by R D Doan
Monty could almost taste the blood that needed to be spilled. His skin crawled with anticipation, but he was trapped in his director’s seat filming yet another abhorrent take in what should be the last scene in his first feature film.
They’d reshot this scene at least a dozen times. Each take like the last. He found it difficult to focus on directing when all he could think about was scratching an itch he couldn’t scratch. He needed to do something soon or he might explode. He had to call it. He was sure he could salvage something from one of the takes. He just wanted to be done with this film and get on to what really mattered.
“That’s a wrap!” he called, eliciting cheers from the cast and crew. They were no doubt happy to be done filming as well. It had been a long three months.
“Gather round, gather round! Great work, everyone. Really. It was a pleasure to work with so many talented people on this. You’ve all made my transition from online films to the big screen look easier than it should have. It’s hard to believe that a year’s passed since first getting the opportunity to make this film. And let me tell you, it’s gonna be great, and I owe it all to you!”
There were more cheers in reply.
“Really, from the bottom of my heart, thank you,” Monty said, while locking eyes with a brunette a few rows deep in the crowd. “Thank you.”
As the crowd began to disperse, Monty looked for the brunette, whose hair was held in a bun with two metal hair sticks. He found her chatting with another young actress.
“Bridgett! Hey Bridgette! Hold on a sec,” Monty called, running to catch up with her.
She finished her conversation and turned her attention to Monty as he approached.
“Bridget. I’ve been meaning to talk to you.”
“Me?” she asked, looking a little surprised that he knew her name.
“Of course, you! Do you have a minute? Maybe we can go somewhere to talk.”
“Sure. I mean, like, now? Okay.”
Monty placed his arm around her shoulders and started to guide her off the set. He could tell she was feeling a little uncomfortable with his touch.
“Bridgette, I hope you don’t take this the wrong way, I mean, I think you did a wonderful job on this film; but, you have so much more potential! I think you did a great job in your role here, but, let me tell you, I’d just kill to have you in another project I’ve been working on.”
“Really Mr. Brinker?” she asked. Monty felt better as she seemed a little less creeped out, and more excited about being offered a role. “What kind of role is it?”
“Let’s just say you were made for this role. All I need to do is get you on film for a screen test, and we’ll be all set.”
Bridgette slowed her gait to a near halt. “I don’t know Mr. Brinker.” Monty sensed her trepidation. He could tell she was starting to think he was trying to seduce her. He didn’t want to scare her off.
Monty assured her, “Whoa. It’s not like that!” he laughed. “Honestly! Look, wait here. I’m going to go in my office here and get my camera. I’ll show you. We can even do it out here in the open if you’d feel more comfortable about it. I promise. I’m not here to do any creepy Weinstein shit. Scout’s honor!” He held up three fingers in a scout sign for effect.
Bridgette cast her gaze to her feet, then back to Monty. “Okay. Sorry, I didn’t mean to…”
“Bridgette. Don’t sweat it. I get it. Just, hold still. I’ll be right back. I promise.”
Monty wasn’t gone long. He returned carrying a small handheld tape recorder. It looked similar to the one his dad used when he shot family videos during his childhood. It recorded on cassette tapes rather than digital format. Monty wanted to get shots like his father before him; and what better way than with a camera like his?
“See?” Monty asked, showing her the recorder. “Now, how ‘bout I have you stand over there by the door…right there. Good.” He glanced around and saw that the last of the cast and crew had left. They were finally alone.
He looked at her through the viewfinder of the camera and said, “Not quite. How ‘bout you stand in the doorway; maybe rest your left hand on the doorframe?”
She backed awkwardly into the doorway and put her hand on the doorframe at shoulder level. “Like this?” she asked.
“Maybe higher up. Perfect,” Monty replied.
He again appraised his shot through the viewfinder and nodded in approval.
“Alright. We’re almost ready. One more thing. Let’s do something about your hair.”
He approached her and pulled the hair sticks out of her bun, spilling her hair to her shoulders.
“Looks better this way,” he said as he tucked her hair behind her ears. “Perfect.”
Monty leaned in to whisper into her ear, “I’m going to make you very famous, Bridgette.”
He stabbed her between the third and fourth rib with her hair stick, piercing the heart.
He pulled out and applied pressure to the wound, effectively trapping her blood in the lungs and pericardium around the heart.
She was speechless in her shock, and soon, as blood filled around her heart and lungs, she struggled to breath. She gaped at him in terror as she approached her death. He helped her to the floor when her legs weakened and positioned her back in a sleeping pose.
He raised the camera and pressed record. He wanted to record her pleading eyes as life escaped her.
“Smile, Bridgette. You’re famous!”
“The devil is in the details, Monty, and there isn’t enough devil in this horror film’s details!”
Monty was used to casting, shooting and editing on his own when he made his online horror flicks. He wasn’t used to sharing the task with an editing team; nor was he used to producers breathing down his neck injecting their opinions on the film’s direction.
“Why don’t you stick to negotiating with studio reps, and let me do what I do best,” Monty replied, annoyed by his producer’s constant interjections.
“Don’t get me wrong, man. I love this film! It just needs… I don’t know, more blood or… something. Your shit usually feels more real than this. It’s missing something.”
Monty rubbed his face and sighed. “I can only work with what I’ve got, David.”
“Your online stuff always felt so real. This just feels, I don’t know, forced? Fake?”
“What do you want me to do, David? We’re already over budget. Reshooting or recasting could bury this film!” Monty ran his hand through his hair.
“Are you sure you’ve gone through all the footage? You’ve got to have something somewhere that can fix this. I can’t take a loss on this, man. C’mon, think.”
“Maybe,” Monty was thinking of his pet project. If I only use a few of the girls. If I use footage from too many, someone might connect the dots. “Okay, so hear me out. There’s more film on a few of the death scenes, but it’s complicated.”
“I have two scenes that I left out. I thought… I thought maybe they might be too sensitive in light of recent events, so I opted to keep them out of the film.”
“Bridgette and Anya.”
“I can see how including death scenes on two missing actresses can be in bad taste, but how do we know they aren’t on an exotic trip or some shit? Millenials do crazy shit like that all the time, don’t they? Whether they’re dead or alive, I don’t really care. What they do after they leave the set is their business. All I know is that this movie needs to be better. If those shots can help the film, I say we put them in. I’ll take whatever heat may come from it. You take care of making this film more realistic.”
Monty nodded. “Alright. Give me a few hours and I’ll show you what I got.”
“Make it better. You may not get another shot if you blow this movie, Monty. Two hours,” David walked out the door, already texting away on his phone.
“Two hours, man!” he yelled from the hall.
Monty unlocked a drawer under his desk. Inside were dozens of cassette tapes and his handheld camera. He could feel his pulse quicken and his mouth go dry. He had sworn to keep them locked away, to abstain from his urges. What had he done? How could he possibly watch the tapes and not want to act. After Bridgette, he’d been able to contain his desires. He swore she would be the last.
He could see flashes of each murder now that he was holding his camera again. The urge was rising. He wasn’t sure he could do this alone.
He picked up his cell and called the only number saved on his phone.
“Talk to me, man.”
“Brian…I need your help. I really want to use, and it’s right in front of me.”
“Alright Monty, take a deep breath. Let’s just talk.”
Monty would rather gouge out his left eye than give another interview, even if all they wanted to do was kiss his ass and tell him how great he is. He hoped his hiding spot was good enough to avoid more talking.
He sighed when he saw who had finally found him at the bar.
“I gotta hand it to ya man, you really pulled off some Houdini shit with those added scenes. I’ll be honest with ya. I didn’t think you could pull it off.”
“I wasn’t so sure I could pull it off myself, David,” Monty shrugged.
“Those shots were amazing! Much more realistic than the original cuts. Who knew those girls could act like that!”
“Yeah…who knew?” Monty turned to the bartender and asked for another champagne.
“How’d you get ‘em?”
“It was difficult. Let’s leave it at that.” Monty wanted to kill so bad after revisiting the tapes, but was able to refrain. “Lot’s of blood, sweat and tears, I guess.”
David’s phone rang and he excused himself, much to Monty’s relief.
He watched the partygoers with disgust. He despised their fake laughs and found it all to be exhausting. They were all useless if you asked him.
Then he saw a young lady standing alone by the wall. She kept checking her watch and glancing around the room. She appeared uncomfortable mingling among Hollywood’s elite. He could tell she was different from the others. He had to have her.
He checked his phone, meaning to call Brian, his sponsor. No service.
Her glass of champagne was low. It was now or never.
Fuck it, he thought. He took two fresh glasses from a waiter going by and walked toward her.
“Here. Have a fresh glass. It’ll calm the nerves.”
The girl looked up and appeared startled. She put up a hand. “I don’t know. I mean, like, what if there’s a drug in it or something? You seem like a nice guy, but, no, I’m good. Thanks anyway.”
“Oh, come on. I just grabbed it from that waiter handing them out over there. I’m not a rapist. I promise. I see myself as more of a serial killer if you really must know,” Monty replied with a shrug and smirk.
“Right. Okay,” she conceded and took the champagne. “If you’re going to kill me though, do it quick. This party might kill me first.”
“Not a fan of premiere parties?”
“Is it that obvious?”
“Not my thing either, but I kinda have to be here. So, I know you weren’t in the film; what brings you to the party?”
“My friend’s brother. He’s in the movie. I guess he just needed a pretty girl on his arm for the red carpet. You know, so he doesn’t look gay or something.” She took a big swig of champagne and sighed. “But after a few drinks, he kinda makes it a little obvious, don’t you think?” She pointed to a guy who kept touching the chest of another guy while laughing at what must have been the funniest thing he’d ever heard.
“Well, his loss is my gain.” Monty clinked glasses and took a sip. “What did you think of the film?”
“It was good, I mean, I don’t usually see films like that, but I really enjoyed it,” she said fidgeting with her handbag.
“What do you usually like to watch?”
“Mystery, crime thrillers, I guess? Have you seen Knives Out yet?”
“No. I’ve heard it’s really good though. It got really good reviews on Rotten Tomatoes. Did you see it in a theater?”
“No, but the person I stay with was talking about it too. And then I was describing it, and he was like, ‘You went?’ and I said, ‘No, somebody told me about it,’” she looked away, avoiding eye contact. “I haven’t seen it yet.”
“You should see it. There’s a director’s viewing room here. The chairs are so nice. I love the butt warmers. They keep you nice and toasty. I’m sure I could find the film. We should get out of here and go see it,” Monty raised his glass. “My treat.”
“That’d be awesome! We should totally go do that!” A smile slowly crept across her face. “But, how are we gonna get in?”
“You just have to know the director.”
Monty took her glass and set both of their drinks on a nearby table. He took her hand and started to walk her across the room to a side door that lead to an elevator.
“You know the director?” she asked in amazement.
“Sweetheart, I am the director.” He said as he guided her through the doorway. “You’ll just die when you see the viewing room.”
Monty opened the door to the viewing room and flipped on the lights.
“Oh wow! It looks like a little movie theater!”
“Yup. Butt warmers and all.” Monty was unlocking another door at the back of the room.
“What’s in there?”
“This is the editing room. Should be drinks in the mini fridge. You want something?”
Together, they entered the editing room. Monty went to the fridge and tossed her a beer.
The young woman began to slowly examine the components, cameras and computers. “This stuff looks pretty complicated. Do you ever use real film anymore? Or is it all digital now?” she asked, sipping her beer.
“Mostly digital, but I have a few projects I do in film still.”
She continued to snoop as Monty stepped out to set up the movie in the viewing room. The drawer under the desk had not been closed all the way. She opened it, pulled a cassette tape out and popped it into the handheld camera that was also in the drawer. She covered her mouth and gasped in horror as she watched a brutal murder unfold.
Monty had the movie set and ready to go. He glanced around the viewing room and visualized the young woman’s death scene. He envisioned her laid out in a viewing chair, choked from behind to avoid bloodshed. He’d have her face the film playing in the background. He’d call the scene: “Dying to Watch.”
His heart raced in anticipation. He needed his camera. He needed her out of the editing room. He began to wonder why she was still in there.
Monty stopped in the doorway. “Movie’s almost ready. Come pick a seat.”
The young woman was leaning back against the counter and looked nervous.
“Why don’t you come over here first?” she asked, raising an eyebrow and smirking.
Whatever gets you to leave the room, lady, he thought.
He slowly approached her.
She had a nervous energy about her that Monty mistook for sexual tension.
He leaned in with the intent to kiss her and noticed his camera out of the corner of his eye. It was on the floor at her feet. He was about say something when she grabbed his hair and he felt a sharp, cold sensation in the back of his neck. The pain and brightness derailed his thoughts. His knees buckled and he collapsed to the floor.
The young woman trembled as she pulled a pair of scissors out of the wound she made in the back of his neck. She had stabbed him with the scissors at the base of the skull, severing his spinal cord. He was still alive but paralyzed from the neck down. He’d be dead in a matter of minutes.
She ran from the room and screamed for help.
As he lay on the floor, unable to move, he prayed the camera lying nearby was filming. Capturing death as it left a body was pure ecstasy. He wanted nothing more than to feel invincible one last time.
His vision began to tunnel as he noticed the red light on the camera wasn’t on. His final thought was of disappointment. Disappointment that his own death hadn’t made the final cut.
R D Doan, a member of the Great Lakes Association of Horror Writers, most recently has had short stories appear in The Sirens Call eZine, the GLAHW anthology Marisa’s Recurring Nightmares and in the anthology, Nobody Goes Out Anymore: Futuristic Fiction Post Covid-19. As a Physician Assistant, he’s written numerous academic articles, but prefers to wade into the waters of darker fiction. He resides in West Michigan with his wife, two sons and dogs.
He can be found online on Twitter (@rd3_pac) and Instagram (@rddoan).