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Tonight's Webseries Presentation


Starring: Angela Andrews, Joseph R. Porter, Tabitha Bastien, Dave Shecter, David Leddingham

Written By: Jonathan Holbrook Directed By: Jonathan Holbrook

See It Here: http://www.chroniclefactory.com/web-series/still/

What Kind Of Cheese Is It?


Brains?  (Full disclosure: I love cottage cheese.  Put some paprika on top of that, too.)

Pairs Well With...


Clean… and just a bit off.  Might make you start seeing things.

“And the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed!”

Oh, look.  It’s more zombie stuff.

People talk about the “Zombie Apocalypse” wherein zombies take over the world as though it’s some hypothetical event that hasn’t happened yet.  I dare suggest that these people haven’t turned on a television, played a video game, watched a movie, or read a book for at least the past five or ten years, because zombies are freakin’ everywhere.  Despite being generally unmotivated by anything other than biting anyone still breathing and maybe munching on a few brains – brains which they themselves don’t have, because zombies as a rule are mindless and dumb – zombies have easily eclipsed vampires and werewolves as the monsters of the moment.  The fact that most zombie stories are less about the zombies than they are about the human survivors finding new ways to screw with each other also seems to be immaterial.

Guess what?  I am sick to death of zombies.  (Unless they’re being beaten up by Milla Jovovich, and then, let’s face it, it’s not really about the zombies anymore.)

So why, then, would I ever bother with Still, a webseries out of Washington State built around what looks very much like yet another zombie apocalypse?

Because a whole lot of people whose insight I trust told me – without realizing that they were telling me, I think – that this story offered something special, and that the quality of the production was exceptional.

Guess what?  They’re right.

Through its first half season, Still shows itself to be a beautifully filmed, highly atmospheric, well acted series that does something different with its infected dead while still providing enough familiar material to keep genre fans happy.  And to give it a little more local color, the fictional town in which the story takes place feels like a second cousin to a place called Twin Peaks even before people start turning into really creepy things that don’t move around much.

Pique your interest, does it?

Visually, Still is outstanding, quickly establishing a signature look that is stark, clean, and crisp in a way that really grabs the viewer’s attention… and that feels a quarter step off from reality, as though one stepped into a photograph and started living inside of it.  Everything’s sharp as life, but there’s something intangibly off about it that unsettles the soul, and that’s exactly what a great horror thriller should feel like.  This unsettling but wonderfully captured visual experience is enhanced by equally unsettling music at almost every turn, making for a wonderful stage indeed.

Stacked a layer beneath that atmosphere is a town that’s written and directed very much like that other previously noted off-the-wall Washington State locale from the turn of the 1990s.  (There’s no way this resemblance can be an accident.)  When the audience picks up on the fact that Sloughtown was a bit on the mad side even before things hit the fan, it just adds to the overall state of creepiness.

And then there’s the cast.  Whether they’re being disturbingly quirky (the town’s “normal” state wherein half the residents don’t quite speak at the right speed or react with standard reflexes), emotionally shattered (Tabitha Bastien deserves a special shout out on that score), or standing still as the world’s most frightening mimes, every player does an excellent job, no matter if his or her screen appearance is measured in mere seconds or in more substantial amounts of time.  These people put forward an effort that’s at least equal to that being demonstrated by the folks behind the camera, and that’s saying a lot.

But let’s not forget the zombies, or as the credit sequences call them, “The Infected.”  The zombies of Still are not the brain munching, sore-loaded, shambling Bodyworlds exhibits that the average production turns out.  Perhaps the creepiest thing about Still – for its first eight episodes, at least – is that its creatures are exactly that.  Once they’ve turned, they don’t move.  If they have to go from one place to another, the camera cuts away, and when it comes back, boom, the monsters are standing closer.  (Try to avoid thinking about this too much when set against the stated notion that they can be run away from easily.)  And there's there's the makeup, which is fantastic. On a visceral level, these zombies are some of the creepiest in recent memory largely because they’re not covered in viscera.

So, if you’re riding the big wave of zombie-oriented pop culture – I just described most people I know personally with that description – then Still is must-see material.  The twist the creative team takes with the monsters of the hour is very interesting, and the overall quality of the production simply cannot be denied.  This is well-made stuff.

With that said, and with my honest recommendation to the vast majority of the world in the can, I’ve got a confession to make.

Personally, I really want to like Still.  Even for the faults I’m about to mention, the high quality at nearly every level just can’t be denied.  The concept is even enough to get me to jump past my general weariness toward the zombie genre as a whole and show up interested.  But I just can’t get into it.

I understand that I’m watching this up to only half an official season in (representing a hard production break while funds are raised for continued filming), but the total runtime so far is longer than that of either of the last two feature films I watched.  During that time, I would expect to have a better handle on where things are going, but it’s just not getting there.  Instead, the narrative feels like it’s going in circles, and that starts to take me away from the atmosphere that I’d normally be an absolute sucker for.  (As does the show’s one and only terrible sound effect, which is unfortunately the one chosen to be regularly made by the zombies once they’ve turned… and which sounds like really bad gas.  So much so that there’s even a mental odor that comes with it.  Not good.)  And then there’s that other atmosphere killer: the breaks from one episode to the next, which may logically sew up specific scenes but which also do a jarring number on the story as a whole, especially when the clock keeps turning back all the time.  It’s just enough to drive me crazy… and it does.  Atmosphere will carry me a very long way, but eventually, I expect something to have tightened beyond the point of “kinda connected short stories.”  And since I’m now at a hard break in the show’s production cycle, I really expect it.  I’ve seen this in webseries before and then been left to hang, and it’s just too frustrating for me, which opens the door for other things to come up as frustrating. (They creep into the Rundown.)  And so the zombie wall comes up again, and my initial excitement wanes.

I want to enjoy Still – and I sincerely believe that most of the people I know would, if they were to give it a chance – but I can’t.

I can and do, however, appreciate the incredible quality of the production as a whole, the great performances of the cast, the amazing makeup on the monsters, and the remarkable amounts of heart and soul poured into this project by everyone involved, which shine through very well indeed considering the lack of heart or soul to be found in the average zombie.

So again, if you’re big into the zombie craze or even just a little bit interested in the reanimated dead, I have no reservations at all about encouraging you to click the link above and have a look at Still.  But as for me… swing and a miss.

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Season One (In Progress) | Eight Episodes, 5.5 – 14.5 minutes each

Episode 1, Which For Some Reason Has No Title Even Though The Rest Do -   Wherein there are portents.  Observation #1:  Nice opening; music, cinematography, stage setting.  Observation #2:  Nothing says “small town” like having “a bake sale for Jesus.”  Observation #3:  There’s a vibe that I think they’re going for here in the shop… an extremely familiar one.  Observation #4:  Thirty birds falling from the sky?  Uh-oh… Observation #5:  Where did all that traffic come from?

Episode 2: “Levi” -   Wherein we meet someone not quite right in the head.  Observation #1:  Admit it.  You were waiting for a dwarf, too.  Observation #2:  He’s fingering the sandwich and she’s making ecstatic noises… eep…  Observation #3:  Solid black eyes are always good for bringing on the creepy.   Observation #4:  Seriously, how could the guy asking for money not see that coming?  Observation #5:  Music and sound effects can be counted as characters here, and that’s a good thing.

Episode 3: “Neighbors” -   Which apparently happens on ‘the night of the sounds in the sky.’  And the day after.  Observation #1:  “Buzz about strange sounds.”  Well played.  Observation #2:  I don’t usually ask for Pepto when I want to vomit.  Observation #3:  Careful.  The gut wrench sounds are comical.  Observation #4:  Come on.  Yell “Get off my lawn!”  You know you want to.  Observation #5:  It’s unsettling, and I get it, but I’m trying to make sense of what’s happening off camera when they scream.  I see the result, but… maybe I’m not supposed to think about the mechanics.

Episode 4: “Slingshot” -  Wherein a weapon is tested.  Observation #1:  Slighshots sure have come a long way since “Dennis the Menace.”  Observation #2:  I’m trying to figure out why she’d go back to the bus.  It’s late for her to be first meeting it… Hmm.  I probably shouldn’t do that.  Observation #3:  Every zombie must get stoned…  Observation #4:  Well, that was kinda short.

Episode 5: “Companions” -   Wherein we start to collect normal people who will presumably become our hero set.  Observation #1:  This opening scene feels like it’s happening a bit late in the program.  Observation #2:  Why the middle of a field?  Observation #3:  Of course the kid’s on the ball first.  Not a bad thing, mind.  Observation #4:  With so much excellent sound… that one that sounds like bad gas is really unfortunate.   

Episode 6: “Family” -   Which maybe should have happened earlier.  Observation #1:  Um… what’s with the sudden change in opening?  (And the closing, for that matter?)  Observation #2:  Hey, wait; did we just travel back in time?  Observation #3:  Apparently, a symptom of imminent zombification is the feeling that one has been poisoned by bad tuna. Observation #4:  Halfway through, they get around to noting that yes, we went back in time.  (It was obvious, sure, but if the titles are going to come up anyway…)  Observation #5:  Oh, damn, there’s a mess in the crib… Observation #6:  Okay, that backyard action is super creepy.

Episode 7: “Peers” -   Wherein no one comes in to work.  Observation #1:  I’m pretty sure that most off this town was off its rocker before ‘the night of the sound sin the sky.’  Observation #2:  This guy’s brother in law sounds like the star of one of those “enabler” commercials for Las Vegas.  Observation #3:  Hey!  Someone finally remembered the guy from Episode 2!  Observation #4:  Looks like Levi has himself a nasty hobby.  Observation #5:  I feel like I’m watching this in circles.

Episode 8: “Yearning” -   Wherein the midseason line is drawn at the end credits.  Observation #1:  Repeating footage.  Observation #2:  Hey!  We get to see a bit more of what’s been happening off camera.  Observation #3:  I don’t think I’d want to believe the assurances of the guy who’d just taken a shotgun to the rest of the office, myself.  Especially when he gets stalker creepy.  Observation #4:  “I like the way you eat your sandwiches”?  It explains the weirdness earlier, but… ew…  Observation #5:  Two years ago, I would still be excited by the atmosphere.  But that was two years ago. 

- Reviewed by Ziggy Berkeley, February, 2014

You can email Ziggy at ziggy@cinemaontherocks.com. You can also find us on Facebook.


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