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Culture

L.A.’s Creepiest Sci-Fi Play is Now Available On-Demand

May 22, 2020 by Juliet Bennett Rylah
Daniel Van Thomas as Ben, Emily Goss as Maggie. Photo: E3W Productions

When the immersive sci-fi/horror show Where the Others Are opened in March, it was met with rave reviews. But because it accommodated just two audience members and two actors in a vintage Airstream trailer, physical distancing was impossible. The piece closed only days after it opened, rendering our early review irrelevant. Now, however, creators E3W Productions is offering Where the Others Are as a streaming video you can rent. This allows those who had their show date canceled or who couldn’t snag a ticket to experience it, while E3W can recoup some of the lost production costs. 

The pandemic has seen a lot of performers attempt to replicate their work virtually, some more capably than others. E3W is one of those success stories. The hour-long film is shot POV-style and the characters look into the camera with such intensity, it really is like you’re there—or at least watching a very strange and creepy ASMR video. The sound design is particularly good and it’s especially immersive in headphones. Having now seen both the real-life and video versions, I can say I was surprised to find some of the scenes worked even better for me on film. 

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The story, written by Melissa Hughes, goes like this: Your friend Maggie (Emily Goss) has asked you to come over because she’s finally leaving her abusive husband, Ben (Daniel Van Thomas). He’s a mean drunk and this isn’t the first time she’s tried to leave, but this time she sounds serious. He’s not the same person, she says. And while that could have been a good thing, Maggie believes something that isn’t a person at all has replaced the man she married. 

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The film begins as Maggie frantically ushers you into her trailer where she’s packing a bag. Too soon, however, Ben returns from the market. From this moment on, the cramped trailer is filled with a creeping dread. This isn’t a film with jump scares or gore, but a relatable horror that slowly tightens as it growers stranger.

Where the Others Are. Photo: E3W Productions

Some things, like certain props, feel flatter on screen. Theater often asks us to imbue props with more meaning than we might otherwise give them. Consider how when you sit down in a real theater and a backdrop flops down from the rafters, you might say, ‘Oh, that’s New York,’ even though it’s a static panting. Consider how that wouldn’t fly for you if you were watching TV.

But other things, including a choreographed dance scene between Maggie and Ben, worked even better on film. It was dreamier, more surreal. I also found myself noticing more overall when not thinking about what my physical body was doing in their space. I didn’t have to worry about where to stand or put my hands or if I should be nodding reassuringly as they talked to me. I was both there and a ghost. It occurred to me that this might actually be a better way for those who feel too anxious in intimate theater to get used to immersive works. (It’s also much cheaper, which makes it considerably more accessible.) 

If you saw Where the Others Are IRL, it may still be worth a second watch. The real-life show bifurcated twice, sending one audience member with Maggie both times and the other with Ben. The film gives you one moment with each of them, meaning that you’ll get at least one entirely new scene. Where the Others Are was also double-cast. So if you went to the show that starred James Cowan as Ben and Terra Strong Lyons as Maggie, this is your chance to see the other cast. 

Even if you’re not much of a theater person, this spooky tale is worth a look for fans of dark sci-fi or body horror or if you like your horror rooted in a strong narrative. And you find you want more scares from E3W Productions, check out their alternative reality game (ARG) Arcana on Instagram here.

Where the Others Are is available on-demand here for $16.

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