Stream It Or Skip It: ‘October Faction’ On Netflix
Some of the best monster/vampire/zombie shows are ones where avoiding and/or hunting the designated monster isn’t the main attraction to the show. There’s a family element, and great chemistry among the cast. Think Buffy and its offshoots, or even the early seasons of The Walking Dead. October Faction is that type of show, where a couple stresses over family drama more than their monster-killing jobs.
OCTOBER FACTION: STREAM IT OR SKIP IT?
Opening Shot: Okinawa, Japan. We see the camera pull back from a tight shot of a middle-aged man’s bespectacled eyes. He’s wearing a dark suit; a woman puts his arm around him and starts kissing. When she asks what’s wrong, he says, “Dad. He’s dead.”
The Gist: Fred and Deloris Allen (J.C. MacKenzie, Tamara Taylor) work for a secret government agency called Presidio, tasked with killing murderous monsters that are a part of what’s called the October Faction. But to their 17-year-old twins Viv (Aurora Burghart) and Geoff (Gabriel Darku), they’re insurance salesmen whose jobs take them all over the world. The twins are smart, even if “what you need practice with is people,” as Fred tells Viv.
Even as they’re killing monsters in Okinawa, Fred is so not into going back to their Hudson Valley town to bury Fred’s father Samuel (Stephen McHattie). Samuel wasn’t just a wealthy founder of Barrington-on-Hudson, he was also a member of Presidio, and he had recruited older son Seth (Shane Giamou) to follow in his footsteps. But when a teenage Fred watches his brother die at the hand of one of the monsters, he vows to join Presidio, as well. Both Samuel and Fred’s mother Maggie (Wendy Crewson) object, thinking Fred doesn’t have what it takes. It especially galls Samuel when young Fred joins up with his then-girlfriend Deloris.
Now, thirty-odd years later, they’re top monster hunters, but dealing with the drama that comes from being back in their hometown might be too much for either of them to take. The local garage owner kicks them out when he sees Deloris. Fred wants to sell the creepy mansion and move on, though Maggie comes back after the funeral, looking “refreshed”, wanting to keep the house. And it seems that everyone in town are “ass-kissing fucktards,” as Fred puts it, glad-handing him at the wake in order to gauge how much of his family fortune they can get in their pockets.
Viv and Geoff have their own issues, being biracial kids who have lived all over the world; they have no desire to fit in with the teens attending the wake, even when one, Madison St. Claire (Sara Waisglass), spreads a rumor that their grandfather hid money somewhere in the mansion. Viv is especially troubled, having random visions that shock her.
To alleviate some stress, Deloris and a sad-drunk Fred take her old hot rod to get supplies. They find an old joint in the glove box and smoke it, but regret doing so when they find two October Faction monsters hiding in plain sight in the supermarket. When they corner them, using an old revolver and a butcher knife, Fred almost gets walloped by the male monster, an ad man who just says he and his wife are regular people not out to harm anyone — except the butcher they just killed. After the Allens eliminate the threat, Deloris says that they’re both “off their game” and that maybe it’s time to get off the monster-fighting treadmill for a little while.
Our Take: October Faction is based on the comic series by Steve Niles and Damien Worm; Damian Kindler (Krypton, Sleepy Hollow) adapted the comic for Netflix, and it’s a surprisingly deep and funny show that is enhanced by the extraordinarily good chemistry between its leads.
MacKenzie is someone who’s been around for a long time, usually lending his shambling, DGAF acting style to character parts. But as Fred, who has gone cynical after three decades of picking off bloodthirsty monsters, that world-weary style works wonders. He’s supposed to be around 50 but his manner suggests a guy much older, as if all the moving and monster hunting has prematurely aged him. But when he’s getting high with Deloris, or making fun of his not-so-beloved mother’s ever-younger-looking visage, that drollness fits the situation perfectly. And Taylor, who seems younger than her years (she’s a month older than MacKenzie in real life), complements Fred’s done-with-this manner perfectly.
Where this was brought home was during the aforementioned scenes when a drunken Fred calls the town a bunch of “ass-kissing fucktards” (a line that made us laugh out loud) and the scene where the two of them smoke that ancient joint in her hot rod. The chemistry between the two, who have been together for 30 years and fighting monsters for almost as long, was palpable, as if the two of them were together in real life. That chemistry takes what might be an run-of-the-mill CW-ish family-drama series and makes it very watchable.
Burghart and Darku are effective as the twins, though they skew more towards generic teen smart-asses than anything else. Yet the fact that they speak multiple languages, and that they don’t feel like they fit in anywhere, especially in white-bread Barrington-on-Hudson, will be a big factor going forward, and the two of them are adept enough to handle that storyline. Burghart is especially good, considering that she’s hiding secrets, as well, ones she might not even knows she has yet.
The first episode is a case study in how well a show can be set up by showing, not telling. We didn’t need to see a ton of monster fighting or a whole monologue about the Allen family history to get an idea that October Faction will be as much about family as it will be about fighting monsters.
Sex and Skin: Nothing.
Parting Shot: Geoff ropes Viv into leading a seance for the bored townie teens, and as she tries to summon the dead, Viv gets overtaken by the spirit of a woman who breaks from chains that had been holding her underwater. Both the woman and Viv’s eyes turn red.
Sleeper Star: Crewson is somewhat nondescript when she plays Maggie in the episode’s flashbacks, but when she comes back into town, intent on inheriting her asshole ex-husband’s creepy mansion, her scenery chewing ensues that Maggie is going to be a fun character to watch.
Most Pilot-y Line: When the garage owner boots out the Allens because of Deloris, Viv says, “Racist much?”, which is never a good line. Also, it turns out that the owner doesn’t like Deloris for other reasons.
Our Call: STREAM IT. October Faction has more than enough family angst to keep a viewer interested. Now, if there’s more monster hunting added to the mix, the show will be a hell of a lot of fun.