Tag Archives: Horror

THE LISTENER: A Tale of Modern Terror

I really love strange stories that mix comedy, horror, weirdness, and hopefully something relatable. I love that intersection between pulp/genre/b-movie adventure and ancient myths. Old stories that get passed down and reinvented as different generations try to figure out who they are and who they want to be. So here’s a story working through some of the weird horror and comedy of right now. I hope you enjoy this modern myth called…THE LISTENER!

It was a strange time. A plague swirled through the land. So for a while everyone lived mostly in their homes–determined, stressed, and pantsless.

They interacted through computers. Their fingers shouting opinions into the keyboard. Smiling into computer cameras for business meetings, movie watchalongs, funerals, and extra awkward first dates.

Everyone lived life torso and up.

One night, a woman named Doris was chatting with her torso friends through her computer. It was fun. She had a cocktail and everything. Two hours earlier, she’d been sitting in the exact same spot, staring into the exact same camera, wearing a business casual dress shirt, assuring her boss the revisions would be done by tomorrow.

It was good to catch up with her torso friends. But she was tired. Tired of everyone talking at the same time, then everyone pausing so they didn’t interrupt again. Tired of deciding whether to look into her friends’ eyes or the camera’s.

The party ended. One by one her torso friends disappeared. And once again Doris felt drunk on a strange cocktail of bliss and shame.

She sighed and walked away. But this night, she forgot to turn off her camera. The glow of the computer stared into her empty living room.

Doris climbed into bed, picked up her phone, and stared at that smaller glowing box instead. She read a long article about not reading things on your phone in bed. She laughed herself into a fitful sleep.

Doris did not see what happened next. The glow of the computer pulsed and quaked. Slowly and silently, the light poured out of the screen. It forked out in thick, quivering bolts. The bolts formed into the shape of a human hand. It clawed at the air, pulling itself out of the computer.

The next morning, Doris woke up and shuffle-stumbled into the living room and directly toward the coffee maker. Something flickered and caught her eye. She looked over her shoulder and noticed the pulsing blue human shape sitting on her couch.

She looked back at the coffeemaker.

Then she looked back at the blue thing on her couch and she screamed and screamed.

She picked up her least favorite coffee mug and whirled it across the room at the figure. The mug flew directly into the shimmering thing’s featureless blue face.

The mug didn’t hit the face. It didn’t hit the wall behind the face. It was just gone. Gone inside the blue thing on her couch.

Before Doris could decide what else to throw, the blue thing moved. It stood on two legs. Its arms jangled at its side. Its body had no real definition. No gender, no body type. The edges of it kept soundlessly dancing and sparking. It shifted ever so slightly in height and width all the time.

It calmly walked toward her, limbs pulsing away. Doris decided screaming again seemed like a sensible way to process this. She screamed directly at the thing but her screams seemed to fly into the thing’s face and disappear just like her least favorite coffee mug.

Finally, the pulsing blue thing stopped right beside her. It slowly turned its head toward the coffeemaker and stared. It didn’t have eyes, but the coffeemaker is where the eyes would be looking, Doris guessed.

She reached out to touch the thing. She knew it was stupid. She braced herself for impact. For heat, for pain, for her fingers to turn into long columns of ash like an old cartoon character’s cigarette and fall to the floor in a pathetic heap.

But nothing. She saw her fingers enter the pulsing blue torso of the thing, but she felt nothing. Not even numb. She just felt the same old stale air of her apartment. That was almost worse.

She pulled her hand out and stared at the thing’s face. It turned its face up and looked back. Even without eyes, she knew. Doris knew it was looking right at her.

It was extremely awkward.

Doris decided she needed coffee to figure out what to do next. Almost in a trance, she went through the insufferably familiar motions of opening the grounds, putting in the filter, and…and the thing just watched. It stared at every dumb little thing she was doing like it was the most important thing in the world.

So Doris went through her day. She made her coffee. She drank it and watched the news on TV. It sat on the couch with her. It seemed to have no preference between cable news or the local news.

Doris desperately had to use the bathroom but she was afraid to discover the boundaries of the blue thing. She leapt into the bathroom and slammed the door shut, but the blue thing sauntered straight through the door.

It stared at her as she brushed her teeth, fixed her hair, and finally, dammit, even as she used the toilet. It kept staring directly at her face. It was almost as if it was waiting for her to say something.

“Have you ever heard of privacy?” she shouted. The words disappeared into the thing.

No. It wasn’t that they disappeared. It was more like the words were…absorbed.

It heard her. It just had no response.

She finished her bathroom routine, including an extra thorough hand washing. She didn’t want this thing thinking she didn’t wash her hands for the full length of the Happy Birthday song. Screw it, she decided, and sang the Happy Birthday song at it.

It appeared to hear that, too.

Doris had a little time before her first meeting on her computer that day. She went to the bedroom and got dressed. It followed. She picked out a business casual blouse and the same sweat pants she’d been wearing for a week. After she got dressed, she sat on the edge of her bed. It sat down next to her. Staring and pulsing.

The answer came to Doris. This must be happening to everyone. Some group delusion. Some side effect of the plague.

She decided she’d do what she always did with any important thought: Put it on the internet.

Doris picked up her phone. Her fingers flew across the digital keyboard. She knew exactly the tone to strike. She would declare the truth, but she would couch it in a post-modern, self-aware veneer of comedy to distance herself from her own statement just in case anyone disagreed.

She typed out the perfect post. It read: “Got one of those weird pulsing light people in my apartment! Everyone’s got one of those right? Not just plague mind fatigue, right? YOU’RE THE WEIRDO IF YOU DON’T HAVE ONE! Ha ha!!

“Good,” Doris thought, “this is good.”

But a photo would make it perfect. She opened the camera app. She could see the thing pulsing away. She snapped a photo.

She looked at the photo. The thing did not appear in the photo.

“Fine,” Doris said out loud to both no one and the thing. “It will be just as funny if I attach a picture where there’s clearly nothing there.”

Doris attached the photo, hit send, and waited. A few likes trickled in. A couple of joking comments. A couple of obnoxious and unasked for opinions about the décor of her bedroom and the composition of the photo.

“Dammit,” she said to the thing. “Why do people need to find some damn little thing to criticize about every dumb post?!”

She waited and waited. She scrolled and she scrolled. But she saw nothing that made her think anyone else had a pulsing new light friend.

She sighed and looked at the blue thing. “I’ve got to go to work. I have a business meeting with someone named Ted. Ted is an asshole who I swear to god, adjusts his camera from a downward angle because he WANTS us to see up his damn nostrils.”

Doris talked and the blue thing listened as they walked to her computer. She sat down. The blue thing stood by her side. She stared into the camera. It was immediately clear no one could see her pulsing blue light friend. And so Doris went through her day, torso and up.

That night as she got ready for bed, chatting at the blue thing about the bars she missed going to the most, she suddenly realized the blue thing no longer terrified her. It was…nice. Nice to have someone who just wanted to listen.

She climbed into bed and waited to see where it would go. It sat itself gently on the end of bed, looking down at her like some kind of glowing guardian angel.

It was the most peaceful night’s sleep Doris had in months.

The next day, Doris tested a theory. She ordered pizza for delivery. As the masked delivery guy walked toward her apartment, she stepped fully out into the hallway. The blue thing stepped out with her. Doris kept her eyes locked on the pizza guy. He had no reaction. She looked over at the blue thing. The pizza guy stared quizzically, unsure what Doris was looking at. Doris just smiled and took her pizza and her blue thing back into the apartment.

The days turned to weeks and the weeks turned into months. Some days, Doris’ throat hurt from talking this much. She told it jokes. She told it secrets. She downloaded a karaoke game to her PlayStation and she sang it some hits of the 90s. She shifted keys inappropriately seven times during her performance of “Zombie” by The Cranberries.

Her blue friend did not care. Her blue friend just listened. No criticisms. No comments. No awkward, selfish attempts to make the conversation all about it.

No matter what she threw at her blue friend, they absorbed it.

Sometimes, it even seemed like they really liked what Doris said. The way their energy pulsed or quaked looked like they were laughing or nodding or leaning forward for more. Doris was sure of it. It wasn’t just random fluctuations. They really appreciated her.

Doris felt very lucky.

Then one day, things changed again. She was standing at the window of her apartment. Her blue friend by her side. She was pointing at a cloud and asking her friend if they also thought that one looked like a duck riding a motorcycle.

Then she heard it. Coming from the apartment in the building across the street. The one she could see right into most days.

A loud bellowing scream from the guy who lived there and did crossfit shirtless in his living room every day. He was staring at something Doris couldn’t see. His screams started strong and then melted away into a whisper.

Doris had no doubt. Shirtless guy just got a blue friend, too.

There were more screams every day. Doris wasn’t mad that other people were getting blue friends. She was happy for them.

She started posting more on social media. Telling people about the coffee mug she threw into her friend that first day. She got a lot of likes. People responded, “OMG! I threw my coffee mug into my blue friend on the first day, too!”

Others replied, “Holy crap! I didn’t know you could throw things in them! Best recycling plan ever!”

Still others responded, “Wait! Wait! Yours is blue? Mine is red!”

Apparently, they came in all colors. Red, blue, green, purple, orange. A visual art friend of Doris’ swore up and down their friend was EXACTLY the acrylic paint color, Burnt Umber.

Soon, talk of the shimmering pulsing mystery figures was everywhere. Late night talk show hosts had theirs on as guests. No one could see them or hear them, but the hosts had a good time talking to them.

The next time the pizza delivery guy came to Doris’ apartment, he asked, “What color is yours?”

“Blue, but a real—“

“That’s great!” the Pizza Guy interrupted. “Mine is EMERALD. Not green, but like, emerald. Because people don’t understand, there is technically a diff—“

Doris nodded, took her pizza, and her blue friend inside.

She didn’t need to be interrupted ever again. She had a listener. The whole world did. Everyone had a Listener.

Time passed. It was hard to tell how much. People didn’t really do awkward computer calls anymore. No one was really going to work. A few texts here and there. People still posted on social media but only to talk about how great their Listener was. No one really bothered to respond. If they had a strong opinion they wanted to share, they could throw it at their Listener.

Soon, Doris had no contact with anyone but her Listener. Their name was now Quakey. Quakey, the Listener. Doris was sure Quakey liked the name.

Things started to change even more. Sometimes it was scary, but Doris could handle it because she could pour all her thoughts and fears into Quakey.

Sometimes, during Karaoke, the power would go out. The third time it happened, Doris decided to check social media to see if other people were experiencing an outage. No one had updated their profiles in a week.

Doris sat in the darkness. She didn’t even need candles. Quakey’s pulsing body gave off plenty of light. She read an old book by the light of her friend. She read him passages she liked. Quakey might have nodded in appreciation.

The days wore on. Doris stared out of the window. She didn’t see her neighbor in his apartment. She didn’t see anyone out on the streets.

“That’s weird,” Doris said into Quakey. Then she saw movement. In the apartment across the street.

Topless guy screamed at the empty air where Doris knew his Listener was. “Something! Anything!” he screamed. “I can’t take it! I can’t take it anymore!”

He picked up a dumbbell and threw it. It disappeared into thin air. Topless guy stared. He backed up to get a running start.

He threw himself toward his listener. And he disappeared.

Doris stumbled back in shock. That…that had never occurred to her. She turned to Quakey.

“What exactly happens when you absorb things? Where did my neighbor go? Is he gone? Is he dead?”

Doris clenched her fists and stared hard at Quakey, analyzing every pulse and gyration of their dancing body for meaning. But Doris heard nothing.

Her relationship with Quakey soured quickly. They still followed her everywhere. They still stared. But what had felt warm and reassuring now felt cold and distant.

Quakey’s constant, maddening silence became a low, irritating electric buzz. It grew into an endless piercing scream.

Doris couldn’t take it anymore. Plague be damned, she marched out of her apartment and down into the streets. She and Quakey encountered a few people. Windows were shattered and stores were abandoned. Cars were stopped in the middle of the street. Drivers screaming at the empty space in the passengers’ seat.

Doris shouted at the other humans, waved them down. But they were all distracted. They shouted at their Listeners. Others wept. Others threw everything they could find into their Listeners.

Doris pleaded with them, begging them to talk to her. “We need to figure out what’s happening! Where do people go? How does this end? How did this happen? What should we do?”

But no one listened. Most ignored her. A few others shouted her down, raving about their own Listener.

By the time Doris had seen three people throw themselves into their Listeners, she couldn’t take anymore.

Dejected, she marched home with Quakey in pulsating lockstep.

That night, she became determined. She could do this. She could get a reaction. A real, tangible reaction.

She sat down on the couch and stared into Quakey’s throbbing blue face. She asked calmly and politely for Quakey to say something back to her. She pleaded and cajoled. She threatened and bellowed. She made every noise she could think of.

Doris thought of every outrageous offensive opinion she could. Her most controversial movie rankings. Disgusting pizza toppings. Outrageous revisionist history of her own relationship with Quakey. She raged that blue was the stupidest color ever to appear in a spectrum.

She screamed and screamed until she couldn’t even tell if she was making sound anymore.

“Please, please,” she croaked. “Say anything, do anything, BE anything.”

But the Listener did nothing but listen.

Doris fell silent. She slumped back on her couch, next to the blue thing.

She stayed there for a long time, listening to the endless scream of their mutual silence. And she hoped that someday, there would be something more to hear.

Thanks for reading. If you enjoyed this post, you can find me on Twitter or check out my Patreon here!

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EXPLAINING HALLOWEEN CEREAL TO ALIENS

I love Halloween. One of the many reasons I love it is because it’s a chance to take a step back and realize the deep, deep complexity of human society.

I was at a store and I saw a box of spooky Halloween cereal. Yay! Fun! But then I stopped and really looked at it.

It was a box of Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes featuring Tony the Tiger dressed as Count Dracula and the cereal itself contained marshmallows shaped like a ghost, a bat, and the head of Frankenstein’s Monster.

When I saw this box of cereal, I imagined the effort it would take to explain this to an alien. So I tried writing it out.

So, first, let’s just define the basic building block of this: Frosted Flakes.

In order to start our day with a healthy breakfast, we took corn–a thing that is already food we could just eat–and we smashed it into flakes.

But we still don’t want to eat that so we put a bunch of sugar on top of it. Then we pour milk on it so we can lie to ourselves and claim it’s healthy.

Now there are many different companies making these denial corn flakes and they are all basically the same product. So to make them seem different from one another, we invented a thing called branding.

We want to create a bond between the cereal makers and the cereal eaters so we created a mascot. Someone fun and friendly that people could relate to. Like a giant tiger.

A tiger is a large animal which, under the right circumstances, would happily kill and eat us. They require no branding to do this. Just hunger.

But this is not a normal tiger. This one walks on two legs and has a name. His name is Tony and he exists only to sell us things. He sells us things with the catchphrase, “They’re great!” Normally, shouting a biased subjective opinion about the quality of corn flakes is enough to make them fly off the shelves.

But not now. Not at Halloween. So Tony, a predator salesperson pretending to be our friend, needs to dress up as something scary. Normally, Tony the Tiger is nude with just a handkerchief around his neck. Like a bib for eating humans. But that’s not scary enough during Halloween.

So Tony is dressed up as another character named Count Dracula. Dracula is an undead rich person who wears a cape because he’s from Europe. Dracula is a vampire and he wants to hurt us. But not by eating us. He wants to suck our blood in a psycho-sexual ritual designed to steal our life essence so he can go on living for all eternity.

This is only barely a metaphor for what actual rich people do to us everyday. But during Halloween it’s fun because he has a cape.

Now, let’s move on to the Marshmallows. Marshmallows are pieces of sugar that don’t bother lying to us about what they are.

And these particular marshmallows are shaped like a bat, a ghost, and the head of Frankenstein’s Monster. Let’s break those down.

First, a bat. In reality, a bat is a small animal that mostly means us no harm whatsoever and couldn’t eat a human if it tried. But somehow we have become more afraid of bats than a tiger. A bat is basically an animal that suffers from extremely inaccurate branding.

Next up, a ghost. A ghost is what happens when a human dies but their soul is trapped on the mortal plane. When that happens the soul wears a white sheet with eyeholes so the soul can watch Netflix, I guess. I don’t know. That one’s a mystery. The point is: this marshmallow is an opportunity to eat the undead souls of other humans.

And finally, Frankenstein’s Monster’s head. Oh, boy. This one would take a very long time to fully articulate. So real short version. A woman named Mary Shelly invented the concept of science fiction by writing a novel about a dude who could not accept death so he made a fake man using body parts and lightning and since then we’ve told hundreds of stories about this monster being lonely and having a hard time making friends. We’ve told so many stories about this large lonely man that as a culture we can instantly recognize JUST HIS HEAD rendered in crude marshmallow form.

So that’s basically it. If you encounter an alien wanting to understand the spooky limited edition Halloween Kellogg’s Chocolate Frosted Flakes you know what to tell them:

It’s a tiger but it acts like a human to sell us things but it’s Halloween, a time we embrace darkness, so it’s dressed as a blood-sucking monster and the sugar blobs are all death imagery so we can eat our own fear. With milk.

And if that isn’t fun I don’t know what the hell is.

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Burn in Hell: A Ghostbusters Movie Review

GhostbustersReview

Movies! I like them! I spend a lot of time thinking about them! Sometimes I talk to friends about them without recording it for a podcast and it seems like a WASTE. So I’m going to make an effort to post more reviews like this one of Captain America Civil War. The reviews will be broken down into SEVEN categories: My Twitter Review, Why I Saw This Movie, Big Theme, Favorite Things, Questionable Things, Favorite Lines, and What This Film Inspires Me To Do. SPOILER LEVEL: There are only mild spoilers! Let’s do this!

MY TWITTER REVIEW:

WHY I SAW THIS MOVIE:

Like a lot of people, I’m a fan of the original Ghostbusters. I remember next to nothing about the sequel, and I really like the episode of the cartoon where they just straight-up fight CTHULHU. Or as they call the unspeakable monster, Cathulhu.

I’m also a big fan of horror comedy in general. Both horror and comedy function on tension and sudden surprise–but with the different goals of screaming or laughing. It’s fun to see them mashed-up in an attempt to create the perfect audience noise of a laugh-scream. I’m also delighted by the contrast of truly terrifying malevolent creatures going up against nature’s idiots: comedians.

The original Ghostbusters took the old “monsters plus idiots” formula of Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein and pushed it in a new direction by making the comedy idiots pro-actively chase the monsters.

The new Ghostbusters movie felt like another step in the evolution of the genre: horrible monsters versus comedian idiots who are (gasp) LADIES!

Sadly, the monsters they faced were not just in the movie, but lurking on YouTube and Twitter and the subbiest of sub-reddits across the internet.

I was (and am) thrilled with the casting of the new movie. I think equality is important for the sake of equality, but I also think new voices and perspectives make our art and entertainment fresher and more interesting. I think breaking down gender barriers is good for everyone. I personally don’t want to be defined solely by a stereotypical masculine archetype any more than I think women should be confined to specific, outdated feminine stereotypes. I don’t think anyone anywhere on the gender spectrum should be limited in what roles they can play in the story of our culture. More on that below.

I genuinely enjoyed the movie as a movie. (Even though I thought there were a lot of plot issues and missed opportunities, I laughed the entire time and walked out of the theater very happy.) But I also think Ghostbusters is an important step forward culturally, artistically, and I hope, financially. If this review can sway even one person to go see the movie, it will be worth my time. Ghostbusters had a great opening weekend, but since it got locked out of China, its ultimate undebatable financial success still depends on its second and third weekends in theaters. There’s a lot of distraction between Star Trek and San Diego Comic-Con and whatever the hell is happening at the Republican National Convention, but if you want to see a variety of people and voices in the theater I hope you go bust some sexists’ predictions and see the movie in theaters.

BIG THEME:

I thought the movie had two strangely complimentary themes: Friendship and F**k the haters.

I enjoyed that the movie built its foundation on the bonds of friendship between the Ghostbusters. Initially, between Erin Gilbert and Abby Yates but building between all of the central characters–Jillian Holtzmann, Patty Tolan, and even big, dumb, beautiful, and beloved (by me) Kevin. The emphasis on friendship and shared experience made you care about the characters instead of just making them puzzle pieces to act out a plot or what passes for a plot in a lot of modern comedies i.e. getting diarrhea. Mostly importantly to me, it allowed a lot more of the comedy to come from character moments.

A lot of that friendship was forged by facing down haters. The haters took many forms: Bosses, the government, ghosts, pale guys, YouTube commenters, etc. Outside of a few specific and pointed lines (“ain’t no bitches gonna bust no ghosts” was a great line), it felt very universal. I think the best storytelling is reaching the universal through the very specific. Most of us are not brilliant, well educated, hilarious women who fight ghosts professionally, but life is challenging for all of us. We all have days where we feel like the forward movement in our lives is blocked by a different asshole with each step. For every step, a new asshole. (It’s not a saying, but it should be.) For me, the movie was an incredibly cathartic experience of seeing four very specific characters overcoming that very universal feeling.

FAVORITE THINGS:

Actual jokes:
I feel like a lot of modern comedies just point the camera at a funny person and let them make faces, weird noises, and generally improvise. It’s very broad comedy because it’s not grounded in the character or the moment. It’s just throwing potential trailer moments at a demographic and hoping they stick. I think a huge part of Deadpool‘s surprise success was that it was full of specific, structured, well delivered JOKES. From the initial trailers, I was terrified that Ghostbusters would just point the camera at Melissa McCarthy and make her do “bits.” Instead, there were a ton of specific thoughtful combinations of words and ideas that formed actual humor jokes based on the characters and the situations. I’m sad that that feels novel, but thrilled about how much I laughed because this comedy movie had actual jokes.

Kristen Wiig:
Kate McKinnon and her character Holtzmann deserve every syllable of praise typed or spoken and a million more. Leslie Jones and Melissa McCarthy were both great, but for my personal comedy taste, I thought Kristen Wiig was amazing. I’m a big fan of what I’ll call “leading person comedy.” The kind of character who is not intrinsically the zany one, but a character who does the heavy lifting on holding up the plot and the heart of the thing but still manages to be super funny. Wiig’s performance might not be as memorable when you first walk out of the theater, but she walked a fine line of being vulnerable, relatable, tough, and consistently hilarious.

Chris Hemsworth:
Nowhere near as important as four women in lead comedy roles in a reboot of a beloved previously all-male man all the time men film BUT it was great to see Chris Hemsworth who is normally a great, big stud play a great, big idiot. Like I mentioned earlier, it’s great to see stereotypes of all kinds played with and I want to live in a world where our biggest action heroes can also be beloved comedy idiots.

Everything at the metal concert:
I have always loved the inherent weirdness of heavy metal and this scene mocked and celebrated the weirdness of worshipping demons and being super precious about your chord progression at the same time. Also, for me, one of the most successful mash-ups of horror and comedy in the movie.

It wasn’t just a movie, it was an EVENT.
I was lucky to see the movie on Friday the 15th, opening night, 8 pm in the Dome at the Arclight Theater in Hollywood with several hundred people. Granted, this is an ideal time and place to see a movie if you want to get a super excited, communal experience. There were many lines I didn’t hear because there was too much laughter, there were cheers for the main characters and all the cameos of the classic actors, screams of delight in moments of the heroes’ victory, there were other noises that might have been moans of sexual awakening, there were honest quiet moments where a few jokes didn’t land. I think I moaned in comedy joy at Kevin’s glasses. But it was more than just an audience enjoying a movie. It felt like an explosion of joy at experiencing something truly DIFFERENT. I’m thrilled that I got to have that experience and I think it makes seeing the movie in theaters rather than waiting for Blu Ray or streaming worth it.

QUESTIONABLE THINGS:

Bill Murray’s role:
I was bummed by Bill Murray’s role in the movie. Not really the role, but the execution. I like the idea of Bill Murray playing the pompous, establishment character who exists to shake his head disapprovingly and doubt the “inferiors” around him. It’s the kind of character Bill Murray usually attacked with comedy in his younger days. So it’s a neat idea that Bill Murray basically plays his own anti-archetype. But unlike most of the movie, he didn’t have many jokes to work with. The character wasn’t fun to hate. He just bummed me out. Which might have worked if he was used as a foil to get some great comedy out of our new heroes, but the whole scene felt flat. I think it would’ve been an amazing feat to use Bill Murray as the ultimate asshole and even make the audience FURIOUS but he was just a truly unlikeable character and then he was gone. All the other cameos felt like celebrations and this was literally and figuratively throwing Bill Murray out the window.

Villain’s Scheme and Ghost Rules
I’m glad that the plot was new and not the very Lovecraftian summoning of a great old one from the 1984 Ghostbusters. I liked the idea that the villain was a “pale, sad one” who wanted to get power for himself but I thought that idea was underdeveloped. The movie had great moments celebrating how much our heroes value knowledge. I would’ve loved a scene where the heroes laid out the rules of the ghostly realm and its interaction with the mortal plane a little bit more clearly. I think that would have upped our investment in the story even more. The fact that his plan stopped and started a bit too much in the second act also undermined the huge amount of forward energy the audience seemed to feel every time our heroes had a victory.

Mysterious Editing
Without going into too many details, I felt like there were some weird choices in the editing. It felt like bits of logic were maybe left on the cutting room floor. And one big scene that seemed to have moved from the movie itself into the credits for time. It’s rare that I look forward to the extended version of a movie on Blu Ray, but I think and hope there’s a longer cut of the movie which flows better in the second half and doesn’t skip any beats in the relationship of the awesome characters.

So those are some fairly major critiques, but they didn’t really impact my enjoyment of the movie. To me, it’s so successful as a comedy and as a vehicle for new voices that those thrills far outweigh some of the typical big budget summer movie and reboot problems.

FAVORITE LINES:

“Face bidet”- Garret

Why: This was the first joke-joke in the movie and I was thrilled to hear an actual joke (and a funny one) right off the bat. Also, my wife and I have both worked in historic mansions and museums over the years and this joke nailed that vibe. Talk to me about Humphrey Man-Lifts someday.

“One? Two? Is it one?” – Holtzmann

Why: I love the subversion of escalation. It’s also the kind of almost Marx Brothers-esque word play you don’t hear in comedies as often.

“Okay, room full of nightmares” -Patty

Why: This line is the perfect mash-up of horror and comedy. It comes from that character’s voice but represents a relatable human reaction to confronting something horrific.

“Burn in hell.” -Erin

Why: I loved Kristen Wiig’s delivery. It felt like these weren’t the words she meant to say in reaction to being quoted a monthly rent, but she couldn’t stop herself from letting the sub-text become text.

“Mike Hat.” -Kevin

Why: I loved Kevin’s whole interview scene. All of his absurd jokes were delivered dead pan and made even funnier by the Ghostbusters reaction. It was particularly fun to see Melissa McCarthy stare at big, dumb Kevin like he’s an idiot.

Holtzmann licking the weapon she designed – Holtzmann

Why: It’s not a line, but it sums up a lot of her weirdness, her energy, her forward momentum. It’s strange and specific and makes sense for her character. It also feels iconic. Twenty or thirty years from now when there’s a reboot of this Ghostbusters movie, it’s going to be the thing the new heroes do to nod to the classic 2016 Ghostbusters.

WHAT THE MOVIE INSPIRED ME TO DO:

Write more comedy and horror mash-ups myself, keep supporting different voices in art and entertainment to the best of my ability, and look into purchasing a face bidet.

Thanks for reading. If you enjoy this article, feel free to share it on the social medias. If you want to help make more articles like this possible, you can support me on Patreon.

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HALLOWEEN: Obsessed Ep 63

Writer, vlogger, and self-professed “dorky goth” Nika Harper joins Joseph to obsess over Halloween. Topics include bats, candy corn, a hatred of the word spoopy, bobbing for things, monsters, and, again, bats.

AWOOGA! Obsessed is now a part of Feral Audio! Go to Feral now to listen to this episode and subscribe for new ones!

Listen, rate, review, and subscribe to OBSESSED on iTunes.

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STEPHEN KING: Obsessed Ep 41

Clowns! Cocaine! Childhood! This must be an episode about horror author Stephen “Creepypants” King. Joseph’s obsessed guest, Tonya Wershow, spins terrifying tales of writing to Mr. King, Fan Fic, reacting to his face, van accidents, toilet fingers, LARPing, and horror underwear. Plus, some actual live screaming and a message of hope.

AWOOGA! Obsessed is now a part of Feral Audio! Go to Feral now to listen to this episode and subscribe for new ones!

Listen, rate, review, and subscribe to OBSESSED on iTunes.

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A Man and His Horror Tweets

For the past several months I’ve been doing a series of daily tweets. First tacos, then monkeys, then daily affirmations, then daily etiquette tips, then incorrect quotes, then fake TV shows, horoscopes, and now blood-curdling HORROR! Enjoy!

You can also follow me on Twitter to enjoy November 2013’s helpful series of Daily Writing Tweets. But first, THE HORROR!

Day One – The call is coming from inside your pants.

Day Two – You are what you eat. Many of you are human donut holes. You monsters.

Day Three – I worked at Kinko’s for three years of my life.

Day Four – Every night in their sleep, the average person swallows 8 spiders, 5 Arby’s Beef N’ Cheddars, and 6 rolls of toilet paper.

Day Five – Today is the twenty year anniversary of twenty years ago today.

Day Six – Don’t add an extra space after a period. Monsters live in every extra space. Every extra space. Monsters.

Day Seven – A vengeful spirit that lives inside your DVR and only records commercials for dentures and computer animation degrees.

Day Eight – The word moist is almost exclusively used to describe cake or underpants.

Day Nine – Monster ideas: A bear-penguin. Ocelot-beaver. Tiger-Duck. Otter-pus. Whale-cat. Dog-spider. Look, animals are scary.

Day Ten – You will die after reading this tweet. It may take up to 80 or 90 years, but, still.

Day Eleven – There are still some pictures on the Internet that don’t have cats in them.

Day Twelve – Tentacles.

Day Thirteen – You die. Your obituary is just a link redirecting people to your LinkedIn profile.

Day Fourteen – Actually, the best trick the devil ever pulled is convincing people it’s okay to begin sentences with the word “actually.”

Day Fifteen – Maybe zombies don’t want to eat brains. Maybe their arms are outstretched like that because they want a hug.

Day Sixteen – A plague washes over the world causing all retweets on twitter to be BLATANT ENDORSEMENTS. Chilling.

Day Seventeen – A killer article: The Top Million Facts About Whatever That You’ll Start Reading Then Sit There Until You Wither And Die.

Day Eighteen – Dial-up modems made that noise ’cause they were haunted by future humans who knew all the time we’d waste on smartphones.

Day Nineteen – Nun Clown. Half nun. Half clown. All terror.

Day Twenty – You are a werewolf. Except instead of turning into a wolf during the full moon you become an asshole at random times.

Day Twenty-One – You die. You see a bright light. Then the words 404 Not Found.

Day Twenty-Two – You are haunted by the ghost of a tech guru who TED Talks the shit out of you every time you try to relax

Day Twenty-Three – Vampires can’t enter without an invitation but Facebook invites count. Lots of vampires at baby showers and poetry slams.

Day Twenty-Four – The guy at the cafe makes a design in your latte. It is Anthony Weiner. The design in the latte is a picture of his penis.

Day Twenty-Five – Monster idea: A mummy but wrapped entirely in Hello Kitty duct tape.

Day Twenty-Six – For no particular reason this phrase popped into my head: emotional dentistry.

Day Twenty-Seven – You give your soul to Satan. He acts like he really likes it but immediately regifts it at his cousin’s wedding shower.

Day Twenty-Eight – If you feel like you’re constantly being watched and judged it means you’re being haunted by a Ghost Cat.

Day Twenty-Nine – All your autocorrects come true in real life. Now you are a taco while shitting on the corner wailing for your taxidermy.

Day Thirty – You die at Arby’s. You are the Ghost of That One Arby’s. All the other asshole ghosts call you Boo N’ Cheddar. Assholes.

Day Thirty-One (HALLOWEEN!) – Your childhood dream finally comes true when you find candy hidden inside a razor blade.

Your friend in HORROR,

Joseph

If you enjoy my work, check out my brand new comedy and music album FLAW FEST. You can also sign up for my fan list here.

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Filed under Daily Tweet Collection, Uncategorized

GHOST STORIES: Obsessed Ep 36

Improvisers Hannah Kuhlmann and Aric McKeown join Joseph for a spooktacular episode of obsessive Ghost Stories. You’ll be terrified, amused, and terri-mused by tales of Dairy Queen Blood Man, City Hall Star Wars Ghost, Drug-Doing Kim, masturbating in the soup aisle, and dealing with your fear by throwing cheese curds.

AWOOGA! Obsessed is now a part of Feral Audio! Go to Feral now to listen to this episode and subscribe for new ones!

Listen, rate, review, and subscribe to OBSESSED on iTunes.

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The Anti-Commercial

When I was about fourteen, my mother took me to visit my grandfather.

He suffered from depression. He was scarred from his service in World War II. The only thing he ever said about the war was this: “I should have married that nice girl I met in France instead of your grandmother.”

My grandmother once popped my balloon with a cigarette while she was gesticulating wildly to complain about how people shouldn’t get welfare, so, fair enough, Grandpa.

I hadn’t seen my grandfather in a few years. I was an incredibly thin teen. My mother had put on a few pounds. When we arrived at his small apartment, he stared at us. Then he said:

“I guess she’s eating all the food.”

I was, of course, hurt and offended, but also IMPRESSED by the skill with which he so succinctly mocked us BOTH.

This memory popped into my head when I saw the horrible GoDaddy commercial during the Super Bowl.

Here’s a space where I’m not linking to the commercial:

I don’t want them to get any more hits, so let me describe it. A stereotypically attractive female model sits next to a stereotypically unattractive male geek. The voice over says something crappy about web hosting.

Then the model and the geek kiss. This is supposed to be CRAZY in ALL-CAPS. This is supposed to be as outlandish as every other commercial premise. This is as WEIRD as A PLANET FULL OF BABIES or OLD PEOPLE EATING AT TACO BELL or GOTHS DRINKING BUDWEISER.

There are horrible unnatural kissing smacking sound effects most likely created by slapping a seal with a wet noodle. Like that, but more disgusting. It was like they couldn’t decide whether the kiss itself should be funny or sexy so they went with the third option of REVOLTING.

Then, just like my grandfather, the commercial delivers the perfect double punch. The voice says something along the lines of you should use GoDaddy because it does this brilliant thing of combining SEXY and SMART.

After the average American Super Bowl viewer managed to hold down their Doritos and Bud Light through the endless kissing scene, they were treated to this moral at the end of the commercial:

Sexy women aren’t smart.
Smart men aren’t sexy.

I had to fight the urge to leap off the couch and go cancel my GoDaddy account. The only reason I didn’t is because I do not have a GoDaddy account. I’m tempted to sign up for one so I can have the satisfaction of canceling it. If you have a GoDaddy account, I politely encourage you to consider canceling it.

The Super Bowl commercials were extra horrifying this year as though they were actually striving to meet a bullshit stereotype reinforcement quota. Old people shouldn’t have fun, violence is cool, women are objects, Stevie Wonder is a voodoo priest, babies can’t be astronauts, etc.

I had a more visceral reaction to the GoDaddy commercial because it seemed to go out of its way to be as offensive as possible and then wink about it. Like it was cute and clever. Those fools! Don’t they realize ONE entity can’t be both CUTE and CLEVER! That’s as outrageous as an attractive woman kissing an intelligent man!

I expect this sort of absurdity from Budweiser. Frankly, I wouldn’t have been surprised to see Christopher Walken, Shia LaBeouf, and a team of Playboy Bunnies do a 60 second spot to advertise the new Bud Light Beer Enema. I would have had problems with that, too, but all the societal issues would be more difficult to analyze and address.

I think we need to start breaking down the cheap, easy stereotypes. It’s not easy, but the GoDaddy commercial gives us a nice place to start. I hope a lot of people who are both smart and sexy tell GoDaddy that they really aren’t interested in being negatively stereotyped. I hope they remind GoDaddy that what they want out of a web hosting company is web hosting, not insulting commercials with horrific kissing noises.

There are plenty of web hosting options out there.

We all make choices.

My grandfather could have married that nice girl in France.

We could tell GoDaddy where to go.

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The itPhone

I’m a big fan of old horror stories by Edgar Allan Poe and H.P. Lovecraft. I also spend a hideous amount of time playing with my smartphone. This led me to think about what kind of story these masters of macabre suspense might write if they were alive today. Enjoy.

I would like to tell you a story about a terrifying, soul-sucking, life destroying thing that happened to a friend of mine.

He got a new smartphone.

My friend—whose name was Jonathon—was a huge fan of Apple. He once sent me an article saying experts predicted that the next iPhone after the iPhone 4 would be the iPhone 5. To which I responded, “Which experts are saying this? Counting experts?”

But the next phone was, strangely, the iPhone 4S and Jonathon dutifully lined up in the middle of the night to buy one. But while he was waiting, a small wizened old man with a crooked smile and bulbous eyes emerged from the shadows of a nearby alley. The old man wanted to sell Jonathon a knock-off iPhone called an itPhone.

Jonathon laughed and said no, but the more he played with the itPhone, the more amazing it seemed. So fast, so responsive, so intuitive as though the phone knew what Jonathon wanted even before he did. On an impulse, he bought the phone.

At first, he was thrilled. Jonathon’s phone was always the fastest. He was that annoying guy at the bar who could look up character actors’ names on his phone faster than his friends could remember them with their slow human brains.

But after a few months, Jonathon started having problems with the phone. One day, he called me and I was terrified. Because who the hell uses their phone to actually call people these days?

Also, my ringtone is the Wilhelm Scream. For anyone who is not familiar with the Wilhelm Scream, it’s a famous audio clip used in many films when minor characters die or fall from high places. It sounds something like, “oooWAAUHHHooohhh!”

Anyway, Jonathon was in panic about his phone.

“What’s wrong with it?” I asked.

“It’s…it’s haunted,” Jonathon said.

I asked for some examples of what this haunted phone was doing.

Jonathon quickly rattled off a list. “It keeps giving me the wrong directions! And it autocorrects all of my texts! And without asking me it keeps poking all my Facebook friends!”

“Yeah,” I said supportively, “That’s what phones do.”

“You don’t understand,” Jonathon shouted, “It took a picture of my junk while I was sleeping and sent it to my co-workers!”

“Well,” I said, “Was it a good picture? Tasteful lighting? Did it use an Instagram filter?”

“This isn’t funny!” Jonathon whisper-yelled. “It downloaded an app and I can’t delete it.”

“What does the app do?”

“It makes it so the phone screams if I stop touching it.”

I laughed and the line went dead. I almost called back but I really, really hate talking on the phone. It just seems so much easier to send a text, you know?

Anyway, I didn’t hear from Jonathon for a little while. But I assumed he was alright, because he was always online. He was very active on Facebook. And Twitter. And Google+. And Pinterest. And Reddit. And Tumblr. And Etsy. And Regretsy. Even LinkedIn. I admit, that gave me some pause.

Eventually, he stopped responding to tweets and texts, so I decided to make a personal sacrifice, stop everything I was doing, and call him on the phone like a savage.

The phone rang and rang and finally Jonathon picked up and said in a raspy voice, “Hello?”

“Jonathon. It’s me. I decided to call you. On the phone. Because I figured what the hell is a phone for after all?”

There was a pause. And then Jonathon cackled like a maniac for a solid minute. He followed the laugh by quietly saying, “LOL.”

That seemed redundant to me. Then he said something even more bizarre. He said, “No, seriously. Actual LOL.”

That just pissed me off.

I mean, LOL stands for laughing out loud. When you add the “actual” you’re just admitting that the majority of times you say LOL you’re lying.

But I digress.

Jonathon hung up and didn’t answer my calls after that. He started changing all of his profile photos. Strange, artsy shots of the corner of his jaw or just his eyebrow. Thankfully, never his junk. At least I don’t think so.

I emailed his co-workers and discovered he had stopped showing up to work weeks ago.

I decided to make the ultimate sacrifice. I decided to physically get in my car, drive through actual traffic to his home, and speak with him face to face. I even parallel parked. It was horrible.

When I arrived at his house, the door was ajar. I gently pushed it open and it screeched ominously. The house was a mess. Clothes, food, bottles, and papers everywhere. It looked like the home of the least organized serial killer in the world. I heard the soft mewling of a cat.

As far as I could remember Jonathon didn’t own any cats.

I followed the noise to the bedroom. There was a dim glow coming from inside the room. I steeled my nerves, peeked inside, and saw him.

Saw it.

Illuminated by the glow of the phone, it was clear that Jonathon had changed. He was shriveled and hunched. His tiny arms could barely support the weight of his hands. His thumbs were enormous and his fingers had developed into fine points. His hair had fallen out and his head had contorted to make more room for his eyes….his giant bulging eyes. His whole body was bent and angled as if it were being pulled into the phone.

His huge, bloodshot eyes seemed to strain out of the sockets as they stared at the phone.

Stared at cat videos on the internet.

I stood there, arms grasping the door frame to hold myself steady. “Hang in there,” I thought, “Hang in there like the cat on the motivational poster.”

Almost against my will, I heard myself saying, “Jonathon?”

Suddenly, his huge bulbous subterranean eyes locked on mine.

“You,” he croaked, “I know you from the Facebooks.” Then he reached out one of his tiny, pointed fingers and growled violently, “POKE!”

I ran out of the house, screaming and thinking to myself, “THIS IS WHY YOU SHOULD NEVER TALK TO YOUR FRIENDS IN PERSON!”

By the time I had run halfway down the block to my car, I began to doubt if I had even seen it. There was a phrase nagging at me, some traditional wisdom, handed down through the generations. Then I remembered.

The phrase was this: “Pics or it didn’t happen.”

I made my way back to the house. My trembling hands pushed open the door. It screeched again. This time there was no cat sound. I trudged through the debris to the bedroom door and looked inside. Jonathan was gone.

I began to explore the house, my heart lurching into my throat every time I opened a closet door or pulled aside a shower curtain. But Jonathon was nowhere to be found.

Then I heard something, very faint yet very close. Was it a cat? No, it was a scream. A repeated, muffled scream.

And I realized the phone call was coming from inside my pants.

Idiot.

I pulled out my phone, cursing my choice of the stupid Wilhelm Scream for a ringtone. I touched the answer button and held the phone to my head.

“Are you looking for me, Facebook friend?” Jonathon rasped.

“Yes, Jonathon, yes I am.”

“I’m in the bedroom.”

“No, you’re not, Jonathon. I’m standing in your bedroom right now.”

“I’m right where you left me. On the bed.”

I turned and looked at the bed. I gathered my courage, terrified that I knew what I was about to see, and I pulled the covers away.

Sure enough, there was Jonathon, his horrible face writhing with laughter.

Writhing inside his phone.

His pointed little fingers scratching the glass surface from the inside. He stared into my eyes and said, “END CALL.”

The line went dead and Jonathon’s phone went black. I left the phone there, raced to my car, and drove straight home.

Well, not quite straight home, I got lost and had to do a google map search, but the point is I never saw Jonathon again.

No one did. At least, not in real life. He’s plenty active online though. He always says YES to my Facebook invites, but he never shows up. So in many ways, he’s living a very normal life.

I’ve tried to tell mutual friends what happened. But they never believe.

After all, there are no pics. So maybe it really never happened.

Thank you for reading. If you enjoy my writing, check out other stories like this in my book Comedy of Doom or support me on Patreon. Thanks!

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