Horror is one of the best genres to fit into the anthology format. Ever since people started telling each other scary stories around camp fires it hasn’t taken much to make people afraid; and some of the most memorable spooky stories can be told in a few minutes. Horror anthologies can be found everywhere, from books, to television, and even film, and now horror fans can add another anthology to the ever expanding collection, with the new twelve part series The Dead Hour.
Produced by Terror Films, the series premieres worldwide on digital platforms on the 12th of May. The series creators, Daniel B. Iske and Scott Coleman, have described the series as having been inspired by events in the world today, and that it acts as something of a commentary on many of the issues in today’s world. Having been given access to the first two episodes of the season, it does seem like the duo, who also direct and write the series, are indeed drawing inspiration from issues that viewers may be facing, although it doesn’t seem like they’re really saying much.
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The first episode ‘Donor’ follows a man who has been laid off from his job, and is keeping it secret from his wife as he searches for more work. Whilst he’s been struggling to find work he’s been using their savings to keep them afloat, and has also found a new way to make some money: selling blood to a shady guy who works on the waterfront. The man has been selling his blood for a while, and the doctor tells him that he can make more money by selling other things, such as organs and skin. When his wife reveals that they’re expecting a baby, the man makes the plunge and starts to sell off other parts of his body.
I can see how this episode might be making a statement about how hard it is to find work, and how increasing debts can quickly mount up and cause people to take desperate action, so I’m willing to give the creators credit on that one. However, if you don’t read interviews with them you’d likely not come away from the show having picked up on this, as some meta knowledge is definitely needed. The episode itself feels quite cheap and poorly produced, and those points are what stand out the most.
The episode looks rather drab throughout, with poor lighting and dull, murky colours. There’s one scene where the man and his wife are talking whilst in their car, and it looks pretty awful. The lighting on the actors’ faces is dull and murky, and never changes, and it doesn’t match what’s on the other side of the windows at all. It’s also painfully clear that the background has been composited in, as some parts have bright white lines around them where the effect hasn’t been put in properly, and every time the female actor moves her head her hair pops in and out of the background. There’s another point in the episode where a weird blur effect has been used on the man’s arm instead of just having him shake his arm, and it looks blocky and pixelated, and more like he’s being sucked into a computer than anything realistic.
The second episode suffers from less technical issues than the first, yet manages to feel even less connected from the statements about real world issues. Entitled ‘Alcoholic Vampire’, the story does exactly what is says on the tin. It introduces viewers to a vampire that gets women drunk, takes them home, then kills them and feeds on them. It later transpires that the man, who is able to go out in the daylight yet has fangs, so is likely an actual vampire, drinks in order to handle killing his victims. That being said, the story does little to prove that that main character actually feels that way. He makes an impassioned speech at AA telling people he needs to drink to deal with how he lives, yet he seems to display no guilt anywhere else, and even takes quite a bit of pleasure in the killing.
This episode has very few effects to get wrong, though there are a few moments that come across as being cheaply produced, such as the blood he keeps in his fridge looking more like red dyed water thanks to being incredibly thin and washed out, and the blood stains around the corners of his mouth being thick, crunchy, and black, like the fake blood was thickly applied hours before and left to dry. Much like the first episode, however, it looks visually bland and flat throughout, and feels as though little effort or thought went into the lighting of the episodes or the composition of the shots.
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This lack of visual creativity is made even more stark when you see the intro sequences, which feature a glamorous radio show host introducing each of the stories. These segments feel like they’ve got the colour and contrast turned right up, and feature some halfway decent angles and shots. It’s incredibly clear that these segments were shot at on a different date than the others, and almost feel like they have come from another production entirely.
When first reviewing The Dead Hour I was a little disappointed that I’d only been given access to the first two episodes of the season. However, having now watched those first two episodes I’m glad that I didn’t have to force myself through any more of it. There might be some halfway entertaining things to find in this series, but if so they’re not to be found in the first two episodes. Hardcore horror fans who’ll watch anything might be able to put up with it, but everyone else would probably be best avoiding The Dead Hour.
The Dead Hour premieres worldwide on 12th May on Tubi, Amazon and other platforms.