“NEON JOE, WEREWOLF HUNTER” (TV Pilot Review)Movies/TV,News,Reviews Ken W. Hanley
As a fan of the twisted, often transgressive programs on Adult Swim, it’s quite amusing to see the shades of horror that pop up throughout their programming. From ultra-violent fare like EAGLEHEART and METALOCALYPSE to surreal, pitch black comedies such as TIM & ERIC AWESOME SHOW, GREAT JOB! and GARTH MARENGHI’S DARKPLACE, Adult Swim has never been shy about allowing their series to weave in and out of genre territory. However, with NEON JOE, WEREWOLF HUNTER, Adult Swim, in an unholy allegiance with WONDER SHOWZEN’s PFFR, explicitly embrace their monstrous side, although with their humor clearly ahead of their horror.
For those unfamiliar, NEON JOE, WEREWOLF HUNTER follows the small town of Garrity, Vermont, which is thrown into chaos after an A-list actor (in a surprise cameo as himself) is killed by what appears to be a werewolf. Shortly afterwards, the town calls in Neon Joe, a scarred-and-tattooed cajun who purports himself to be the master of hunting werewolves. Soon, Joe’s unorthodox methods come into play, yet things become clear that Garrity may be hiding more secrets than just werewolves.
Even though NEON JOE goes all-in for absurdist laughs fairly early on in the show’s run and willingly abandons any traditional horror avenues, that doesn’t mean that NEON JOE doesn’t throw in some hilarious nods to the genre throughout. In fact, the first appearance of NEON JOE on the series playfully twists Quint’s debut from JAWS, offering just enough self-awareness to parody a property yet with all actors fully invested in their over-the-top characters. Furthermore, horror hounds will likely get a kick out of the gore-filled crime scenes (with the carnage almost hilariously so) as well as Neon Joe’s tactics, including uncovering a TEEN WOLF-esque transformation through a flashlight that emits “pure moonlight.” And that’s not even covering the TWIN PEAKS-esque townsfolk, each with their own specific quirks and obsessions that make them feel more like characters even if they don’t get the depth and dramatic prose that a normal series might.
But, of course, NEON JOE is not a normal series; it’s an Adult Swim series, and luckily, the comedy hits hard and often. Whether it’s a tragedy-stricken mother who adopts her son’s personality as a coping mechanism, the “town janitor” who brazenly adopts the mantle of neighborhood watchman or Neon Joe’s approach to werewolf pregnancy, the series gambles with the unpredictable and bizarre places it can go before running there full force. It’s that utter lack of doubt which makes NEON JOE feel unique in its universe and characters, and takes a normally “hit or miss” joke structure to a near endless barrage of reckless hilarity.
However, NEON JOE wouldn’t work nearly as well if it were not for its cast, all of whom are not only game for the lurid and mental places the series would go but seemingly relish the opportunity. Jon Glaser is the show’s hysterical anchor, ramping up a caricature of a cajun accent and a boisterous, presumptuous attitude to offer one of Adult Swim’s more explicitly insane protagonists… which is saying something. Otherwise, Stephanie March, Damian Young Steve Cirbus and Steve Little all play to their strengths as actors, with March’s deadpan delivery, Young’s nuanced hilarity, Cirbus’ emotional frustration and Little’s passionate overreaction each getting their time to shine. However, the series’ resident scene-stealer might be Scott Adsit; the MR. SHOW alumni has often been relegated to playing indignant characters and “straight man” roles throughout the years, yet he finally gets to embrace his wilder, sillier side as the eager-to-impress bartender of Garrity.
Overall, while NEON JOE, WEREWOLF HUNTER is first and foremost a comedy of the highest order, the horror backdrop of the show allows for some of Glaser and PFFR’s funniest, weirdest work on Adult Swim to date. With a hysterical cast, ridiculous FX work and a concept that opens the most absurd doors possible, NEON JOE seems destined to be Adult Swim’s next hilarious cult hit. And if we’re all lucky, NEON JOE will find life and more misadventures following his initial mini-series outing.