Twisted Pictures, the company behind the relentlessly terrible Saw movies, is betting that everything old is new again. They’re among the people taking old, discarded film narrative forms and trying them out again on the Internet. Their first effort is a feature length film that will debut only online, to be called The Internet Killer (I bet that took someone the time between sitting on the bowl and beginning their morning dump to come up with that title) – but, hearkening back to nickelodeons and serials, the film will be shown in three minute daily segments.
I am sure if you said ‘nickelodeon’ to the folks at Twisted Pictures their first thought would be, ‘Hey, if the Crypt Keeper and Beetlejuice could have cartoons, why not Jigsaw?’, so I doubt that they had the earliest forms of commercial film exhibition in mind when they came up with this idea. In fact, I’m sure that this idea grew out of a meeting filled with words like ‘synergy’ and ‘viral marketing’ and ‘target demographic.’ But it’s still interesting to think about how these new Internet clip things are related to the nickelodeon – quick, poorly made bits of film, often mildly narrative in nature. They’re also similar to serials, in that they’re short films that need to end on an exciting note to bring in viewers to the next one. There’s already an Internet TV show* running – Michael Eisner is bankrolling a teen mystery called Prom Queen, which runs for 80 episodes that are – get this – 90 seconds each. At double that length per episode, The Internet Killer is going to feel like Fassbinder’s Berlin Alexanderplatz!
Twisted is planning on releasing The Internet Killer on DVD and in foreign markets as a theatrical movie, but how will that work? Breaking it up into three minute segments will mean that, when taken as a whole, the film would have to feel like some kind of episodic fever dream, reaching a crescendo every two and a half minutes or so. I’m actually more interested in seeing the thing whole rather than broken up into pieces.
Of course, I’m not interested in watching anything broken up into little pieces like this. This is all part of the flailing efforts to harness the popularity of sites like YouTube, where a cat playing a piano is the main entertainment. I feel like this is all very misguided, as if Marvel Comics decided to only publish Spider-Man stories in Bazooka comic format. Internet video – in the current world, with computer speeds and bandwidth being what they are (for the masses, that is) – is not the next step in narrative filmmaking. In a few years we’ll be able to stream video off the Internet just like watching television – no fits, starts, burps or lag – but until then, let’s stick with videos of guys ghostriding their whips into trees.
At any rate, I don't look at this sort of thing as anything but a fad - it certainly isn't a danger to real filmmaking... at least not in my lifetime. The TV generation has done some terrible things to cinema, so I can't imagine what the Internet generation will do when they're old enough to be running studios.
And by the way, in case you think I’m too cynical about Twisted Pictures in general, the Variety article where this was announced says that they don’t even have a CONCEPT for The Internet Killer: ‘Twisted is currently selecting one of several scripts it has in development to turn into the "Internet Killer" project.’ Nothing says ‘cash in’ like reverse engineering what is surely already a bad script to fit into some marketing geek’s bright idea.
* I am actually aware that there have been terrible TV show-like things on the Internet for years and years now. The latest crop just happen to be better funded, if not any better made.