Chapter Three: The Revenge of the Shudderites
Things are looking grim for our heroes at the mansion. While IL tries valiantly to post another review, the forces of evil are gathering. Steve Brown, Zombos and Chef Machiavelli are desperately trying to hold off the Shudderites and their vile, but playful pets at the pantry door. But can they be stopped? Will Chef Machiavelli ever be able to prepare the evening meal again, or will Zombos be shaked and baked instead? Looks like another takeout night at the mansion, and no one is buying. At least, no one human!
"Mr. Zoc! Mr. Zoc!" cried Glenor Glenda the maid, running down the hall from the pantry.
"I'm rather busy blogging," I told her.
"But you must come at once! Mr. Zombos is taken by those nasty creatures, and Steve Brown is lying unconscious by the pantry door."
"Where's Chef Machiavelli?" I yelled back.
"I don't know. Missing!"
Great, I thought, definitely a takeout night. Must I do everything around here? I am, after all, only the valet. I pushed aside my laptop. The Hills Have Eyes uncut version DVD review would have to wait until I attended to this annoying 8th Dimension incursion into the mansion. As I hustled down the hall, I stopped briefly to pick up a nice Narsil-looking sword and hefty battle-axe from one of the medieval suits of armour that line the east hallway leading to the kitchen.
I found Steve Brown lying unconscious on the kitchen floor. "Fetch some Scotch whiskey, if you please," I told Glenor. "Make it snappy."She quickly returned with a bottle. "Have you no sense of decency, woman?" I told her, after seeing she brought the wrong bottle. "Not the vatted malt! Bring back the Royal Brackla. The man is unconscious you know. I mean really."
She returned with the correct bottle this time. I poured some into a glass and took a gulp. It was going to be a long night. I then poured another glassful and lifted Steve Brown's head to pour a bit of the liquid through his lips. He awoke with a cough and a request for more. Good man.
"The bastards swarmed all over us," he said, in-between sips. "Kept calling Zombos your name. They wouldn't believe him when he said he wasn't you. Boy are they pissed. What've you been writing in those blogs of yours?" he asked, standing on his feet again.
"Now is hardly the time to discuss my blog posts." I retorted. "We must save Zombos and Chef Machiavelli."
"Well, it's not going to be easy."
As Steve Brown spoke those words, my mind drifted back to a few months ago, before all this madness descended upon the mansion. I remember as if it were only yesterday…
“That was disturbing,” said Zombos. We were leaving the theatre after seeing The Hills Have Eyes .
“Yes, the snuff horror situations were—”
“No, no, I meant the annoying political barb,” he interrupted.
“Oh,” I said, “you mean the father being a republican, and getting them into the hellish predicament in the first place, and the milquetoasty democratic son-in-law who rises to the occasion and unloads a truckload of whoop-ass on the radiation-mutated hill people after being pushed to the edge of sanity? I hardly noticed it.”
“The director is French, isn't he,” asked Zombos.
“ Alexandre Aja , yes, I believe so.”
“Then that explains it,” he concluded.
“Actually, I think hubris played a much greater role than politics. The father's cocksure attitude left him prone to making bad decisions. Oh, right, that does apply to most politicians, doesn't it?”
“Politics,” we both said, and nodded in agreement.
“Interestingly enough, it reminded me of Wrong Turn,” I said.
“Yes,” agreed Zombos, “especially with that decrepit, degenerate-owned gas station in the middle of nowhere, and that scene with the victims' derelict cars dumped into that huge atomic blast crater. Chilling.”
“The extreme long-shot zoom-outs showing the other huge craters surrounding it were especially effective,” I added. "Great matte work there."
“What I do not understand is why mutated, inbred, and cannibalistic families in every horror film are always depicted as more of a solid social unit than the normal, bickering tourist families they prey on,” pondered Zombos.
“Goals,” I replied. “Mutated, inbred, cannibalistic families have fewer goals.”
“I never thought of it that way.” Zombos rubbed his chin. “I suppose that could be an explanation.”
“Well, they certainly do not need to worry about jobs, taxes, school, retirement, or the dozens of other things that keep normal people awake at night and bickering among themselves. Just finding food: one simple goal that keeps them all working as an insane, but strong, cohesive unit,” I said.
“They sure do eat a lot, don't they? The least they could do is cook the meat. Revolting.”
“Gore-hounds would not like that. ‘The redder the better' is their motto.”
Zombos stopped walking.
“What always amazes me is the sheer dim-wittedness of the so-called normal family, or frisky teenagers if you will, that are always placed in harm's way in these films. You would think that after all this time, with all the sordid chaos that happens in the world, they would be better prepared to handle difficult situations, and have a little bit of a clue. I mean, you're traveling in the desert, hundred plus degree heat, no water, no civilization, and you take the scenic route? Especially one that a spooky and unbathed gas station attendant, who obviously doesn't have much of a social life, tells you to take? In a '88 Airbus, no less.”
“Well, at least the detective father carried a few guns with him,” I said. “They should not have split up though. It is always convenient for the horror film writer to have his soon-to-be-victims always split up, but that plot expediency is wearing thin.”
“That's another point,” said Zombos, “these mutated, sadistically maniacal families never split up. They always carry out well-orchestrated attacks on those dim-witted and ‘oh, let me go off alone' family members as a group.”
Zombos was on a roll. I rarely see him this reflective.
“That was quite a horrific scene,” I interjected, “using the father as a decoy to lure the family out of the trailer, and then attacking that poor girl. Quite a statement about wearing an iPod to bed, don't you think?”
“Biting off the head of that little defenseless parakeet, too — my word,” added Zombos, shaking his head. “I found the Test Village 3-B to be rather horrific also.”
“You mean when the son-in-law goes through the mining tunnel and finds that mock-up town filled with mannequins? Yes, the mise-en-scene is well executed. His confrontation with the mutated maniacal family members is also memorable. A baseball bat against an axe; I think I rather have the axe, though.”
“The big-brained fellow singing the national anthem was a wicked touch.” Zombos clapped his hands together. “Oh, now I get it, baseball bat and national anthem. Subtle. His ‘breakfast' quip is classic in simplicity, but also chilling in effect.”
Zombos started walking, then stopped again.
“That scene with the children was more horrific than anything else in the film,” he said.
“Yes,” I replied, “in the midst of all that carnage and insanity, to have a hideously deformed child innocently ask you to play with her and her equally disturbing playmate… that was a masterful, almost poetic touch. I dread to think what snacks she's been having. No Fig Newtons or chips in that place.”
“Definitely not,” agreed Zombos. “I do wonder how much longer we can watch such films, however.”
“Why is that,” I asked.
“It seems every snuff horror film relies on the same basic characterizations and script antics to sustain, essentially, an often repeated story, and of course, let's not forget the gore factor: that needs to keep escalating to provide shock value to those ever more jaded gore-hounds out there. Most of the elements in this film, given that the direction and scripting is above average, still used the same old hash, so to speak. Can redundancy sustain art?”
“I would say that most horror-heads just want to be scared, or shocked, and don't really worry about the artistic side of things. Just look at that sequelization antic at the end. What was an emotional and joyous reunion and survival against almost insurmountable odds turned quickly into a cheap cliché that destroyed the film's denouement.”
We finally made it to the minivan, but our discussion continued long into the night. At least I got Zombos to commit to never buying an 88 Airbus and taking life-altering directions from people of questionable repute. The both of us have seen far too many horror films to do something as stupid as that.
"Say didn't the uncut version of it just come out on DVD from Fox Home Entertainment?" asked Steve Brown, jarring me back to the present. He was looking at his signing gadget. "It reads mental waves, too." he said. He saw the expression on my face. "Well, how do you think we stay ahead of Fedex all the time?"
I nodded. "Yes, I was writing my review about it before Glenor came to fetch me."
"Don't forget to mention the wonderful extras on the disc," he said. "That Surviving the Hills: Making of The Hills Have Eyes behind the scenes look at the filming of key scenes and makeup effects is very informative. I'm amazed at how many one-takes they had to do, such as the car crash scene, and the Airbus explosion toward the end of the film. Budgets can be a real killer."
I poured another round of drinks as we continued to discuss the extensive extras on the disc.
"Yes," I added, "and I didn't know that the gas station was actually built in Morocco. The landscape apparently matched the New Mexico desert perfectly. What did you think of that makeup segment on Michael Bailey Smith's Pluto mutant look? Quite elaborate how the disfigurement designs were first done graphically on the computer, then life-size maquettes were sculpted and painted before they went ahead with the actual makeup process."
"That was amazing," said Steve Brown. "He reminded me of Chunk from the Goonies with that look of his. What I found quite astounding was the CGI and makeup were seamlessly blended together. Take the Ruby character, for instance: her mutant look, with the over-large eyes and distorted facial features–I didn't realize it was CGI-based. Yet when you watch her character on film, it doesn't look like CGI."
"No, it doesn't." I agreed, and emptied my glass.
"The commentary is superb. Stroke of genius to have the director, art director, screenwriter, and producers discuss the film. You get quite a range of perspectives when those creative people are given the chance to express their thoughts; and those production diaries are also quite a plus on the disc," said Steve Brown. "I haven't watched the music video yet, though."
"Let's not forget the unrated version of the film itself. It is a disturbing film to begin with, filled with primal scenes of violence, but the uncut nature of it really makes your hair stand on end. I think Zombos would agree that–oh dear. We should be getting along, shouldn't we?"
"Quite," said Steve Brown, emptying his glass. "Let's get to it."
I picked up the sword and battle-axe. He picked up his signing gadget. Glenor picked up our glasses.
"Right then," said Steve Brown. "This approach won't work. We need the truck."
"The truck?" I asked.
"Yes, the truck. Let's go." We ran to the UPS truck.
"Now when I tell you to engage that lever, push it to the right," instructed Steve Brown, once the three of us were inside the truck. "This is one of the new hyrdraulic-hyrbrids. It saves on gas, emits less greenhouse gases, and sports the new transwarp hyperdrive transmission. Oh, and this new cup-holder arrangement fits those Venti-sized Starbucks coffee cups really snugly."
"Lovely," said Glenor. Yes, it was that look. She was taking a fancy to him.
"Hold on tight," he said, as he started up the truck. He turned around, headed down the road a bit, then turned around again to face the mansion. "Remember, when I say so, push the lever to the right. Okay, here we go."
He floored the gas pedal and headed straight for the west wing of the mansion.
"Lord man, what are you doing?!" I cried.
"We're heading into the 8th Dimension! Get ready with the lever…now!"
I pushed the lever. The truck, which had been racing toward the mansion and about to smash into it, sped through it instead. Or rather, I should say through a hazy shimmer of colors and muted sounds where the mansion had been. Then we abruptly stopped. I could see land, and a few buildings.
"Why, the 8th Dimension looks very much like Rochester, New York," Glenor said.
"It is Rochester," said Steve Brown. "You pushed the lever the wrong way," he told me. "Okay, let's try that again."
He floored the gas pedal again, and we were soon racing toward the 8th Dimension once more to rescue Zombos from a dire fate.