DCAU #309: Earth Mover

IN THIS ONE... The ghost of a wronged man animates mud creatures.

CREDITS: Written by Stan Berkowitz; directed by Dan Riba.

REVIEW: On the animation side, this is more or less the Clayface episode. Terry fights mud monsters, often in spectacular ways, cutting through them with blades and batarangs, them turning into giants, and so on. But the similarities really stop at the visuals. This is first and foremost a ghost story.

Jackie Wallace, a school friend, has been raised all these years by a friend of her father's. He died in some horrible accident when she was a motherless child. Bill, the man she thinks of as her father, was involved in shady dumping of toxic waste with her real dad, and things went awry. He was left for dead at the bottom of a mine shaft when the earth caved in and radioactive wasted pour down the hole. But he didn't die. He was transformed by the glowing green juice and now controls the earth around him, though his own existence is that of a shrunken corpse rooted to the same spot. He's become a monster, and both he and Bill Wallace committed a crime, but neither is a villain. "Earthmover" is more or less a vengeful spirit that nevertheless allows Jackie and Bill to escape at the end, and Bill certainly redeemed himself by raising Jackie; he's just a man who made a mistake.

The episode embraces the horror genre, taking things a little further than most DCAU material usually goes. Just the sight of the desiccated corpse veined with toxic juice is horrible enough, but the way the man is buried is likewise graphic. His face half under rubble, one eye watches in terror as the toxic waste pours towards him. The way he takes the house down into the earth isn't just a shocking use of his powers, but transforms it into a darkened haunted house. Not sure what kills the "ghost" at the end, whether exertion or the dumping of even more toxic fluid (we needed a line there), but the nightmare ends on a heavy note, not a happy one. And to think, a few minutes in, I was going to say it was just another monster episode lacking personality.

SOUNDS LIKE: Lindsay Sloane (Valerie on Sabrina the Teenage Witch, Horrible Bosses) is the voice of Jackie Wallace, while her adoptive father Bill is played by Dan Lauria who was Fred Savage's father on The Wonder Years. Her REAL father, "Earthmover", is voiced by Stephen Collins, Will Decker on Star Trek the Motion Picture and the dad on 7th Heaven.

REWATCHABILITY: Medium-High - A strong ghost story with cool visuals.

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