Much like there were two different coming-out films that hit close together last year, two paranormal series crossed my radar at approximately the same time: The October Faction and Locke & Key. While spoiler-light, there probably will be, so trailers for both series are coming up first!
First, some oddities: Why Netflix would choose to release these so close together is beyond me. These two series – while tonally different – have more things in common with each other than Harry Potter and The Books of Magic. Consider:
A family is uprooted from a more urban location to a small New England town due to a family member’s death. Upon arriving, the locals treat them as freaks. The children were kept ignorant about how their family is “different”; they uncover this over the course of the season. There is an evil threat directly caused by the older family member’s actions in the past; the children’s attempt to fix their elder’s screw-ups (and coverups) eventually turn their world upside down.
Yeah, I just described both series.
They’re similar enough that at times I would confuse the plots of the two while watching.
There are lots of ways other ways that these two series overlap as well. The effects in both are okay, with the occasional obvious CGI blood spatter or obvious bad practical effect of an intestinal wound.
The October Faction takes a lot of DNA from modern monster-of-the-week shows like Supernatural and Stranger Things in its pacing and amazingly eclectic soundtrack. The main plot is pretty straightforward and hits all the appropriate marks for this kind of story, with witty writing and an excellent adult cast. Like most Netflix shows (including the Marvel ones), it probably could have squished things down a bit.
The October Faction also hits the modern “yup, we’re diverse” points with casting and plot pretty well. The “B” plots – especially mid-season – get a bit heavy handed with moralizing, awfully close to “after-school special” territory at times. That “squishing” I mentioned above? The “B” plots is where the squishing needed to happen. The kids in The October Faction also have some serious mood swings that seemed melodramatic, even for teenagers.
Locke & Key is very, very much a King family joint, very much reminiscent if someone had smashed IT and Doctor Sleep into one plot . Like that style, the pacing within each episode seems a little too drawn out as well. I don’t just mean where they belabor a point in dialogue (though that happens too), but where there’s just a pause.
An example: There’s a scene where one character is decides to open a spooky cabinet, then opens it. Between the actor signaling the decision was made and the act of opening the cabinet? Minutes. Minutes where I almost wondered if they swapped in a still frame or two.
I understand the uncomfortable hesitation is supposed to make the viewer feel uneasy, but this just made me slightly irritated and bored. When there’s enough of this kind of pausing and some where they belabor some point, I start doing something else while the show’s on.
So again in summary: Both shows were similar and enjoyable; each also has a few – but big – weaknesses that keep it them from being really good.
 This is a good thing.
 With a dash of name-checked Narnia as well.