There are two very familiar universes that seem to lend themselves to adaptation in countless, and seemingly unending, ways: The Wizard of Oz, and Alice in Wonderland. There is just something about these incredibly detailed worlds that offer storytellers a myriad of ways to adapt and expand them. One thing is for sure, the worlds presented in these classic tales are the kind that can be viewed from many different perspectives; from the bright and fantastical world of Disney’s Alice in Wonderland, to the dark and haunting tale presented in MALICE, a web series from creator Phil Cook, currently embarking on it’s third season.
MALICE really doesn’t have as much to do with the Alice of our childhoods as you might think, despite its title, and the fact that the protagonists share a name (and an affinity for rabbits). I would say, if anything, it is closer to Through the Looking Glass, the second book chronicling Alice’s adventures in Wonderland; where everything is the same, but backwards (crossed with a classic haunting). “I think it was just a way of inferring a mythology without it being about that character,” said Cook, remarking on the similarities his series has with the classic novel. “I think its a little less education for the audience, instead of starting completely from ground zero.” MALICE is, instead, possibly best seen as what it is: a well written, creepy story of a family, their bizarre new home, and a young woman who must save them all from the nightmare hiding within.
MALICE revolves around a family who moves to a brand new town after their mother inherits the world’s creepiest house from their grandmother. Not long after though, they discover that the house has hidden secrets, and dangerous ones. Ghosts and monsters lurk around every corner, and when their parents suddenly go missing in the middle of the night, Alice and her sister must figure out exactly who (or rather what) has taken them, and how to get them back.
The show’s adolescent main character, Alice, and her relationship with her sister Abby, are remarkably well conceived for a series written by an adult man. For that, Cook apparently draws from his own experiences as a father. “I have two daughters. There are a great deal of anecdotal aspects of our lives in this show, so it was very easy for me to include these young women, what they would say, how they would react to a supernatural situation,” he says, adding. “And it was an interesting story to me. I always find that if you can put a young heroine in a story that traditionally is inhabited by men, just by that very nature makes it interesting.”
Perhaps the show’s greatest success, however, is the surprisingly high production value, and stunningly beautiful visual effects, which fit seamlessly with the practical effects in the show. This is especially apparent in the show’s second season, when things take a major turn for the fantastic. “The first series is mostly contained, in that it evolves around the house, but after episode six the scale of the story expands fairly dramatically, with the introduction of larger sets, and larger moments.”
Honestly, if you watch the show, “larger moments” is a bit of an understatement. I’m not going to ruin anything for you (because it’s a wonderful payoff), but the final reveal at the end of season two presents a visual effects undertaking very few web shows would even consider, let alone be able to pull off as effectively as MALICE. “I come from a visual effects background among other things,” explains Cool. “There’s actually not a huge amount of green screen in the show, but there’s just enough to keep you guessing about what is real and what is not.”
MALICE completed their second season earlier this year, and are already hard at work on season 3, which will present a whole new series of challenges for its characters, especially Alice. One year after the events of the second season finale, Alice is being haunted by strange dreams of a medieval battle. As she attempts to live a normal life in a town that sees her as anything but, she begins to wonder if her dreams are the harbinger of a greater disaster, or if she’s simply going mad. “It takes the story in a whole other developmental level for the heroine, Alice, and I think it would be a very cool thing,” says Cook.
But first they need to fund it. “The first season I actually paid for out of pocket, and in some sense it’s very liberating because you’re not beholden to anyone, you just go when you’re ready, but I can’t afford to do that this time around,” Cook explains, “so we’re going to try to raise the money first.”
To do that, they’re launching a Kickstarter campaign this summer, which will allow them to continue with the incredible story they’ve begun. They previously used the platform to raise the money needed to finish the show’s second season, so they’re no strangers to the world of crowdfunding, and from the sounds of things, they’re planning a few surprises for their fans along the way. We’ll be certain to let you know when they launch the campaign. (UPDATE: The campaign is LIVE! Check it out here, and watch the video below.)
To give the show a watch, just click here for a playlist of every episode so far. And if you’re interested in learning more about Malice, check out their website, and Facebook, and you can follow Phil Cook on Twitter.