I’ve said it before in other reviews and I’ll say it again: Two Sentence Horror Stories is the most diverse showcase of horror that I have ever seen on TV. Having used traditions to influence other episodes of the series, specifically “Legacy,” The CW anthology series based on the genre of the same name is back to using cultural identity to tell its story in episode seven, “Only Child.”
Directed by Nikyatu, a Sierra Leonean-American independent filmmaker who is rising the ranks of horror directors after her Sundance Selected short Suicide By Sunlight, and written by Leon Hendrix III, “Only Child” showcases Haitian voodoo in a respectful way that highlights its religious and positive significance while subverting the longstanding trope of “evil voodoo.”
In “Only Child,” an elderly Haitian grandma, Desi (Sharon Hope) is forced to move in with her estranged son John (Guy Lockard). However, she begins to suspect something is very wrong with his perfect family. While the family seems idyllic, Desi’s grandson Rex (Jaiden Smith) has spurts of erratic behavior and a curiosity of his grandmother’s religion, Vodou, that doesn’t include the blessings she uses to keep her safe from evil.
Beyond this, the pair uses generational traditions to not only build out the story’s rules for how spirits work, but they also use it to showcase how second and third-generation Americans lose their connection to their cultural identities. As time goes on with her grandson’s mother explaining that he wants to learn about the “her culture” as if it isn’t his too. The detachment from her family because of her faith fuels the horror in the story.
Instead of being portrayed as the wise Black woman who everyone listens to because of her connection to the “magical,” she’s shunned by her family, ignored as someone who is too stuck in the old world and set on scaring her grandson. While this seems small, it’s another subversion of an established horror trope and instead casts Haitian identity and voodoo as the religious practice it is and not the boogeyman that horror has disrespectfully made it into.
There is a beauty to the way that Nikyatu and Hendrix explore the spirituality of Haiti that puts voodoo, as explained in the episode, in a protective light. Instead of “zombies” and harm, Desi explains ancestral spirits and the use of smoke to make room for good spirits to remove and remove the bad. Contextualizing the practice with religious significance is important, and with it Two Sentence Horror Stories continues to diversify the genre with nuanced takes on traditional stories, specifically in this take on the creepy child horror story.
With twists and turns in the narrative work extremely well, “Only Child” starts as one story and quickly transforms into another. Nikyatu is a wonderful director with eye framing shots. Creepy children are a staple in horror and she knows how to exploit this imagery in the best ways. If you haven’t watched the show yet, you can jump in with any episode, so make episode seven, “Only Child,” your jumping on point.
Two Sentence Horror Stories
Kate is co-founder, EIC, and CCO of BWT. She’s also a Certified Rotten Tomatoes Critic, host, and creator of our flagship podcast, But Why Tho? and Did You Have To?. She also manages all PR relationships for comics, manga, film, TV, and anime. She has an MA in Cultural Anthropology and Religious Studies focusing on how pop culture impacts society.