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Western X
Tonight's Webseries Presentation


Starring: Vernon Wells, Dustin Hale, Richard Anderson, Kaily Alissano, Aaron Ginn-Forsberg, Jayson James, Deneen Melody

Written By: Michael Flores Directed By: Michael Flores, Nathan Blackwell, David Sabal

See It Here: http://www.westernxtheshow.com

What Kind Of Cheese Is It?


Tasty.  One bite is never enough; you always want more.

Pairs Well With...


Bourbon and Evil: two great tastes that taste great together!  Both this series and the bourbon have got bite.

“The four evils will unite and the darkness will surrender.”

What if David Lynch decided to make a Western?  That’s the overwhelming vibe I get from watching Western X.

To call Western X a “supernatural Western” is a good start, but that doesn’t quite cover it.  This isn’t Cowboys vs. Cthulhu; rather, this is a series that starts with familiar Western-style motifs and places them in a surreal world that’s just a little bit off to the side from our own, and a map that resembles nothing on Earth.  It’s a mystery that it’s the viewer’s task to solve.  There are strong aromas of “Twin Peaks” and the early novels of Stephen King’s “Dark Tower” series coming from this brew, but the stock is very much classic Kurosawa-inspired Westerns and Civil War unfinished business… with some demons and the occasional goddess to stir the pot.

A mix like that is inevitably going to be either “really great” or “utterly disastrous,” and so far, signs are pointing to “really great.”

Writer and webseries creator Michael Flores states in a video preview that his object with each episode is to do something that the audience hasn’t seen before, and by and large, he succeeds.  Even things that are familiar on the surface almost always either carry a surreal subtext or are presented in a different manner than usual, and the things that are flat-out weird are weird in a way that’s both interesting and consistent with the parts of the world that are still grounded in some fashion.  The regular use of green screens and of miniature models for landscape shots is obvious, but does absolutely nothing to take away from the quality of the production; indeed, it only adds to the surrealism of the atmosphere and lends a slight Dark Horse graphic novel quality to the proceedings without letting things get insanely out of hand a-la 300.  This is a webseries that benefits mightily from what happens post-production and in the editing room, where echoing images and other visual effects that many independent productions can’t touch take things to the next level; and on top of that, just as Angelo Badalamenti made music a powerful character in and of itself for “Twin Peaks,” Thomas Hinman delivers a dynamite score that serves to accent every frame of Western X.  (I would love a copy of this soundtrack.)

Not that it’s all about post-prod, mind; this webseries also has itself a damn good cast.  Dustin Hale more than holds his own as the enigmatic lead of no real name and few words, and there are no slouches coming up behind him, either.  Particular standouts in the early going are Richard Anderson as the nasty Colonel Lee, Aaron Ginn-Forsberg as card-playing quickdraw Franky, and Deneen Melody as the hauntingly fascinating goddess Hecate Freya.  And though it's a ramp up of many episodes to get there, when Vernon Wells – yes, the bad guy from Commando – makes his appearance as The General... oh yeah. This is great stuff.

Episodes range from five and a half to nineteen-plus minutes in length.  There’s some repetitiveness between certain episodes – one comes within about a minute of being superfluous – but for the most part, this works, either because of changes in context or just in keeping with the general surreal weirdness of the story.

If Westerns and/or weirdness are your thing, then you definitely want to check out Western X.  You can watch it directly from their site via an embed from Koldcast.tv, or you can go to Koldast directly, if you prefer. Western X can also be found on Blip, Vimeo, and YouTube, or you can subscribe to the series for free via iTunes. However you choose to watch it, this is one webseries that promises to be interesting for a long time to come.

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Season One (In Progress) | Ten Episodes, 5.5 – 19 minutes each

Episode 1: “X Marks the Beginning” – If the point of any first episode is to set the tone for what’s to come, this one does it.  Our instantly identifiable hero with no name – call him X – wakes up in the desert to find himself surrounded by dead bodies being picked over by an urchin who quickly runs away.  The camera takes in the landscape and lets the viewer get used to the surreal setting that will be our stage from here on in, while exceptionally strong music hammers it home.  There are frequent interruptions from half-heard voices and blurred flashes to – the past? – which also provide a taste of things to come, and a few moments at the end give us the clue that guys in black military coats are probably bad.  Consider this “the audience self identification episode;” the vibe will call to its own or send you running.  It definitely called me.

Episode 2: “Old Desert Demon” – The Lynchian weirdness continues, this time in the form of a conversation with an old man by a wagon.  For almost the entire episode, one gets the impression that this is just more world setup – which it is, at least in part, and an interesting part at that – but what happens in the final minute throws the “just” theory right out the window.  Nice way for the story to tell the audience that it had better keep paying attention.

Episode 3: “The Burnt, The Scarred, and Lee” – Almost but not quite three minutes go by before any new action really happens, though some of what you think you’re seeing a second time comes at you with a bit of a different twist, meaning that you still don’t have a license to blink.  This episode feels like the first two thirds of it belonged with the second episode and were only cut into this one so that what’s left wouldn’t feel so short.  That remaining third gives us our first wide shot of the town we’ll come to know as Last Hope, and introduces us to a new player in the game: a man in one of those black military coats called Lee.  He seems interesting in an evil sort of way.  The highlight, though, has to be the old man who continues to cackle even as he’s being shot and set on fire.

Episode 4: “Last Hope, Part 1” – Here we get a better look at the town of Last Hope, and also, thanks to an interesting map that identifies features with names like “Dragon’s Eye,” get a quick glimpse at its place in a larger world.  The plot-forward point about the six throat-ripping murders would seem most important, of course, but I was most drawn to the attention to detail of the sets and the focus on “things unspoken” from the cast.  The scene in the bath house is especially striking on both counts, with major applause going to Kaily Alissano for a riveting performance without saying a word.  On the other side of the coin, a “with context” overall repeat of the final part of Episode 3 now makes that episode seem almost (but not quite) entirely superfluous.  But then again, with this kind of cool Lynchian weirdness, it’s hard to consider that a problem.

Episode 5: “Last Hope, Part 2” – The quiet, gravelly malevolence of Richard Anderson as Lee really starts to come to the fore here and brings to mind flashes of the classic past.  I was very impressed with the slow escalation of just how nasty the bordello bedroom scene really is by way of a deftly executed step by step reveal without ever having to move the camera.  First a passed out soldier with bloody boots, then it becomes clear that the blood belongs to the dead hooker under his boots, and then the second soldier on the floor as growled at to wake up.  Nicely done.  Meanwhile, we’re teased yet again with what X is up to out in the surreal world outside of town, though just like last time, we must wait to see just what will come of it.  But hey; cliffhangers are fun.

Episode 6: “3 Paths” – The Lynchian weirdness just got skyrocketed to awesomeness.  This episode focuses exclusively on what X finds in the surreal mine he’s been eyeing from outside, and it has “key to everything” written all over it.  After hearing her whisper at us in the background every so often since Episode 1, we finally get to meet the goddess Hecate Freya in person, and she’s interesting.  I’m not going to spoil what her echoing voice reveals to X, but it’s both intriguing as hell and very well presented on all fronts, from direction to performance.  Extreme applause to Deneen Melody, who absolutely owns the role in a way that makes the audience feel that even if they’ve never heard of her before, they should have.  Just… wow.

Episode 7: “The Rebel” – Two of the most iconic Western moments get played out here in a single scene, and they’re handled better than you’ll see them in most Westerns.  First we have the card game with the inevitable accusation of cheating, done with far more finesse than you’re used to while still carrying piano wire tension.  Immediately after, there’s the “I’m taking you in” / “Like Hell” confrontation, which carries even more tension than the cheating accusation it followed on the heels of, even though that would seem to be impossible.  The direction is excellent, and while X may be the resident “man with no name,” it’s actor Aaron Ginn-Forsberg who’s doing the super cool Clint Eastwood impression here, and not just because of the dialogue.  If it’s the “Western” part of Western X that had you intrigued, this episode pays out in spades.

Episode 8: “A Bounty on You. The Bandits Will Kill.” – And after a long episode of extended-scene “Western,” we get a long episode of extended-scene “X” in multiple senses of the word.  First, some shady characters who, by the fairly lethal wounds they seem to be sporting, can’t bode well for anyone compare dead bodies to a Wanted poster.  Next, the action is back on X as he walks along a surreal riverbed and encounters… zombies.  Really.  In another production, this could have been a shark jump, but here, somehow, it all holds together and even makes a bizarre kind of sense.  The fact that it’s well filmed also helps, and it’ll be very interesting to see what happens to Hecate Freya next, since our closing teaser has her looking at another group of zombies staring down her own domain.

Episode 9: “Evil Shadows” – I’m wondering if the plot ever stops thickening; not that I’m complaining, mind.  Very interesting details are revealed as various characters look to the nighttime street from porches and stair rails, from the reason for the town’s foundation to insights about religion and characters’ attitudes thereto, including the Black Coats’ loathing of it.  There’s more action, too, some of it bloody, but I’ll let you discover that for yourself.  This midpoint episode of Season One (also marked as the end of “Chapter One”) is yet another example of what’s so great about Western X.  The attention paid to holding the atmosphere is superb; the audience is under the same creepy starlight as the characters.  The performances are also top notch, with this show’s major highlight going to Richard Anderson, who is just plain shiver-creepy as Colonel Lee, especially after he goes inside.  Also worth noting: I admit being concerned upon hearing that some extra music was being added to this episode over and above Thomas Hinman’s score, but “Blood in the Valley” by Sons of Perdition really does complement the action here brilliantly.

Episode 10: “Shades of Time” – This episode’s been a while in coming (a space of months between the last one and this), but the wait has been worth it.  Thirty seconds of exposure to the well crafted atmosphere makes the viewer feel as though he or she has never left, and from there the grip of the Weird West just gets stronger.  “Chapter Two” of Season One starts off with several bangs as a few points are recapped, and an extra flashback that we haven’t seen before sneaks its way in, as well.  The post-credits standoff sequence is piano wire tense, and stays that way for longer than one might normally imagine possible.  Looks like Sonja is coming into her own… but wait.  What’s this?  Could it be?  The moment we’ve all been waiting for?  Why, yes it is!  This is the episode where Vernon Wells finally makes his appearance as The General, and as noted, the wait has been worth it.  Somewhere between Robert E. Lee and a Sith Lord, you’ll find what Wells brings to this character, who is instantly believable as the dark, calculating head of shadowy beast that is The Black Coats.  This ride just got even more intense.  Did nineteen minutes just go by?  Funny; felt like only five.

All in all: so far, so good, so surreal.  The episodes play best in a single sitting, but there’s enough flashback to make it work piecemeal, as well, and there are “catch-up” videos available at regular intervals if you find it’s been too long.  As for me, I look forward to what’s next.

- Reviewed by Ziggy Berkeley, April, 2012

Updated as new episodes are released

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


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