The TV show Community has a shtick they use to great effect. Any given episode is told in the style of a different genre of film. In “Contemporary American Poultry,” Abed goes mad with chicken power in the stylings of a Scorsese mafia flick. In “Modern Warfare,” it’s a mix of war, action and zombie apocalypse tropes.
Utilizing this same tactic in spirit, Stalker Chronicles does the same thing, only with a mix of playwrights, influential filmmakers and poets. At the center of it all are actresses and creators Jamie Lou Moniz and Genie Willett, who are stalking one Ryan Braun.
“Once the stalking commenced, they began using covert names to disguise their identity. Since they both seem to be the yin to Ryan’s yang, they called themselves the Yin Ladies, or Yin Yin, or Yinny…”
Right away the show is clear – the stalking conceit is specifically to have our leads be blank slates that can be filled in with the style of the episode. Simple, but when you’re trying to get an online audience to appreciate Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot in the pilot episode, it’s probably best you don’t add complexity.
In the first two episodes, there was plenty of uncertainty, but where it really fires on all cylinders is episode three, “The Spectacle,” which pulls from “early filmmakers Geroge Melies and Robert Weine, with emphasis on visual spectacle, including a combination of music, dance, and variety acts.”
From this point on the show’s evolved – not only has it become a place of experiment for our leads, but it’s also become a safe place for filmmakers to get absoultely nuts and obscure. (In their trailer for their next batch of episodes, we see they’re going to have one inspired by David Lynch.) The show rapidly became a call for the web to experience varying styles of influential culture.
Because of the central conceit, it’s pretty much impossible to critique the usual – direction, cinematography, even editing – because the show changes those things wildly from episode to episode. What may not work for you or I in one probably won’t be there in another. What I can say is that after those initial two episodes, visually things get way more interesting.
This is the sort of experimental filmmaking that the web is capable of, and it doesn’t fall into the trap of being weird for weird’s sake by carefully following the rules of whatever influence they’re taking on in a given episode.
Jamie and Genie have, over the course of this first “season” of episodes, become more comfortable in their own skin, and maintaining the stalker aspect of the show while not letting it or the influence of the day suffocate.
Once we settle into the rhythm of the show, Moniz and Willett are absolutely adorable, Ryan Braun is, well, appropriately freaked out but placating to his stalkers, and while the show is pushing playwrights, poets and avant-garde filmmakers into a medium that didn’t even remotely exist in their time (for the most part), it maintains the heart of the show well – of two girls inappropriately and relentlessly professing their love to someone who doesn’t know them at all.
And later, they’re doing Sam Shepard. Man, I gotta see that.
Win, Fail or Trainwreck: How the hell should I know? This show is all over the place by design. Just watch the third and fourth episode (third’s embedded above). I call this a Win For Me, but everyone’s mileage will vary on it, I suspect.