Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Where's My Cake?

As I'm sure you've figured out by this point in our relationship, I am a bit of a horror junkie. I guess "bit" is an understatement. Okay, the fact is that I love horror movies. Love, love, love em. Give me blood and guts and horror and torture and sadism and I am one happy guy.

I'll watch anything you throw at me. Cannibal Holocaust? Been there, done that. Traces of Death? Yawn. Aftermath? Whatever.

The point is that I'm a rather jaded individual when it comes to entertainment of this nature. There's very little that I have seen that evokes any kind of reaction from me, visceral or otherwise.

But in reality, I have a secret shame involving horror, namely one specific visage of terror that, to this very day sends chills down my spine and makes me cower in the corner, babbling like a baby.

In a previous post I made mention of my love for a film called Creepshow, a modern day masterpiece by the master of terror, George A. Romero. As a lad I watched this movie almost daily, absorbing all of the gruesome details and macabre humor it contained.

Before I was even allowed to see the film with my own eyes, I had a copy of the comic book and had more or less memorized all the dialog. I would spend hours poring over the luscious illustrations of torment and death, excited for the time when I would finally see it all with my own eyes.

And see it I did, around the age of 7, excitedly staring at the tv as the movie unfolded in all its stylized glory. But although I knew the stories well from having read them time and time again, nothing had prepared me for the real life visualization of one of the monstrosities that made itself known early on.

I watched as little Billy was both chastised and abused by his father for having brought home the latest issue of Creepshow magazine, only to have the issue ripped from his hands and dumped unceremoniously in the trash can outside. I didn't flinch as "Raoul" (the nickname for the Crypt-Keeperesque host of the movie) appeared in little Billy's window, enticing him to open the window and join him. But it was early into the tale of "Father's Day" that I first realized that things were leaving my safe zone.

A waspish family lounges in a mansion on Father's Day, the matriarch telling her daughter's new husband the tale of dotty old Aunt Bedelia, a woman so tormented by her overbearing father that she was driven to murder. A woman whose only love was murdered at the behest of Nathan Grantham, from a mixture of fear and jealousy. Nathan, who sat in his wheelchair incessantly rattling his cane, DEMANDING his Father's Day cake, while his daughter in full knowledge of the crimes he's had perpetrated against her struggled to prepare it for him.

Pushed beyond her limits and unable to deal with the mixture of grief and rage that overpowers her, she takes hold of a large marble ashtray and does her father in with one well placed crack to the skull. Her actions were known by both the cook (Mrs. Danvers) and her sister, Sylvia, who conspired to obscure the truth and put forward the tale that poor Nathan had suffered a spill in his wheelchair, hitting his head on the way down.

And so every year on Father's Day the family gathers to celebrate the windfall that was given unto them upon the untimely death of Mr. Grantham. Aunt Bedelia traditionally comes to pay tribute at Nathan's grave before drunkenly staggering into the house at 6 for a ham dinner.

And so I watched as these events played out, framed in a comic book style and lit in basic primary colors to give the impression of a comic book come to life.

Bedelia sits by Nathan's grave, lamenting the fortunes that have placed her in this position, cursing Nathan's very name, a bottle of Jim Beam clutched defensively in her hand. Though she is upset and angry the scene remains serene.

And then it happened.

Nathan's decomposed hand springs forth from the ground to the high-toned electric squeal of a synthesizer. Awash in red light, he claws his way upward from his grave, clumps of dirt and decomposed flesh cling to his skull as maggots and other insects continue to feast on what remains of him. Eyeless sockets fix on Bedelia and as he slowly crawls towards her he speaks his famous line for the first of many times.

"Where's my cake, Bedelia? I WANT MY CAKE!" he cries, his voice impeded by the dirt lodged in his mostly decomposed larynx, gravelly and distorted. He asks without mercy, expecting no answer. He has returned to wreak revenge and reclaim what he felt was rightfully his.

That voice. That voice terrifies me to this day, his frenzied demands for his cake still disturb me to the point where I frequently will leave the room or conveniently adjust the volume to miss as much of it as possible. That curdling questioning coupled with the remnants of decaying flesh that cling to his body, putrescent flesh and dirt are caked upon the dessicated and torn remnants of his burial suit.

"It's Father's Day, Bedelia. I want my cake."

After his dispatching of Bedelia we cut back to the remaining victims, enjoying a lighthearted time together, in celebration of the wealth they share because of the actions of the now dearly departed Bedelia.

It does not pass their notice, however, that dear Bedelia appears to be late for the festivities. Hank, the new husband of Sylvia's daughter Cass offers to step outside to both look for Bedelia and to have a quick smoke.

After making a few furtive attempts at rousing Bedelia's attention he decides to make his way to Nathan's grave, in hopes of finding Bedelia there. He finds only the bottle of whiskey from which he immediately takes a swig before losing his footing and finding himself in the loose dirt within Mr. Grantham's grave.

Laughing at his misfortune he reaches for a nearby plant to pull himself up, but instead finds himself pulling the horror struck corpse of Bedelia on top of him.

As ominous piano music kicks in, the stone above Hank begins to shift, making its way forward. After a moment shadow passes before the stone and soon Hank finds himself face to face with the hideously grinning face of the returned Nathan. Frozen with fear he remains motionless until the tombstone loses balance and comes crashing down atop him, his final scream silenced before it has left his throat.

The shambling corpse turns and heads to the house, continuing its intonations.

"Where's my cake? I want it. It's mine."

Back in the house the remaining family members continue their evening, quite unaware of the murders taking place. Ultimately Sylvia decides to let Mrs. Danvers know to start finishing dinner even though Bedelia hasn't arrived yet.

She makes her way into the darkened kitchen and stops upon noticing the trail of dirt encrusted footprints leading further inward. She calls out for Mrs. Danvers not noticing the corpse that is now shoved against the door behind her. Upon seeing Mrs. Danvers' body, she turns to run only to find herself face to face with the undead horror.

"I want my cake", he demands, and then reaching out with both hands violently twists Sylvia's neck so that her head faces completely backwards, the crunching of vertebrae echoing loudly.

Cass and Richard, the final two victims sit alone in the dining room, becoming keenly aware of the absence of all the other family members. Cass finds herself fretting and concerned, while Richard maintains that everything is just fine. At Cass' urging Richard agrees to accompany her into the kitchen to find Sylvia.

They too notice the dirty trail that leads into the kitchen, but before they've had a chance to get to the door, it springs open and Nathan enters carrying a silver platter which is adorned with Sylvia's head, hastily covered in candles and frosting.

A much happier Nathan intones, "It's Father's Day, and I got my cake. Happy Father's Day!"

The scene fades out into a comic book and we are taken to the next story in the film.

But truth be told, the other stories never mattered as much. I loved the movie as a whole, but Nathan's demand for cake never ceased to terrify me.

And why am I telling you all this? Why have I just spent all this time describing a 26 year old movie?

Well, as I said earlier, it STILL scares the hell out of me, even as an adult. As I will mention in a future article, I went and got some new tattoos last weekend, taking my grand total up to 7. Getting inked always brings forth a desire to get MORE tattoos, and after getting my latest two I set to work deciding my next one.

I found that the choice was simple, I wanted, no, NEEDED to get Nathan Grantham holding the platter tattooed on me. Something that has horrified and tormented me for so long deserves a place of honor as far as I'm concerned, so I've spent the better part of my last two evenings poring through my DVD of Creepshow (the imported 2 disc version, of course!) snapping screenshots of various Nathan poses and images.

But finding the images I needed meant having to stare my terror in the eyeless sockets for hours on end, while hearing his horrific voice over and over. I have to admit, I ended up turning the volume way down and tried to not stare at him for any length of time.

Unfortunately, however, placing myself in the line of fire like that resulted in me being wrested from sleep ELEVEN times last night due to nightmares starring that damn skeleton. He haunted my dreams in youth and has returned to terrify me as an adult.

At least I'm smart enough to have him tattooed on my back so I won't have to look at him all the time.


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Cerulean said...

Fascinating how you take your fears and verbally paint them in a way that entertains others and helps you face them in a new light.

E said...

Oh, I'm no better at facing them. I have been unable to shower comfortably for a few days due to the fear I induced in myself by flooding my mind with images of Nate.

We suffer for our art.