Pretty people and some scares on ‘Ravenswood’


Just when I thought I was done telling you about shows featuring spooky towns, ABC Family drags me back in with “Ravenswood,” the tale of yet another cursed town that wants to give “Sleepy Hollow” a run for its money. Ravenswood is not too far from Rosewood, the town where all the attractive girls from “Pretty Little Liars” live. In this spin-off, Caleb Rivers (Tyler Blackburn) and Miranda Collins (Nicole Anderson) go to Ravenswood because Miranda wants answers from the uncle who sent her to foster care after her parents died. In an effort to establish a simple connection between the two series, Caleb says something in voice over about his “Pretty Little Liars” girlfriend Hannah wanting him to look after Miranda but that’s as far as the two shows are connected and it quickly becomes unimportant. It’s also not important to know that Caleb was the “bad boy” of “Pretty Little Liars.” I only know this because I read his character bio on that show’s website. But if I hadn’t, I could have guessed by his haircut which practically shouts “rebel.” On this show however, Caleb is less bad boy and more amateur sleuth as he and Miranda try to figure out the mystery of why her uncle and the town in general are so creepy.

“Ravenswood” understands its genre and wastes no time using camera angles to create the suspense and surprise you would expect from a horror story. When Caleb takes a bath and glances up at the shower curtain, you know it’s not going to end well. Ditto when Miranda is curled up on a couch looking through a photo album in a room full of Victorian pictures and dolls. Did you guess that the house where all this happens is also a funeral home?

Rounding out the town’s teens are Luke Matheson (Brett Dier), his sister Olivia (Merritt Patterson) and his girlfriend Remy Beumont (Britne Oldford). When we meet Luke and Olivia, they are watching their mother desperately cleaning their father’s gravestone. Someone has spray painted “black widow” on it. Remy wants to be there for Luke but her father, the editor of the local newspaper, is having none of it. When Caleb and Remy have a chat over coffee, she tells him: “We have a different kind of ordinary in this town.” And with that foreshadowing, we’ve been warned.

In “Ravenswood,” a town where a devastating flood killed most of its residents way back when, curtains move in windless rooms, bathtub faucets turn themselves on, a woman who got her styling tips from the girl in “The Ring” makes regular appearances and Miranda’s uncle Raymond Collins (Steven Cabral) is who Eddie Muenster would have looked like all grown-up. In a different show with a different stylist, Raymond might be the guy in the club surrounded by much younger women and bottles of champagne. But this is a horror story and Raymond is a curt, surly funeral director who is keeping a secret.

And he’s not the only one. Why do teenagers seem to die in groups shortly after one of the town’s enlisted military personnel survive a tragedy in the field? Why are Caleb and Miranda’s likenesses and names on the tombstones of people who died a hundred years ago? Why does everyone, including Luke, think his mother killed his father?

Despite all the you-can-see-it-coming scares, this series is solid enough to make you want to stick around and find answers to these questions. The acting has enough teen sarcasm not to take itself too seriously and the chemistry between the characters works. Toward the end of the first episode, Miranda has had enough and they decide to leave. When her and Caleb are delayed she says: “I guess we’re not making that bus. He answers: “We’ll catch the next one.” Oh, somehow I think you won’t…

“Ravenswood” is on Tuesdays at 9 p.m. EDT on ABC Family.