Shatter Belt


‘…a wild Twilight Zone/Outer Limits anthology of weird and out-there stories…’

If you don’t know the name, James Ward Byrkit scored one of the most celebrated debuts in years when he made Coherence, a micro-budget, sci-fi movie that successfully messed with our heads in a memorable way that left many enquiring minds keen to see what Byrkit would do next. He’s following up with a new series filmed with Kickstarter assist during the pandemic called Shatter Belt, a wild Twilight Zone/Outer Limits anthology of weird and out-there stories, and if the three we saw as part of SXSW 2023 are anything to go by, Shatter Belt looks like it should be quite the ride…

Skipping episode one, which screened elsewhere, we start with Episode 2; Immotus, in which an apple is discovered that…does nothing. That probably doesn’t sound that exciting in itself, but let’s say it again; an apple that does nothing. It doesn’t age, or change, as characters discuss, ‘absence of evidence isn’t evidence of absence…The universe is coded and that’s a glitch’ but what does, or could, that glitch actually mean? Immotus finds a start-up enterprise group pondering in an increasingly raucous manner what the potential significance of this forever apple might mean…Episode 3, The Specimen, sees Patton Oswald channelling his inner sad-sack to moving effect as low-life Dervey Ryan who has meagre ambitions in life; we switch from his humble schemes to the far, far future, where an excavation reveals something about the past that pertains to his immediate predicament.

Both of these segments are polished, stimulating affairs, but the best of the bunch is probably Episode 4 Pearls, in which a group of guests at an impossibly high-end restaurant find themselves horrified by the kind of meal that $7000 dollars buys you today. While there’s a little cross-over with the recent The Menu, the high concept cuisine featured here take the narrative in a whole new direction, with Abigail Spencer a stand-out…

‘Go to China. Eat Chinese food…of course there, they just call it food,’ is a key line here; if you recognize it from Joey and Chandler in Friends, you’ll still not get the significance it gains in The Specimen. What means something in one environment means something different elsewhere, and may not be recognisable due to the cultural shock or surprise. That’s kind of the uniting idea between these three very different stories, but each is beautifully told with the same sense of sinister wonder that imbued Coherence. While Byrkit may not yet have the kudos of Rod Serling, the Twilight Zone creator paved the way for mind-bending fare like this, and streaming services should note that there’s a huge potential audience for such dark, original fare if handled as well as this. M Night Shyamalan hasn’t got a monopoly on the old blindsiding narrative twist, and Byrkit’s visions have a taste and flavor all of their own.

And in case you’re wondering, the title Shatter Belt, according to Wiki, refers to a ‘a concept in geopolitics referring to strategically-positioned and -oriented regions on a political map that are deeply internally divided and encompassed in the competition between the great powers in geostrategic areas and spheres.’ That’s high falutin’ stuff, but the take-away is that these are three awesome little twisted tales from a film-maker who seems to know exactly what he’s doing. I’ll be putting up links, streaming info and trailers when there’s info about how you can see Shatter Belt…

This is too new for a trailer as yet, but here’s Byrkit talking about how Shatter Belt works.


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    • Black Mirror? Only saw a few, but fairly old hat now…and there was a Twilight Zone reboot too, but you dodn;t need a brand name for this; twisty turny stories always rock!

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