Blood and Bone China, Camera Obscura, Chris Stone, Circle of Eight, Drew Daywalt, Film, Horror, Horror film, Hysteria, Movie, movies, Rick Fox, Soprannaturale, Supernatural, Thriller, Web series, Web series Blood and Bone China
If you’re past your 25-30, quite likely you have a very clear idea of the horror genre’s drift in recent decades. Many films rely, as a trick, more on the surface rather than tn he substance (splatter, found footage style, etc …) and much more heavily compared to how, say, an eighties horror used a summer camp sex scene to lure the teen audience. Without mentioning the abuse of digital effects in order to cover a creative vacuum.
It is not a coincidence that you can much easily find out interesting horror in independent or less “advanced” cinema than the American mainstream one: because there you can still find the need (or the possibility) to make the film as a “practical”, truthful and convincing tale (not that this always translates into a success, of course). For convenience, we can call it a “classical” approach, where the tension and atmosphere arise mainly from the strong narrative, the sets and the direction, closer to how it was “in good old days”. I am not referring to Asian movies, that are a special case.
Nowadays, the Internet is independent of the independents. By the concurring of several factors, you can spread on the Net some works that, otherwise, would be submerged by the numbers (and being crushed by the giants) and let them live their own life and being appreciated by a devoted fan-base that will reward with donations, crowd-funding pledges and purchases of DVDs and merchandise: a kind of return to get from the circuit of festivals alone.
The best way to combine Internet exposure with advantages of on-line marketing is probably distributing the film in the form of a web series (like a super promotional spot; even though partnerships with on-line retailers can lead to direct gain). And it is not an uncommon situation in today, which I like to refer to as “the sliced movie formula”. To be a little choosy, you could stress out how improper it is to define them “series” and how the prefix “web” does not account for any of the medium’s specifics (Internet here is used as a mere delivery vehicle, even in the most advanced forms of crossmedia marketing). But it’s a technicality. Basically, an objective formula and detailed standards to describe a web series doesn’t exist, so far. And that is part of what makes them special.
The approaches: to make a film and slice it, playing with editing; or starting from the beginning writing the single sequences as “episodes” and re-edit the whole thing as a full feature later. Since narrative density is comparable, in terms of final results the processes are equivalent. It’s rare, however, that the “strategy” is declared; more often, they try to sell the product as a different medium, according to phase of the promotion or marketing. At worst, the series is removed or left incomplete in order to force the purchase of DVDs or to buy the tickets in the case of theatrical distribution.
So: here’s a selection of films or supernatural horror with a classic taste, in web series format.
Blood And Bone China
Blood And Bone China is one of the best surprises of 2011. The series of 12 weekly episodes (average 5-7 minutes) has been completely re-edited as full feature (with inclusion of outtakes and deletion of other scenes), with the imminent release on DVD.
From the british Chris Stone’s Films, it’s the debut in the full feature format of director Chris Stone (freelance filmmaker since ten years in the fields of music videos and shorts), who wrote and produced together with Stephanie Cooper. It’s a Victorian horror with vampires. Yep, I know… but this is not the case, believe me.
Set in the late eighteenth century and based on a true story, Blood and Bone China is a small miracle of intelligence production and style. There are some flaws in the writing and some props look shoddy but I say so just because I’m grumpy and choosy. TIn truth, the movie is a mix of classicism (in full accordance with a costume piece), especially in rhythm, camera style and lightning. The locations are monumentally impressive. The cast, perfect. And vampires are what they should be: fierce and ruthless but also quite capable of social integration (or should I say camouflage), without becoming annoyingly dandy, Anne Rice style.
BBC cost £3000 and has been produced, with intelligence and extreme exploitation of existing resources, as part of a promotional festival for the city of Stoke-on-Trent (birthplace of Stone, where the story is set), which is the home of a prolific theater community (source for the cast), beautiful historic buildings (used as locations), a centuries old tradition of porcelain – pardon, bone china – manufacturing (integrated in the subject), with also a “strange” case in local news (which the subject is based upon, setting it back in time – and from which Stone has also made a beautiful documentary: Vampire of the Villas).
Camera Obscura is a 2010 web series written and directed by the same Drew Daywalt that contributed to the historical anthology horror FEWDIO – Nightmare House and is the third original series produced by American MWG Entertainment’s, financed by the french DailyMotion (as I understand, I do not find much info about it). To my knowledge, it has never been released on DVD and there isn’t an official site of reference but the tight continuity, rhythm and overall structure make it easily fit into the category of sliced movies (and a re-edited version would work even better, in my opinion, than this collection of too short episodes).
The settings, the strong supernatural elements, an archetypal dreamy flavor when needed, a professional make-up (made by people who worked on King Kong and Spiderman) and “practical” effects immediately qualify the project as something quite distant from current horror’s easy taste. That tells a story of ancient demons and hunters, in which technology merges with witchcraft and the border between delusion and matter wavers; a story, if you really want to force references, that has sprinkles of Del Toro and the old Craven.
The series consists of 20 episodes of varying duration, originally released daily. You can watch it on DailyMotion and YouTube (a very inferior quality). [On DailyMotion there is not an official playlist but you can use this one].
Circle of Ei8ht
Circle of Ei8ht was released in 2009 and it’s (if I understand correctly) the first of the “new wave” web series (meaning: post- YouTube) produced by a major: specifically, Paramount Pictures (in association with BlockBuster, MySpace, and producer drink Mountain Dew).
Initially on MySpace, in perfect “Hollywood style” it has been removed and is now available ionly n DVD or in digital stores.
The Studio’s inability to “understand” the medium and produce something different from “a very cheap movie” has contributed to the poor performance of the series (some reviews complained about the difficulty of following the story in a fragmented form). Yet, in his fuffl feature format, the one it was conceived for, is not bad indeed.
Less a horror then a psycho thriller with supernatural tones, Circle of Ei8ht is a good story, with right rhythm and twist, that by virtue of a low-budget smells “indie” and “old school” , focusing on locations (a building in downtown LA that has seen better years), characters (sort of bohemiennes outcasts) and atmosphere (classic mystery). It’s not a masterpiece, though, and should be contextualized and taken more or less like a straight-to-DVD movie.
Hysteria is an excellently crafted product for web standards; that is a “movie”, you see it immediately. The director is Frank Lin,; the cast is made by an ensemble of seasoned professionals in film and TV production; the production by actor and former basketball star Rick Fox.
The film, presented in 2010 at the Screamfest Horror Film Festival (I have no idea if it ever came out in the theatres), is a psycho thriller with a supernatural twist, which starts from a reunion of classmates gore really wrong after a stupid accident, and rolls like an avalanche in the chaos (the “hysteria” of the title refers to the state of panic and confusion that overcomes in an attempt to deal with the situation).
But the good thing here is that the story provides a fragmented structure that alternates short segments of flashbacks and present time; which lends itself to being efficiently sliced down into 26 small episodes for the web, released in 2011 a day ,with the latest one coming out on Halloween night.
Unfortunately, for those who come late, there is the immense disappointment of noting that the only available episodes on Blip stop at no. 17 (while on Rick Fox’s YouTube channel they are all inaccessible – private). An edition on DVD is not available at the moment and there is no official webpage as a reference for more details. It ‘s likely , though, that Fox & friends want to capitalize on the investment, somehow, in the future. If you happen to hear of a movie with that title does not tell the history of the vibrator, check it out.
- Variations on the end of the world. In a fistful of web series
- Prisons, prisoners and recluses. Web series that capture you (trivial pun intended)
- Horror Anthology Web Series. A classic vibe for a new medium. The three cases of FEWDIO, BlackBoxTV and The Dead Hour