Ghouls ‘n Ghosts (‘n Goblins) are totally terrifying in their own right, but many of those shocks and shivers start to lose their punch when you place them next to some of life’s greatest challenges. Likelosing those you love, or dealing with the death of a beloved pet. How about holding a steady job, or even trying to get rid of a job that’s a little too steady? These are the real horrors of humanity, and they’re on full display right past that split-in-twain specter in Mondo’s new animated series Gary and His Demons.
Gary is the type of middle-aged dude who, on the surface, looks like someone that would be absolutely miserable and incompetent in every single aspect of life. When we first meet him he’s the very face of discontent, as he suffers through what is ostensibly his long-awaited retirement party. That’s right, the time has come at last to leave the world of demon hunting, only there’s no way in hell they’ll actually let him hang up his extremely rad magical sword for good. It turns out Gary is exceedingly competent at his job; he’s a “chosen one” of sorts, and it can be tough to find a replacement for that kind of predisposed proficiency.
In the meantime, it’s back to the beat along with his bumbling new partner Hanley, who couldn’t be more different from Gary. At the end of the first episode, “Still the One,” we get a quick taste of everything that plagues Gary beyond his demon-destroying daily existence. A glimpse of the aforementioned lost love, for instance, hints at something much deeper beyond the surface-level humor and Gary’s own acerbic wit. This is exactly why creator/director Mark Little and co-director/animator Lou Solis are able to spaghetti shotgun the jokes with reckless abandon throughout each 12-minute episode. The rumbling just beneath the soil gets louder and louder at every turn, and as long as those bones keep rattlin’ the rest of the story beats can be as stupid as they want to be.
Gary slices through plenty of familiar horror tropes while battling his literal and figurative demons, both from the worlds of film and classic urban legends. Who hasn’t giggled themselves silly at a sleepover right before tempting fate and calling upon the sinister appearance of Bloody Mary? She rears her jaded head in episode two, “Grundleman,” which is all about the not-so-mythical monsters that stalk us from within the mirror. Hanley, inexperienced and earnest as he is, has some of his own demons to wrestle with in this regard, but I’ll leave it to the viewer to discover the secret behind his own tragic past. It’s something that totally wouldn’t be funny outside of the context of Gary‘s already well-established absurdity.
Gary has two speeds throughout the series so far: lightning-fast hyper athleticism—with swordplay that cuts through demons like wet paper—and utter emotional devastation. While it’s clear from the first episode that he has a whole Army of Darkness battalion of skeletons in his closet, it isn’t until episode 3, “Fleshler ’99,” that we get to meet some of said skeletons in person. Without going into too much detail, these skeletons have serious teeth, and the revelations of the past set up a tantalizing arc for the episodes to come.
Through all the tales of revenge, visitors from beyond the grave, and haunting reminders of the mistakes of one’s youth, there’s an underlying sense that satisfaction is still so very within reach for Gary. Hell, if Hanley were just a little less of a dribbling Baby Huey sweetheart, maybe Gary could finally cash that retirement check and stash his sword away for eternity. Or maybe Gary really does like his job after all. Maybe he’s just accepting any excuse that comes his way so he can keep the hunt alive.
Pffft, hahaha, nah, screw that. Gary wants out bad, and half the fun is watching him squirm as the fickle claws of fate sink in deeper and deeper.
WATCH GARY AND HIS DEMONS on VRV!