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A Remote and a Mouse for 'FreakyLinks'

October 01, 2000|SUSAN KING | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Perhaps while surfing the Net recently you've come across the elaborate new site dealing with the occult at http://www.freakylinks.com.

Operated out of Florida by an enterprising paranormal investigator named Derek Barnes and his two friends, Lan and Jason, freakylinks.com explores urban legends and other paranormal happenings. Recent stories posted on the site include Derek's drunken encounter with a vampire in a New Orleans bar and the discovery of radioactive kittens in Los Alamos, N.M.

But truth be told, Derek and his pals don't really exist--they are characters in the new Fox sci-fi thriller also called "FreakyLinks." The hourlong thriller aimed at the teen and twentysomething set premieres Friday.

"[The Web site] has gotten lots of hits," says the series' executive producer, David Simkins. "When Fox started airing some promos [for the series] a month or two back, they flashed the freakylinks.com URL on the screen and the hits went up like mad. At that point, people were still on the fence whether or not it was a hoax or a show.

"There is definitely going to be--I am going to use the phrase--interspecies communication between the television show and the Web site," Simkins promises. "The idea here is to give the audience a little more help in suspending their disbelief. The Web site is all played straight--played for real."

"FreakyLinks," created by Gregg Hale ("The Blair Witch Project") and Ricardo Festiva, finds Derek Barnes (Ethan Embry) running the underground Web site that examines the truths and myths of paranormal activities. One evening, images of his dead twin brother Adam--which show him being alive--arrive in his e-mail. Derek ends up joining forces with Adam's ex-fiancee (Lisa Sheridan) to find out if Adam is indeed alive. Along the way, they run into a malevolent shape-shifter and a mysterious man, Vince (Dennis Christopher), who seems to have extraordinary insight into the world of the occult.

Lizette Carrion and Karim Prince play Derek's partners, Lan and Jason, respectively.

The first episode of the show is definitely a thrill ride--complete with a spooky, empty house, lots of dark shadows and creepy things that go bump in the night. Embry and Simkins, though, hint that most of the episodes won't be as dark as the first.

"The scares will always be there," says Embry. "When we deal with the disappearance of his twin and the whole shape-shifting, I think those episodes--three or four out of the year--will be dealing with the depths of hell. There is something about the depths of hell that makes it a little darker."

Originally, "FreakyLinks" was titled "Fearsum," but the network changed the title, says Simkins, because it was too dark and confusing.

"Also, changing the title to 'FreakyLinks' is a direct link to the Web site," says Simkins. "We want to explore more fun, more laughs and scares. I guess we don't want to be contemplating our supernatural navel all that much."

Each week, Simkins says, the series will examine urban legends and bizarre contemporary tales that people perceive to be real. "Then you take those stories and sort of tip the prism slightly so you are seeing them through a different light." Creator Hale, says Simkins, manages the freakylinks.com site. "We talk to Gregg every couple of weeks and pass back notes [about the episode's plots]," he explains.

The series will also be doing the occasional Web cast. "Derek and the other characters in a story we are working up now are setting up a Web camera in a very spooky situation," Simkins says. "While you are watching your TV, the characters are not paying attention to what is being displayed on the monitor, but if you are watching at home, you can see what is creeping up on the guys."

Simkins hopes these Web casts will allow TV viewers to become part of Derek's team of investigators. "The home viewer will watch and get information off the Web cam that our characters aren't getting on the show," Simkins explains. "And at a certain point, our characters will tumble into that information or they might not. It might be something that is totally left with the home viewers."

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FreakyLinks airs Fridays at 9 p.m on Fox.

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