“Get off me, GET OFF ME!” The man screams, as the shambling hoard greedily lunges at his flesh. The mass of writhing bodies collapses onto the floor on top of their victim as he howls bitterly in despair. Cold, pale hands hungrily claw all over his body, desperately pulling and tearing wherever they can as their prey screams and struggles against inevitability.
One inhumanly strong hand greedily clutches its victim by the shoulder and its owner crawls up to the desperately thrashing man’s face. The creature opens its mouth full of razor sharp teeth and-
Affectionately nuzzles his neck
“Oh for fu- CUT!” This is the fourth time this afternoon. I don’t care if it takes all day, these girls are going to do it right.
“But I thought that went really well!” The Zombie pouts, still straddling her victim.
I get up off my directors chair. It’s technically a carp fishing chair, but it helps me feel like the real thing. It’ll have to make do until I prove myself through this project. “Where’s the aggression? Where’s the inhumanity?”
“Well, I am raping him, you can’t get more aggressive than that!” She argues, hands on hips. I can see this isn’t going to be easy.
“What? No, you’re supposed to be eating him.”
“WHAT THE FUCK!?”
“Obviously not for real!” Fuck Craigslist, these extras are terrible even by the usual standard. “Grab a bunch of those organs over there and just cram them in your mouth, like you’re-”
“BUT I’M VEGETARIAN!”
“Wait, we’re the bad guys?”
“Dave, someone’s hand is in my pants.”
I’m suddenly glad my directors chair has a drinks holder.
“Ow, stop pulling it!”
There’s a saying in Hollywood – Never work with animals or children. Being completely new at this, I haven’t worked with either, but I’m certain if the person who coined this phrase had worked with monsters they’d be included in it.
My plan was simple enough, to jump on the bandwagon of amateur horror movies starring real monsters. No make up, no drunk students covered in fake blood staggering around the set. No, the current ‘in’ thing is to use the real deal. If this goes well I could be the next Romero, producing a work that movie aficionados would talk about for years to come.
Finding actors for the project was actually easier than I thought it would be. It turns out that the undead have a great love of theatre in their own world, and were highly impressed by the much higher production values of Earth’s modern cinema. I had no shortage of undead interested in playing a role, actually giving me a choice in casting and best of all, these monster actors are eager to work over here and are cheap as a result. It’s a win-win.
Anyway, there was this one particular group stood out from the rest – The Spectral Actor’s Troupe. A rather generic name, but one particular member caught my eye:
Vincentia Lionhart. An acting legend in the undead regions of the Otherworld, she had exactly what I needed, experience in both violence and acting credentials. See, in life Vincentia was a well renowned warrior, classified as a ‘hero’, and trained from childhood in combat by the world’s old religion. Once she had died and became a Wight the whole hero thing was more or less closed off to her, something about the religion seeing it as an ‘abomination’, so instead she took to performing stage plays based on her adventures. Three hundred years of acting experience is easy to come by with the undead, but someone with actual combat experience to go with it is rare.
Maybe someday I’ll actually see some evidence of it.
“Dave darling, we have to talk about this script.”
A towering, pale woman strides into the warehouse we’re renting. As always, she’s trying to be dainty and feminine about it, but being seven foot tall with a frame built for sheer brute force she can’t quite pull it off. She thrusts a bundle of papers my way. “You do know what I’m talking about, right, my dear?”
Damn it’s good to be working with a professional. I’ve been thinking about this for a while now, and I’m glad someone else has noticed. “You’re completely right, Vin, the shower scene doesn’t work with the rest of the movie. We’ll just cut it.”
She flashes a charming smile. “Oh, I’m so glad you understand! I was worried that-” She stops mid sentence and just looms over me silently, her pale face turning a deeper shade of blue before losing her composure entirely. “B-BUT THAT’S THE ONLY SCENE WHERE I’M NAKED!”
Perhaps we aren’t on the same wavelength after all.
She seems to calm down a little and gives off a little sigh. “Dave, this is exactly what we’re worried about. This entire production feels… how can I put it… a little anti-undead?”
“It’s just the whole eating people thing feels very negative in general. Surely you’ve noticed a few of the girls voicing concern and discomfort over a few of the scenes? Now I know you aren’t a racist my dear, you aren’t doing this on purpose. But between you and me…” Her voice lowers and she leans in closer. “…Is this some sort of fetish thing?”
I don’t follow. “What?”
She sighs. “There are an overwhelming number of scenes involving the undead eating men in this script. Now it’s common among playwrights to include their fetishes in their works where I’m from, but yours may be a little too… extreme for the average viewer.”
Oh. Oh god. “I-IT’S NOT A FETISH!” I try not to yell, but my reaction clearly hasn’t convinced her. “Zombies always eat people in these things, it’s part of the horror! They’re driven by instinct and-” She gently holds her hand up to silence me, an understanding smile on her face and deep disappointment in her eyes. Why did I over-react? Now she’s going to be convinced I’m some sort of pervert with an appalling taste in fetishes. I want to die. Why can’t she assume this is a racial thing like all the others?
“No one is judging you, Dave.” She’s lying. She’s lying and wrong. “But we thought it would be best to have a look at the script and maybe think of a few improvements.”
I have a really bad feeling about this.
“That’s why I ran the script by our own playwright and got her opinion on it. She’s come up with a few changes that I’m sure you’ll love!”
I was right, this is going to suck. “Such as?”
“For starters, we wanted to do away with that ghastly mass murder and cannibalism theme. I know you think the story needs it, but it really makes for some uncomfortable viewing, it also alienates the corporeal undead demographic. I promise the entire production will be better off without it.”
I wonder if its too late to make that Werewolf movie after all. “… go on.”
“Your original script is also seriously lacking in romance. You have an entire army of zombies rampaging through a city, and not one of them settles down with one of the many available men? I know it’s necessary to have some suspension of disbelief, but you can go too far, you understand.”
I’m never going to ask Vincentia’s opinion on anything ever again. Come to think of it, I don’t think I asked her opinion on any of this in the first place.
Damn that look in her eyes, I did nothing wrong!
“Of course, the most amateur mistake your original draft made was the complete omission of any sexual content. You were even thinking of cutting the single nude scene we had, it would have been disastrous! Just think, a production filled with violence and niche fetishes-”
“I don’t have a fetish!”
She places a reassuring hand on my shoulder. “Dear, you’ll feel a lot more comfortable if you were more honest with yourself. At any rate, the script as it stood wasn’t quite to the standard we are used to working with. Don’t worry, Alexis is giving you full credit for the improved story.”
How considerate. “I just think we should leave things as they are for now. Sure, the script may need some cuts here and there, it isn’t perfect, but we can deal with it all later in editing.”
Vincentia smiles. “Oh, that’s okay, you can discuss this with your ghost writer right now! Alexis, be a dear and show our director your improvements.”
“Gladly.” The faint impression of a well dressed young woman fades into view from thin air. A typical undead other than the whole floating-off-the-floor thing: glowing eyes, pale skin, lack of a pulse (presumably). She wears some form of opera mask that hides part of her face, making her expression hard to read. But I can see right through her, because she’s literally transparent.
A Ghost type.
Just what I need today, a haunting on set. I remember back when Ghosts first started appearing in old and abandoned buildings after contact was made. The guys making those ghost hunting shows were so excited, because they finally had something to show after multiple seasons of freaking out at old boilers in empty mansions. That is, until they started reviewing the tapes. It turns out that the lack of a body isn’t enough to stop some undead from their favourite pastime. The hauntings generally consisted of ethereal moans of ecstasy, photos of apparitions flashing the camera and the mysterious sounds of creaking bedsprings, all of which doomed these shows to a late night slot forever.
But hey, at least people actually watch them now.
The spirit hovers in place next to the towering Wight. I don’t know what to make of her, she looks like the bastard child of Casper and Austin Powers with tits. At any rate I’m done listening to batshit insane opinions today.
“Are we sure this location is secure?” The spirit turns to the Wight, making a ridiculous pose. I’m sure if she had bones none of this would be possible. Elbows don’t work that way, at least they shouldn’t.
Vincentia nods. “Now be courteous to our director, it was his first time writing a screenplay and he doesn’t have the experience we do.”
“I’m right here.”
The Phantom turns to me. “Do not fear, my dear director! I am Alexis Von Croy, legendary playwright and scourge of evil across all nine dimensions! I will undo the brainwashing forced upon you by the organization and restore your natural love of the undead with my dark power!”
“The Motion Picture Association of America! Did you think it was chance that Earth society frowns upon sex in movies, but enjoys acts of brutality and violence? They conspire to instil a fear of the undead in men, as part of their evil plot to attain world domination!”
Ah, it finally makes sense. This is all one big practical joke. Vin had me going there for a second, but this act has gotten too crazy. Any minute now she’ll stop this nonsense and come clean with me. Please. Please let this actually be a joke.
From nowhere, an orchestra begins to play, but within moments Vin waves a hand wreathed in spectral flame and the ghostly music stops.
“Now Alexis, remember what we agreed. No musicals.” Vincentia chides, to my great relief.
“But music is the language of love! How can I be expected to battle the organization’s brainwashing with such a hefty handicap placed upon me?” Alexis wails, arching her back and raising her hands to the sky, presumably for dramatic emphasis.
I’m not having this. I don’t care if the set is haunted for the rest of the production, I’m not having this lunatic ruin the movie. “Vin, I know your playwright doesn’t really have a body, but are you sure there isn’t some kind of medication she should be taking?”
Vincentia frowns. “You work in show-business darling, you should be more tolerant of eccentricity, especially with the interests you have.”
“It’s not a fetish.”
“Alexis is one of the best in the business. Her last play, ‘Topless Magical Ghoul Megumi’ sold out in theatres across the Palelands. She’s an artistic genius, a visionary. I understand she can be difficult to work with, but once you hear her out you’ll agree she has the ideas we need.”
I’m still not exactly filled with confidence. I notice the Wight patiently studying my face, as if she’s seeking some kind of approval. Yeah, good luck with that. “I’m just not sure this will sit well with Earth audiences. Traditional zombie movies have a market, and your…uh… ‘unique’ ideas aren’t going to translate well on screen. It’s a cultural thing. We’ll try a traditional undead approach next time.” Let no one say I’m not diplomatic.
“I knew it!” The Phantom yells triumphantly. “He’s an unwitting agent of the organization! Without knowing it, he’s sabotaging his own production! Their methods are cruel and insidious indeed, but through the power of my demonic true sight, you will see through their wicked illusions!”
How do I get this thing to stop talking? Every time she opens her mouth I – wait, where am I?
Somehow, I’m standing in the middle of an empty street. Hastily abandoned cars litter the roads, doors left carelessly open in some mad rush to escape from… something. Whatever happened here is clearly long gone, there’s no sign of anyone or anything for miles. I start to worry that I’m in danger, but my thoughts are interrupted by a dramatic and over-acted laugh.
“Fufufufu… do you see now, director? My fearful power as a Phantom?” I look up and see Alexis floating in the air, her face obscured by a hand. The only glimpse of her expression I can make out is a crazed eye peeking out from between her fingers. “Don’t you recognise it? This is our world, the world we will show our audience! A world free of the tyranny and discrimination of the MPAA!”
Now that I think about it, is that mask made of tinfoil? It’s probably made of tinfoil. “You know our movie has to be rated before we release it, right?” I’m not sure if I needed to shout, but she’s pretty high up there.
The world shifts around us in a dreamlike haze, and I realize that I’m in some kind of vision. At least I hope I am, the alternative is that she’s possessed me and I am not okay with the idea.
The world rights itself and we’re suddenly in the middle of a promenade covered in writhing bodies. Men are struggling and moaning as hordes of undead pin them to the floor, their attacker’s cold and powerful hands ripping into their clothing for the warm flesh underneath. The first thing I notice is the lack of blood. The second is that the moans aren’t actually pained, it’s more –
“Why are all the zombies having sex in our movie?”
Alexis drops her hammy acting for a brief moment to stare at me with her mouth agape. “Haven’t you been paying attention? I mean, who even writes a story about an undead army without any sex scenes?”
“Fufufu!” The change is instant. Back to that dramatic voice and idiotic posing in the blink of an eye. I’d be impressed but this sort of behaviour shouldn’t ever be encouraged.
“Please stop doing that.”
“As expected of my director! To know such a high ranking member of the conspiracy by name!” She flicks her wrist towards a door without looking, and a pulse of energy blasts into the wood, bursting it open. I get the feeling none of it was necessary.
“Come, There are more important things I wish to show you! I didn’t expect your ingrained beliefs to be altered by such a basic scene, but I assure you my power will free your mind by the end of our journey!”
I follow the ghost of cinema atrocities yet-to-come, half expecting to see my own career’s gravestone along the way. As I pass through the door, I ask the question that has been plaguing me since Vincentia started this insanity:
“Why didn’t you guys just go into porn?”
Alexis freezes in place and turns to face me, her eyes full of fury. I immediately regret this.
“Porn?” She growls, slowly floating towards me. Her overly-dramatic tone now filled with venom and righteous fury. “Have you ever even watched one of those things? Have you seen the sheer lack of respect they have for the simplest of storytelling? ‘The fridge is faulty! The cable’s broken! Who gives a shit, I’ve got my tits out!” She leans her twisted face into mine, and my vision is filled with her intense yellow eyes. “The porn industry takes the most wonderful act a man and woman can achieve together and makes it into something soulless, tacky, basic. Go into porn? Go to hell!”
“I…uh, I see…” And there we go, something else I’ll never ask a monster ever again, right along with ‘ooh, what does that spiky tail thing do?’ Manticores, not even once.
I guess it’s just as well, the first industry to be overrun after contact was pornography. When you think about it the whole thing is the average single monster’s dream job.
As we walk down a dark corridor Alexis reverts back to her theatrical and overplayed performance. “In our improved tale the undead are liberators! Heroes! The humans fear them at first, but learn the error of their ways once the first wave of rapes are over!”
I already see numerous plot holes forming here. “Wouldn’t most people resent these ‘liberators’ for all the zombie rape?”
Alexis looks confused. “No? Why would they?” At this point I’m too fed up to attempt reasoning with this lunatic, and besides, we’ve reached the end of this passage. A decrepit, worn door stands before us, doubtlessly containing more potentially career-ending insanity Alexis is eager to subject me to.
“In our improved story, Vincentia is now the leader of the Undead Liberation Front. Their aim is to help humanity overthrow the organization’s shackles so true love between man and undead can bloom once again!”
“…by raping them.”
“But among the enemy there is one man our heroine pines for, a man who she alone can save from his-”
“Wait, what organization? There’s nothing like this in the original script!”
“I told you, the MPAA! They brainwash-”
“You can’t have the MPAA be the villains in a zombie movie, it doesn’t make any sense!”
“That’s exactly what they want you to believe! They hide in plain sight!”
And I’m the one sabotaging this movie. I draw a deep breath and stare down the door. I don’t want to go in, whatever is in there will be horrible and unusable. Originally Vin was to play a cursed noblewoman whose grave is disturbed by a digging operation. Freed from her tomb, she was to raise an army of the undead and lay waste to the nearby town, only to be defeated by an ancient voodoo artefact. Yeah, it’s hardly Oscar material, but the main draw of the movie is meant to be real undead starring in it. It’s only an amateur B-movie, but it’s still better than the insane ravings the Phantom has turned it into.
Let’s get this over with.
I walk into a dilapidated room, left in ruins by years of apparent neglect. Pillars of dust are illuminated through cracked windows by the glowing orange sunset outside, the bare wooden floorboards are stained with age and creak with every step. A figure stands to the far end of the room, their back turned to me as they stare out of a grimy window. As I get closer I recognise Vincentia. She’s wearing the ancient battle armour featured in my original script. I shouldn’t be this happy to see one of my ideas actually being used by this maniac, but its the first evidence I’ve seen of my input being valued so far.
As I get closer she turns, arms open wide, and dramatically addresses me. “My love, can’t you see the organization is manipulating you? Why do you not question their cruel discrimination of the undead?” For someone with centuries of acting experience I expected better. I hope this is just a limitation of Alexis’ visions because Vin is really phoning it in here. For lack of anything better to do I look around for the poor sap playing the love interest.
The room is otherwise empty. Did Alexis forget to include them?
I look to the Phantom hovering in front of the door. Her arms are folded, and is directing an intense glare towards me. I look back to the illusory Vincentia, who is currently standing frozen in place by the window. Oh, she has to be kidding.
“Are you joking? I can’t act!”
“We need a leading man! One who doesn’t just read the lines off a script, but who LIVES their character! Did I not tell you I’d save you from the organization? This is a tale of YOUR redemption, a man who views the undead as monsters, a man who believes zombies feast upon the living, a man who thinks Wights are affected by Voodoo of all things! It doesn’t even make sense in your own world’s folklore, I mean, what were you thinking?!”
Huh. Come to think of it I was probably thinking about Jamaican zombie folklore at the time.
“Look, I’m flattered, but not interested. We’ve already got a couple of people playing the protagonists, we’ll stick with them.” I’m not starring in this. People I know might see it. Of course, I’d lose any respect for them the moment they admitted willingly watching this lunacy.
Alexis grins maliciously. “It would seem our love interest’s brainwashing is powerful indeed! But love will always triumph in the end! Let us see the machinations of the organization stand up to THIS!”
Alexis releases a deep growl and holds her palms to me. Whatever she’s doing seems to be placing a great strain on her, and out of a sense of self-preservation I slowly begin to back away from her. I don’t want another display like earlier, or some kind of ectoplasmic goo on me. It apparently never comes out in the wash.
After what appears to be a deep concentration the Phantom releases her built up energy. “HYPEEEER LOOOOVE BEEEEAAAAM!”
The room is silent. Which is a shame because it somehow makes the second hand embarrassment even worse.
A steady look of horror grows on the visible portions of Alexis’ face. I feel bad, she’s finally realized how stupid all of this has been, but even still it can’t feel good. I take a step forward to console her, but she speaks first.
“I-impossible! You withstood my ultimate attack! Only the masters of the Novaya plains normally have such a high resistance to-”
Fuck it. I’ve had enough. She wins. I’ll direct this steaming pile using an alias and go back to never working with monsters ever again. “If I agree to work on this complete shit show will you promise to never do any of this again?”
She stops mid-crazed monologue and smiles broadly. “You mean it? You’ll use my script!?”
I’m about to begrudgingly confirm my agreement when a powerful arm gently places itself around my neck. It startles me, but at least I know I’m back in the warehouse and out of this madwoman’s deranged fantasies.
“Oh, I just knew Alexis would bring you round, my dear!” Vincentia gushes, dragging me towards her trailer. “Now, we simply must practise our love scene! I expect nothing but the most passionate performance from my new co-star!”
We leave the Phantom proudly announcing her victorious crusade against the forces of evil to no-one in particular, the empty walls of the building echoing with her overly-dramatic laughter. I’d slap her, but she’s a ghost and I’m about to spend my evening under a Wight too heavy for my feeble arms to lift. Come to think of it, things could be much worse.
Maybe this won’t be so bad after all. They’ll never let us release this trash over here, but on the other side of the portal? Clearly there’s a market for it. I’ll make a name for myself yet, just not in the way I planned.
As I’m thrown onto the bed, and Vincentia’s hands erupt in spectral flame, only one thought now runs through my mind:
How do I tell her those don’t actually show up on camera?