On the cover, Shudder’s new original series Deadwax may not sound too original liken to a particular film that has consequences for anyone that sees it. In this day and age is it possible to have a theme that is truly unparalleled? The series develops that initial premise with engaging world-building and lore. Accompanied by the kick-ass score, presenting an ominous atmosphere!
The cold open exhibits an older gentleman taking out a plain red vinyl record and each particular movement seeming methodical as he places the record on a turntable. A needle slowly advances down with deliberate intention. He sits down delighted awaiting the sensory joys ahead. Unexpectedly a horrific sound erupts, uprooting the previous mood. Similarly, if the needle has skipped, quickly changing the tune. The screen goes black only to expose the man has been mummified. Not a hell of a way to start this journey!
Graham Reznick employs his vast background as a sound designer, which includes Stake Land and The House of the Devil, and The Innkeepers, to tailor a show where the sound is essential. Reznic transpires the sounds of yesteryears in order to set a background chalked with audio cues increasingly teasing around certain jump scares. Spanning roughly 2 hours (see tracklist below) and eight episodes, Deadwax follows Etta (Hannah Gross) a vinyl hunter for hire. Tracking down rare and unique for the rich.
She will do anything to acquire the rarest of the rare, as we see her breaking into people’s houses in part one. Leading her to discover an album from legendary sound engineer Lyle M. Lytton. Rumored to be one of only three pressings in existence. Respectively unique in their own pressing, but when combined produce a new sound, no one has ever experienced. Begins her quest to collect the other two with weird markings in the space between the grooves and the label, also known as the dead wax.
Deadwax operates to also develop the lore of its universe without the need to show everything, as little pieces get added to the mystery and the mythology of Lytton’s killer record, especially around the idea of frequency resonance manipulation, and the notion that sound waves can make the human body react in invisible and sometimes deadly ways. Notwithstanding the intriguing narrative and absorbing practical effects, there is a sense of longing the show lives you with. Mummified bodies, exploding heads, and blood splatter all over the walls in a decorative manner reminiscent of 80’s slashers gore and use of practical effects.
While I appreciate the clever musical nods to vinyl accessories and subtle name placement. For a vinyl collector, it is cool to check out the different record player set-ups each character has in the show. Though, that’s where series falls short. Other than looking at the vinyl other characters own, their character doesn’t do much more to captivate you. Leading in the final of the series presents a moderately climatic finale. Character attachment was little destined, Etta seeming completely unreactive to a moment in that deserves something stronger.
Possibly its intention is to leave you with a warped feeling. Distancing you on purpose juxtaposing a collector actually experience. Close to obtaining the goal but patience is the only way to truly appreciate what you have. Deadwax is available on Shudder starting November 15th.
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