Everything We Can Tell You About ‘This House Has People in It’
The co-director of 'Unedited Footage of a Bear' talks about the origins of Adult Swim’s latest 4 AM infomercial.
Image courtesy of Adult Swim
Strange things happen at the witching hour. On Adult Swim, that might be 4 AM, the time slot during which they run “infomercials.” It all started back in 2014 with the darkly surreal “Two Many Cooks,” then took a seriously demented turn with Alan Resnick and Ben O’Brien’s Unedited Footage of a Bear. Yesterday, Resnick, O’Brien and their collective of absurdists at AB Video Solutions returned with the multimedia experience This House Has People in It—a sort of Big Brother on acid. Taken as a whole, it’s a piece of comedy for the surveillance and voyeuristic social media age, and a many-forked rabbit hole.
This House Has People in It follows an ostensibly normal family in a seemingly mundane suburbia. But all is not as it seems. A company called AB Surveillance Solutions has rigged the home’s interior and exterior with dozens of security cameras. The surveillance company is also, like a minor league Silicon Valley company, logging phone calls, emails and images exchanged amongst family members. Between the exceedingly quotidian conversations runs an unsettling vibe that oscillates between comedy, psychological horror, and the supernatural. Not horror in its purest sense, but in how it manifests as the unexplained—in this case, a disease called Lynks, whose origin and effects are unclear, though it does trigger giant blisters and cause sufferers to sing and act absurdly.
The 11-minute video, which Adult Swim launched on YouTube, links to the AB Surveillance Solutions website. From there, it's up to viewers to investigate. Sleuths clever enough to discover keyword searches (or pay attention to comments on the YouTube videos) will find out more about this strange world quickly enough. For those who need a little help, there is a This House Has People in It subreddit.
After letting the multimedia experience settle in for a day, Resnick spoke to The Creators Project about the origins of This House Has People in It. He also explained how the team shot the video’s convincing surveillance footage, and mused about whether or not there is a larger mystery to be solved in the work’s many rabbit holes.
[Minor spoilers ahead]
The Creators Project: Can you talk about the origins of This House Has People in It? As I understand it, you thought of it while going to bed one night?
Alan Resnick: The image of a suburban family arguing popped into my head, and I was spying on them from high up. I had the idea of surveillance footage of some random home suddenly showing up in the middle of a normal TV broadcast, with no context.
Is This House Has People in It at all linked to Unedited Footage of a Bear?
It's linked to Unedited Footage of a Bear in that the idea grew out of our familiarity with the 4 AM audience, and we wanted to make something specifically for them. They also both contain some traumatic event taking place in the suburbs.
How do you balance comedy, "unsettling" psychological horror, and surreal or absurd happenings?
As a group, I think we collectively find more humor in unsettling situations than we do in more traditional comedic setups. I think both comedy and horror are more impactful when they occur in unexpected contexts.
For this project it took a lot of fine-tuning in the editing to hit the right balance of humor and trauma. The first few edits were much sillier. Our idea for this show originally was that it would be a series, and some episodes would be mundane, some could be straight up comedies, and some would be existential horror. We only got to make one full episode so we tried to balance all three.
Would you consider This House Has People in It comedy?
It's hard to answer. To me it is funny, so I want to call it a comedy. To other people it's not funny at all and just upsetting. Even within the creators of the show, you might get a different response to that question.
Which of your crew is into alternate reality games (ARGs)?
Dina Kelberman made the site. I think we all are interested in ARGs. Dina's main goal in life is to make something so convoluted that only the most dedicated person will fully understand it.
Did you install surveillance cameras throughout a house, because the cameras move around interior and exterior spaces focusing on specific objects and spaces? And were you guys controlling the cameras somehow?
We rigged up each room with security cameras, and then just let the actors work without large crews in the space. That made everything more playful and free. I would monitor all the cameras from another area, and would control a PTZ camera with a joystick. At the end of the shoot we had every take, from every scene, from many different angles. So we had an ungodly amount of footage, and it took us weeks just to organize it. What I'm trying to say is, it was a nightmare.
Can you talk about Boomy the Cat as far as the video game, and then his possible physical incarnation?
Boomy the Cat is a very popular character. He's a blue cat, and he is also a fast cat. Kids and adults both seem to really like Boomy. He is popular on TV and in video games.
You said you each are adding content to This House Has People In It, and might continue doing so indefinitely. It sounds like an infinite rabbit hole. Is that the plan—to keep adding content to the project?
Currently it is what it is. There are no current plans to add anything more. We would all absolutely love to continue this project if we were ever given that opportunity. An infinite rabbit hole is exactly the kind of thing we would want to make. As far as content, the stuff that exists feels like the setup to a larger thing, and we don't know if there will ever be more.
The video and associated web content makes mention of a disease called Lynks. Does Lynks cause strange things to happen to this family? And how is it connected (or not) to clay and The Sculptor’s Clayground host?
The host of The Sculptor's Clayground at one point had Lynks disease, but was able to overcome it. I can't say exactly what is happening in the house, but some of the family members are very concerned about Lynks.
Is there a larger mystery to be solved?
Here is my non-answer. There are several mysteries to be explored, but there is no one question to be answered. I realize that is a terrible answer.
Click here to see more of AB Video Solutions' work.