Let me tell you about The Movie.
It's realer than real, 3D in a way a theatre would never be able to match. It's got sound and color and smell and lights and would be a miracle of modern entertainment if the story were better.
The Movie starts abruptly, In Media Res, if I recall my writing classes properly-in the middle of things. No title, no credits. The camera moves abruptly at times and the Director apparently scoffs at editing out dead moments or using multiple angles. The mood is all-important, but it's slow in coming. No music, just the quiet sounds of evening with the shuff-shuff of someone walking down the street with leaden feet.
Remember I said smell? Well, like the 3D movies of the past, the gimmick for this theatre is scents. Hey, combining good technology and bad art has a long-standing tradition in entertainment. At any rate, the various odors are absolutely spot on. The exhaust of the lone car that goes by is absolutely perfect. A drooping branch of an azalea has all the piquancy of the real thing.
There is a certain inexorableness to the camera's motion as the perspective continues up the street and I move between anticipation and boredom in turn. Suddenly, the scent blowers turn on full blast and I nearly reel from an overpowering odor that drowns out the others. It's both familiar and alien and I try to puzzle out what it should be. I realize that the Director is replacing the usual musical score with a symphony of scent and my opinion of him goes up a notch. It'll probably never make back the money it cost to produce it, but it might win an art film award or two.
The camera is really moving now, through a gate in a fence (white, picket, very 1960's middle-America), past a kid's bike and to the front door. The camera zooms in and out on the door, each time accompanied by a thumping sound. The door finally bursts open and the scene unfolds: a living room to the right, a kitchen door to the left, hallway and stairs. The scent is coming from the left and, predictably, the camera moves into the kitchen.
At last one of the stars comes into view. Female, attractive, dressed in a nightgown (why always a nightgown?) and vaguely familiar. Ah, well, actresses come and go and so few make their mark. The look of terror on her face was worth an Oscar, though, so I hoped I'd be seeing more of her. She was screaming, "Bill, for God's sake no! Please, no!" Her voice cracked on the last word and I didn't applaud out of an innate respect for the theatre experience.
The camera moved toward her, she screamed again and ran. Such a wonderful device the scent generator was! The mix of visual and olfactory clues was masterfully done. It was obvious that the smell came from the woman and I wondered if it was genuinely hers or whether it had just been made up by the studio. Would actors and actresses be chosen not only for talent and looks, but also for how good they smelled? If so, some of the big stars of today might be looking for new jobs according to rumors I've heard.
Out the other kitchen door, down the hallway and up the stairs. A door slammed out of sight, but the camera tracked the smell like a bloodhound. The "door thumping" was shorter this time (a light interior door) and into the bedroom. Empty, of course. Tradition demanded that the pursued retreat to the bathroom at this point. She was trying to be quiet, to mute her haggard breathing, but of course the character didn't realize that her own bodily scent was giving her away. Even being invisible wouldn't have helped. One mighty jerk and the bathroom door was on its hinges!
Her scream was piercing, by far the best I've ever heard, bar none. In desperation, she tried to fit her buxom form through the tiny bathroom window. The Director treated us to an entirely gratuitous shot of flailing legs and a naked buttocks before she was jerked from her escape and slammed to the floor. Breath knocked out, she still continued to fight until her head was slammed against the porcelain floor.
For a single, beautiful, precious moment, you see that she knew her fate was certain. The last thing she said was, "Bill" and then an extreme closeup obscured her face. There was some movement swathed in shadow and when the camera pulled back, she was no longer quite the beauty she had been. The side of her face had been chewed off, her neck was half gone and yet the body still jerked once or twice grotesquely. The floor was being flooded with the remains of her blood as her heart pumped its last.
I found myself growing hungry and suspected that it was a sick joke by the Director or a badly timed effort by the theatre management to sell more popcorn. Have you heard of subliminal messages? Ca n that work with subliminal smells? At any rate, the scents died down, and the camera kept a close watch on the body. Another gratuitous shot of her sheer negligee being dampened by sweat and, probably, urine, making it nearly transparent. The modeler had done a fine job, though, this looked exactly like the actress. They must've done a cut during the close-up, but I hadn't seen it.
And then, after boredom had began to set in again, the body jerked. Uncoordinated at first and then with greater control and surety. Suddenly the eyes sprang open! She had a stare that seemed both terribly intense and unfocused as well. It was eerie and alien and I vowed that I'd find out this actress's name so that I could watch for her in the future. Suddenly a name popped into my head, Diane. She managed to get upright, her head lolling to one side (missing neck muscles, I'm sure) and she staggered through the ruined door.
I rolled "Diane" around in my head, trying to match it to a surname. It was right on the tip of my tongue, but it wouldn't come. B-movie actress made good? A secondary soap character? Foreign star? As I struggled with this, the camera (and Dian e Whatever) moved haltingly into the street. There were dozens of jerkily moving people out there, all showing signs of attack and distress. The scene was utterly classic. It was either the worst case of sophomoric plagiarism or the best homage I could imagine.
Each of their eyes had the same look as Diane, both focused and focusless. I was somewhat disappointed; there couldn't be that many good actors for this flick, so it must have been a special effects trick.
The sound at the theatre had been kept quite low, probably to enhance the visuals and the scents, but now I could hear a deep moaning coming from the shambling actors. It was filled with a heartbreaking sense of loss and I was astonished such emotion could come from such a subtle sound. The camera panned over the mailbox on the way out. "Bill and Diane Reynolds" it read on a neatly wood burned plaque that hung from underneath. Now that was odd, I thought the actress's name was Diane, not the character's. I definitely hadn't seen this movie before . . . coincidence?
Diane joined the crowd of damaged and dismembered bodies, and shambled thr ough the streets. There was a smell of smoke and the distant wail of a car alarm. Then another scent, even stronger, hit me. The camera panned up to a treehouse. There!
Up the side of the tree and into the treehouse. In the back corner huddled a girl, maybe thirteen, with her eyes squeezed shut and her hands pressed to her ears. She peeked when the scene shifted and whispered in voice that was full of fear and anguish but had a tiny, miniscule tremble of hope. "Daddy?"
Next to her was a vanity and the camera paused there for a moment. In another bit of Hollywood trickery, it was as if there were no camera, no cameraman. A man stood framed in the pink-bordered mirror. Rumpled two-piece suit. An obvious business drone; he even had a tie. You could barely pick out the blood splashed across the front in the early evening darkness.
The camera turned back to the girl as she whispered "Daddy?" again with such a sense of sorrow that I wanted to reach out and comfort her. Such a performance! She reminded me of my own daughter.
Oh God, no.
I threw every ounce of willpower I had into stopping my body. It was as if I was just a spectator. My arms reached toward my little Barbara in a pathetic parody of affection when I saw the gun come up. It was mine, I had bought it for protection a few years ago and it had gathered dust on a closet shelf. Out of reach, so I thought.
The first bullet hit me in the chest, the next blew off my lower jaw. I think she said something as the last entered my skull through a very small hole and exited through a large one. Funny, I couldn't feel any pain, nor could I sense when I fell over, but fall I must have.
I could no longer hear or see, but the subtle, enticing smell gradually faded and was no more.
The theatre is dark.
There are no credits.
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