The last couple of years have been bursting with top flight sci-if and horror films that are not only critically and publically acclaimed, but genuinely terrifying as well. With the success of IT, Get Out, Green Room, The Witch, Sinister, and Cloverfield Paradox, the path has been cleared for more ambitious and utterly terrifying tales to be told. This brings me to this week’s best horror offering: Annihilation.
In our last episode, we all unanimously agreed that Annihilation was a GO to see at the theater, and for good reason. The cast alone should entice anyone who may still be on the fence regarding this movie. Natalie Portman, Oscar Isaac, Tessa Thompson, Gina Rodriguez, and Jennifer Jason Leigh round out the stacked cast. And, if that weren’t enough, this film was directed by Alex Garland, who was the writer and director of one of my favorite sci-if/horror/thriller films in recent history, Ex Machina. It also boasts one of the most beautiful looking alien invasion sites that I’ve ever seen, also known as “The Shimmer”. But, this cavalcade of color harnesses a darker secret. There is an unseen threat that will leave our protagonists with far more questions than answers. It’s an annihilation of everything they thought they knew. Disarmed and seeking any semblance of security, the unknown begins to destroy them. Much like that night; a night I will never forget...
JUST ANOTHER SLEEPOVER
It’s obvious to say that your likes and dislikes stem from your own personal experiences. Obviously, as I documented in a previous blog, if you’re around criminal activities and have masterfully pulled off one of the most lucrative Chuck E. Cheese heists in history, you’ll naturally develop a taste for the illicit. So, when I say I love horror films because I have personally experienced some terrifying events in my life, trust me, it’s all true.
As with the previous story I mentioned above, this also happened when I was 10 (my life experiences became more intense after being 5 years old for so long. #ForeverFive). To this day, the events of that seemingly normal night still haunt me and the questions that have gone unanswered still linger in my mind.
Again, it was like any other day. Two friends (Pep who you’ve previously met, see my blog: Oceans Pre-Teen, and a new friend, Jose) and I were getting ready for another end of the week sleepover at Pep’s house. It was your typical boyhood fare. The type of stuff that is now trending on every show we watch on Netflix. Riding bikes, talking about X-Men characters, playing with toys, trying to figure out what the secret Playboy channel codes were…typical boy stuff.
“Try 6969! I bet you anything that’s what it is...that’s what mine is at home!” Jose threw out there with a prepubescent squeal.
”I’ve already tried that! I don’t think our parents would have the same codes for this reason. I think they know we’re watching porn when they’re not around!” A paranoid sweat began to bubble on Pep's nose.
”Look!” I said as my eyes reflected the wavy indistinguishable images off the screen.
A glorious parade of oscillating lines sparkled in a wide spectrum of colors, as a figure began to form on the screen. None of us were breathing. There was no sound coming from us or the television. Still, we all analyzed the screen trying to fit the refracted pieces of the picture like a rainbow colored puzzle. The silence was deafening. We were on the verge of embarking on our own expedition into the shimmering wetlands of the unknown. Then, she spoke.
“Who could that be at the door?” her displaced voice boomed from the television. We all inched closer to the television hoping to stitch this bodiless voice with its perfunctory performer who continued to shuffle her feet towards the door.
“Oh, it is you!” She said.
“Yes. It is me.” He said.
“I told you to never come back, Richard.” She said.
“I missed you too much, baby.” He said.
“Ok, come in.” She said.
Their stop and go cadence vapidly burst out of their mouths in short controlled pops like buttery microwave popcorn bursting in its bag. But, their dialogue tantalized our ten year old conception of romance. They made it seem so easy.
Then, finally, there they were. The once meandering sound waves coasting on the squirming waves of color on the screen finally merged and created a whole solid picture. Richard and his buxom blonde strolled past her door and into their poorly staged living room. No more words were exchanged; instead, the soft sultry sounds of a saxophone filled the silent space. But, as Richard reached towards his blonde, a loud thud slammed against Pep’s backdoor. In a panic, we all reached for the remote and turned the television off. The silence filled the room faster than the air fleeing from our bodies with every labored breath. The fear of being caught “red handed”, “with our pants down” or whatever other idiom you’d like to use in this scenario, coupled with the strange noise from outside, was crippling. We all just stared and waited to hear another noise. But nothing happened.
Feeling the paranoia washing from our bodies, our strained muscles and joints finally loosened up and we began to move. We crept slowly to the window facing Pep’s backyard but couldn’t see anything. As we moved closer and closer towards the back door: THUD! This time, a loud sound thundered from the front door. Jose and I were frozen once again. But, Pep had finally had enough. He ran quickly past his living room floor and opened the large wooden door. Like an animal hunting his prey, he looked out through the steel protective door and watched in silence. Both Jose and I ran after him and jumped on his living room sofa, resting our bruised pre-teen knees against the back of the seat as we peered out the window too.
“There’s no one there.” Jose whispered.
Pep finally kicked the steel door, sending chills down our spines as the loud reverberating bang of rubber meeting steel echoed in our ears.
“My brother is a black-belt in Kenpo Karate. He can kill you!” Pep yelled out into the night air. As his rage progressed, he moved swiftly past us and into his brother’s room. We followed closely after. He rummaged through his brother’s closet until he pulled out two wooden sticks, a wooden staff, some foam covered nun-chucks and his brother’s bb gun. He laid them across the bed.
Pep with his best Macaulay Culkin impression looked up towards us and said: “Pick one. We need to protect my house.”
Everyone, of course, reached for the gun. But, Pep stopped us—and rightfully so—took the gun for himself. He also took the nun-chucks behind his back and shoved them through his elastic waistband. I grabbed the sticks and Jose took the staff. Pep walked out of the bedroom and towards the front door again. Our tiny hands grasped our weapons tightly as we slid our feet towards the door.
“So, if we go outside from the backdoor, we’ll be trapped with nowhere to go if something happens. But, if we go out the front door, look around and something happens there, we can run into the street and go to my friend James’ house and we’ll be safe.” Pep’s logic was solid as always. We all agreed to the plan and stood at the front door.
We all crowded around the door. Pep reached for the handle when all of a sudden, the television switched itself on, projecting the wild fluctuating colors onto the wall directly in front of it. The static emanating from the TV was loud and disorienting. “Screw the plan!” we all thought as we ran directly out of the front door and into the street.
As we ran towards Pep’s neighbor’s house, the static seemed to come alive as the sound continued to charge towards us, growing louder and louder as we moved further away. Just then, we looked back and noticed that all the lights had gone out. The house had seemingly lost all power and all was black and silent once again. We knocked on James’ door, but no one answered. We tried to gather ourselves before we decided what to do next.
Somewhere along the way, we had all decided to ditch our weapons…all but the nun-chucks still nestled tightly between Pep’s waist and pants. Armed with only the black padded batons and our wits, we walked slowly back towards the house.
“Dude, we need to call the cops!” I hurriedly remarked, still wondering where my sticks were.
“Yeah dude, I don’t know what else we can do. Someone has to be messing with us.” Jose thought aloud.
As we all marched closer to Pep’s house, the lights began to flicker inside and finally the lights stayed on. Determined to get to the bottom of this, we all walked up towards the house and slowly walked in. Not before walking past our weapons, which were strewn across Pep’s front yard. Undoubtedly, tossed aside the second we ran out of the house. But, we were too afraid to stop, so we just walked right past them and walked into the house.
“Go get the phone, it’s in the kitchen.” Pep ordered as we walked to the center of the living room. The bewitched television continued to paint our faces as we walked past its trance inducing ballet of colors. Pep walked towards it and switched it off as I made my way towards the kitchen. Jose stood guard at the center of the room, looking at both Pep and I as we moved away from each other.
I walked into the kitchen and found the phone. I reached for it and began to walk back into the living room, not before the shimmering gleam of the stainless steel potato peeler caught my eye. So, like an Edgar Wright sequence, I grabbed the phone, quickly grabbed the potato peeler, and pumped up my Reeboks before heading back into the living room with the others. I handed Pep the phone.
“Okay. Are we really going to do this?” Pep questioned the validity of the call as we stood around each other. The dial tone rang, filling the space between us as we glanced at each other in silence.
“Do we have any other choice? We could be in real danger dude. Someone could be under the house just waiting for us to fall asleep then come out and kill us, or something like that.” Jose replied in a frenzy.
So, Pep began to dial 911. The cordless phone beeped loudly as he punched in the numbers. Finally, it rang once, rang twice, rang one last time, and then the phone suddenly died. A sinking feeling began to grow in our stomachs and fear began to swell up in our throats as we looked at each other and the silent phone. The lights flickered again, and the house went dark one more time. This was certainly where we would die. Our complete and utter annihilation would be now…
Then a voice broke the silence. “What the hell are you guys doing?” Pep’s older brother said as he held our ditched weapons in his hands.
“Aahhhhh!” we all yelled in unison. We ran up to him and began to flood him with the night’s details, even including the part about the playboy channel. Because we didn’t care, our fear had overtaken our filters and we were just happy we weren’t alone anymore. A few minutes later, two headlights flooded the room as Pep’s parents parked their car onto the driveway. We didn’t mention the night’s proceedings to them and we begged Pep’s brother not to say anything either. Sober minds prevailed at that point. Keeping his brother’s silence would cost Pep a few dollars and some cursory chores, but we were safe and that’s all that mattered.
We all survived this ordeal but to this day, we have no idea what that was or why it happened. Was it just a string of coincidental events? Or, was there something more sinister at work? I guess, we’ll never know. But, what I do know is that my appreciation of horror movies isn’t based on a superficial love for blood and guts. Instead, there is a deep seeded love that is firmly rooted in my own horrible past. A past that might never be fully explained or understood...
Too much? I think so. LOL
That concludes this week's story time. Thanks for reading. Make sure to go through the other blogs below. You can also slide on over to our Episode Page to find all of our podcast episode as well.