Based on the 2003 short film of the same name, Todd & The Book Of Pure Evil debuted on Canada's Space Channel in September of 2010 and was picked up for broastcast in the United States by FearNet who started showing the series in August of 2011. While series' creator Craig David Wallace worked on the short film with Max Reid, for the TV version he teamed up with Charles Picco and Anthony Leo, more or less recasting the movie for the small screen version.
The story revolves around a dopey pot smoking teenage boy named Todd Smith (Alex House) who loves heavy metal and getting high. He hangs out with his awkward but well meaning best friend, Curtis Weaver (Billy Turnbull), a chubby kid with a fake arm. Todd periodically seeks advice from three older metalheads who hang out around a crappy car and smoke in the parking lot, offering cryptic hints and sage nuggets of wisdom to him as the story progresses. Todd lusts after a pretty dark haired girl named Jenny Kolinsky (Maggie Castle) completely unaware that the shy science geek Hannah Williams (Melanie Leishman) has got a bit of a crush on him. When Todd needs advice, he doesn't go to the school's strange guidance counselor, Atticus Murphy Jr. (Chris Leavins), but instead to the sage herb smoking janitor, Jimmy (Jason Mewes).
When the series begins, Todd and Curtis' two piece metal band, Barbarian Apocalypse, are losing the school's battle of the bands to Jenny's talented and handsome boyfriend. Todd happens to stumble upon a strange book tucked away inside the trophy case of Crowley High, and Jimmy unlocks the cabinet and lets him have it. Todd then unwittingly uses the book to unleash its power and become a veritable guitar virtuoso over night, appearing the next day in black metal style corpse paint and literally destroying Jenny's boyfriend in a guitar duel held in the school cafeteria. What Todd doesn't realize, at least not initially, is that the book has given him amazing guitar skills but may also have turned him a little bit evil in the process.
With the book now free and flying around the halls of the high school, Todd winds up teaming up with Curtis, Jenny and Hannah to try to get the book back. Jenny's father, who went mysteriously missing a year ago, may have a connection to the book while guidance counselor Murphy definitely does - his father is the hooded leader of a group of aged Satanists operating out of the local senior citizens center who has tasked him with bringing the book, and all its evil powers, back to them. From here, the series more or less revolves around Todd's evolution as 'the true evil one' and his relationship to the book, while various characters throughout the school find and use the book to get what they want out of life.
So as you'd expect, given that the series takes place in a high school, the book is used by a variety of students with a variety of results. Typical teenage issues are magically fixed by the book, but always with bizarre and often hilarious results. One student brings her favorite goth band back from the dead only to find that she now has to feed the zombie Goths who are using her as their slave. The token gay kid in school wishes everyone else could know what it feels to be gay like he is, which turns him straight and everyone else in the school gay. An overweight girl picked on for her size gets turned sexy and skinny while her excess fat turns into a monster and goes on a rampage. The dumb kid in class wishes to be the smartest kid in school, which turns everyone else into a bunch of ridiculously unintelligent Neanderthal types. Two two lesbians get into a spat and indoctrinate Jenny which results in a war throughout the halls of the school and when a bully is exposed for his small genitals, his wish to be well endowed is taken to insane extremes. As the first season winds up a pregnant girl gives birth to a massive giant baby that doesn't know its own strength, the ghost of a former basketball superstar possesses the coach's own son, a talented drama student uses the book to try to win the starring role in Atticus' musical production, the local chess wiz uses the book to start a cult and expose Todd as the 'pure evil one' and Curtis will grow a giant mutant arm in place of his fake arm. The only problem is that, well, it's a giant mutant arm and it's prone to fondling girls.
The complete list of episodes that make up the first season of Todd & The Book Of Pure Evil are presented across the two discs in this set from eOne as follows:
Disc One: Todd The Metal God / How To Make A Homunculus / Rock 'n' Roll Zombies Know Best / Gay Day / Monster Fat / Invasion Of The Stupid Snatchers / Terrible Twin Turf Tussle / Cockfight
Disc Two: Big Bad Baby / The Ghost Of Chet Sukowski / The Phantom Of Crowley High / Checkmate / A Farewell To Curtis' Arm
While on the surface this may look like little more than a series of gross out gags, crazed gore scenes and crass humor (three characteristics that do definitely play a big part in the series) there's more to this show than just the more exploitative elements. The writing staff have actually done a good job here of not only creating some outrageous and hilariously bizarre set pieces for each one of the episodes in the season but they also succeed at delivering characters that we get to know, like and to a certain extent care about. Anyone who was ever a bit of an outcast in high school will have no problem relating to Todd, Curtis or Hannah and anyone who has ever had any issues dealing with strange parental issues should, to a certain extent, be able to relate to Jenny and, yes, even to Atticus. As the show evolves, so too do the people that populate it. Todd soon comes to realize that he and the book are tied together in some way, and that it has something to do with his destiny while Jenny starts to get closer to solving the mystery of her father's disappearance. Hannah and Curtis start to form their own sincerely sweet bond while Atticus infiltrates the group and comes to find that he enjoys their acceptance and begrudging friendship until it all starts to hit the fan in the last two episodes, which end the first season on a pretty serious cliffhanger.
The cast members all do a great job in their respective rolls, with Leavins more or less stealing the show with his supposedly straight laced character who winds up having to do completely absurd things like try to snap a picture of Todd's penis to show to his cult leader father. Obviously this isn't something that guidance counselors are supposed to be doing on a regular basis, and Leavins injects the character with such odd quirk that you can't help but laugh at his predicaments. Alex House comes into his own as the lead after a few episodes as Todd is made a more interesting character. The kid who starts off as a stoner would-be metal player winds up with a lot more depth than you at first realize, particularly once those around him start reacting to him and the book. His relationship with Jimmy, perfectly played by Jason Mewes, starts to get more interesting and the three older headbangers who hang out outside the school start to act differently when he comes around for advice. Maggie Castle and Melanie Leishman are also great as Jenny and Hannah respectively and all involved do very well with the material.
Not every episode is as outlandishly funny as the next but they all at least further the plot a little bit, and do their part to deepen the mystery behind Todd and his connection to the book. The series winds up a really enjoyable mix of horror, humor and sincerely heartfelt drama, with more of an emphasis on the first two genres than the last but enough of the last to make it work. Throw in loads of enjoyably old school prosthetic effects work (there isn't much CGI here at all), great pacing and some truly creative scriptwriting and you can quickly see how this series has rightfully earned the sizeable cult following that has started to grow around it. Season two can't start soon enough.
Todd & The Book Of Pure Evil: The Complete First Season arrives on DVD in 1.78.1 anamorphic widescreen and overall it looks quite good. Though there is some shimmer here and there the image is generally a very stable one showing good color reproduction, particularly the reds, and solid black levels. Minor compression artifacts pop up once in a while but never to the point where they really distract and detail is quite good by the standards of the format. As the series is shot on digital video and transferred straight to DVD there are obviously no issues with dirt or damage. Yeah, all in all, the series looks pretty darn good here.
The English language Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound mix on this set is pretty great, using the rear channels to bring the more insane moments of each episode to life, be it the sound of the book sprouting wings and flying past you or the womping sounds of a teenage boy fighting a gigantic penis. Bass response is strong but not overpowering, dialogue is always clear, there are no issues with hiss or distortion to complain about and generally the sound quality is excellent across the board.
Extras kick off with commentary tracks on the following three episodes: Monster Fat, The Phantom Of Crowley High and A Farwell To Curtis' Arm. These are fairly informative tracks done with the sense of humor that you'd expect from the crew that made the series in the first place. Characters are discussed as are ideas that were tossed around but not used, gags that worked better than others, effects, and other assorted and sordid details.
Aside from that, there are a few other interesting supplements here, all stashed away on the second disc, starting with a much funnier than average blooper reel called Pure Evil Is All Shits And Giggles. Sure, it's just a bunch of line flubs and mistakes but the cast make the most of it and some of this stuff is pretty hilarious, even if it probably shouldn't be. Those who appreciate the bizarre musical numbers that pop in the series from time to time will get a kick out of The Bowels Of Hell: Extended Musical Scenes which presents the five musical numbers from the broadcast episodes in longer form. This stuff is funny but you can see why they cut them down for the episodes as some of them just go on a little bit longer than they needed to. The fourteen minute long Q&A With The Quixotic And Awesome Cast is, as you could probably guess, a question and answer panel session held with the cast members where they field various questions from inquiring minds that want to know. It's moderately interesting, though a lot of what is covered here is covered in the commentary tracks.
Also interesting to see is the original Todd & The Book Of Pure Evil short film that was made in 2003. This seventeen minute long short features a bunch of different actors in the parts and doesn't really feature Jenny or Atticus the way you see them in the series or some of the other characters but at least Todd is still a teenage metalhead confused by the three older metalheads at school. It's a completely different actor and he's not quite as dopey as Alex House but he offers an interesting alternate take on the character, despite his awful skin condition which makes him rather nasty looking. The book is also a little less insane in this short than in the series, it's not quite as prone to morphing into things and flying around. The story follows the same basic idea, however, and if you dug the series you'll certainly want to check this out to see where it all started.
Rounding out the extras are a collection of twenty Next Time On Todd & The Book Of Pure Evil Promos promotional spots, some other promos for the show, animated menus and episode selection. Each disc allows you to play its respective episodes individually or by way of a handy 'play all' option that throws an entire disc's worth at you back to back.
You don't have to be a stoner, a horror movie junkie or a metalhead to enjoy Todd & The Book Of Pure Evil: The Complete First Season, as the comedy here actually transcends those genres by offering up characters you and situations that you can at least partially relate to and placing them in a frequently hilarious environment. The show is as creative as it is crass, mixing up equal parts splatstick comedy and toilet humor, but it's got a heart to it that actually manages to make us care about what happens to these people as they go about fighting evil with mixed results. eOne's DVD release is a good one, the quality is great and the extras are not only plentiful but also a lot of fun - consider this one highly recommended.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.