Monday, August 15, 2011

Marble Hornets review

Yesterday on Facebook I had a mild spaz fit. It was because I discovered a certain YouTube series was going to have a third season. Unfortunately, said YouTube series actually being good, not many people have heard of it. Therefore, I am going to spaz about it on my blog as well.

Once upon a time, not so long ago, there was a guy on SomethingAwful named Victor Surge. This mad genius was given the task of creating “paranormal images”, and he came up with a being that gave even hardcore horror fans nightmares. This is that being:

Yeah. The creepy faceless thing in the back. Surreal, to say the least. Well, this little image has become an Internet phenomenon, spawning countless Alternate Reality Games and a number of interconnected blogs. However, I am here to talk about just one little video series. You see, an amateur filmmaker and his friends were inspired by Victor Surge’s little abomination, and decided to make a YouTube series. “Marble Hornets”.

The basic premise is simple at first. The protagonist Jay had helped out his friend Alex on making a pretentious student film. However, Alex quit abruptly before many months were gone, a nervous wreck, and was intending to burn every bit of the material. Jay coerces convinces Alex to give him the tapes-there are far more tapes than needed for a few months of filming. Jay, however, forgets about it…until he spots a certain image on SomethingAwful...

Jay decides to go through the tapes, and post anything of interest on YouTube. It doesn’t take him long to find something. Something terrifying. And Jay soon finds himself caught up in the same thing that drove Alex to the brink with an enigmatic YouTube user named totheark posting downright terrifying responses to his entries.

Despite being low budget, this series is actually much better than some mainstream horror films. The makers are masters of psychological horror.  Not only do the videos seem low quality, as they would if you were realistically fleeing an eldritch abomination; in certain entries, absolutely nothing happens, yet they manage to key up the tension so much you are sitting on the edge of your seat, just knowing something is going to happen. And when something does happen, it is terrifying. There is little blood, little violence, very little swearing, and no need for nude chicks to go running about shrieking. It combines elements of Hitchcock, Lovecraft, and House of Leaves to great effect. And it delivers Mind Screw after Mind Screw. It helps that it is something of an Alternate Reality Game. People have been able to figure out, by certain landmarks in the videos, where the videos are actually set; Jay interacts with the viewers via a Twitter account (going so far as to give hints through Twitter); and of course being a user on SomethingAwful and using something we ourselves have seen to set the stage. It helps the horror, because it makes it seem real. Does that eldritch abomination stay exclusively in Alabama? Does it? DOES IT????

To this day, we still have little to no answers to such questions as “Who is this totheark and why does he not understand grammar?” “Can Masky do more than tackle everything?” and “What does that wacky abomination the Operator want, anyways?”

Obviously, with so little answers, they really need another season just to clear things up.

So I’m quite happy that I have more to look forward to, and since we have another entry coming up on Wednesday, I suggest you start watching. NOW.

Here is the first entry:

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Davenport Junior Theater's A Midsummer Night's Dream

What to say about this amazing play? First off, the Davenport Junior Theater is an amateur acting group for kids ages 3-18, available to anyone in the Quad Cities. And these kids…they have talent, I tell you.

I loved their way of “freshening up” the play. It was campy in an 80’s way, complete with the music and the styles. But oh, the fairies…they looked like the love-children of Rainbow Brite and David Bowie. It worked fabulously, because it added this surreal element to the fairies.

The four love-lorn couples were played well, and I was happy to see they cast a rather tall girl as Helena (she was even taller than Demetrius). Demetrius of course was dressed much more respectably than Lysander, who looked like a typical punk. Theseus and Hippolyta were not so memorable, but I do recall Theseus “facepalming” at one point. The amateur actors, Bottom and Co., were hilarious. They looked like your typical nerd/geeks from 80’s movies, one girl had taped glasses, all of them wore their pants far too high, and Peter Quince was played with the lisping “nerd accent”. Bottom stole the show though. The actress was over the top, loud, and in your face, which was perfect for the part.

And now the fairies. I’ve always been more interested in the fairies than the other parts of the play, which probably says something about me, though I’m not sure what. But this was played perfectly. Oberon could have stepped straight from an 80’s movie, with his torn jeans, transparent shirt, and spiked hair. He did a great job, veering between calm to manic very quickly, and generally acting like someone who is definitely used to getting their way. Titania wore a jean jacket (and also had some of that manic behavior going on), the fairies all had MAD poofy hair (like I said, Brite-Bowie children), and Puck…Puck was ADORABLE with his green hair and his “wanna-be-Oberon” clothes.

The boy who played Puck couldn’t have been more than 8, but he nailed his lines so well. He and Oberon had an excellent dynamic going on, constantly one-upping each other throughout the play. Once the boy messed up by exiting on the wrong side, but he snuck back over and it seemed so natural (especially from Oberon’s reaction) that I thought at first it was scripted. One of the best part, however, was near the beginning. When Titana’s fairies discover he is THE Robin Goodfellow, they scream like fangirls and gather round him, giggling at his every joke, sighing, and generally acting like groupies. Well done, script writer!

However, THE best part was Pyramus and be precise, their death scenes. Those two are Large Hams to the extreme, and even the other actors were laughing their butts off.

As I said, the play was well done, the actors did an excellent job. A few of them spoke a bit slow, but Shakespeare is not an easy thing to memorize and spout back as if it was natural.

For anyone in the Quad Cities, there are a couple days left to go see this play. Do it! It will be well worth it.