'Yellowjackets' Episode 1 Review: Karyn Kusama rolls out bone-chilling thriller

'Yellowjackets' Episode 1 Review: Karyn Kusama rolls out bone-chilling thriller
Christina Ricci in a still from 'Yellowjackets' (Showtime)

'Yellowjackets' sets the tone with a girl running barefoot through a forest, bleeding in one foot. She's zipping past the frozen thickets, falling, gasping, screaming but running for dear life. And all the while, there are battle cries of hysteric whooping that echo through, and just when she thinks she is getting away, the ground gives way and she falls into a hole with sharpened sticks that pierce various parts of her body. She's still alive. Barely. Her hand twitches, as a mysterious figure in pink classic Chuck Taylor's who's giving chase, watches her.

Karyn Kusama, the director nails the horror element in the first few minutes that doesn't let down at any point of time in the 56-minute pilot. The latest series from Showtime takes the 10 pm ET time slot previously used up by 'American Rust'. The horror drama from Ashley Lyle and Bart Nickerson follows a talented high school soccer team that gets stranded after a plane crash, and 25 years later, the survivors, attempt to lead a normal life, except, 'Normal' isn't the word that's associated.


Christina Ricci and James Heerdegen: How a fairytale turned into abusive marriage and ended in restraining order

'Sacred Lies' star Juliette Lewis decodes Harper's rough edges, says she loves playing multilayered characters

Juliette Lewis as Natalie in 'Yellowjackets' (Showtime)


There's horror and gore in generous doses and while it does feel like too much at times, the story toggling between two timelines keeps the attention intact. Kusama uses silence to perfection. The scenes that feature no dialogue just add to the precision directing. In 1996, there's a team of teens playing some quality football, whilst battling their own demons. There's Taissa (Jasmin Savoy Brown), Natalie (Sophie Thatcher), Misty (Samantha Hanratty) Jackie (Ella Purnell) and her best friend Shauna (Sophie Nélisse) each having their own ordeals while attempting to win the nationals.

And in 2021, each of them has their own trauma to deal with. They're never really over the past, and its sudden emergence in their lives just rip up the mask of normalcy they wear to the world. If there is a bigger challenge, it has to be the multiple subplots that have been weaved and present that potential danger of missing out on the larger picture. The visceral violence isn't for everyone, but that's what makes it tick. The cast just makes it all the better. The teen counterparts manage to paint a convincing picture, while the adults take over seamlessly.

Tawny Cypress as the adult Taissa is now a state senator candidate who still shies away from answering questions of her past. Misty, now played by Christina Ricci, is still the outcast and easily outshines the rest of the cast. Melanie Lynskey is still a vicious housewife shown to have violent tendencies as she kills a rabbit in cold blood. Juliette Lewis is a recovering alcoholic. Each of these characters have a huge chunk of their horrific past still intact and the pilot firmly cements that.

The series has promise and the potential to be among one of those bone-chilling psychological thrillers that make it hard to ignore. It's hard to envision a second season right away, but at this stage, it's one copious serving of horror per episode.

'Yellowjackets' premieres Sundays at 10 pm ET on Showtime.

Share this article:  yellowjackets episode 1 review showtime karyn kusama christina ricci juliette lewis