For those who always choose “treat” on Halloween, Netflix has the perfect show for October bingeing: a cooking show, to be precise. Yes, the streaming giant that has all of our preferences, tastes and viewing habits locked up in a vault, has put all those numbers together and decided that what the world needs right now is a baking show set in a spooky house filled with strange beasts. Art Attack meets The Addams Family. Bake Off meets Trap Door. Mary Berry meets Funnybones.
Because really – whisper it – The Curious Creations of Christine McConnell isn’t scary at all. It’s weird, strange and downright odd, and contains hints of murder, but it’s not scary – the most terrifying thing about it is how Christine McConnell’s hair never gets knocked out of place. She’s impeccably kitsch, impossibly quirky and enjoyably dark, a modern day Martha Stewart, whose deadpan instructions are all the more glorious because of the nasty concoctions she’s demonstrating.
Eyeballs, ouija boards and human bones (pretzels wrapped in peanut butter and dipped in chocolate) are standard ingredients in her unusual cook book. And part of the fun is seeing these beautiful – and beautifully horrific – creations come to life, elaborate dishes and desserts that are ideal inspiration for Halloween, even if you could never actually hope to make in your humble kitchen, certainly not without several hours put aside. (This episodes breeze past in short bursts, each containing a couple of courses.) The Great British Bake Off, this ain’t.
But The Curious Creation’s spell lies in the way it combines the wholesome entertainment of an education culinary programme with a decidedly less wholesome sprinkling horror-comedy: Christine, we learn, shares her house with a bunch of disturbing critters: a dead raccoon, Rose, and a mummified cat, Rankle. These animals are brought to life by Henson Alternative, the adult arm of Jim Henson’s studio, and they interject with sarcastic comments about her constant use of the same ingredients (“You must have shares in royal icing…”) and suspicious plotting to bump off other humans – including, potentially, the sinister man who comes to tea, and turns into a creepy romantic interest.
The humour is cheesy, but in a knowing way that befits its star: Christine is a celebrity of the Internet age, after decorating her parents’ home in eyes and fangs saw her bizarre tastes in decor go viral. And there’s something exciting about seeing a new star of the kitchen carving out her own unique space in a genre that’s already crowded on traditional TV. Where those could be watched by people of all ages, Netflix’s oddity is targeted squarely at that crossover demographic of people who like baking but also like spooky things, courting young adults, 20-somethings and grown-up The Munsters fans alike. “Snitches get gutted and sacrificed to Anubis,” notes Rankle at one point. “That doesn’t rhyme,” coos back Christine, playfully. Rankle snarls bitterly. “It did in the original Egyptian.” What a curious creation this is.
The Curious Creations of Christine McConnell is available on Netflix UK, as part of an £8.99 monthly subscription.