Horror Fiction in Seven Spooky Steps

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"Horror Fiction in Seven Spooky Steps"
Community episode
The Study Group reacts to Chang as the hook hand murderer.
The Study Group reacts to Chang as the hook hand murderer.
Episode no. Season 3
Episode 5
Directed by Tristram Shapeero
Written by Dan Harmon
Production code 305
Original air date October 27, 2011 (2011-10-27)
Episode chronology
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"Competitive Ecology"
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"Advanced Gay"
List of Community episodes

"Horror Fiction in Seven Spooky Steps" is the fifth episode of the third season of the U.S. television series Community. It first aired on October 27, 2011 on NBC and is the series' 2011 Halloween episode.

In the episode, Britta is led to believe that one member of the group is a psychopath and is determined to find out who it is. Though her plan was to gauge the reaction of the other characters after telling them a horror story, all the other characters end up telling stories of their own. Each story illustrates how each character views each other and themselves.

The episode was written by series creator Dan Harmon and directed by Tristram Shapeero. It received positive reviews from critics.


Britta (Gillian Jacobs) administered an anonymous psych quiz on the study group, only to find out that one of them could be deeply disturbed. At a Halloween pre-party, she tries to seek out the supposedly homicidal group member by telling the group a horror story and observing their reactions.

Britta tells the group an urban legend about a couple (played by Britta and Jeff (Joel McHale)) making out in a car before an escaped psychopath with a hook hand murders Jeff. She asks Abed (Danny Pudi) how he feels. Instead, Abed critiques the irrational choices the couple made, and tells a "horror" story of his own. In his story, he and Britta camp out at a log cabin. Abed takes all precautions, including bringing a radio to listen to the news and charging his cell phone. When the escaped psychopath threatens, he calls 911, locks the doors, and has him and Britta stand back to back holding knives.

Annie (Alison Brie) interjects with her own story, in which Jeff is a vampire who feeds on a submissive Britta for sustenance. Annie is an innocent schoolteacher who tames Jeff by teaching him how to read. Suddenly, Jeff turns on Annie, who then reveals herself to be a werewolf and mutilates Jeff.

In Troy's (Donald Glover) story, he and Abed are lost fighter pilots who seek help from a crazy, old racist doctor, played by Pierce (Chevy Chase). Pierce sedates them and sews their stomachs together. However, this gives Troy and Abed psychokinetic powers, with which they knock Pierce unconscious. They then sew Pierce's buttocks to his chest and replace his hands with feet, making him unable to touch his new "boobs."

Pierce then counters with his own story in which he is a stud surrounded by hot women (Annie, Shirley (Yvette Nicole Brown) and Britta). When two thugs (Abed and Troy) invade his home, Pierce easily subdues them, including knocking out Troy with his "manhood."

In Shirley's story, the Rapture occurs while the rest of the group indulge in alcohol and marijuana in a cabin. The Devil, played by Dean Pelton (Jim Rash), arrives to welcome them to Hell but Shirley, whom the group "used to pick on for being Christian," holds him off temporarily. She rises to Heaven, leaving the group behind to be slaughtered by the Dean/Devil.

Finally, Britta reveals to the group that the test results say someone is a psychopath, which shocks everyone. Jeff then tells his own story wherein the group go to a cabin and find a hookman attacking them. Jeff interrupts and asks the hookman why he kills people. The hookman then reveals himself to be Chang (Ken Jeong), who just wants a hug. Jeff's story, however, fails to calm his friends.

After checking the test papers, Annie finds out that Britta scanned them upside down. The corrected results reveal that all but one of the group members are crazy. The group decides not to find out who it is so they can "hold on to the comforting notion that one of us might be sane." The final shot reveals that the only sane group member is Abed. Although Jeff had revealed earlier that he filled out the test at random, to avoid doing work. So his sanity is unknown.


The episode was written by series creator and executive producer Dan Harmon, his fourth writing credit. It was directed by Tristram Shapeero, his fifth directing credit.

"Horror Fiction in Seven Spooky Steps" was—unintentionally—the second episode in a row to feature seven different stories, after "Remedial Chaos Theory." "Chaos" was intended to be the third episode of the season, but was pushed back to fourth after "Competitive Ecology" due to production delays.[1]


The episode examines how each character in the study group views each other and themselves, filtering everybody else through the point of view of one character.[2]

Britta always means well, but makes everything boring because she does not read her audience well.[1] Abed makes his story boring by trying too hard to be realistic.[1][2] Annie deals with her insecurities of Jeff and Britta's sexual relationship by casting Jeff as a vampire using Britta for sustenance, when only she can touch his heart.[1] Troy values his friendship with Abed,[1] while Pierce is overly confident in himself.[2] Shirley sees herself as devout while pitying the rest of the group for being godless people.[1] Jeff believes he can talk the group out of any problem and considers himself the only normal person.[1]

Cultural references[edit]

The episode examines hookman and slasher stories.[2] In Abed's story, he fixes all plot holes by having his characters take all logical precautions to minimize the chance of being killed.[1][3]

Annie's imagining of Jeff as a vampire who uses Britta for sustenance is a poke at the Twilight series.[2][3]

Shirley's story involves the Rapture, wherein she goes to heaven, leaving behind the rest of the group, whom she perceives as hedonistic.[2] Also in her story is Dean Pelton as the Devil with a chainsaw yelling "Gay marriage!"[3]

At the start of the episode, Annie goes through Britta's playlist and finds the Beetlejuice soundtrack in it. A man in a Beetlejuice costume then passes behind Annie as she says the name aloud for the third time in the show's history ("Beetlejuice" was also mentioned in "Communication Studies" by Professor Slater and in "Cooperative Calligraphy" by Britta).[4] In the film, whenever someone says "Beetlejuice" three times, the character Betelgeuse would suddenly enter the scene.[5]

Abed is dressed-up as Inspector Spacetime, the show's interpretation of Doctor Who.

Jeff dresses up for Halloween by wearing a "Fast and the Furious jacket."[6]

At one point Troy wants to go the party because he heard the Dean has "free taco meat from the Army". This is a reference to the second-season episode "Epidemiology" in which army surplus food the Dean acquired gave people zombie-like attributes.

In Britta's story, she is seen reading a copy of "Warren Piece."



In its original broadcast on October 27, 2011, the episode was watched by an estimated 3.42 million people. It drew a Nielsen rating/share of 1.4/4 in the 18–49 demographic.[7]


"Horror Fiction in Seven Spooky Steps" received generally positive critical reviews.

Leigh Raines of TV Fanatic gave the episode a 4.5/5 rating, saying: "Community always serves up great holiday episodes, so it came as no surprise that I loved "Horror Fiction In Seven Spooky Steps."[6] For Kelsea Stahler of Hollywood.com, the episode worked "because each of these stories is so perfectly tailored to our character’s psyches and personalities... As an episode, it was a little winding and erratic, but as something stalwart Community fans can enjoy, it was a solid hit."[3]

Alan Sepinwall and Todd VanDerWerff both said that "Horror Fiction" is a strong episode on its own, but lamented the fact that it aired right after "Remedial Chaos Theory," which had a similar episode structure which combines seven different stories.[1][2] VanDerWerff said the episode was "pretty much just unadulterated awesome."[2] Sepinwall said "'Chaos Theory' was an awfully tough act to follow: a gimmick episode that was both incredibly funny while telling us important things about these characters and how they relate to each other. And I enjoyed 'Horror Fiction' a lot, but it's a gimmick episode that's mainly just funny, while reminding us of things we know pretty well about the characters.[1]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Sepinwall, Alan (October 27, 2011). "Review: 'Community' - 'Horror Fiction in Seven Spooky Steps!': Cabin fever". HitFix. Retrieved November 18, 2011. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h VanDerWerff, Todd (October 27, 2011). "Horror Fiction In Seven Spooky Steps". The A.V. Club. Retrieved November 18, 2011. 
  3. ^ a b c d Stahler, Kelsea (October 28, 2011). "'Community' Recap: Horror Fiction in Seven Spooky Steps!". Hollywood.com. Archived from the original on January 25, 2013. Retrieved November 18, 2011. 
  4. ^ Community: Beetlejuice, Beetlejuice, Beetlejuice. Retrieved November 23, 2011. 
  5. ^ Zakarin, Jordan (November 23, 2011). "'Community': Beetlejuice Secret Easter Egg In Halloween Episode". The Huffington Post. Retrieved November 23, 2011. 
  6. ^ a b Raines, Leigh (October 27, 2011). "Community Review: We All Go Insane Sometimes...". TV Fanatic. Retrieved November 18, 2011. 
  7. ^ Gorman, Bill (October 28, 2011). "Thursday Final Ratings: World Series Game 6 Finals + 'Big Bang,' 'Vampire Diaries,' 'Office,' 'Person,' Adjusted Up; 'Rules,' 'Secret Circle,' 'Whitney,' 'Prime Suspect' Adjusted Down". TV by the Numbers. Retrieved November 18, 2011. 

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