It should come as no surprise that record collectors are an awfully weird and obsessive bunch. They perseverate over every possible pressing, color, variation, and vinyl release of individual artists. Their search is endless and somewhat pointless. They fixate on whether to open a sealed copy of a rare record. Most importantly, record collectors won’t stop until their search is complete. Dead or alive.
What makes the 2018 Shudder series Deadwax so exciting is that it really gets to the darkened heart of the record collector. Directed by Graham Reznick (sound work for The Inkeepers, House of the Devil, and The Viewer), Deadwax follows an earnest but somewhat crooked vinyl record bounty hunter, Etta Pryce (…get it?). Etta (Hannah Gross) takes a somber and staid approach to her research. There are no highs, no lows. Just searching for the records that she’s been asked to obtain. Void are the excited hoots and hollers you hear coming from inside the darkest record bins at your local vinyl haunt. Etta searches and she finds. On occasion her searches turn to the well trod tradition of thievery.
Etta becomes aware of the most rare slab of wax ever laid down — the the “Lytton Lacquer.” A record that was created by cosmic sound engineer Lyle M. Lytton, who allegedly died during the making of the record. Lyle’s taste in “music” was somewhat south of Justin Timberlake and Ariana Grande. He was in search of frequencies so odd and off-putting that the listener would a) die, b) be transported to other realms, c) go mad, or d) all of the above.
Bound for crate-digging conquest, Etta is hipped to the fact that the Lytton Lacquer is not one record, but three that need to be played together in orchestral harmony. What’s a record collecting bounty hunter to do? FIND all three! Etta is joined in her dusty finger pursuit by a police records administrator, Len Perry (Evan Gamble, Vampire Diaries) whose partner was blown to bits by listening to only mere seconds of one of the versions the Lytton Lacquer. Etta’s now fully obsessed and Len’s very psyche has been severely altered by just coming in contact with this unholy noise.
Undettered by this madness, Etta consults her longtime audiophile pal, Ian Ullman (Ted Raimi), who fully explains the outlandish and spooky meanings of this series of records — they’ve never been heard by human beings. What’s more exciting to a record collector than owning something no one owns? Listening to something no one has heard.
Deadwax is a truly tremendous and innovative outing with the kind of nuance and subtly that makes record collectors swoon. The scares are real, imagined, and otherworldly. The thing that really makes this serialized collection hum is their length. As we move in to increasingly disconnected times with little to no attention span, Deadwax is pure perfection. These tasty noire nuggets range in length from 11 minutes to a whopping 18 minutes. Taken together this tale evolves in less time than a feature length film, but Deadwax’s ingenuity is void of pops, skips, scratches, and dust. Throw this on your turntable and turn it up, but be forewarned, record collecting is inherently dangerous to your health and may result in DEATH!