Inspired by the viral fan fiction trend where users write succinct horror stories, Two Sentence Horror Stories launched last year with a stellar first season. Created by Vera Miao, the series not only brought us creative and unique psychological horror stories but also much-needed diversity to the genre. In an anthology series, each episode focuses on a different sub-genre and theme. Designed to subvert classic horror tropes by centering on everyday people and diverse perspectives, the half-hour episodes tap into universal primal fears while tackling provocative social and cultural issues that exist within our modern society. Now, Two Sentence Horror Stories Season 2 is back and looking to shake up the scene while using everything that fans love about the genre, and they start that with episode 1, “Bag Man.”
The opening of each Two Sentence Horror Stories episode is the same; the first sentence of the story is put on screen. For season 2, episode 1, “Bag Man,” the first words on the screen are ones that nearly every viewer will be familiar with: “Be cool, stay in school.” Directed by Kimani Ray Smith and written by Vera Miao and Leon Hendrix III, “Bag Man” embraces the Breakfast Club tropes and blends them with a monster. Personifying the opening line, this episode focuses on five diverse high school seniors in detention. While they clash with each other’s priorities and reactions to detention, a monster begins to terrorize them unbeknownst to the faculty.
It’s hard to review each episode of Two Sentence Horror Stories because of how tight the stories are. At just over 20-minutes without commercials, the content moves from the first sentence to the last and manages to pull out a couple of twists along the way. “Bag Man” is no different; in fact, talking about much of its plot, I would run the risk of spoiling the premiere episode. With that said, I can speak about how well Hendrix III and Miao have channeled old high school tropes like the jock, the weirdo, and the beauty while also making sure each of those tropes is informed by the characters’ identities.
There are small lines sprinkled throughout “Bag Man” that comment on race and not in a way that is done to call out horror tropes but instead address character actions in an authentic way that many people and myself would in real life. It’s these small touches that remind me why I fell in love with Two Sentence Horror Stories and its dedication to telling stories through a diverse lens that aims to bring more than just trope subversion and acknowledgment.
Finally, the monster design in “Bag Man” is phenomenal. Without going into specifics, the use of color, or rather, lack thereof, is gorgeously menacing. Shrouded in mystery, the monster of this episode is cleverly developed. We don’t know how it moves. We don’t understand what it means. We don’t know where it came from. All we know is that it exists. The devil here is in the lack of details.
That said, there is an attempt to harken to an overarching theme of lockdowns in schools that feels disjointed from the larger story because of how small a point it makes. However, “Bag Man” is a strong and fun start to Two Sentence Horror Stories Season 2. The monster of the episode is mysterious and intimidating, and the characters themselves have enough depth to feel for them in such a short amount of time. With that, I’m excited to see what’s next.
Two Sentence Horror Stories Season 2 airs two episodes every Tuesday on the CW and CWTV.com the day after broadcast for free.
Two Sentence Horror Stories, Season 2 Episode 1 - "Bag Man"
There is an attempt to harken to an overarching theme of lockdowns in schools that feels disjointed from the larger story because of how small a point it makes. However, “Bag Man” is a strong and fun start to Two Sentence Horror Stories Season 2. The monster of the episode is mysterious and intimidating, and the characters themselves have enough depth to feel for them in such a short amount of time. With that, I’m excited to see what’s next.