Don’t Hug Me I’m Scared (DHMIS) is a show that is drastically different from any other horror show on TV, which is unsurprising given it’s origin as a YouTube series. This allowed it to not be bound by a network and gave the creators Becky Sloan and Joe Pelling true creative freedom in their vision of a show satirising and adding horror to the classic children’s show formula. Thankfully, despite the show being picked up by Channel 4, it has retained its original style in the six episodes that have been released so far.
Most striking is it’s constant shifting of visual styles, hopping back and forth over live action puppetry, computer animation and even stop motion, adding to the guise of a children’s show in the same vein as Sesame Street. This careful attention to detail in the visuals of the show really makes DHMIS stand out in both the horror genre and TV as a whole in terms of quality. It’s absolutely evident in each episode the sheer effort that has gone into making the world pop and move in a way that truly stands out, despite being very practically made (aside from the animation of course). This seemingly child friendly colourful aesthetic also makes the often unnerving and gruesome scenes stand out all the more when they unexpectedly show up.
The horror in DMHIS isn’t at all dependent on jump scares, but rather a tense build-up over the course of any given episode as you wait for the show to reveal how whatever innocent prompt the episode is themed around will inevitably go terribly wrong, in often gruesome ways. DHMIS doesn’t shy away from visceral imagery, yet it maintains it’s paper craft aesthetic even while catching the viewer off-guard with it’s moments of horror. This clever balancing trick is also helped by the incredibly strong theming present in the show.
The new Channel 4 episodes have slightly more focus on a plot driven story than the original six web episodes, but only slightly, still prioritising the visual flair and satirising of common children’s show topics, such as family values and making friends. The show is centred around three main unnamed characters, often referred to as the red guy, yellow guy and duck, as they learn about these different topics at the aid of different “mentors”. Each episode then takes a turn, poking holes in these seemingly wholesome topics in ways both humorous and horrific, such as in the episode “Jobs”, where the show comments on the lack of control in finding work, with each character funnelled into a job they didn’t choose, independent on their skill or work ethic. Interspersed with these subtle commentaries are more jarring moments of horror, such as the yellow guy’s arm being eaten by machinery in a workplace accident. This combination of intelligent theming and unnerving imagery make for a wonderfully tense show that is definitely worth a watch. Unfortunately there’s only the six new episodes, and the last episode does leave you wanting more; so hopefully it’s not the last we’ve seen of Don’t Hug Me I’m Scared. Here’s to another season!
Finn Mc Elwain
Image: Channel 4