In the small Pennsylvania town of Arksville, a series of unexplained, horrific murders puts its residents on edge. Yet, what lies beneath those crimes is something that’s even more mysterious; something far more sinister and seemingly other-worldly than anyone could have ever imagined. The new animated web series thriller THE ARKSVILLE HOMICIDES tells the story of Mike Eidalman (portrayed by series creator Lewis Roscoe), a grizzled police detective and family man who joins forces with not only his fellow cops, but also a local priest, a self-reliant female journalist, and even the town’s most feared crime boss to solve the mystery behind those killings, and just who (or what) may be responsible for them.
A veteran of the local police force, Eidelman’s seen it all throughout his tenure, but perhaps nothing quite like the crime wave Arksville now finds itself experiencing. Devoted to his community, and as a father to his son, he’s not necessarily above taking morally questionable risks to get what he wants – as long as he achieves his efforts of fighting crime. Roscoe says that 20-24 episodes are scheduled to air on its official Youtube page. Also, the series’ prologue episode is already available to view there.
Along with Roscoe, the show’s talented voice cast features Chriss Anglin (who also voiced President John F. Kennedy in the popular video game CALL OF DUTY: BLACK OPS) as its ‘tragic hero’ Sgt. Frank Wepps, a man who’s still haunted by the memory of an arrest gone wrong; an incident that served to reinforce his moral conviction as he continues to do his job. The series also features Dallas Barnett (from the upcoming film THE HOBBIT: THE DESOLATION OF SMAUG) as Arksville Police Captain Rick Hoffman, another veteran cop who serves as a father figure of sorts to Eidelman and his fellow officers, along with being the leader of the department (a cross between veteran actor Sam Elliott and Damian Lewis’s portrayal of Capt. Winters in the HBO World War II miniseries BAND OF BROTHERS).
Natalie Beran plays newspaper reporter Margaret Hurston, one of only a few women who work at Arksville’s primary newspaper, The Arksville Telegraph. Struggling to make her mark in a male dominated industry, she leans only on herself and doesn’t suffer fools gladly. Barry Duffield (SPARTACUS: WAR OF THE DAMNED, YOGI BEAR) plays crime boss Jimmy Luciano, and while he may not be the biggest or most powerful boss in organized crime, he does whatever he can to achieve his goals by any means – even if it means acting above the law. In addition, Steven Richards portrays the town’s priest, Father William Langston. While wise and caring for his parishioners, and devoted to his religion, his persona on the pulpit masks a mysterious side that no one outside the church gates knows about.
Originally written by Roscoe in 2002 as backstory to another related project (an indie horror film called ARKSVILLE), THE ARKSVILLE HOMICIDES was inspired by several notable horror ‘films’ like SILENT HILL, plus the RESIDENT EVIL franchise. “I worked on the indie horror story with Carl Letcher and Steven Lyons. These were guys I went to high school with, and (they) had very similar interests in filmmaking and horror as I did. We wanted to make a horror movie that had the same sort (of) scares and great story that we had seen in RESIDENT EVIL and SILENT HILL. We made that film from 2001-2004,” he says.
“During that time I went away I wrote a massive backstory, which I got quite involved in, and ended up writing a novel sized manuscript for, called THE ARKSVILLE HOMICIDES in 2002. I loved the idea of quaint 1960’s township and its authorities and police force squaring off against demons, taking the ordinary and plunging it waist deep in the extraordinary! The novel I wrote sat and gathered dust for many years, before in 2009 I revisited it and began re-working it and updating it, and then in 2012 with my animation and filmmaking knowledge started making it,” Roscoe says.
Much of the cast of THE ARKSVILLE HOMICIDES came from a previous animated sci-fi web series created by Roscoe. “I had worked with a lot of talented folks on a previous animated web-series I made from 2009-2012 called FRONTIER – PRELUDE TO DARKNESS, so I was able to call on them and their actor friends (good old networking), also I explored many Facebook actors’ groups and sort’ve spammed a little I suppose, but the response was epic! There’s a lot of talented folks out there aching to do something cool, so I hope this series will fill that ‘cool’ expectation,” he says.
Perhaps the most distinct feature that viewers will notice with THE ARKSVILLE HOMICIDES is its reliance on CGI (computer generated imagery) animation. For Roscoe, the idea to create the show’s mysterious world in an animated format was born out of his frustration with the typically slow pace of live action projects. “When I was doing live-action work, I just couldn’t stand how long everything took, how you were dependant on others so a major extent, people or weather, or lighting conditions. How expensive it was to get things set up, equipment wise, and getting performances right. I thought, my God, it would be so easier if you just control all that with a switch, and animation lets you do that.”
Adapting the novelized version of his story about a town afflicted by a supernatural crime wave was difficult enough. As Roscoe explains, creating the elaborate animation was an even greater challenge. However, given his extensive knowledge of, and experience with various formats including Flash, plus 3DS Max and Maya (two computer animation programs distributed for consumer and student use by the Autodesk company), it was one that presented its own unique set of possibilities – but not without a few drawbacks. “Animation lets you do anything you can imagine, there are no limits, it allows you to tell a story on a bigger a scale as you want, and I love EPIC scale stuff! There are some downsides too, instead of filming a tree, you have to make a tree, same with simple things, like a rock, or water perhaps.”
Further adding to those difficulties was the notoriously long time that it takes to create, model and render each image before the final product is put together. “Modeling what is needed for the proposed episode can take a week if you’re going hard out. Add about 30 minutes to an hour for texturing per model. Animating takes about an hour to a few hours per shot. Then, rendering, which can takes hours to weeks per shot, and you’re looking on average at about thirty shots per scene and 2-3 scenes per episode. So I really have to get these work times down. I have cut the rendering time down by a third, as with my donations I was able to purchase a third computer to handle stuff,” Roscoe says.
Utilizing 3 computers linked together, Roscoe creates the series’ distinctive audio/visual experience with some of the highest technology in the industry: Maya, Photoshop and After Effects software for animation, Audacity for the audio portion of the series, plus motion capture devices including the Carmine 1.08 (for body movements) and Carmine 1.09 hardware (for facial movements), and the DAZ 3D software for creating character models. It’s a painstaking process that may have had its difficulties, but for Roscoe, the advantages of CGI far outweighed those problems. “The easy thing about CGI is learning short cuts, such as ‘I need another tree’. You can duplicate and slightly change a tree, and boom! Two different looking trees, things like that. Or need another character in the same uniform? Just create a new head, and slap it on an existing body, maybe change to body shape a tad and boom, a whole new character.”
THE ARKSVILLE HOMICIDES has something for both fans of horror, action and CGI-based films and TV shows alike, with thrilling action, terrifying suspense and compelling characters. It’s a story of just what can happen when a creeping, sinister force changes both a small American town – and the lives of its people. Says Roscoe: “The theme is dark. It’s a battle between good and evil. It shows how easily evil can creep into those with moral ambiguity and corruption, (and) how greed can blunt our ability to combat evil, but on the other side of the sword, whether you’re above or outside the law, (it’s) how having your heart in the right place can be all that matters. But most of all, I want it to be a scary-as-hell fun ride through a demonic attack on small town U.S.A.!”
The series’ prologue episode can be viewed below: