“Research.” 1×01-02 Review

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Hired by a certifiable ‘genius,’ Dave must navigate a maze of eccentric colleagues to run a successful or even functional research and testing facility.

A few years back, there was a show on TV called Better Off Ted, and it was awesome. Naturally, it was cancelled after two short seasons and disappeared into the Netflix netherworld – never to be seen or heard from again (unless you have a a Netflix subscription).

It was about a guy who worked for this big, scary corporation that did all sorts of nefarious things to/for people for money; it was basically a parody of corporate America.

I bring this show up today, because I’ve recently seen a web series that instantly brought dearly departed Ted to mind within the first few minutes of watching it. Both derive humor from experimentation on innocent people, and both are set in a heightened sort of reality that could only exist in comedies and surreal horror films.

It’s called Research. (no, that period is not a typo, even if my computer wants it to be) and the show takes place at a research and testing facility owned by Grant Geffin (Kahle McCann)  – a less than gifted man who has inexplicably won a MacArthur Genius Grant, despite being the type to spew racist and sexist comments left and right at the workplace.

At the facility, researchers run all sorts of tests on all sorts of people in the name of “Everything you ever wanted to know about anything ever.”

Dave (Gabriel Diani), the obligatory straight-man is hired by Grant, and is basically responsible for keeping the not-so ideal workplace in order. Boy, does he have a lot of contend with.

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You’ve got a Pierce-Hawthorne-meets-Doc-Brown* mad scientist type (Barry Bostwick, probably the most recognizable face in the series) who seems just as much at home screwing with test subjects’ heads as he does with his co-workers’, a kleptomaniac secretary named Kate (Kelly Huddleston), a recurring test subject who is way too eager and willing to give up little bits of himself (his time, his blood, his life…), and a mysterious vagrant (Sean Naughton) who gets made over into a clean-cut, mute, lab assistant.

Outside of the two leading characters and the supporting players there’s also researcher Taylor (Autumn Hurlbert), who gets flustered and flirty every time she sees Dave and has an acrimonious relationship with Kate.

All the characters show a lot of potential in the first two episodes. Each one definitely falls into a standard archetype, but it looks like there are enough unique quirks to each person to make it work.

Based on the character types used, it comes of no surprise that the humor is – at times – cringe-inducing. In the first two episodes alone, you’ve got awkward situations practically throwing themselves at the camera – usually connected to insensitive boss Grant.

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To give you an example of what I’m talking about, let’s take apart a scene where Dave is interviewing prospects for a new secretary. Grant comes in and asks for someone female and sexy. We pan over to Dave’s office doorway and there’s an (let’s say… not Grant’s version of attractive) interviewee standing there, listening to the whole thing.

If that’s the kind of humor that gets you going, then this show is probably for you.

Overall, I found what I watched pretty entertaining. Most of the jokes landed, and the quirky take on what was essentially an office setting worked for me. There are an awful lot of characters for a show that is only five-to-eight minutes per episode, but I think the writers are doing a pretty good job of differentiating them so far.

So, when it comes down to it, the show made me laugh and hooked me enough to watch more. I don’t think I’ll be regretting the decision.

Rating: B+

Research. is produced by Mildly Fearsome Films. Once you’ve seen the first episode, head on over to the production team’s website. If you want, let us know what you thought of the first couple of episodes in the comments below!

*All credit for that wonderful description goes to pop culture mash-up genius Hera Syed.

“So Dark” Review: Vampires Go Dark Again

Twilight, for the last few years, has created quite a stir in the vampire-loving community. It made vampires accessible to the pre-teen, Gossip Girl-loving crowd, and unfortunately neutered them almost completely. While I’ve gotten tired of the numerous quips about Stephanie Meyer’s vampire universe being “sparkly,” it’s a good way of saying there’s nothing all that dangerous about her vampires.

Midway through the run of the Twilight movie franchise, we started seeing work that tried to take vampires back to their roots. Movies like the Fright Night remake and Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter have turned vampires back into villains, with some successes and some failures at making them legitimately scary.

So Pretty, a 2012 short film from Stage 5 TV, takes this idea in a different direction. For the first time (to my knowledge, anyway) we’re getting a story that turns the Twilight premise on its head without being a parody. It takes the ideas behind Meyer’s work – the sexiness, the love, and the fake vampire anguish – and seriously examines just why it’s all so ridiculous.

Check it out here:

While the short isn’t perfect (there are some cheesy voice effects at the end that detracted a little from my enjoyment), it raises some interesting questions about vampires and their needs. A blood-sucker that works as more of a vigilante than straight killer and/or conflicted “vegetarian” is new to me.

The short proved popular enough to lead to a sequel, So Dark, which takes the original premise and fleshes it out into a complete short film. Sean (Jeremy Palko) has been taken into custody following the events of the original short, and the Miami PD are in the process of transferring him over to the FBI.

At roughly twenty-one minutes, we’re able to get a much better sense of who our main vampire anti-hero (I’m not sure that’s the best description for him, but let’s just go with it) is.

It also does some interesting character work with one of the bit players from the short, a junkie woman (Julie Kendall) who I figured would never be seen again. She’s given a backstory that actually made me feel for her, which I did not expect to happen in a film that’s so short.

We get some new characters, too: a couple of territorial police officers and a mysterious FBI agent (Keri Maletto) who knows more about the supernatural world than she’s admitting.

Outside of the cast, the cinematography is pretty good. The movie is shot in a professional way and uses its very empty police station set to excellent effect. The place is definitely foreboding and it infuses the various scenes with a sense of uneasiness. You just know something big is coming.

And what comes ends up being genuinely surprising – to me, at least. I expected the climax to go down a certain way that just didn’t happen. I like it when a film can do that.

In the end, we get a more fleshed out world with a lot of avenues for future exploration left open, and a pessimistic view of vampires and humans that makes So Dark a much more appropriate title for this possible franchise than So Pretty.

Check out the whole film here:

three and a half stars

 

  • Starring: Jeremy Palko, Keri Maletto, Julie Kendall
  • Directed by: Al Lougher
  • Running Time: 21 min.
  • Genre: Supernatural, Suspense

What do you think of So Dark? What about the whole vampire genre in general? Hit the comments and let us know!