Before elaborating on this eerie “broadcast from Hell” let me set the stage. Evolving technology has repeatedly facilitated the restaging of ages-old tales including, of course, horror stories. Silent films and eventually sound films provided even further ways of restaging dramatic themes.
Orson Welles took radio “meta” by adapting H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds in the way it would unfold via news broadcasts. The familiarity of the technique disarmed many listeners and their discomfort was compounded by the way the horrors of the tale invaded their own homes.
In a way this legendary broadcast packed a bigger punch than movies because of the way it took people by surprise at unguarded moments. Horror FILMS are always at a disadvantage because the audience is already several steps removed from being caught off-guard by the simple fact that they made the conscious decision to go attend a story they knew would be “scary.”
Not even the original Cannibal Holocaust or The Last Broadcast or The Blair Witch Project could truly take viewers by surprise in the way Welles’ radio project or televised imitations like Special Bulletin could.
And that’s my roundabout way of getting to Alan Resnick’s truly disturbing Claridryl ad. Technically titled Unedited Footage of a Bear/ Claridryl Ad if you’re looking for it online, THIS brilliant bit of Pirandello television set the new standard for taking viewers by surprise in their own homes. In this case in the middle of the night as an advertisement. From somewhere Orson Welles must have smiled.
For years Adult Swim has been sneaking various short films onto the television airwaves in the VERY late overnight hours. Usually with no introduction, so nothing indicated their regular programming was being interrupted. Without warning that was how Resnick’s Claridryl Ad first slithered into the homes – and minds – of unsuspecting viewers.
The brief Unedited Footage of a Bear portion seemed like a typically bland nature program. Then, the phony advertisement for the nonexistent drug Claridryl started, seamlessly enough that everything still seemed like normal television broadcasting.
From there viewers were plunged into an increasingly off-kilter tableau that must have truly terrified its audience, including late-night channel-flippers or those people half-asleep in their beds. I wouldn’t dream of spoiling any of the shocks or surprises in store for first-timers to Claridryl.
This work is a near-masterpiece that will stay with you even if you go into it knowing something eerie lies in wait. I can’t imagine how the overnight audience felt when they watched this (less than) ten minute nightmare live. The bogus product even has a website loaded with increasingly disturbing imagery.
Click on it below to sample it for yourself. The most detailed analysis of its various layers of meaning can be found at the Night Mind channel.