Every red-blooded American has an ultimate fantasy lay. You know who it would be. You’re probably Google Image Searching them right now. Even if you’re vehemently opposed to the idea of paying for sex, you may catch yourself thinking, “I’d give anything for one night with them.”
For the residents of one Texas town, a night with the local objet du desir doesn’t cost a thing. Just a tooth, extracted via a rock to the face. Fair price? They think so.
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The town in question is the setting for Heathens, an epic web series by Packing Tape Productions that ventures into one of the least explored genres in the world of web videos: drama, and historical drama at that.
Heathens takes place in 1846, one week before Texas joins the Union. The plot concerns a idealistic young writer named Andrew Crawley (played with theatrical flair by Justin Cegnar) who ventures to the wild west to write about the Savage Woman of Freedom, Texas, who infamously takes men’s teeth in exchange for sex (NSFW-style sex, at that).
Once Crawley sees the Sirens’ spell the Savage Woman has cast over the town, he realizes this story could be the perfect vehicle to write his masterpiece about the lawless appeal of the untamed west. As the writer goes about his research, his interests become increasingly obsessive and devious.
If a crazy lady with a troubled past in the forest banging random men and taking their teeth sounds to you like an unlikely place to start The Great American novel, know that about ten episodes into this series Crawley’s theory starts making sense.
This show isn’t so much about what separates “heathens” from civilization, but about what sort of baggage civilized people bring to the table when they’re faced with something wild. If that sounds confusing, it is, but it’s more challenging than frustrating.
The production is epic in scale for an independent project, and includes a convincingly archaic Old West town, and a cast full of Old West staples: a worn-down sheriff, local coots, pious church folks, and an impossibly naive and obviously doomed young couple. The nature of these writ-large characters allow the performances to be a little hammy without becoming distracting, and the actors are all convincing and frequently very likable.
25 episodes have been produced so far, most clocking in at around six minutes (they tighten up as the series matures). It’s refreshing to see a web series that honestly tries for straight drama, with no irony or apologies. If the 25 episode commitment is too much to ask, I’d recommend starting with Episode 9, “Reflections” , which gives a quick primer on the characters.
I haven’t seen any other independent web drama as professionally created and interesting as Heathens. It’s probably not worth your teeth, but definitely worth your time.