The Audio Horror of deadwax

by thethreepennyguignol

Ah, oblique indie horror miniseries: my truest love.

I just want to take a quick second to talk to you about the brilliance of deadwax, alright? Created by Graham Reznick (the writer behind my ultimate comfort re-play, Until Dawn), deadwax xame out in 2018, but was recently acquired by Shudder for wider distribution, and I think it deserves some love.

Following Etta Pryce (Hannah Gross), after she is tasked with tracking down a specific, near-mythic vinyl record which kills people who listen to it for a private collector, deadwax is a horror of the audible and inaudible. I’ve seen a couple of movies that have taken this conceit – sound as a tool of horror – such as In the Earth or In Fabric, and it’s something that seems so simple but takes such a trained eye to really pull off.

So it makes sense that Reznick, who has worked in the sound department for a few productions, finds a way to make this horror of music work so well. It helps that most of the episodes are longer than your average EP, no need for bloat or overthinking here, but more than anything, deadwax works with the balance of what we don’t hear as much as what we do.

Because, when you have a piece of haunted media like this, you can never actually really show it. Apart from maybe Ringu, everyone else who makes these kinds of stories is smart enough to figure that nothing can be as horrible as what an audience can conceive of. deadwax thrives in the very description in its title – hat part of a record that plays no music, too delicate to be marked down on. The way it uses sound, music, rhythm and more make for a near-hypnotic, almost shamanic experience., with the constant, overbearing threat of hearing That Record – we see what it does to people, the power it contains, even after a scrap has been played, but the curiosity for both us as an audience and Etta as a character grow near-unbearable to deny.

I wouldn’t want to ruin too much about this show – it’s barely a couple of hours in length, an well worth the watch if you have a spare evening and a spare few evenings afterwards for the pondering. Even if the sound aspect isn’t enough to sell you, there’s so much here to love – great performances, a deep but not hand-holding lore, an exceptional flashback episode which almost functions as a short horror story in its own right – and the fabulous, stylish direction that seems to come as a standard for indie horror in the twenty-first century. deadwax feels like something that belongs in the Channel Zero universe, and I mean that as nothing but the highest of compliments – give this little slice of twisted, tricky horror goodness some love. And a listen. Just not too closely.

If you enjoyed this article and want to see more stuff like it, check out my other blog, No But Listen, as well as my fiction work! You can also support me on Patreon to help keep this blog running and keep my very demanding little cat in treaties, and me out of her clutches for another month yet.

(header image via Youtube)