Shudder is known for housing hundreds of horror films for a small fee every month. It’s literally like Netflix but just for horror. From foreign flicks to classics and underrated gems, Shudder definitely has it. And subscribers of Shudder get to take advantage of even more than a good scary movie. Members, like myself, get to enjoy Shudder exclusives and original series; such as the Video Palace podcast and, one of my new favorite shows, Deadwax.
This original neo-noir series follows a vinyl tracker who is hired, you guessed it, to track down a legendary rare record. The catch? Nothing major. Just that this particular record has a nasty reputation for making anyone that listens to it go mad and eventually die.
For funsies, I figured I’d give recapping this incredible show a try, though I know I can’t do it justice. That’s why I suggest going over to Shudder and getting that sweet 7-day free trial. Do yourself a favor. For those still not convinced? Check out Deadwax’s trailer before we get started. And consider this your major spoiler warning!
Okay, so literally one minute into the first episode entitled ‘Part One’, we already see the killer record claim a victim (57 seconds if you want to be exact). It’s an older, unnamed man who has a state of the art system. Instantly after setting up to listen to the record he lets out a gasp. In the next scene we see him now as a mummified corpse, whatever was playing literally sucked the life out of him.
Immediately afterwards we are introduced to our main character Etta Pryce (Hannah Gross) and her girlfriend as well as her partner in crime, Lana (Tracy Perez). Just as Etta is about to leave on another assignment, Lana wants to discuss something serious. But Etta insists they do so after she gets back. You get the impression the pattern of Lana gently bringing up a risky topic and Etta fleeing from said topic is fairly common in this relationship.
Etta’s job, a vinyl tracker, finds her outside of someone’s home late at night. Cool, suspenseful electronic music plays as Etta, using some very fancy high tech gear, disables the home security system. After climbing in through a window, she locates a bookcase that houses hundreds of vinyl records. It only takes her a moment to find what she was looking for, a record of course, then slip back out through the window just as the homeowner walks into the room.
Meanwhile, back at the home of the now mummified man, a coin is flipped between the investigators for who would be removing the headphones off the corpse. The unlucky winner is crime scene handler Len Perry (Evan Gamble). Perry does his best to be careful of the body. This results in the head falling off. Talk about a bad day at work.
Perry attempts to shake it off by examining the rest of the room. This is when he takes note of the victim’s impressive sound system, as well as a red record still spinning on the turntable. Curiously, Perry puts the headphone’s up to one of his ears. You can quickly see something strange is happening as intense, ominous music plays behind Perry’s terrified expression. His trance like state doesn’t last long though. His partner Daryl Burnett (West Liang) snaps him out of it to remind him to get back to work. Perry does as he’s told, bagging and tagging he deems relevant from the potential crime scene. This includes the record.
Now we got back to Etta in a record shop. Because where else would she be? Honestly? Looking fly in her stylish sunglasses, Etta thumbs through records while she waits for the shops owner which doesn’t take long. Etta presents her findings from her latest break in, she negotiates on behalf of her latest client before obtaining the one and copy of a record called the Key Number Three. She inspects the record, it seems to be in prime condition except for two odd markings. This appears expected since Etta doesn’t comment on them.
Right after this exchange we follow Etta to her client’s, Ray Dekker (Brian Buckley) house. Dekker looks over the plethora of records he hired Etta find, almost instantly showing delight when he sees the Key Number Three. He confesses that he wasn’t expecting her to find that particular one at all then suggests they listen. The jam session kicks off with the duo laying around in Dekker’s lounge area, sharing a joint and talking about how much they love music. Etta proudly proclaims: “If I had to choose ‘tween the money and hearing an incredible record that almost nobody had heard before, I’d choose the record…If it can be heard then I gotta hear it.”
This devotion to records impresses Dekker. So much so that he goes on to tell her about something even more unique than the Key Number Three: a single copy of another record pressed by Lyle Litten that had never been released. Nobody is sure that it even exists, though Dekker explains that, if played along side the Key Number Three, Two and One records at the same time, it apparently makes a new kind of sound. “Something nobody in the world has ever heard.” This catches our record freak Etta’s attention. Like, right away.
So she proudly proclaims that, just for the sake of curiosity, she was going to find it. Because if it could be heard? Etta’s gotta hear it. Thus begins Etta’s latest project.
Meanwhile, Perry and Burnett are looking over evidence at their desks when Burnett notices the record among the pile. He kinda gives Perry a hard time about bagging it by reminding him he isn’t a detective before sending Perry on his way to get them coffee. Perry isn’t amused but goes anyway. Poor little pushover. We follow up with Etta as she is on a phone call with Lana. Lana informs her that she couldn’t find much on this mysterious Litten record besides something from a comment section on an audiophile site from 2003. “It’s just a little blurb on a list of rare records this guy is looking for.”
Lana elaborates: “Litten Lacquer, an unfinished pressing that Lyle Litten was allegedly in the process of mastering to acetate lacquer when he died of a heart attack in 1987.” We then learn that the mysterious Lyle Litten was a household name for record collectors in the 80’s. Why? You guessed it! He pressed a lot of records. Then Lana playfully adds that the comment also says that “Under no circumstances should anyone actually play it.” I wonder why.
Back at the police station we see Perry, in the middle of getting his sad police station coffee, begins hearing distant muttering. While that’s going on Burnett continues to log evidence onto the computer. Including our killer record; which has, just like the Key Number Three, odd markings around the center area.
Perry suddenly looks exhausted. He appears to be struggle while pouring the coffee, he nearly falls over, even the camera quality gets blurry to show he may be dizzy as well. Oh, and there’s also something funky going on with his hand. Tiny bolts of electricity appear to dance around his hand as it fade in and out before his very eyes. Whirring can even be heard. Let’s just say pictures couldn’t do this scene justice.
He then hears loud footsteps. This is followed up by a dark figure appearing in the nearby doorway. This freaks Perry out so much that he passes out. Seriously. Collapsed in a puddle of sad police station coffee.
We return to Lana and Etta’s phone call. Lana makes it very clear how she feels about her girlfriend going on some hunt for a record that might not even exist. Then, just for a second, they refer back to the serious conversation that they needed to have. We have a pretty good idea of what it is now thanks to Etta throwing in the word ‘housewife’. Aww!
Perry is still shaken up by his collapse and struggles to get back to his desk. Of course, when he arrives I assume he regrets doing so. The once slightly disorganized office space was now covered in what appeared to be blood and chunks of human flesh. Burnett’s flesh. Imagine the result of someone eating a stick of lit dynamite. It’s literally the only way I can describe this scene. Oh, and for the killer record? The same record that was just sealed away in a fresh evidence bag? Was missing. DEADWAX!
What we know so far/ Thoughts:
- Etta has commitment issues and her love of records is probably going to get her killed. Or at least scramble her brain.
- That record totally did something to Perry.
- Lana clearly loves Etta and is too pure for all of this nonsense.
- When the mummy’s head fell off, it kind or reminded me of a crumb cake.
- I’m not sorry Burnett turned into goo.
Wanna know what happens next? Too impatient for me to write the next episode’s recap? I don’t blame you. Do yourself a favor and binge all 8 epsiodes of Deadwax on a 7-day free trail via Shudder.
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