“This is your grand plan? Drive away real fast?”
Cult horror/thriller director Danishka Esterhazy takes the helm for the third episode of SurrealEstate, which features Melanie “Wynonna Earp” Scrofano. The Roman Agency deals with a cottage in the woods that may or may not be haunted and a horror writer who seeks inspiration. Luke faces some nasty personal demons.
Title: “For Sale by Owner”
Cast and Crew
Director: Danishka Esterhazy
Writer: Ramona Barckert
Tim Rozon as Luke Roman
Sarah Levy as Susan Ireland
Melanie Scrofano as Harper North
Adam Korson as Father Phil Orley
Maurice Dean Wint as August Ripley
Savannah Basley as Zooey L’Enfant
Tennille Read as Megan Donovan
Charlie Tomlinson as William Larson
Deborah Grover as Grammy Samantha
as Callum North
Jennifer Dale as Victoria Roman
While Roman explores the mystery of a picturesque cottage that may or may not be supernaturally compromised, Susan tries to appease an irksome horror writing who seeks a genuine haunted house for inspiration.
Melanie Scrofano gives an extraordinary performance– actually, at least three- as the disturbed Harper North. She is, at turns, compelling, disconcerting, and hilarious. Her scenes with Rozen make this episode worth watching.
While we have no word on whether the character will return, Scrofano apparently directs two episodes later this season.
The episode’s disparate parts give it an uneven tone, and the main story gets cheated by a B-plot that proves only moderately interesting.
Originality: 2/6 The A-plot deliberately uses genre tropes and clichés. The secret behind the music box feels, perhaps, a little too tropey.
Acting: 5/6 Both Scrofano and the actor playing Larson initially feel over the top (Scrofano hilariously so). Her character, however, reveals layers and gives the episode its best moments. Larson feels forced, and he’s stuck in a predictable subplot that’s only moderately amusing.
A certain character gives a unsettling performance in the epilogue; we will see more in future episodes.
Keeping Rozen and Ireland separated for most of the ep doesn’t play to their strengths in the context of this show. They should build on that chemistry in these early episodes.
Story: 4/6 The main plot works very well; that cottage on the lake contains a more tangled mystery than we’ve thus far seen. I like the fact that, instead of figuring out a way to cancel the influence of cells and other contemporary tech, this episode makes them a part of things. On another point familiar to horror fans, I wish they had lampshaded the fact that experienced Roman, when chased by horrors, runs into the dark forest like some ingenue in a slasher film.
The second plot was not only less interesting, it mishandles Sarah Levy’s character. It feels like this episode should have come before last week’s. If they’re going to emphasize continuity and story arcs, such things matter.
Emotional Response: 4/6
In total, SurrealEstate, “For Sale by Owner” receives 31/42
Ongoing Discussion of Location
This episode mentions a “provincial park” and references Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. That’s good enough for me to say the show takes place in Canada, even if our visiting horror writer references “every state.” Presumably, he‘s American.