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By Mark Bell | November 11, 2013

Still: The Web Series chronicles the strange happenings in Sloughtown, WA after disturbing noises are heard in the sky. Seemingly lining up with the street preacher screaming about the end of the world straight out of the Bible’s Book of Revelations, the sounds are followed by various townspeople turning into shrieking shells of themselves. Think zombies, but without the bloodletting or brain-craving; instead it’s shriek and touch to infect and spread, or at least that’s the impression I’ve gotten so far.

And I’ve not gotten too far. For the sake of this review, we’ll be talking about the first five episodes of the web series, as that is what is currently available. I’m not sure if the series is going to be split into seasons or just continue counting up. I’m also unsure on the consistency of the running times for episodes.

The first three, for example, are in the eight to nine minute range, while Episode Four drops down to five minutes and Episode Five hops up to almost fifteen. Over the course of the five episodes, it still averages out to just under ten minutes a piece though, so my guess is to expect something in that range going forward.

But enough about boring running time talk and consistency of episode technicals; is it any good? Well, it’s certainly mysterious and pulls the most out of its cryptic nature that it can. Each episode rightly establishes a new level of strangeness to the story, and new characters (at least until Episode Four, when faces we’ve seen in previous ones start to re-appear, and Episode Five establishes a band of survivors we’ll potentially be following as the series moves along).

If this were a 50 minute film and not a web series, I’d say that it doesn’t move the narrative forward enough by the time it wraps up. As a web series establishing a larger story, obviously there are other rules and considerations; I’d call it slow and deliberate pacing regardless, which does help underscore its menacing nature. Personally, I wouldn’t have minded getting to the point we’re at in Episode Five by about Episode Three, but that’s me. The filmmakers are world-building, and I can respect that.

The plus of this slow build is an ominous suspense. If you’re engaged, you want to get to the next episode and learn more; not so much, right now, about the characters’ well-being as a general curiosity about what’s going on. And while you’re building a viewing habit, the filmmakers build the narrative. The minus is, sometimes it feels like it’s spinning its wheels a wee bit. We’re still early in though, so things could pick up. It definitely looks like that’s where we’re heading.

Visually, the series is passable, though the sky does have that not-so-digital-friendly tendency to blow-out (something that the filmmakers attempt to mask as best they can). Maybe that’s just the grayness of the Pacific Northwest that they’re battling with, but I do think the series has exposure issues off and on. Audio-wise, the filmmakers seem to enjoy working the sound mix to play with the sounds in the sky, or the shrieks of the newly converted human wraiths, and both are appropriately unsettling.

Where the audio does stumble, however, is in simple recording of dialogue, where the mix sounds noisy. It’s surprising, considering how much massaging the other sounds seem to have, that moments of sub-par audio sneak in anyway. Then again, if that’s what they got on the day of filming, that’s what they’re working from in post, and you can only do so much.

I think the series is just now ramping up; it feels like the world has been established and now we can move on to building up characters and explore the mystery more, revealing an answer or two. If you’re thinking of giving it a go, definitely watch the first three episodes and then see where you’re at after that. If it doesn’t have your interest by then, I don’t know that it will keep it moving forward, but at least you’ll have a better idea of the tone and pace at that point.

This film was submitted for review through our Submission for Review system. If you have a film you’d like us to see, and we aren’t already looking into it on our own, you too can utilize this service.

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