[show=horribleturn size=large]When web video juggernaut Dr. Horrible’s Sing-A-Long Blog debuted last year, it inspired fan-made contributions to the world of the series almost immediately — something the Whedon family encouraged by soliciting supervillain applications to be included on the official DVD. But more than a year later, a group of Houston-based fans has taken things to a whole new level.
Horrible Turn, a fan-made prequel to Dr. Horrible’s Sing-A-Long Blog, is a full hour of music, comedy and supervillain angst. Set in the early 1990s — allowing for plenty of Compuserve and giant cellular telephone jokes — Turn teases the early origins of the Evil League of Evil, including the first reported attack of Bad Horse, while also introducing the characters of Dr. Horrible and Captain Hammer as pre-super adolescents whose fates are not yet determined. I mean, they don’t like each other very much, but young Dr. Horrible/Billy Buddy is more focused on making it happen with his Australian dream girl (a deliberate reference to the Dr. Horrible lyric “But her tears will dry/As I hand her the keys/To her shiny new Australia”) and releasing a potion that will make all the people of the world love each other.
What’s interesting is that in both versions Dr. Horrible is coming from the same Nietzschean-ubermensch place, believing that “the world is broken and he just needs to fix it.” How he lost his faith in love and turned instead to power as a solution is the film’s arc, which ends on a note that could potentially allow for sequels (though what do we call a prequel-sequel? Prequel Part 2?).
When evaluated as an independent production, not a fan film, Turn is competently directed and written, with traditional musical numbers smoothly integrated into the narrative and a cinematic look, enabled by a 35mm lens adapter according to director Chance McClain. Some of the dialogue suffers from repetition, and scenes overall could be more tightly condensed. But the song lyrics are cleverly constructed, and the young cast is solid, including Tyce Green as Billy/Dr. Horrible. Perhaps ironically, however, Green is overshadowed by Jacob Buras, whose Nathan Fillion/Captain Hammer impression is, well, impressive — especially when it comes to delivering punchlines. And he throws himself into the musical numbers, including the standout of the film, I Am Handsome, an exuberant celebration of narcissism.
Turn is an entirely self-funded production that, once completed, was sent to Joss Whedon prior to its release. “He hinted at familiarity with it in an artfully Jossian manner during a recent interview, calling it ‘itsy kitsy goodsy’ as long as we didn’t try to sell it,” McClain told EW. (Whedon’s comment is a bit patronizing, but there might be a good reason — brother Jed has written a prequel of his own in comic book form, which will be released in stores Nov. 18.)
So while McClain and his partners have no chance of making back their investment on this one, hopefully Horrible Turn drums up some interest for the team’s future projects. Given the energy and creativity they’ve brought to someone else’s story, it’d definitely be interesting to see what they’d do with their own.