In this week’s Short Film Showcase, instead of another wide-ranging selection from multiple filmmakers, we’re going to be taking a look at one content creator in particular.
Kris Straub is a writer, a producer, and a podcaster. He also, incidentally, is a master at making bizarre, short-form horror videos designed to give you a severe case of the heebie-jeebies. His YouTube channel, LOCAL58TV, is styled in a similar vein as popular podcast Welcome to the Night Vale, in which the content all takes place inside a fictional community that is much more fantastical and sinister than our own.
While the subject matter of each video varies, they all follow the general trend of being hypothetical public service announcements, alerts, and station bookends from the fictional Local 58 news station. And while, on the surface, this doesn’t sound particularly exciting or creepy, I assure you, it very much is.
Straub’s particular brand of horror is subtle. It’s not based around blatant, in-your-face imagery or jumpscares. Instead, it’s nearly all existential, preying on subconscious fears you didn’t even know you had.
Let’s take a look at what sinister offerings his channel has lurking behind the innocuous Local 58 logo:
You Are On The Fastest Available Route
Made before the channel really cemented itself as a TV station, Straub’s earliest video still sets the stage for many of the tricks and tropes that would come to typify a Local 58 video. Digital artifacting, malfunctioning technology, and malevolent forces of manipulation all make this dashcam footage an excellent precursor for what would come later. Will also make you terrified of Google Maps.
In my opinion the creepiest video on the channel, “Contingency” styles itself after a hypothetical, pre-recorded announcement made by the federal government to be broadcast in the wake of an invasion by an overwhelming hostile force. Sickeningly believable and aged to perfection giving it an eerie, retro vibe, this video hits a little too close to reality for those of us who remember the accidental Hawaiian missile launch alerts from a few years back.
You know what always scared me as a kid? Those weather alerts that would blare on the radio whenever a storm was approaching. You know, the ones with the alarm siren that sounded like the apocalypse was bearing down on you? Well, imagine if that was somehow scarier?
Show For Children
Trying his hand at traditional, hand-drawn cartooning, Straub here gives his take on many of the popular ‘creepypasta’ stories revolving around lost, possibly imagined cartoons from long-forgotten, macabre childhoods. In fact, the entire Local 58 universe springs from this, as Straub himself is responsible for the story that practically created the genre, ‘Candle Cove.’ Unsettling for reasons that aren’t overtly apparent, and featuring some fantastic design and animation, ‘Show For Children’ may not be the scariest thing on the channel, but it’s certainly one of the most memorable.
Modeled after a sketchy, questionably-sourced instructional video from sometime in the early 90s, ‘Real Sleep’ supposedly teaches you about the dangers of dreams and the growing threat of strange, warped faces in the darkness. You know, typical stuff.
Hey kids, wanna be scared of the moon? For those of you who played Majora’s Mask when you were younger, now you can pass on that same trauma to your own children!
The most recent video from the channel, which more than any before it serves to expand and progress the ‘narrative’ at play in Local 58’s world, ‘Digital Transition’ is the audience’s reminder that, while they were content to play with analog technology, the mysterious forces that plague this community and this station are more than capable of hijacking digital signals as well. You’re never safe. Ever.
Straub updates this channel sparingly, sometimes with years passing before updates, but they’re always worth the wait. They’re frightening in such a unique, inventive way, and I really haven’t seen anything like them anywhere else. I can’t wait to see what other surreal, Kafkaesque programming will hit the airwaves of Local 58 in the future.
Up next week: Meatier short films, those that take their time a bit more and really reel you in before scaring the pants off you!