Directed by Coodie and Chike
Written by Renso Amariz, Allen Frederick
Starring Omar J. Dorsey, Chad Coleman, PJ Morton, Dorian Missick
Surprisingly, there are only three entries to the first season of Soul City: New Orleans but directors Coodie and Chike make good on delivering a little horror entertainment for new subscribers of the streaming service Topic (think niche entertainment like Quibi). Each episode has a great premise and even though the endings feel a little rushed, the series has a lot of promise even if it’s a bit underdeveloped at times. This season almost feels like a dry run for what’s hopefully a lasting creative partnership between Topic and these directors. Coodie and Chike look to be dipping their toe in the horror world for the first time, having carved out a name for themselves in hip hop back in 2003 with Kanye West’s music video “Through the Wire” (a now legendary song featuring Chaka Khan). They also recently won an NAACP Image Award for Muhammad Ali: The People’s Champ. Even though the new wave of representation in horror is here, the feel of Soul City is more in line with some of Ernest Dickerson’s genre work and old school anthologies like Tales From the Hood. Each episode is only fifteen minutes long but the characters have depth enough to make you care when they inevitably screw things up for themselves.
Set in a colorless world, “Grace” starts things off centering around a little girl who is constantly berated and put down by her grandmother, a god-fearing woman surrounding herself with churchgoers who always think Grace could do better. Once she discovers a real talent for drawing, Grace suddenly figures out that she can create a new reality around her which doesn’t bode well for grandma. Reminiscent of “It’s A Good Life” from The Twilight Zone, this is definitely the one with the creepiest ending.
“Pillow Shop” focuses on a sleepless man who goes to a strange furniture store to be fitted for a custom pillow that ultimately smothers its user. The main moral to this story is never do anything asleep that you wouldn’t do awake.
Episode 3 entitled “Giveman” is really the one that feels the most like New Orleans, with smoke-filled jazz clubs and some voodoo thrown in for good measure. For fans who have missed Tyrese since his demise in season 5 of The Walking Dead, Chad Coleman stars as a father desperate for local fame and fortune who gives up his son’s soul to a back alley bogeyman. Proving that you can pay forward a curse but never be rid of it, “Giveman” is a great bookend to Soul City even if it ends abruptly with some patchwork effects.
Appearing as a cab driver in all three episodes as a guide of sorts, Actor Omar J. Dorsey (Halloween, Halloween Kills) is the closest thing to The Creep and his presence is definitely felt. Dorsey just has it and he serves as some much needed connective tissue. The music and theme song by PJ Morton and Zak Engel is a cross between trap and horrorcore that’s insanely catchy but I don’t know if it’s available anywhere. Hopefully, there will be a more developed and well-polished season 2 set in another city. For now, if you’re not already a subscriber, grab a free seven day trial to Topic and give this a little bit of your time!
All three stories in this short anthology series teach lessons we should learn, even if the characters don’t.