[show=deadandlonely size=large]It’s Day 3 of Embedda-Scare-A-Thon! Scared yet?
“Vampires plus online dating” is a heck of a pitch, especially these days, but Dead and Lonely doesn’t exactly conform to expectations. Writer and director Ti West (The House of the Devil) takes a moody, almost emo approach to the story of a young man, Jordan, and woman, Lee, who meet on the fictitious dating web site DateOrDie.net, possibly for very different reasons. The series plays like a broken-down short film, with episodes 1-3 essentially amounting to a long build-up to Lee and Jordan’s fateful date, but each episode does end with a strong, intriguing ending that takes baby steps forward. This is the third series I’ve seen this week that’s structuring its release schedule to lead up to Halloween, premiering on Monday and running daily episodes until Friday.
In an interesting twist, Dead and Lonely reminds me less of recent vampire shows and more of the groundbreaking mumblecore web series Young American Bodies, albeit with slightly less talking and a spookier score. And it’s not just because series star Justin Rice has worked with Bodies creator Joe Swanberg in the past. Handheld camerawork with a video finish captures a young couple struggling to find new love and deal with old relationships — the only twist being that the girl in question probably didn’t disclose having fangs on her dating profile.
Speaking of the online dating angle — IFC has created a dummy version of DateOrDie.net, which hosts additional video content in the form of testimonials about success with the dating site. Oddly, there isn’t a supernatural edge to these videos, which instead tell more traditional dating tales (though diversity points to IFC for including a transgendered male among those profiled). But that plays nicely with the series as a whole.
What works about the show, and gives it a spooky feeling despite being otherwise prosaic in its set-up, is the air of desperation surrounding these characters, a hope for finding “that someone” which speaks to a fear that exists year-round, not just around Halloween. For many people, after all, the most terrifying scenario you could ever concoct? Being alone.
Scare-o-meter: 5 — West does a great job of slowly but deliberately building tension over what, exactly, Jordan’s fate might be.