Ravenswood (ABC Family) Advance Review: 5 Things You Need to Know

Ravenswood Episode 1 Pilot (15)

Before you dive into ABC Family’s gothic Pretty Little Liars‘ spin-off Ravenswood tomorrow night, there are few things you need to know in order to prepare yourself for a visit to the creeptastic town:

You Don’t Need to be a Fan of Pretty Little Liars to Enjoy Ravenswood (But Watching the Halloween Special is a Good Idea)

I’ve never watched PLL (I know, I know– it’s on my list), but I was intrigued by the spookiness of Ravenswood‘s concept so I decided to dive in. On the whole you don’t need to know anything about the search for “A” to jump into the spin-off, but it does pick up directly after the PLL Halloween special that will air beforehand. The handy dandy recap that kicks off the episode gives us the lowdown on why PLL regular Caleb is staying in town to help newcomer Miranda reconnect with her Uncle, and look into the mystery surrounding his family’s involvement with the town, but since Caleb and Miranda’s relationship is central to the pilot, missing out on the moment they met was a bummer. Of course, that can be remedied by checking out the Halloween special if you, like me, are planning to watch the spin-off before the mothership.

Expect the Unexpected

Bumps in the night and strange happenings abound in Ravenswood. The series isn’t just a mystery; it’s a legitimate ghost story with a fair amount of genuine scares. The town’s history is dark, and that brings with it a certain amount of baggage for our five main characters: Miranda, Caleb, Remy, Luke and Olivia.

There is something old school about the series’ approach to horror. Sharp-eyed viewers will notice nods to Psycho, The Others and the cult classic Carnival of Souls. If PLL is an ode to noir films, then Ravenswood is a throwback to ’50s-era horror– with a modern edge and post-Scream self awareness.

Remy is the Standout

Keep your eyes on Remy, a young reporter who befriends Caleb once she realizes he’s digging into the history of Ravenswood. She’s smart, deeply attuned to her town’s past, curious and our gateway to the twins, Luke and Olivia, neither of whom get to do much in the first episode besides introduce their family’s recent tragedy.

Britne Oldford portrays Remy as grounded, which makes some of the more overt spooky moments all the more interesting. Think Veronica Mars if Veronica had investigated the paranormal.

Amazing Sets

The house where Miranda and Caleb are staying with Miranda’s broody, undertaker uncle and odd caretaker is spectacular. As is the town itself with it’s overcrowded graveyard and peculiar lettering on the signs. Every place visited in the pilot adds to the increasingly unsettling mood. The foggy streets, the dimly lit basement of the newspaper office and especially the aforementioned sprawling house. Like Twin Peaks before it, Ravenswood immediately establishes that the town is a character unto itself.

It Has One of the Best Pilot Endings I’ve Seen in Years

I can’t say much, but I will say this: make sure you stay tuned all the way through the end. The first episode spends a lot of time establishing the town and its inhabitants, which is a nice way of saying its exposition heavy. That’s to be expected, but the actual ending itself is one of the best hooks I’ve seen in quite a while. If it doesn’t make you want to come back for week two, nothing will.

All in all, I suspect fans of gothic ghost stories will be pleased. The hour is smart when it needs to be, while still leaning heavily on familiar ghostly material. Ravenswood is definitely worth a watch.

Ravenswood premieres Tuesday, October 22nd at 9PM ET/PT on ABC Family.