Baltimore Sun

‘Pretty Little Liars: Original Sin’ haunts teens for mothers’ past

- By Kate Feldman

As if high school weren’t traumatizi­ng enough, “Pretty Little Liars: Original Sin” adds a masked killer into the mix.

The HBO Max slasher show, which is the fourth series in the “Pretty Little Liars” franchise, recently premiered and follows a group of teen girls as they’re tormented by a mysterious, murderous madman.

“(The girls) are dealing with larger-than-life things, and their lives are literally on the line,” said Chandler Kinney, 21, who plays horror movie buff Tabby. “Especially in ‘Original Sin,’ where our version of (the villain) is cutthroat — metaphoric­ally and literally.”

“Original Sin” is more a scarier, gorier revival of “Pretty Little Liars,” the Freeform mystery thriller that ran for seven seasons between 2010 and 2016, than it is a sequel or even a spinoff. A spinoff, “Ravenswood,” and a sequel, “The Perfection­ists,” already failed.

Instead, “Original Sin” exists in the same universe, miles away in Millwood, a more blue-collar town than Rosewood, where the five Liars don’t know each other.

Tabby; pregnant teen Imogen (Bailee Madison); ballerina Faran (Zaria); high school athlete Noa (Maia Reficco), who’s straight out of juvy; and introverte­d computer nerd Mouse (Malia Pyles) are brought together to take down the school bully, a cheerleade­r named Karen (Mallory Bechtel).

“The love story of this season is this friendship and the evolution of the relationsh­ip between girls who didn’t start out as friends but become more like family,” co-executive

producer Lindsay Calhoon Bring said.

“Original Sin” falls more into the slasher genre, complete with its own version of a creepy shadow who goes by “A” and sends haunting texts just like in the original series but also stalks the girls, masked and armed. The show is steeped in callbacks and homages to horror classics of the ’80s and ’90s. But it’s also about five teenage girls trying to survive being teenage girls.

“We find these girls in a place in their life when all of them, individual­ly, are experienci­ng a level of trauma and tragedy,” said Kinney. “They feel very isolated in what they’re going through. And then collective­ly, the friendship is borne from the trauma of the mystery and this assailant who is literally running around killing people.”

“A” knows something the girls don’t and their mothers do, demanding justice for a 20-year-old grievance that ripped Millwood apart.

“We both wanted to tell the story of generation­al trauma ... of the sins of the mother falling on the child,” Calhoon Bring said of herself and co-executive producer Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa.

As if “A” weren’t enough, the Liars are also facing

what Calhoon Bring and Aguirre-Sacasa called “real-life horrors,” like teenage pregnancie­s and high school bullies and everything else that normal girls go through.

“The violence, we kind of classified it as horrormovi­e violence,” said Aguirre-Sacasa.

“The more real-world horrors that the girls are facing, we’re always gut-checking and making sure we weren’t overwhelmi­ng the story or overwhelmi­ng the characters. We want them to be triumphant, and we don’t want them to be broken victims.”

At the end of the original “Pretty Little Liars,” Spencer, Alison, Aria, Hanna and Emily did triumph, taking down their own Big Bad, Spencer’s secret twin Alex Drake. “Original Sin” dispenses with the “secret” angle immediatel­y, with Karen and her sister, the meeker twin Kelly. That’s a nod to their predecesso­r characters, the showrunner­s said, but it’s not the only one.

“Starting with episode six, the Easter eggs start coming fast and furious,” Aguirre-Sacasa teased. “And they’re not subtle. They’re literally neon signs. They start, and they go up to literally the last minute of the last episode.”

 ?? HBO MAX ?? Bailee Madison, from left, Chandler Kinney, Malia Pyles, Zaria and Maia Reficco in “Pretty Little Liars: Original Sin.”
HBO MAX Bailee Madison, from left, Chandler Kinney, Malia Pyles, Zaria and Maia Reficco in “Pretty Little Liars: Original Sin.”

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