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Shining Vale Season 1 review: Greg Kinnear and Courteney Cox’s attempt to salvage middling horror comedy doesn’t work

There are no jump scares or roll on the floor laughing moments in this tale that unfolds in a haunted mansion.

  • Prathibha Joy

Last Updated: 01.04 PM, Jun 11, 2022

Shining Vale Season 1 review: Greg Kinnear and Courteney Cox’s attempt to salvage middling horror comedy doesn’t work
Meet the Phelps family

Story: The Phelps family – Terry (Greg Kinnear), Patricia (Courteney Cox), and their teenage kids Gaynor (Gus Birney) and Jake (Dylan Gage) – move from Brooklyn to Shining Vale, Connecticut, for a fresh start. Patricia’s had an affair with their handyman, which Terry is ready to forgive and forget, as long as they are far away from anything that will even remotely remind him of it.

Patricia’s dealing with a severe case of writer’s block. She just can’t get past the first line for a follow up to a successful erotic novel she wrote years ago. The move, she hopes will help her get a fresh perspective. She does get some writing done, much to the delight of her editor, but the driving force behind her creative spell turns out to be quite sinister.

Review: When I began to watch Shining Vale, I had trouble putting my finger on what exactly this show was meant to be – was it a comedy, horror story, both or none of the above. Now that I am done with it, I am going with option D, none of the above, although the makers are calling it a horror comedy. The comedy isn’t funny and there’s no scare element either. But then, it didn’t feel like a spoof of a horror comedy either.

Initially, it had all the regular tropes of horror tales, an old creaky mansion, with ghost imagery, strange neighbours, etc. You get the drift, right. But when Patricia (Courteney) sees a ghost/demon, Rosemary (Mira Sorvino), she’s the only one feeling a ghostly chill in the room, while audiences are left wondering what to make of it. Patricia, after all, has a family history of psychosis and is currently on a heavy dose of anti-depressants that can potentially cause hallucinations, among other side effects.

At only eight episodes of 30-minutes each, Shining Vale is, thankfully, not a ‘heavy’ watch. You can breeze through it in one sitting, largely due to how the lead cast holds it all together. Whether it is about the relationship dynamic between Terry and Patricia, parenting their teenagers, Gaynor and Jake, or interactions with neighbour Susan or Laird, who they thought was a perv grooming Jake, Courteney and Greg are in stellar form. None of the supporting cast can be blamed either, because each one rises to the occasion. And yet, Shining Vale remains mediocre fare. If only the cast were given meatier stuff to chew on… boy, we would be singing a different tune now. But alas that is not to be.

Verdict: Put this one on a list of shows to watch when you are bored and have nothing else lined up. It’s a one-time watch. Just don’t approach it with great expectations.