Authors: Ryan Craig Bradford
Tags: #YA, #horror, #male lead, #death, #dying, #humor
I’m positive that
The Lost Boys
is the greatest vampire movie ever made, only because it’s the dumbest. Most vampire movies become bogged down by romance and other boring stuff. Or what Greg Mackie called it: moral ambiguities and penetration motifs. He was into that kind of theory stuff.
I lean my bike against the window of King Kong Video, Silver Creek’s only rental store. The clerk, a balding twenty-something, stares through the glass and frowns. He wears glasses and has a beard shaved to create a fake jaw line on his soft face.
A large portion of King Kong’s selection consists of VHS tapes. They don’t stock new releases, which is fine by me—I just download whatever I can’t find. New movies aren’t really scary anyway. I’m pretty sure the store stays in business because of their adult section, but it’s possible to find gems that only exist in analog: B-grade films with lots of gore and nudity. Some of them are actually okay.
“Please don’t lean your bike against the window,” the clerk says. “It could break it.” He’s got some pretentious foreign movie playing on the TV. Waves of an incomprehensible language float through the air. There’s a
poster taped on the wall behind the counter. It’s Collin Stephenson, the third kid to go missing.
The Lost Boys
in?” I ask.
, but types the request into King Kong’s ancient computer system. He hits a key, and the machine lurches to life. It sounds like actual gears are carrying out the function. Collin smiles at me from over the clerk’s shoulder. It’s been a long time since Collin’s parents have printed any new flyers, making this poster somewhat of a collector’s item. I wander into the inventory while the computer thinks.
I peruse the horror section, admiring the artwork on movie boxes, noting which ones have the scariest screenshots on the back.
is a good one;
is all right but it has the best name of any movie.
is one of my favorites. I watched that twice in one night before.
When we were little, my brother and I were so scared of these boxes that we’d dare each other to look at them. Our mom made us stop when Brian started seeing monsters in the closet.
I pick up another box. The movie’s called
On the cover, a claw pokes out from the rim of a wicker basket and a frightening set of eyes peer out from deeper within.
is about two brothers: Duane and Belial. Conjoined twins. Doctors separate them at birth because of Belial’s monstrous appearance—like a tumorous mound growing out the side of Duane. Just a pile of skin molded into teeth and arms, really.
As adults, Duane carries Belial around in a wicker basket to exact revenge on the doctors that separated them. Because that’s what brothers do.
Last year me and Brian wanted to be Duane and Belial for Halloween, but we couldn’t agree on who got to be the deformed twin.
I drop the box and catch it in mid-air before setting it back on the shelf.
“It’s out,” says the clerk. “
The Lost Boys
. Computer says so. Says it was rented two weeks ago.”
“Can I put a hold on it?”
“What’s the name?”
It’s annoying. I’ve been in this guy’s store nearly every weekend for the last two years and he still doesn’t know my name. Fuck his window. I hope my bike
break it. “Nightshade.”
The guy clacks away at the keyboard. His brow furrows. “Interesting. Says here that you were the last one to rent it.”
“What?” The clerk turns the ancient monitor toward me. The name NIGHSHADE reads out in green text. “I don’t have it.”
“Are you sure? You weren’t the one who rented it?” He slides his glasses up the bridge of his nose. “I’m pretty sure it was you.”
“I rent a lot of movies here, but not that one. I don’t have it.”
“Pretty sure it was you. I have a good memory, Nightwing.”
“Mmhm.” A victorious breath. “I don’t know. Not my problem. It’s on your family’s account, so either find it or pay the fine.”
The cassette playing the foreign movie cuts out. Dialog becomes muddled. Lines of static roll down the screen and the picture jumps from left to right. The image freezes and a loud clicking comes from inside the VCR. Interior whirring speeds up until the machine’s mouth spews out the tape in long strands.
“Shit,” says the clerk with more resignation than annoyance. I leave without renting anything.
The main streets of Silver Creek eventually feed into the suburban neighborhoods where houses are modern and earth-toned. You used to be able to walk outside at night and watch your neighbor’s big-screen TV from the street. You could even hear the pummeling action through their surround-sound. Most everyone keeps their blinds closed now. I stand at the entrance of my own house, hand on the door. Vibrations from my parents’ expensive sound-system massage my palm in spurts. This evening’s attempt at twilight is filtered through haze; shadows look smeared. It’s as if a far-off volcano has spewed its evil, and dominant winds have brought the ashes of creatures to settle in the atmosphere over our town, a dusty swarm of spirits that dims the sunlight.
I turn the knob and push. The house is vaguely humid. Mom’s watching a show about historical hauntings. On the screen, some guys are using night vision cameras and EVP recorders to prove the existence of ghosts. They never find anything, but my mom’s completely addicted. She doesn’t even know what EVP stands for.
They’re playing back the audio recording, enhanced for home viewers. The result is a high-pitched squeal that drops out in rapid successions. The ghost hunters try to convince us that this pattern is a ghost saying,
Get out of my house.
“Mom,” I say. “Hi!”
Mom looks up from the TV. The screech continues. She waves. “Jason. I didn’t see you.”
I fall onto the cushion next to her. She has no scent anymore. In fact, a faint antiseptic odor has overtaken everything, muting out any sense of home. It’s the smell of keeping yourself busy, keeping your mind off things.
Mom points to the screen. “This house. They say it’s the most haunted house in America.”
“Don’t they say that about all the houses?”
On the screen, a stationary camera catches a door closing by itself. The creak is deafening.
I shout my question again. Mom laughs. The crew runs toward the camera. The night vision filter makes their eyes look simultaneously alive and soulless, like wild animals. The host’s fear—captured by the green filter—is by far the scariest thing about these shows, not the closing doors or muffled audio. Darkness makes everyone look feral.
The show cuts to commercials that are nearly twice as loud as the ghost show. I stand to leave. Mom grabs my hand, squeezes, and lets it go. A loving acknowledgement. A wordless
or another deep-meaning pleasantry. I leave her alone to watch her show.
I push through the kitchen door and into an overbearing cloud of smoke, like walking through a sweaty cobweb. The smoke detector buzzes; its alarm sounds weak from overuse.
A pot sits on the stove; flames reach up the side with demonic glee. I shut the monster down. There’s no water left, just burnt spaghetti stuck to the bottom. I turn the sink faucet on and put everything under the cooling rinse. The pot, relieved of its torture, gives off a heavy sigh and unleashes one last puff of steam into the air. I silence the smoke alarm by taking it off the wall and removing the battery.
My dad walks in, waves smoke away like he’s used to it. He opens the fridge and pulls out a diet root beer. He empties half of it in one gulp. A belch blossoms out of his throat, and I smell a day’s worth of closed-mouth.
“What’s with all the commotion in here?” He nods toward the disassembled smoke alarm in my hand. “That’ll kill us, you know.” He winks and finishes his soda.
“It was going crazy. Somebody left the food on the stove.” I pick the pot up out of the sink and show him the caked-together mass of spaghetti, brown and drowning in the tepid water.
“Wasn’t me,” he says and lets the room suffocate on scalding air while he opens another can.
We eat sandwiches that night. Peanut butter and honey. The ghost show is still running (some sort of marathon, I guess). We eat at the table, but all our heads are turned to the TV. I peel the crusts off my bread and dangle them above my mouth before dropping them in.
The screech of an EVP recording makes us all wince. I look over to my mom, and her eyes are hidden behind glasses reflecting the images of men running from invisible pursuers.
At the commercial, my mom turns the sound down.
“How was school?” she asks.
“It’s Saturday,” I say.
“That’s my boy,” my dad says. He crams a last bite of sandwich into his mouth.
“Can I spend the night at Steve’s?”
“Sure,” Mom says. “Whatever you want.”
“Oh!” Dad says. “Honey, did you know you left the pot on the burner today?”
Mom looks down at her sandwich as if it’s a piece of evidence. “Oh.”
“Sorry,” she says. “Must’ve forgot.”
Dad nudges me. “
” He chuckles. “Get it?” He says this like an inside joke. “Get it?”
“I knew I forgot something,” she says.
“Damn near burned the house down. Ask Jason.” He looks at me for approval. I stare at the crumbs on my plate. “She
,” he says again with some mysterious emphasis. He mouths it to me while Mom watches the ghost hunters. I clear my place without asking to be excused. Mom turns the soundtrack up to ear-splitting levels. Dad grabs my wrist. He’s laughing so hard that the crumbs on his belly are shaking off onto the carpet. Tears stand in his eyes. I still don’t know what he finds so funny.
“Get it?” he keeps asking.
We didn’t fuck around when it came down to business: just like how the original
was a better movie than
Evil Dead II
. Just like how the original
was better than
Friday the 13
, but still not as good as
Nightmare On Elm Streets
. Just like how
was good, but every other remake of a Japanese horror movie sucked. Just like how the
might be the best comedy-horror ever made, and how there really hasn’t been a good vampire movie since
Like how we knew that the original
Dawn of the Dead
was filmed at the Monroeville Mall in Monroeville, Pennsylvania. Like how it’s lame that you now have to say “the original” when talking about a lot of horror movies.
Like how we thought Pinhead was a good villain but
28 Days Later
is not a zombie movie, technically.
And how movies aren’t really as scary as they used to be.
Horror business was our business, and we didn’t fuck around.
It’s 3:00 a.m., and Steve and I have watched
The Thing, Pet Sematary,
a movie that has invigorated our bloodlust due to its lack of gore. Our comments are giddy from the soda running through our system. Empty cans form a pyramid in the middle of the floor. We talk along with the lines and cover our ears at the tense parts because the surprising sounds still make us jump.
We’ve done this before.
We agree that
is going to be the next movie we watch. Most of our marathons eventually lead to this movie. Steve crawls to the VCR to switch out the tapes. We still watch VHS because nothing has ever been scary in high definition. While he fumbles with the ancient machine, the overbearing silence gives birth to creatures lurking in the dark corners.
Finally, the movie fires up and the creatures scatter, leaving only shadows.
“Do you think we could ever get a girl to do a naked scene?” Steve asks. I’m thinking the same thing. Steve likes movies as much as I do, but he likes to talk about sex more than anyone I know. It may be the only remarkable thing about him. He has that single-minded characteristic reserved for stock characters. He’d be the first to die in a teen slasher flick. He’ll make me sit through any boring movie if it has the slightest prospect of boobs. Sometimes our horror marathons turn into soft-core
“Probably not,” I say. “How do you ask a girl to do that?”
“Ally will do anything for you. Just say it’s for your movie.”
This is his roundabout method of asking me to get Ally naked in front of the camera. It’s a feat I’ve thought about many times. Ally lives across the street from me. I can see into her house from my bedroom.
On the screen, a girl in panties ventures off into the dark woods.
Steve has a point. On more than one occasion, I’ve compromised Ally’s integrity for the sake of our movies. I’ve dunked her in lakes, made her roll around on graves, and covered her with so much fake blood that she developed a unique method of washing it out of her hair. I think it has something to do with caustic chemicals.
“I don’t think that Ally would do it,” I say. “And what other girls do we know?”
“There’s a girl in my um, math class—” He pauses to watch the girl in the movie get raped by a tree. “She seems like she would. She’s got huge boobs.” He cups his hands out in front of him like he’s twisting radio dials. He adds, “We should steal that for our movie,” referring to tree-rape.
“Yeah.” I crack open another soda. The caffeine pushes my eyes slightly, makes them bulge. I forget about the girl with the huge boobs to watch a
get chopped into pieces. Bodily dismemberment. “We should steal that too.”