This was cut together in a rush when 9/11 pushed the fall season back by several weeks and Four Scary Stories lost its Halloween airdate. It's more than a little frustrating, since the original version had Jen hosting Charlie's radio show and being told scary stories by a bunch of callers, followed by her own horrible encounter at the end of the show. Instead, throwing the episode into the season at this point feels a little jarring, while the wrap-around story (Joey, Pacey and Jack telling each other creepy tales after watching a bad slasher flick) feels a little meandering. It doesn't open all that well either, the first two stories being particularly crummy, but the episode gets better as it goes along, capped by a fun Grams appearance (where has she been?) and an amusing closer. It's sort of random as an episode, but casually entertaining.
Joey and Jack's stories are both generic stalk-and-slash hooey, both following a similar thread as the characters walk ominously around an empty location terrified by the strange noises they keep hearing and the unexpected encounters they experience. Joey's doesn't make a whole lot of sense once the final twist is revealed (the creepy guy was actually the hero all along!) and, despite Katie Holmes' admirable attempts at Buffy Summers-style kick-ass-ness, it sort of drags.
Jack's is a sweet ghost story about a gay apparition appearing in his frat house but, again, drags like crazy. It's also a little annoying seeing the show play around with genre cliches (the spooky '50s music suddenly appearing on the radio for one), without adding anything fresh to it. It's like Scream if you remove all the irony. Or the fun. Or the great characters.
Things perk up with Pacey's story, he and Karen chased in their car after flashing their headlights at another car. The story again is pretty generic, but I liked the creepy diner with its hillbilly clientele as well as Karen's baseball bat action heroine thing at the end. If only she was that much fun when she actually had reality-based stuff to do. There's also some meta humor to it all since the flashing headlights urban legend played an important role in, uh, Urban Legend, one of the fun late '90s Scream knock-offs that I've watched far too many times, which just so happened to star Joshua Jackson.
It's crazy brief, but Jen's story at the radio station was reliably intense. It followed the same trajectory as two of the other tales (scary noises, walking around slowly, twisty ending), but I got more than a little engrossed in it.
Four Scary Stories is entirely meaningless as an episode and is nowhere near as fun as it easily could have been, but it's an experiment that is occasionally rewarding in certain moments, giving the cast something different to do this week. Ooh, and no Dawson! Which many will probably appreciate. C+
Guest stars Busy Philipps (Audrey Liddell); Lourdes Benedicto (Karen Torres); Bryce Johnson (Library Guy); Jonah Blechman (Tad)
Writer Jed Seidel Director Krishna Rao