Welcome to What’s the Buzz, 25YL’s feature where members of our staff provide you with recommendations on a weekly basis. In our internet age, there is so much out there to think about watching, reading, listening to, etc., that it can be hard to separate the wheat from the chaff, filter out the noise, or find those diamonds in the rough. But have no fear! We’re here to help you do that thing I just described with three different metaphors. Each week a rotating cast of writers will offer their recommendations based on things they have discovered. They won’t always be new to the world, but they’ll be new to us, or we hope new to you. This week, Hawk Ripjaw is enthralled by “The Golden Arm,” Amber Welsh is watching McMillion$, and Vincent Greene recommends Underwater.
“The Golden Arm”
Hawk: Quibi is a new streaming service that deals in mostly exclusive, short-form shows exclusively for your phone. That’s already kind of a gonzo idea, but it’s nothing compared to one of its flagship shows, 50 States of Fright. The anthology series takes a folk tale from each of the 50 United States and turns it into a horror short film. The first, “The Golden Arm,” is split into three parts of less than ten minutes each, and hoo boy, is it something.
Co-written and directed by Sam Raimi and based on the folk tale, “The Golden Arm” focuses on married couple Dave (Travis Fimmel) and Heather (Rachel Brosnaham) living on a farm. Heather has an insatiable appetite for expensive gifts, which Dave provides despite the financial strain. One day, a logging accident causes a tree to fall on Heather’s arm and Dave chops it off. She begs him to forge her a golden prosthetic, which he does. Unfortunately, the gold absorbs into her bloodstream, causing a deadly disease called “pulmonary gold disease.” She makes Dave promise to bury her with her arm. After she’s died, Dave, in financial ruin, digs up the body to retrieve the arm, which awakens her vengeful spirit.
Though the presence of Raimi suggests a certain semblance of camp, “The Golden Arm” definitely seems to be taking itself very seriously. It plays like a combination of a Lifetime movie and standard supernatural horror, with performances so invested it almost feels like parody. Yet, Raimi has said nothing to suggest that his intent was anything beyond a straight scary story. It’s strange, because “The Golden Arm” is a riot.
When first trying to free his wife’s flesh and blood arm from beneath the tree pinning it, Dave begins yanking on it as if he were pulling bed sheets from his mattress. The line delivery of “golden arm” gets progressively funnier each time it’s uttered. There’s one scare in Part 3 that you can see coming a mile away if you’ve seen the Sacha Baron Cohen film The Brothers Grimsby, in which a comedic version of the situation is used. The centerpiece is a hospital conversation with a level of absurdly dramatic blowout that you’d be forgiven for thinking Justin Roiland wrote the bit. Yet, it appears to be playing itself completely straight.
Sam Raimi is indisputably a director with an extremely strong visual eye, and “The Golden Arm” has an excellent visual aesthetic including a very creative shot involving a photograph on a mantle. That’s one of a couple of decent scares in the climax, which comes and goes quickly and makes “The Golden Arm” an insignificant time investment. Like many others, I was drawn to the free trial of Quibi by Zach Raffio’s Twitter post sharing a clip from the show. It just gets better from there if you’re a fan of this sort of unintentional comedy. It’s well-made on a technical level; it’s just that the premise and the script for it are so goofy, but that’s what makes it fun. Right now you can sign up for a free 90 day trial of Quibi and see for yourself.