Alibi V.27 No.49 • Dec 6-12, 2018

Idiot Box

The Nuttiest Nightmare

“The Shivering Truth” on Cartoon Network

Over the past month have you grown sick of the countless, sappy, holiday-based rom-coms and the endless, sugary, animated specials left over from Christmases past? Or were you completely sick of them to start with? Hey, either way, it’s a good time to take a little breather, step away from the holiday specials and cleanse your palate of Christmas altogether.

Cartoon Network, ever the expert in counter programming, has chosen December to debut its weird, creepy-ass, morbidly funny horror series “The Shivering Truth.” It’s as out-of-place as Halloween candy on Christmas Eve. But damn if its queasy fun insanity doesn’t feel like the perfect seasonal antidote to sugar plums and Christmas carols.

CN describes this surreal horror anthology from the creators of “Wonder Showzen” as “a miniature propulsive omnibus clusterbomb of painfully riotous daymares, all dripping with the orange goo of dream logic.” I couldn’t have said it better myself.

The show’s stop-motion animation isn’t up to Nightmare Before Christmas or Coraline standards, but it’s certainly on par with all the Rankin/Bass stuff we normally see this time of year—like “The Year Without a Santa Claus” or “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.” Deep down, haven’t we all felt there was something stiff and lifeless and, well … creepy about those ancient specials anyway? Add to that the unsettling amount of modern detail in each wax-faced character, and you’ve got something that would definitely freak your shit—if it wasn’t so busy making you laugh.

“The Shivering Truth” plays like “The Twilight Zone” crossed with “American Horror Story” dosed with a bit of “The Simpsons: Treehouse of Horrors” and then run though a high-speed blender. Multiple stories crowd each episode, melding together in some freaky stream-of-consciousness narrative. Stories lead to other stories which crawl out of the middle of other stories like a drunken “exquisite corpse” exercise. And yet, the creators leave room for plenty of sly, absurdist humor.

The pilot episode, for example, starts with a man opening his own “freelance” suicide hotline. This leads to a call from a man who’s been trying his best to kill himself, but every suicide attempt results in him falling unwittingly into fantastical good luck. Now he no longer has the will to kill himself—which is a great burden to all the people he’s helped with his suicide attempts. The hotline operator responds by telling a tale of his own—about the world’s greatest suicide note. As the narrative continues to twist and turn, the script ends up contemplating the very nature of chaos and order. It all culminates in the old cause-and-effect parable about “the butterfly flapping its wings in America” and “creating a hurricane in Bali.” But as “The Shivering Truth” reveals, butterflies are only doing it because they hate Bali.

Somehow, despite its surreal perambulations, “The Shivering Truth” comes together in a rather brilliant way. It’s a work of pure, demented genius and one of the most original shows you’re likely to experience this time of year. You may not know whether to laugh or scream. But you definitely won’t be thinking about Frosty the Snowman.

“The Shivering Truth” premieres Sunday, Dec. 9 at 1am on Cartoon Network.