I’ve been thinking lately about in-references within horror movies (you know, like how in Evil Dead there’s a ripped poster for The Hills Have Eyes in the cellar and in A Nightmare on Elm St. Nancy watches Evil Dead to try and stay awake). One of the people whose referential talents cannot be matched is Edgar Wright, co-writer/director of Shaun of the Dead and, most recently, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World. His first widely-acclaimed project, the BBC Series Spaced, which was written by series stars Simon Pegg and Jessica Hynes (nee Stevenson) is full of references to horror films.
To fill you in quickly, the show is about Tim (Pegg) and Daisy (Hynes), two twenty-something Londoners who pretend to be a couple to get an apartment. The show chronicles their lives along with their friends Mike and Twist, the tortured artist who lives downstairs, Brian, and their landlord, Marsha (and her always screaming but never-seen teenage daughter). To celebrate the (now) not-so-recent release of the Scott Pilgrim DVD, I give you, in order of appearance, the 13 Greatest Horror Homages in Spaced.
1. S1.Ep1, “Beginnings”
The Shining is thought to be one of the greatest horror films of all time, so it’s fitting that one of the greatest television shows ever would pay homage to it in its first episode. The moment of the film many people cite as the most disturbing is the little girls in the hallway. In Episode 1, when Daisy and Tim take a trip around their new apartment, their landlord Marsha opens up a closet and—surprise!—there are twin girls inside, talking in unison, monotone. Aside from referencing The Shining, part of the brilliance of this moment is how loud Tim and Daisy scream while Marsha remains unfazed: twin girls dressed in Scout uniforms just standing in closets isn’t noteworthy. This is the sort of thing that happens regularly. It’s almost as if this moment is meant to say, “Get ready for the crazy shenanigans you’re going to be subjected to for the next six (later thirteen) episodes.”
2. S1.Ep1, “Beginnings”
“… But oh-so-much greater is your fear that one day the two species will cross-breed to form an all-powerful race of mice-spiders who will immobilize human beings in giant webs in order to steal cheese.” Truly a horrific idea, and hilarious. Oh, and a reference to Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.
3. S1.Ep3, “Art”
Everybody loves zombies. Right? Well, if you don’t, it doesn’t matter, because the crew from Spaced does and Episode 3 features hardcore zombie imagery and violence from the get-go. The most obvious references are to the Resident Evil franchise, both movie and video game, but there are also nods to Dawn of the Dead and Army of Darkness. Sure, you can see the seeds of Shaun of the Dead taking root here, but can we please not bring Shaun into this? We all know the movie is awesome; let’s move on. I mean, c’mon—there’s also an Army of Darkness reference!
4. S1.Ep3, “Art”
You know what’s great? Terrible indie art shows. What’s even better? Hitchcock references.
5. S1.Ep4, “Battles”
This is, quite possibly, my favorite episode of the entire show. The ending, which is an homage to “every war film ever,” is one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen. Another great feature: that paintball battle is epic. So are the references in this episode: we’ve got Predator, Alien, and Evil Dead II: Dead by Dawn. The Evil Dead series is name-dropped and referenced throughout (the poster for Dead by Dawn hangs on their living room wall), but this episode features the most direct reference. Tim and his BFF Mike, who is an army/war fanatic, are going to play paintball. While suiting up, there’s a Sam Raimi-crash zoom montage of hardware and camouflage, complete with an end declaration of “groovy!” Nick Frost certainly does Bruce Campbell proud.
6. S1.Ep5, “Chaos”
I have spoken of my love for Donald Sutherland, and my semi-love for the film Don’t Look Now a few times, and it shows up on this list too (did someone just say “Donald Sutherland?”). In this episode, while Tim and Daisy are looking for their missing dog, Colin, they see a little girl in a red raincoat, much like the little girl (thought to be his daughter) that Donald Sutherland saw in Roeg’s masterpiece. What I like most about this reference is that it’s fast and not many people would immediately recognize it. Unfortunately, they never see Donald Sutherland.
7. S1.Ep5, “Chaos”
An American Werewolf in London is awesome. We all know this. Any references made to it are equally as awesome.
8. S2.Ep3, “Mettle”
Battle Bots-like robots fighting = gritty, grimy, great TV.
9. S2.Ep3, “Mettle”
To those of you who will say One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest is not a horror movie: have you actually seen the film? You can’t tell me that watching someone getting electroshock therapy is not scary, or seeing mentally disturbed patients being mistreated by those who are entrusted to take care of them isn’t disturbing.
10. S2.Ep4, “Help”
What does The Sixth Sense have to do with British TV? Nothing. That’s what makes its appearance in Spaced great. “Who did you see?” “A lady.” Completely random horror connections to everyday occurrences—something horror fans see and think often. Just another example of how the creators of Spaced knew exactly who their audience was. Bonus points for Nick Frost’s little kid voice.
11 and 12. S2.Ep4, “Help,” and S2.Ep1, “Back”
Now, the Matrix films are not scary. Well, not counting Keanu Reeves in general. Seeing our favorite characters from the show as leather-clad soldiers is a bit unnerving—especially since Mike would not be able to handle alternate reality; he can barely handle ours!
13. Continuing Homage: The X-Files
The X-Files is, quite possibly, the greatest TV show of its type. Now, I’m partial to David Duchovny, but Tim loves Gillian Anderson… a lot. Like, I need some alone time love. What’s great about the X-Files references in both series is that they only references the actors, which is unusual on the whole.
13 Greatest Horror Homages in Tv Series ‘Spaced’