“Rebirth” web series review

RebirthGritty and visceral. NonHuman Films’ Rebirth is a new web series that will beg for your attention. Pulling out all the cliche stops, and whatever else comes with AfterEffects templates, the prologue and episode I attempt to draw you in; and they are quite successful. The problem is that it is such a train wreck that you cannot look away. Complete with a highly ambiguous plot, choppy editing, and color temps and audio all over the spectrum, Rebirth needs to die and try to come back again another day. Adapted from the original series JacobRebirth is inspired by CreepyPasta and other urban myths. Mostly shot in the POV style, the majority of the cinematography is stylistic. However, not every style needs to leave the think tank at the fashion studio. YouTube and Vimeo present fantastic opportunities for aspiring professional visual storytellers to get films in front of people without having to rely on a distribution company; but because of this wide open door, there is a lot more mediocre content to sort through while searching for that movie with which to fill your weekday evening.

Structurally, the video suffers greatly. A traditional web series should be divided up into short segments that all tie together in an over-arching story. It should not come across as a short film that has been divided up simply by cutting the segments out of the main timeline. Unfortunately, the Prologue and Episode I come across as the latter. It is important for each web series video to follow the three-act structure while the whole series also follows the same. The dialog lacks development much in the same way the characters do. As videos (or film) are a visual medium, it is important for writers to “show, don’t tell;” and the perpetual narration serves as a distraction and occasionally comes across as redundant. For a sloppily produced web series, I’ll give it this: the editing stye is creative. I’m not claiming that it’s edited well by any means; but I can definitely infer the direction the editor was going. It’s sloppy and crude, but there is definitely potential there for horror film editing.

It is not unusual for a series to have a weak opening, although it is perhaps the episode that is the most important to hook the audience, as many will not progress past the first episode. That was certainly the case for me when I watched the then-anticipated Scream Queens on Fox. After the first episode was so painful to watch, I never gave it a second chance. Since web series don’t have near the money or publicity behind them, they more often than not have a difficult time hooking an audience. So, when I was invited as a member of the blogosphere to an early screening of Episode I part II, I went in with an open mind because perhaps it was walking out of the starting gate instead of sprinting. Unfortunately, I am left wondering what happened even after watching it twice. Due to the POV style of shooting and the disorienting music, I had great difficulty in following the story. However, it is certainly macabre and creepy. In many ways, it kind of reminds me of the previews for the Green Room horror movie featuring the accomplished Patrick Stewart, of all people. I cannot help but conclude that NonHuman Films does, albeit a moderately long shot, have a future in horror filmmaking. Just because a series is crudely produced, doesn’t mean that it is devoid of potential. I see the potential, but the company needs to spend more time developing the narrative and polishing the post-production elements.

Perhaps this cult series will find an audience, as so many online video do; but, it will not likely become material picked up by YouTube Red or other outlets for professional online distribution–not in its present form. This is one of those series that clearly has some budding talent behind it; but the leadership of the film series needs to regroup and identify methods to correct the presentation and storytelling.

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Unfriended

Unfriended-posterBe careful what you post. Universal Pictures’ Unfriended is a new breed of horror that will have you terrified from beginning to end. Despite watching, what amounts to FaceTime/Skype, iMessage windows, and Safari the entire time, this film will keep you on the edge of your seat as the horror unfolds and the mystery comes closer to being solved. The studio that essentially invented the American horror film is back to the forefront of the minds of movie-going audiences everywhere with this spine-tingling and groundbreaking method of visual and visceral storytelling for the screen. A new take on the tried and true ‘ghost vengeance’ horror plot, Unfriended will have you completely hooked from the time the entity shows up in the group video chat. Of course, you will likely be asking yourself throughout the movie ‘with friends like these, who needs enemies?’ Although this is a revolutionary new concept, I feel strongly it should remain a one-time thing.

Unfriended is about a group of friends who encounter what they feel is a glitch in their group video chat. It isn’t long before the group deduces that the glitch is a molevolant individual hell-bent on seeking revenge for a shaming video that was posted to to the internet one year prior that was also the driving force behind a local high school girl’s suicide. With all the friends denying that they had anything to do with the video and gross taunting and shaming, the “ghost” engages them in a little game of “never have I ever…” that has deadly consequences.

This is one of those horror films that is pretty well straight forward. So, I don’t really have a whole lot to critique. The direction, writing, and score were excellent and the pacing of the film was spot-on. It’s a very well crafted and produced horror film that will likely become a cult favorite of those who appreciate and thoroughly enjoy this genre. Although there isn’t any traditional cinematography in the film, the camera acts as the eyes of one of the characters as we stare at her computer screen the entire time, and effectively communicates the focus of a given point in the story. One of the technical elements that stands out to me is the editing. Now, on one hand, it does not look like an incredible amount of talent and time would go into a film such as this; but, that is the beauty of high quality editing. The fact that it does not feel “edited” is proof that the editor did an excellent job in cutting the thrilling narrative together. My biggest negative critique in the production is the fact the respective wifi signals weren’t disabled when the power goes out. Unless each of the characters was using a battery powered hotspot or had a cellular/data signal in their computers, when the power disconnected, the wireless internet signal should have died too.

Although there isn’t really much in the way of character development, each of the characters can be read as possessing one of more of the infamous ‘seven deadly sins.’ This metaphoric perspective can be extended to the manner in which the various characters die during the movie. One of the characters possesses the “sins” of gluttony and sloth very clearly, another exhibits traits of wrath and greed, one of the friends is very prideful, showing acute signs of the sin of envy are seen in one of the main characters, and the sins of lust and bearing false witness (yes, I’m aware this isn’t one of the “deadly sins”) is demonstrably shown by the main protagonist. The aforementioned character traits are showcased throughout the narrative and are directly related to how each of the characters die. Yes, even the virgin dies in this film that breaks away from many horror tropes.

Gather a group of friends and head to the movies to be thrilled during this horror film for the social media enthusiasts. Watch as high school drama goes way overboard and has deadly consequences. This is definitely a great date movie because I guarantee that you will be able to put on the “movie move” (as coined by Carmike Cinemas). If you don’t know what that is, you probably need to go on more dates.

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