French comics try to outdo each other in various haunted challenges in this so-so reality prank series.
This review of Until Dawn (Netflix) is spoiler-free — such as you can even spoil a reality show anyway.
With the success of Prank Encounters last year, Netflix clearly has a beady red eye on the reality prank-show space, especially when the pranks have been marinated in the ever-popular horror-comedy subgenre, as they have in the platform’s latest, tedious effort in this field, Until Dawn. Across eight episodes, this new series sees French comics trying to outlast each other in various quintessentially “haunted” settings, while performing various increasingly-intense tasks, the best of which play on universally uncomfortable ideas like drowning and being buried alive and… being scared of rats, which as it happens I am.
It’s a remarkably familiar setup and nothing about its execution in Until Dawn feels distinct, even if the variety helps to keep things moving and the so-called “victims” being comics helps to mine entertainment out of their distress. The show also has an obvious understanding of genre tropes and ideas that can be played with, and the usual eerie crypts and abandoned hospitals are wheeled out to comfortable, if predictable, effect.
With a heavy use of night-vision and standard cutaways to backstage shots and so-on, Until Dawn walks a very fine line between evoking its haunted inspirations and putting its obvious artifice front-and-centre. The comics – little-known here, though presumably a treat for French viewers – are game, though, and their wit is the saving grace of a show that often exaggerates a simplistic setup. It’ll likely find a very specific niche that’ll enjoy it over the weekend and promptly forget all about it, and you can’t help but feel that’s probably for the best.
Jonathon is the Co-Founder of Ready Steady Cut and has been Senior Editor and Chief Critic of the outlet since 2017.