First published on 12 Jun 2012. Updated on 12 Jun 2012.
Sketch horror. It’s a concept so frustratingly simple and instantly familiar that when you’re told it’s a world first, you wrack your brain thinking of those other instances of it you know you’ve seen… but nothing comes. And that state of mind – being ready for anything but expecting nothing – is exactly where series creators the Glue Society and production partner Revolver want you as you sit with their series Watch With Mother. And if sketch horror wasn’t a fresh enough concept, they’re releasing it exclusively on iTunes.
You might know the Glue Society from their innovative advertising campaigns, including an infamous one for the Chaser which saw War on Everything billboards placed in affordable locations like Iraq, Estonia and Iceland. WWM is their first personal project – but what exactly is it?
"We're a sketch show with recurring characters and concepts," explains Glue Society co-founder Jonathan Kneebone. "But our characters are very dark, and as they repeat various actions and traits from episode to episode, you start to become familiar with them." Revolver MD and series producer Michael Ritchie elaborates, explaining that each sketch stems from an absurd yet funny concept. “We're exploring how people use laughter to react to horrific things,” says Ritchie. Those include The Symphony of Agony, in which a demented composer goes to disturbing lengths to create just the right piece of music; Expert Advice, which follows a sinister hardware store owner; and the story of a twisted first-aid worker trying to make his own job harder – and ultimately bloodier – to increase his job satisfaction.
Oscar-winning cinematographer Russell Boyd (Gallipoli, Master & Commander) is the show’s principal DOP, giving each sketch a highly polished look that never betrays its self-funded origins. “It's not a big-budget thing,” says Kneebone, “but it still feels big-budget because of the support and goodwill we got from the cast and crew.” That would be the cast of over 80 people, some of whom offer their reactions to watching the show in an online preview: “It’s like a Satanic Sesame Street,” says one.
With talent like Boyd behind the camera, you'd be forgiven for wondering when Watch With Mother is coming to cinemas, or at least an appropriate timeslot on TV. You'd also be in for the first of the show's many shocks: it's a web series. In keeping with the unique concept of the series itself is the way it’s being distributed – via an immersive app. From the outset, the creative team specifically designed the show for the iPad. “If you can't handle something, you can just wipe through it and go to the next sketch,” says Ritchie.
A horror series with an ejector seat? Just how scary is it? “I’m scared!” says Ritchie, laughing. “But if I can get through the scary bits, I can laugh in the next sketch quite easily, and probably in relief.” The squeamish shouldn’t reach straight for the barf bags, though; it’s not all blood and guts, says Kneebone: “What we've ended up with is something that's much more psychological. Horror is the closest word we can think of, but it's really the darkness that exists behind closed doors.”
Watch With Mother will be available in the iTunes store soon.