I don’t speak Portugese, but I still found myself sucked into watching a whole chunk of the newly released Castigo Final (Final Punishment) episodes. The horror web series and alternate reality game (ARG) launched last week in Brazil following 8 women thrown into an experimental maximum security prison for violent crimes they didn’t commit. The ARG elements include a race-against-time style hunt for clues through the characters social media accounts and web sites to find the password to save each prisoner before they are killed off.
There’s also a mobile phone angle with an IVR system that lets viewers call the fictional prison and tale to the warden and even have him call you back. To cap off the series and the game, they will be airing a 4-part faux-documentary created with footage from surveillance cameras inside the prison block on Brazilian TV channel OI TV in late November.
beActive, the Portuguese outfit behind the series, might be the most successful non-US based web creators going right now. Last summer they successfully spun off their Portugal-based Flatmates into an English-speaking UK version. Their last series, Sophia’s Diary was an international licensing gold mine, spinning off British, Irish and Brazilian versions before penetrating China with its first major web series. The Chinese version, dubbed Sufei’s Diary, took the model of young college age girls finding their way in the world with a local Mandarin-speaking cast and some westernized product integration from Estée Lauder’s Clinique brand along for the ride. As of a March feature in the Wall Street Journal, the series had notched over 20 million views on Chinese web sites Sina, Youku and Cernet.com.
In some ways they are like a European version of Electric Farm, who like beActive, chose Sony Pictures Television International to handle foreign licensing and format sales of its Afterworld, Gemini Division and just-launched Woke Up Dead series. While there isn’t a great deal of English around this new series just yet, given their track record we wouldn’t surprised to see a British version down the road.
Fittingly, Nuno Bernardo, beActive’s CEO, presented the series at MIPCOM in Cannes during the MICPOM Screenings, “The Best Multiplatform Entertainment.”