Underground Film Journal

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Web Series: Next To Heaven: Judy’s Smile

By Mike Everleth ⋅ September 1, 2011

Sometimes a happy, smiling face can inspire joy and encouragement. Other times, it can instill a murderous rage. The second option is the case in the episode “Judy’s Smile” from Rob Parrish’s Next to Heaven web series. Parrish re-edits video found on Archive.org and composes new, surreal — and usually very funny if you have a dark sense of humor — voice over. “Judy’s Smile” is one of his darkest efforts yet, taking an innocuous film of a brother and sister and layering a disturbing subtext over it.

Episodes of Next to Heaven are hosted by Blip.tv and the series is very atypical of the mainstream fare hosted on that video sharing site, where one normally finds vlogs, chat shows, comedies, dramas, etc. The site doesn’t even offer ‘experimental,’ ‘avant-garde’ or ‘cult’ categories probably under the correct assumption that those categories would be poorly trafficked. (Parrish lists Next to Heaven under drama and comedy.)

So, it’s good that a series like Next to Heaven is out there, infiltrating the ordinary with its cruel, absurdist humor. Parrish has been working on the series for quite a while now, off and on since 2006, and is really keyed in on putting a debased spin on usually feel-good films and videos — classic advertisements, educational films and the like.

“Judy’s Smile” has a particularly excellent ebb and flow with a good plot that drags the viewer around. Happy times are subverted into a disturbing psychological reckoning. A film that presumably was made to show children how to live a well-adjusted life in ’50s suburbia becomes a confession on how living under such a facade can instill a  lifelong, traumatic maladjustment.

You can watch more episodes of Next to Heaven either directly on Blip.tv or on Parrish’s blog where he sometimes reveals a little backstory on the making of the episodes, such as “Judy’s Smile” where he confesses he may have crossed some sort of line of good taste. Well, thank goodness he did.