"Episode XXXV: Jack and the Haunted House" is the thirty-fifth episode in third season of Samurai Jack. In this episode Jack encounters a haunted house in his travels and must free the family trapped inside from the evil force that is tormenting them.
While traveling at night, Jack encounters a young girl sobbing to herself. She runs away as soon as she notices Jack and he follows her to return the teddy bear she dropped (which clearly resembles the creature from Episode XXXIII). His pursuit leads to an old, dilapidated house of Japanese design. He decides to take a side entrance rather than the front door the girl used and sees the silhouette of a woman sitting next to a fire through the door. As soon as he tries to open it, a horde of moths cuts past him, startling him. The next moment, there is no sign of the woman or the fire.
After entering, Jack experiences several visions showing vague images of the people who lived there and a strange shadow monster that attacks them. He finds a candle and lights it in order to search the house. The entire house looks dilapidated, abandoned and dirty. He finds certain items, such as the model ships the family's son was building. Every time he finds such items, he experiences another flashback. The episode resembles a horror movie at this point, with everything looking scary and with very discomforting sound effects being played.
Jack searches the house until he finally finds the girl. He suggests leaving the house and heads back to the room he came in through, but is baffled when he notices all doors and windows in that room are now gone. After returning to the room in which he found the girl, he is shocked to see the same thing has happened there. He and the girl decide to try to sleep, stating they both feel strangely tired.
Jack's sleep is troubled by further nightmarish visions of the shadowy monster and its attacks on the house's inhabitants. Upon waking up, he notices that the girl is gone. While looking around the room, he faintly hears music and notices a well-lit room behind a doorway. He enters it and sees the girl calmly sitting at a table with three other family members (the mother, father, and brother as seen in Jack's visions) in a well-kept room. Jack angrily shouts his disbelief, that it must be an illusion of some sort, and draws his sword. The father convinces Jack to calm down, sit, and drink tea with them. The small talk completely distracts Jack when they mention the tea is from a region he is familiar with. The girl, however, looks concerned.
When the father asks the son to say something, the son reacts by eerily rolling his eyes up into his skull. He then starts to drool and hunch backwards. Soon after, the mother and father do the same. Jack is brought to his senses and watches a stream of shadowy matter erupt from their mouths. The room vanishes and turns into the ruinous structure it really is, while the shadowy matter accumulates into the shadow beast.
The monster attacks Jack and finally seizes him using tentacles that come out of the floor. He then sends Jack's consciousness into an alternate reality, where there is no environment, only himself, the monster and the family members. They are all tied down, likely to visualize their mind being captive whilst the monster can use their bodies.
Jack somehow levitates his sword using tremendous willpower and cuts his bonds, then fights and eventually defeats the monster. They erupt back into reality, where the night seems to end as Jack comes to. He tells the girl he saw her family, but couldn't save them. Then the father's voice is heard as he calls out to his daughter: all the family members are alive and safe. Satisfied, Jack leaves them in their hug and continues his quest.
- Casting by
- Collette Sunderman
This episode is remarkably different from other episodes in 3 ways: drawing style, creepiness, and the antagonist itself.
Most episodes feature simplistically colored characters and foreground objects on a mixture of backgrounds that are sometimes just as cartoonishly colored and sometimes highly detailed, as if painted. This episode however employs the "fancy" coloring on all backgrounds and many of the foreground objects. The entire episode looks graphically superior to the other ones. This makes the abandoned state of the house very visible and adds to the immersive effect of the horror graphics. It also makes the living characters stand out from the rest of the house, as if to symbolize that nothing living belongs there. Finally, it also makes the house itself looks strange and unfamiliar to the viewer.
In addition, Jack's flashbacks and presence in the alternate reality have their own, unique drawing style, primarily a minimalist style. Everything is drawn with black smears on a gloomy white background, with abrupt animations and lots of flickering. Noise is constantly heard during these scenes. The strangeness of these graphics adds to the horror factor.
This episode has a noticeable lack of background music. Instead, there is only silence and frequent, seemingly source-less and highly discomforting "ghost noise". Jack is visibly unsettled and anxious. Everything he does seems to trigger something "creepy", such as when he knocks over a metal jar that then rolls up to the foot of a statue, making loud noise in an otherwise dead-silent room. Even the gentle music during the family illusion turns unsettling when it suddenly repeats like a broken record then winds down entirely. The candle and moonlight are the only sources of light inside the house, giving everything an unusual appearance. The coloring of many backgrounds resembles paintbrush strokes, somehow creating an impression of age, wear, ruin and abandonment.
The demon itself is quite unique compare to most other enemies Jack has faced, including Aku. Its form and the way it's animated is unsettling enough, but the nature of the entity is even worse. It has no comical moments like most other villains, including Aku. It stays hidden for most of the episode, so the viewer has absolutely no idea what unseen force is working against Jack. It consumes people's souls, and after doing it to the little girl's family, it keeps her alive solely for the purpose of using her as bait to lure in more victims. It's also likely that they're not the demon's first and only victims. It's also one of the very few antagonists Jack has faced that doesn't serve or have any relation to Aku. Worst of all, it's never revealed essentially what this demonic spirit is or where it comes from. It's just... there.
This is without doubt the most unsettling episode of the series.