death of a staff member while their animal-themed office party goes on around them.
Each of these tales has enough invention and gallows humour to be spun out into full-length features. Presented as they are, Bloodride makes for a perfect six-pack of clever, quality, bite-sized horror in the most classic vein: morality tales in which grisly justice is served to those who most deserve it (with some collateral damage along the way). Best of all, none of them resort to tired old tropes or well-worn character types to make their point. There are no vampires here, no dumb jocks, no poltergeists, no exorcisms and – thank goodness – no zombies. Cos if there’s one thing we don’t need right now, it’s a zombie outbreak presented for entertainment.
‘Bloodride’ is streaming on Netflix now