Today, anyone with an internet connection has access to thousands of hours of every sort of content imaginable. Given this ever expanding database comprising every possible genre and medium, it can be easy to become a bit jaded. Finding something truly novel can seem impossible. But for nearly a decade now, Baltimore-based comedian and filmmaker Alan Resnick has been offering up projects to cure this kind of fatigue.
A founding member of the Wham City comedy group, Resnick has also produced a number of short films for Adult Swim and maintained several YouTube channels. This diverse portfolio is united by an unmistakable sensibility, equal parts the anarchic anti-comedy of “Tim and Eric” and the unsettling, cerebral filmmaking of David Lynch.
While a simple Google search of Resnick’s name will pull up his many projects, a small handful best serve to give a sense of his aesthetic and abilities. For those interested in taking a ride on the wild side, here’s a crash course in the artist’s most memorable works.
The Alantutorial series was one of Resnick’s early projects, and today still stands as one of his most bizarre and elaborate. A YouTube channel founded in 2011, Alantutorial stars Alan, an odd, falsetto-voiced man who creates tutorials for nonsensical tasks. The series ran for over three years, with Resnick sporadically posting videos teaching viewers how to do things like pick up a blue chair or fill up a tiny bin with dirt.
Things take a turn, however, when Alan gets locked out of his house, apparently kicked out by those who were taking care of him. After surviving in the woods for a number of months, he’s kidnapped and trapped in a room, apparently for the purpose of continuing to make videos. Clearly somewhat fragile beforehand, the experience seems to mentally break Alan, and he begins posting erratic, volatile fragments from within his filthy room. This final sequence ends with Alan clawing his way through a wall to freedom, the unbelievable finale to one of the strangest things on YouTube.
While watching the entire Alantutorial series is well worth the time, it’s possible to trace its progression from spoof to horror through a small sampling of videos. If introducing the project to a friend, these three episodes can give them some idea of what they’re in for.
With nearly 2 million views, “how to crush a can of dr. pepper” is one of the most popular videos posted to the Alantutorial channel, and with good reason. The clip perfects the ridiculous kind of non-tutorials Resnick started out creating. In the video, Alan sets out to do exactly what his title describes, a task complicated by the fact that he only has one free hand, as the other is holding the camera.
After struggling to drill a hole in the side of his can — the purpose of which is never entirely clear — he drops wooden boards on it until it’s flattened. While there’s an undeniable zaniness about the whole process, it’s also sweet in a way. Alan is unflappable in the face of adversity, and when something goes wrong he simply treats the struggle as a part of the tutorial.
It’s with this video that the Alantutorial series begins to get dark. The clip begins with Alan on his roof, looking through the window of his second story bedroom. He explains that he’s locked out, and that he’s going to teach viewers what to do if they find themselves in the same situation. After finding all the windows are locked, he concludes he’ll just have to wait until someone lets him in, and does his usual sign off, asking those watching to like and subscribe. But the video trails on for another five minutes, with Alan weeping and muttering that he needs to find food, and something about killing.
Dubbed one of the weirdest videos on the internet by Gizmodo, “ARM tutorial” comes late in the Alantutorial series, several months after Alan has been kidnapped. The video opens on his bare feet, smeared with what could be paint or feces, and surrounded by dollar bills and bottles of urine. Alan welcomes viewers to “one of my favorite kinds of tutorials … an arm tutorial,” then proceeds to create chaos with a box full of wooden mallets. Resnick’s performance as someone trapped in a rapidly deteriorating mind is terrifying and engrossing, and the video is hair-raising.
Originally airing at 4 a.m. on Adult Swim as a part of a series of spoof infomercials, “Unedited Footage of a Bear” was the second of a number of short films Resnick and his collaborators have created for the channel. With 5 five million views on YouTube, the video is Resnick’s most widely-recognized creation, and one of his most unnerving.
The bear referenced in the title opens the clip, but after around 20 seconds, fades out, giving way to what appears to be a commercial for an allergy medication. The ad seems typical enough, with a mom explaining how her allergies had kept her from being present for her children, but now, with Claridryl, she’s back on her feet.
But things quickly go awry. Aggression is listed as a side effect, and the fine print at the bottom of the screen flashes a warning about suicidal ideation and suicidal completion happening during testing of the drug. Driving her minivan through an idyllic suburb, the woman is halted by a figure standing in the middle of the street. It’s a double of herself, who runs the woman down and brutally beats her, then runs her over in the van and leaves her for dead.
The rest of the video shows this double terrorizing the woman’s children and screaming in the basement of the family’s house. In the final shot, the original woman has dragged herself home and is lying on the front steps. Psychedelic, strobing lights begin to flash, and the woman murmurs to herself, then the credits roll.
Many have interpreted “Unedited Footage of a Bear” as an alarming commentary on the use of antidepressants. The violent double is explained as the woman’s medicated self, who has been increasingly seizing control, as seen in the clips of her chasing her children, scribbling on family photos and otherwise acting abnormal.
The attack in the street is the final stage of this takeover, at which point the woman obviously realizes something is wrong, but can no longer do anything about it. In one of the fine print blurbs that continue appearing on the screen as things spin out of control, it’s explained that “Claridryl is meant to help relieve the frequency and severity of symptoms caused by the intake of Claridryl in cases lasting more than one week.”
The idea of a medication intended to treat the effects of the medication is a fairly explicit jab at the psychotropic drug market, which includes treatments the side effects of which can worsen or create entirely new issues, leading to an ever deepening dependency on pharmaceutical aid.
Whether or not one accepts this subtext, “Unedited Footage of a Bear” is undeniably a singular bit of horror that expertly hijacks the conventions of a genre for its own purposes. The short film has all the qualities that have defined Resnick’s best work: It’s cryptic, surreal and entirely unpredictable. Hopefully, there’s no end to such creations anytime soon.