Sometimes, an artifact of pop culture becomes popular in an unexpected way. This could be a film being remembered for a single song used in a montage or a television show better known for one random gag than its actual plot. With the explosion of social networking forms in recent years, the animated gif has begun to take center stage as a microcosm of this very phenomenon. You might not have seen the episode of The Tyra Show where she rants against the tabloids for daring to publish a photo of what she actually looks like. You very well may have seen any of the numerous animated gifs that came out of that bizarre episode.
Kiss my fat [butt], indeed, Tyra.
Whether its a composite of various anime characters responding to a modern pop culture event or an actual cutting of a reality show no one watched, animated gifs pop up as shorthand for any number of Internet occurrences. I recently encountered one for the first time that disturbed me. It's embedded after the jump.
Messed up, no? I've seen it pop up on a few different sites--message boards, Tumblrs, personal blogs, etc.--and had to find out where it came from. Was it a misguided foreign commercial? A gag on a sitcom Halloween episode? Entirely staged to be a gif?
The answer comes from a short film released online by Drew Daywalt called Bedfellows. The short is finished in under two minutes and does a lot to build suspense very quickly.
This short film is a riff on an old urban legend that pops up a lot of Facebook. That story is your typical babysitter in peril scenario. A young woman watches a neighbor's kids while they go out for dinner. The children are already asleep and not causing any trouble. She gets bored while the parents are eating and calls for permission to watch cable TV in their bedroom. They agree. She then asks for permission to cover the creepy clown statue in the corner of the bedroom. Silence on the phone. The mother instructs her to get the kids out of the house and call the police. They don't own a clown statue.
Daywalt's film spins it in a more adult direction. A woman is woken up in bed by a phonecall. She was sound asleep next to her boyfriend. Or at least she thinks she was. I've embedded the video below. Warning: it ends with a jump scare.
If I'm being perfectly honest, I believe the animated gif is more effective than the short film. The film didn't need the big jump to be effective at the end. What we imagine will happen is far more terrifying than jumping up for a boo scare. That's a simple matter of editing. The quality of the short, in spite of that choice, is top notch (especially the score and sound design).
And now you know where that creepy gif came from.