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Horrible Turn Takes Fan Fiction to a Higher Level

on Mon, 01/18/2010 - 00:00

When it was announced in 2008 that the online musical Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog would be released on DVD, the call also went out for fans to create short video “applications” to join the fictitious Evil League of Evil. The 10 best were subsequently included on the DVD—ranging from Tur-Mohel, a Jewish practitioner of evil, to L’Enfant Terrible, a genius female child—and these submissions immediately showcased the imagination and innovation of Internet fans from around the globe.

Chance McClain of Houston, Texas, went even further, however, by writing and filming an unofficial prequel to Dr. Horrible, the hour-long Horrible Turn. Released online in November 2009, this web production tells the story of high-school-age Billy and fellow student Kenny Hammerstein, who would later evolve into the grown-up Dr. Horrible and Captain Hammer of the web series. Incorporating original songs of its own and numerous references to Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog, this inventive endeavor has taken fan fiction to a whole new level.

“I have wanted to write and direct a movie for a long time,” McClain explained to “I got swept up in Dr. Horrible mania and decided to give it a go. I figured if I was going to shoot a movie, why not do a musical? Most of the people that worked on the film have some kind of musical background so everything came very naturally to us.” The story involves an idealistic Billy (Tyce Green) determined to thwart the actions of the Evil League of Evil by devising a love potion that would bring peace and harmony to the world. He needs the assistance of Hammerstein (Jacob Buras) to pull the plan off, however, which causes events to go awry and eventually transforms Billy into a proponent of evil instead of good.

The songs in Horrible Turn are simplistic in nature but catchy nonetheless, and often mirror the musical segments of Dr. Horrible. Hammerstein, for instance, sings “You’re all winners to me” at a high school math competition, just like the adult Captain Hammer later told a crowd of homeless people that “Everyone’s a hero in their own way.” While the original had the Bad Horse Chorus, the fan-made prequel has a trio of female Australian Outbackers, and young Billy and his Horrible Turn love interest Katie (Kristin Massa) share a fractured duet, just like Neil Patrick Harris and Felicia Day in Dr. Horrible.

Various references to Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog populate the narrative, including passing mentions of Evil League of Evil members Dead Bowie and Bad Horse, which adds to the viewing enjoyment. We also meet Johnny Snow (Christian Haile), who is briefly alluded to but never seen in the original, and witness his initial attempts at bullying his perceived “nemesis.” The characterizations of Billy and Hammerstein are also spot on—whereas the older Dr. Horrible would later comment that “the world is a mess and I just need to rule it,” his younger self declares, “The world is a mess and I just need to save it.”

The future Captain Hammer, meanwhile, is just as self-centered and egotistical, more interested in fame and womanizing than actually doing the right thing. When Billy first approaches Hammerstein in regards to assisting him, for example, the one-day superhero asks whose lives the plan would actually save. “If I’m going to waste my time saving people’s lives I need to know that they’re worth saving,” he explains to Billy. Apparently even in high school, Captain Hammer displayed an arrogant indifference.

Although not necessarily taking the online world by storm like Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog did in 2007, Horrible Turn became a success story in its own right nonetheless and has been mentioned by the likes of TV Guide and the New York Times. “The response for this project has been incredible,” McClain told Tubefilter in late November 2009. “We are awed and humbled by all of the positive press and comments and we are trying to learn from the negative stuff. Horrible Turn was our film school and we are chomping at the bit to start another project.”

The Internet has proven to be fertile ground for fans of popular culture to gather, discuss and exchange opinions ever since its incorporation into everyday life. It also enables fans to become more involved in the entertainment mediums that they most enjoy through the interaction with creators, the offering of instant feedback on projects and the emergence of online fan fiction. Horrible Turn has taken that involvement even further, however, while likewise demonstrating the creative opportunities that the Internet offers to anyone with an idea and the willingness to pursue it.

Anthony Letizia

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