Wrapping up my little exploration into genre-blending web series, and following previous articles about cross-genre comedies, mockumentary/found footage and dance, noir, western and adventure hybrids, I’ll now focus on horror, fantasy and drama based shows.
Not all of these shows can be considered strictly cross-genre stuff, maybe, but some of them are included because they share, if not else, the same “blending” feel.
Most of the horror hybrid web series I know are some kind of comedy and parody.
Even the following are, partially. But at the same time, the blending involves more genres and the general flavor, especially in the first one, is way richer than in those simpler cases.
I have already talked about it, but its inclusion in the list is pretty mandatory, being one of the most inventive and charming examples of cross-genre I’ve ever seen, inside or outside the web.
Oh, Inverted World (2008) is an existential dramedy blended with sci-fi, fantasy and, of course, horror. Putting it into the “horror” category is, thus, arbitrary; but I did it because its horror component is he most visually (and poetically) memorable.
Written by independent filmmaker Terence Krey, it’s produced/directed together with Daniel Fox and Jacob Cohen, for their company MovieFilm Productions (NY).
Oh, Inverted World employs the genre blending with a distinctive, authorial approach: instead of picking tropes, clichés, classic topics and mashing them together, it processes each one of them through a poetic and almost melancholic filter, that perfectly fits with the general, existential setting. Which is, and remains, the main drive: four twenty-somethings (three guys and a gal) that come back to their sleepy hometown after university, falling into a forced limbo of a life that’s to small, to slow and, moreover, seems to be stuck to the same point forever (a “gray life” beautifully rendered in a contrasted b/w photography).
This classical “indie” setting is, though, enriched with some unexpected events like the Moon falling down, supernatural beings driving human actions, people coming out of their graves and, of course, the unwilling role of world saviors for our leads. The material is so rich and variegated that it’s a miracle it doesn’t clash together or hurt the narrative balance. But that’s why it works so well: continuous twists between genres, free re-invention of the same, fluid transitions between unexpected situations and, especially in the horror part, a poetical, non-realistic approach (reminiscent of Tim Burton, if you like). Everything immersed into an almost surreal, fairytale-like atmosphere.
13 episodes, about 90 minutes overall (ad it’s in fact a movie initially released as web episodes).
On the official site or on Vimeo (in HD). You may also want to check out Chapter Two of miniseries Loss: A Horror Anthology (also written by Krey), that shares some of the same premises in the poetical reinvention of horror elements (on Vimeo, again).
Already mentioned as well, In The Key Of Z (2011) it’s an hilarious blending of music comedy and classic zombie apocalypse. Created by Canadian collective Nocturnal Emissions and independently produced, it features a (not anymore) successful 90’s rock band coming back for a reunion tour and getting trapped into a zombie pandemic outbreak in the middle of a small town.
The “almost music biopic” element is what gives this series its peculiar twist (and cleverly fits with the theme: the band itself is a re-animated cadaver, after all). Mostly because it is not abandoned since the zombie story-line takes over, but carried on, within it. So the comical effect comes actually from a double source of parody and puns, relying both on zombies and on rock bands clichés.
From the hot, nuts and nymphomaniac super-fan-girl with distorted priorities to the recurring broken guitar joke, to the classical “distribution” of personalities among the band (the selfish jerk, the dumb-maybe-not-so-dumb, the responsible one, the new enthusiastic guy, etc.) to zombie situations both classic and inventive (the “sexy” zombie lady), the balance is always perfectly kept.
And once in a while, you can hear original songs of the band used as soundtrack for situations in noticeable contrast with the lyrics, with unexpected comic (and sometiimes a little dramatic) results.
9 episodes, between 8 and 13 minutes each, Season One is on YouTube and Blip.
Apart from comedies, hybridation in canonic, Tolkien/game derived fantasy is not quite common; better results are found in the more free, undefined area of the Fantasy genre. Aside the two series mentioned here, you may want to check out Canadian fantasy-steampunk Riese.
Falsehood (2010 – original release, 2001) is one of the many, too many cinematic renditions of the Red Riding Hood fairy tale. Fortunately, it’s striking, original and deeply fascinating.
Originally a multi-awarded, 34 minutes short film (apparently a student’s movie!) written and directed by Kennet Lui (no info whatsoever in IMDB, except another short movie), produced by Lu Cien Hioe and released by Mental Pictures studio, it’s been split into four episodes and distributed through the web in 2010.
It blends, with elegance and charm, legal/courtroom drama with fantasy matter and, obviously, the original fairy tale. It features a defense lawyer defending from rape charges no less than The Wolf (with the plaintiff being Red Riding Hood); the same Wolf she accused many years ago when, still a young shepherd, she lost all of her sheep’s flock during an unfortunate nap.
The film (while penalized by the low video definition) is clearly well crafted as far as production is concerned. And its open blend of real-life setting and fantastic props and costumes smells like classic and remains fascinating today. As in the best fable tradition, the whole story explores human and society contradictions, here in particular focusing upon discrimination and prejudices.
You can watch it on YouTube, and Blip.
Drawn By Pain (2007) it’s a Webby Award winning series written, directed and produced by NY indie filmmaker (now director of content for My Damn Channel) Jesse Cowell, through his company Jeskid Productions, and featuring animated layers by digital artist Erica Langworthy.
It’s pretty unique and not easy to define (as best web series are), but you can see it as some sort of metaphorical urban fantasy, blended with existential or psycho drama.
It focuses on a former traumatized child that witnessed her father’s abuses on the mater once too much. Now, as a twenty-something lonely woman, she needs to face her instincts of rage and revenge before succumbing to madness. And here’s where the fantasy part comes in: finding a secret refuge in drawing, child one day transforms into her hand-drawn heroine and, armed with sword, starts off righting the wrongs. Each times a new situation triggers the button, the transformation happens (and somebody is injured or killed).
In the author’s words, it’s “a story of someone coming to terms with themselves”. And of course, the drawn sequences are an artistic rendition of hallucinations or just a representation of the lead’s mental processes. But the aesthetic contrast between a live action setting and bi-dimensional, hand drawn and stylized characters is so strong to blur the line: those transformations, being so far from realistic, allow at the same time both a literal reading (making the story a sort of urban fantasy where an animated character takes life and controls the creator) and the “suggested” metaphorical one. That’s the main value of the series, in my view: CGI couldn’t have do it better.
12 episodes, between 8 and 15 minutes, lately re-cut into a full feature. You can see it here, while the original series is on Blip and YouTube.
This is probably the weakest category, because the two series I put there are not, strictly speaking, cross-genre.
Nevertheless, they mix together creative approaches or tropes in such a peculiar way to make them stand out as something more rich and unique, which is the common tread of this entire retrospective.
Agreed that “improvisation” cannot be considered a genre, being a creative approach instead, it’s almost always employed in comedy, dramedy, parody, etc. Seeing it used in pure chamber drama is something that belongs more to the theatre environment that to movies or TV, so what Untitled Fiction Project (2010) does, building an entire relationship drama with few characters and full improvisation, sounds pretty close go genre blending, to me.
Directed, shot & edited by independent filmmaker Alonso Mayo, who produced it with Nina Leidersdorff for Fluid Film Inc., the series is a creative experiment by Mayo in collaboration with The Gloria Gifford Conservatory (LA) and each episode is built out of improvisations, starting where the previous left (and having feedback from audience).
It stages a very conventional kind of drama: a relationship put to the test when one the two starts cheating. Almost a cliché in itself, vague and familiar enough to allow the actors to move freely inside of it.
I may say that the improvised nature comes to surface exclusively if you look at the narrative pacing, which is not, of course, fully controlled (though editing makes up a lot). Anyway, I find it a good moody drama with convincing performances (the “natural feeling” that comes from improvisation) and the unique feel of the chamber/theatrical approach; Mayo, quite cleverly, plays in advance and compensates the free flow of a non scripted story with a glossy and stylized photography, full of colors and contrast, and relying to the hand held camera to capture an extra feeling of intimacy. Actors are total eye candy, which doesn’t hurt.
13 episodes, 56 minutes overall.
On Vimeo, YouTube, KoldCast and Blip .
The second drama I want to focus on is another series I have a special feelings for: Wave GoodBye (2012). That, again, blends flavors in a distinctive and personal way.
Created and co-produced by Eric Goodwin (director, active in shorts, documentaries, music videos and commercials), Adam Morris and Zac Sanford (writers), the series combines a coral, existential and intimist approach with a the typical sci-fi theme: the end of the world. Incorporating also some segments of mockumentary, it ends up a very peculiar dramedy with the aftertaste of a road movie; even if there is no road, cause the journey it’s mainly a personal, inner one.
The series depicts various characters as they prepare to (their own vision of) an end of the world they feel next to come. Each one takes his/her own personal way to deal with it, and to communicate with the world their beliefs (may the message be an incitation to mutual understanding and friendship or a warning against obscure conspiracies). Quite significantly, each character deals with a video message of some kind, from the documentary to the YouTube vlog.
- Blending genres in web series (3): Dance, noir, western and adventure hybrids
- Blending genres in web series (2): mockumentaries and found footage
- Blending genres in web series (1): comedies