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The Occulterers Doesn’t Scare Up Many Laughs

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[show=theocculterers size=large]Embedda-Scare-A-Thon getting too intense for you? Don’t worry, today’s installment doesn’t aim to terrify.

Parodying Ghost Hunters and other paranormal series isn’t very fresh — Bumps in the Night has been doing it since last February on Strike TV, and more recently Blair Witch Project co-creator Ed Sanchez released his own spin on the idea.

But that didn’t stop web series pioneer Hayden Black (Goodnight Burbank, Abigail’s Teen Diary) from putting together The Occulterers, a limited-run Babelgum series about a bumbling team of paranormal investigators exploring a castle haunted by Count Vampire (Camden Toy from Buffy the Vampire Slayer). The concept of a vampire who haunts things might seem a little ridiculous. But it’s not the worst thing about this series.

Black is considered a pioneer because he was one of the first in this space to prove it’s possible to produce sustainable and popular content that’s truly meant for the web, and we’re looking forward to his sci-fi comedy musical The Cabonauts. But The Occulterers was created, sold, cast, written, shot and edited in about three weeks, according to the site Podcasting News, and that short time frame sadly shows. Characters are underdeveloped; jokes are unpolished; episode pacing is flabby; and the production, flatly shot against a poorly integrated green screen, isn’t up to par with either Black’s previous work or current web standards.

In Occulterers, Black takes a supporting role as a Belgian psychic (who’s inexplicably wearing a kilt), and James C. Leary as Kevin is a compelling, if slightly dopey, male lead. Bimbo-ish Chelsea (Amy Kline) is alarmingly pointless, yet she’s also given much of the exposition, presumably because hearing it delivered by a ditz will make it funny.

In one of the show’s more meta moments, Kevin admits that Chelsea was brought onto add some sex appeal to The Occulterers after Jennica (Ellen Sandweiss from The Evil Dead), a female scientist over the age of 40, started experiencing hot flashes. (Any feminism points earned by including a female scientist over the age of 40 as a character were lost thanks to that joke.)

Each episode of Occulterers is accompanied by a mock “live feed” from the castle, which viewers are encouraged to watch so that they might discover — and Tweet about — spooky goings-on. The live feed seems a bit lame at conception, as you’re essentially being invited to watch an hour of a still background with only occasional interruptions, but as I write this I’m letting it play in the background, and while the sound effects are a bit derivative of those scary tapes you play at Halloween parties, they’re pretty effective (especially if you’ve recently seen Paranormal Activity).

Babelgum is throwing a lot of promotion behind the show, and providing shout-outs to Twitter responders in the actual episodes is pretty novel. Also, Los Angeles residents can participate in two separate flash mob events taking place this week, where participants who say their Twitter name to the camera will be in the next season of The Occulterers — which will run, one presumes, in the lead-up to next year’s Halloween. I’ll look forward to it. Because hopefully, with more time to develop and write this concept, there’ll be some real comedy involved.

Scare-o-meter: 2 — Technically, as a comedy Occulterers isn’t aiming for any scares. But points given for the creepy ambiance of the live feed segments.

38 Responses to “The Occulterers Doesn’t Scare Up Many Laughs”

  1. Of course your name is Clive. I mean if you place emphasis on the “IS” (which, of course, is the universal symbol for emphatically stating the truth) then it is true.

    Anyway no writer with a calibre as Jonathan Nail has would dare submit such a grammatical nightmare as the one that was posted.

    I am very flattered you think I am Hayden Black, but unless he drops 6 stone and his sink color darkens somewhat radically, and he hails from Puerto Rico then I’m afraid you have a case of mistaken identity (ironic really don’t you think?)

  2. Hayden…

    Sorry, “Miguel” give it a rest. All right?

    Okay? Stevie?… fake names? Clive IS my name and I dont do series. Hrrm Miguel…oh nevermind.

    Don’t just, don’t.

  3. Clive! Is that you? It is, isn’t it? Golly! Fancy meeting you on here – why the fake name? Or did you change by deed poll today? I think you used to be called Jonathan Nail. Am i wrong? Would i be also wrong to suggest you are in someway, shape, or form trying to shoehorn your show Solo into this debate? If you’re going to wish someone’s death, you should at least use the name your parents gave you.

    Besides, isn’t death a wee bit strong to wish on Hayden Black? Especially as we slide inevitably towards the season of goodwill? You could have wished upon Hayden a little plague or a bout of the trots instead?

  4. I’m not prone to adding my two-penneth to a debate such as this but i heard of this show through the grapevine and thought i would give it a shot. High profile series or not. To achieve a full production in the same space of time that it takes me to decide what socks to wear is to be commended.

    As for budget maybe Mr. Black and his crew blew it on a rather grandious lawn party in the valley, but the lack of money thrown at the screen certainly doesn’t negate the fact this has a ‘rough round the edges’ charm that is seriously lacking from most shows which have many months to prep and grander budgets to play with.

    let the debate continue…

  5. shows like Solo, Invention with Brian Forbes and IQ 145 all struggle to get made or seen or distributed apparently to NewTeeVee why doesn’t Babelgum step up see the brilliant writing, acting and potential of these shows and their creators if they are funding???

    • and what makes you think that there was a huge budget behind this series? These people worked incredibly long days for just over 2 weeks to get it in the can. I can’t see what the problem is here. It’s a funny, sly piece of work that’s not expensively made. Look at the movie like Paranormal.. $15k and it does millions.
      It doesn’t have to cost a lot to be good– though it helps to have someone as skilled as Hayden Black be writing & producing it.

      • Stevie,

        Your statements carry with them a LARGE assumption. That assumption is that I thought that there was a huge budget behind this series. Look at it. Impossible. I do not suggest a huge budget from this should have gone to Solo, IQ-145, etc… no I suggest if ANY budget went into it that should have gone to non-picked up by Babelgum shows. If more than 50 dollars was spent on Occulterers a strong argument that that was 49-51 too many.

        That meager funding could help buy a tape or chip or something for some of the other web shows I mentioned above who slave away in obscurity without backing, PR and work hard on scripts and concepts for months.

        Instead, so it’s sad that (if you’re right you might not be all evidence shows they didn’t work very hard or perhaps hard but not well or effectively) … these people actually worked long days for two weeks to get this in the can. In the can? (your words)

        This is precisely the sort of thing you work hard to get in the can, but then you flush it.

        You don’t go taking money from a distribution company for a public viewing of your hard fought for extrusion into the can. It is an unfunny, un-sly piece that is still too expensively made because it cost something.

        Strong argument for a time machine of some sort here anyone for the people who worked on it certainly can be made, but not one of the quality of this series.

        You comparing apples and oranges in the case of Paranormal here as paranormal is a piece of video entertainment and this isn’t. It doesn’t cost a lot to look good. Or be good for that matter, so they must have spend a ton of money on this because it certainly is the opposite of looking good for nothing.

        I have no idea what a Hayden Black is, but if it helped write and produce this then it needs to be moved closer to it’s deathly subject matter post haste!

  6. I happened to watch the Occulterers series and I really have to ask a couple of questions. Why did the writer not do some fact checking about the “budget” . Nothing in tv-dom or film-dom gets done quickly as in less than 2 weeks on a tiny budget. NCIS-LA took 16 hours to do 5-6 minutes of film.. and I know because it was outside my house.

    What Hayden Black did was accomplish a great deal of campy fun not to be so seriously taken but to be a bit of a fun just for Halloween and managed to crank it out — cast, writing and shooting in about 2 weeks. Editing took another week. How many people can do all that in that short a time on a miniscule budget?

    Also the title.. while attempting to be humerous is ok. Can’t say that I thought much other than the WSJ article got the point of what Black does– and so do I.

  7. cassowary

    Personally, I think it’s great. It’s amusing, and I think it’s wonderful to give shout out to their followers. It’s meant to be fun and it is. Ellen Sandweiss is an icon and any man in a kilt gets my vote.

  8. SallyGrimm

    I agree with Tabitha.
    It’s supposed to be a parody, just go with it. If you don’t like it don’t watch it.
    I love the characters, and I enjoy looking for moments in the live feed.

      • SallyGrimm

        To Liz

        Are you going to allow this site to become a place for people who hate Hayden?
        ‘Jared’ and ‘Meyu’ are not commenting about The Occulterers but using this forum to pour out their personal hatred of Hayden for whatever reason they have for this.

  9. I think it seems fairly clear to me that the not very often comments that you see from New Tee Vee has now been bombarded with so many defending this series, is Hayden Black calling out his friends to say positive things to save face with Babelgum. I will get flamed for this, but that’s how I see it. Babelgum needs to be aware that they should not spend money on poor content, or from people who spin their success, and their other series as well, are not known entities at all and will not bring in viewership to justify the money spent.

    Feels like wool is being pulled over their eyes on the type of quality and success these people can bring them. It’s like they paid no attention to the studios that failed before them.

    • I’m not going to flame you for this Jared. I’m glad you’re calling a spade, brother. I’m thankful the Hayden Black backlash has begun. To everyone else, the reason we’re writing is because Hayden is in thick with the web community and on these sites (and at various web TV events) we’re constantly being told how great he and his content is. Because of this we’ve checked out the content and, needless to say, it’s not very good. I have no problem spending a few minutes (or more) on something well-written and well-produced. Lots of creators are doing this for very little money. But not Hayden Black. Like Jared said, he is the master of spin. I can’t be the only one who feels like the Cabonauts has been out for a year and it hasn’t even launched (due to reading about it for months). Please companies with money to spend, start giving it to people who are truly talented and have something new and interesting to say. When you buy into the hype you do a disservice to all.

      • MeYu speaks with such anger that it’s easy to see this comes from an unsuccessful web producer who is jealous of Hayden’s incredible success (even this piece calls him a pioneer). If you’re so ready to condemn him with such vitriol, why hide behind a made up name? BTW, what’s forcing you to read the press on Cabonauts? Spiteful anger?
        ps – good luck selling whatever piece of crap web content you’ve had no success with so far :)

      • This a response to Karen.

        It is obvious from the anger of your response, that you are obviously just a friend to Hayden with no real understanding of what web success even is.

        I was trying not to bring out the guns fully and be one of those lame web commenter who blast people, but now seeing the low nature of what Black will do when he is called out on what he is, and how people will still stand behind him and then INSULT people for telling the truth leaves me with no choice.

        Karen, you claim Hayden has “incredible success” – not true in the slightest. He had moderate success years ago that in today’s standards would not be considered so whatsoever. He was able to garner real press and some attention back then, but what was he able to do with it? Absolutely nothing beyond spinning that low level success to get more deals where money was wasted on his lack of talent and lazy production value that hasn’t garnered any type of substantial fanbase nor viewcount like many others have been able to do.

        And the Cabonauts? Who else but Black could make this series get so much hype for so many months with no real information on the series. Is it not clear to everyone that he very likely doesn’t even have a series but only a pilot to which all this buzz he generates is his last attempt to get a sponsor on board? That’s what it seems to me!

        We need to stop allowing people in this space to get away with all this nonsense and falsities.

      • Jared, I wasn’t addressing you, I was clearly addressing MeYu. But to address your latest comments, it’s so clear that you don’t know what you’re talking about and are your assertions about Black’s business (and his success) that I’m not even going to bother. You are incredibly ignorant of what’s going on as well you should be – Black doesn’t discuss his business – but showing people how ignorant you are is only hurting you. Yes, I am a friend of Hayden’s and I have ZERO problem with people not finding something of his funny – that’s a subjective emotion and debating it is pointless. But being “thankful” about a “backlash” is far more personal than just not laughing.

  10. This is the “Grindhouse” of web video – it set sail for the land of “purposefully bad” for some tongue-in-cheek campy reason, but ran aground at “just bad.”

    Yes, we get it: you find humor in twitter – so do a lot of other people, but they get book deals and you spent two minutes on a Ouija board “Kiss her” joke.

    Maybe limiting it to 140 seconds would have helped.

  11. I’m loving the Occulterers. Unlike a lot of comedy web series it’s got a great blend of over the top and fun.

    I personally love the blurry green screened effects, and the acting. It’s Halloween, it’s fun, take a line from the Joker…. Why so seriousssssssss?

  12. Not everyone likes the same web series. They all have different appeal. But ‘The Occulterers’ is a funny and entertaining show… In my opinion. Seems to parody more the ‘Most Haunted’ on the Travel Channel. With the use of psychics. That sometimes seem overly dramatic. Comparatively, ‘Bump in the Night’ parodies ‘Ghost Hunters’, with it’s straight edge investigation. This is just my opinion, but I do agree that this show is definitely worth watching.

  13. This series looks and feels like something a teenager in the Midwest might shoot for YouTube. I have no idea what Babelgum was thinking. I think a big part of why web TV hasn’t taken off as people expected is because these companies think you can just throw anything up and people will watch. There’s good stuff out there but people have to wade through awful shows like “The Occulterers” to find them. Like the person above said, if companies like Babelgum don’t become more discerning about their content, they won’t last. I’m certainly not heading over their to check out the rest of their comedy content.

  14. I’m not sure who this Liz Miller is and what web series she has been watching…but her article is underdeveloped and unpolished. She clearly doesn’t get what The Occulterers is about. She needs to inject herself with a shot of humor and good taste. I couldn’t disagree with her more. The characters, plots and comedy are all well thought out, and Herve has me wanting more. I also love the music, which is fantastic!

    • I’m not sure who this Nigel is and what web series he has been watching…but his comment is underthought and unintelligent. He clearly doesn’t get what comedy is about. He needs to inject himself with a shot of humor and good taste. I couldn’t disagree with him more. The characters, plots and comedy are all poorly thought out, and Herve has me begging “Please, no more.” I also hate the music, which is monotonous, boring, and if would drive a litter of golden retriever puppies to commit ritualistic suicide!

  15. Transylvania around Halloween?? Sign me up! I think the concept of the show is fun and meant to be light hearted! I found myself waiting to see what would come next! Listening for sounds, trying to catch another glimpse of Herve and that funny outfit is enough to keep me coming back for more! (Never hurts to hear a ghost say, “GEETTT OOUUTTT”!!) I think the green screen is great in that cool old castle. Hayden Black is a funny guy and his humor has proven itself thru this and his other works to make me a fan. 3 weeks, 3 months ~ the show hit at the perfect time and has been a great sweet treat for the week!

  16. I think the reviewer is missing the point here. This is parody, so the jokes are supposed to be silly and the green screen effects crude. In parody, you do use “bimbos” and “dopey” people, and you do poke fun at everybody, including women over 40 (of which I am one) – the political incorrectness is the whole point. And the fact that this type of show has been done before – well, show me a type of show on tv or the web or anywhere else that hasn’t. I think the Occulterers is a lot of fun and we all need a little more of that in our lives.

  17. The mockumentary format is quite played out so all the interview shots are fairly ho-hum. All the green screen shots are pretty much unwatchable in this. I can’t believe someone paid for this to be put up on the internet.

  18. Carrie Dillard

    I find this interesting that such time is taken by those who say they are not caring for the show. I don’t like lima beans, but I don’t go to a vegetable site and complain…I just don’t eat them! I personally find the show a fun way to spend a few minutes of the day! It’s not out to solve the world’s problems, it’s meant to entertain….and to that I say…to each their own! (NOTE: I took time out of my day to write my opinion because I like the show! Otherwise, I would not have taken the time!)

  19. It’s incredible how Babelgum made such waves in pouring money into original content, only to then work with people in the space who for the most part have no substantial views to speak of, and would allow money to be wasted away with such amateur level content as “The Occulterers”- if this continues, they will be gone just like the rest of them.