Category Archives: Film

in which i discover analog horror

When I was a kid, I was obsessed with the paranormal and the occult. I did not believe any of it was real, but I still loved it. I loved how the show In Search Of put this very respectable, credible sort of mask on, and winked at the audience, like, “Listen, we all know this isn’t real. But … what if it was? What if we all agreed to pretend that it was?”

Jack Palance was so intense on Ripley’s Believe It Or Not, it was like he dared you to not believe it. It was so great, that stuff. I just loved it. The Time Life Books series you already know I’m talking about before you even look at the link if you’re my generation was also a favorite. In the early days of the Internet, I just about died when I found all the regional urban legends on usenet that never made it to my little part of Los Angeles County.

I saw Blair Witch in the theater. I lurked on unfiction for what feels like ages back before the server blew up like Ricky’s mom. I watched so many found footage movies when they were just this low budget way to make indies, there was nothing left to surprise me when they went mainstream (though I was thrilled for the creators and the genre). I loved Marble Hornets so much, I tracked down like a 200 page PDF all about the Slenderman mythos that existed at the time, and I printed it out so I could make my own notes in it.

And until recently, it’s all just sort of fallen off my radar. I blame … *gestures broadly at everyfuckingthing*.

But when I came across Night Mind recently, it all came back. All the fun of pretending it’s real, with other people who are also pretending it’s real, while we all agree not to talk about how it isn’t real … oh man it just scratches this very specific itch that I didn’t even realize I had until I was scratching it. The SCP and EAS videos are just fantastic.

For the last minute or so, I’ve been channel surfing around Night Mind, Nexpo, and a few of those “people who watched this also watched” channels.

It’s one of those channels that surprised me and legit scared the evershittingfuck out of me last night.

Last night, I spent the evening watching analog horror videos on YouTube. I love the familiar, nostalgic, VHS feeling. I love remembering, from the safety of 49, how I felt every single time I heard the Emergency Broadcast System when I was 9 and a Cold War Kid. I don’t know what the modern day equivalent of walking into a room lit only by the static from a TV with no signal that you are positive you turned off an hour ago is, but if you know in your guts what I just described, that’s how these videos make me feel. It’s fantastic.

This is where I reveal that, until about 36 hours ago, I had not heard of “analog horror“. I hope you still respect me.

So, the story these videos and their creators are telling is genuinely frightening. Some real bad shit is happening with the moon and the television and even though I haven’t paused it to look, I just know there’s all sorts of creepy shit in the static. The way they are telling their story is impressive to me for a million reasons, technical and creative.

I think I watched three of them from this channel (they’re all very short, just a couple minutes each). Then they get to this video that slowly begins to feel familiar as I watch it. By the end of the first minute, that familiar feeling has become a memory. I have absolutely seen this before. But that’s impossible, because I didn’t know this video, this channel, or even this genre existed until breakfast yesterday morning!

I make this agreement with myself when I watch these channels, that’s essentially the same agreement we make when we play an ARG or engage with unfiction in any way: I know it isn’t real, but I’m going to pretend it’s real, and we aren’t going to talk about how it isn’t real. So my head is in a VERY PARTICULARLY RECEPTIVE AND VULNERABLE PLACE as this video WHICH I HAVE NEVER SEEN BUT TOTALLY REMEMBER plays out in front of me.

The video is tense and unnerving and unsettling on its own. But this unreal, impossible, yet undeinably real memory of seeing it before makes it feel like I am now inside one of these creepypasta shorts I’ve been watching. Somehow this specific video has also come out of my head and jumped into the computer in front of me and now this memory that I can not possibly have is clearly existing in my head and also on this video and I gotta tell you, bob, it isn’t great.

There’s a flash on the screen and I am already looking at exactly the right place to see the entity I know will be there. There has been nothing in this video so far that would lead anyone who hasn’t seen it to expect an entity. WHAT THE FUCK HOW DO I KNOW ANY OF THIS WHAT THE FUCK IS GOING ON.

The video plays for about another thirty seconds and then it ends.

I say, out loud, in my empty game room, “What the fuck.” And then the credits roll.

Oh. Okay. This all make sense, now, and I can breathe again. It’s made by Kris Straub, who I’ve known for years. I am a huge fan of Kris’s Candle Cove and Ichor Falls. Then I see that the video is from an idea by Mikey Neumann, who I have done many outstanding creative projects with over the years and love like family.

Mikey and Kris made this video forever ago, and sent it to me before it was uploaded anywhere. In all of the *gestures broadly at everyfuckingthing* of the last few years, I had completely forgotten about it. Like, the part of my brain where it lived was not reformatted, but absolutely marked as “available for storage” in my mental fstab.

I did that loud, nervous, I’m-so-glad-I-didn’t-die-I-really-thought-I-was-going-to-die laugh that we’re all familiar with for reasons none of us want to remember. Then I was like, “Okay. Okay. Well done, Mysterious Person Who Is Writing My Life. You just gave me the first good scare I’ve had in a long, long time.”

The series is called Local 58, and so is the channel, which is what I had been watching when I saw the video that made me metaphorically shit my pants. I am so glad I found it, and all the other channels like it that it either inspired, or was inspired by. This is fun, this stuff. This storytelling is doing the exact same thing for me in 2022 that the original analog horror did for me in 1982. I have just started Gemini Home Entertainment, (I know it’s not precisely the same but this Omega Mart training video is great,) and I haven’t even done the Night Mind Deep Dive into Local 58, which I know will open new doors for me to peek through.

As I am someone who is habitually late to every party, I’m sure there’s a ton of good stuff out there in this genre for me to discover. If there’s an analog horror series or creator you love who I haven’t linked to here, link them in a comment, if you want. I’m so interested to see what’s out there.

The Backrooms and Night Mind

A few months ago, I started watching YouTube channels every night before bed. Mostly, it’s been explorations of abandoned places, histories of video games and 80s pop culture, and all sorts of weird amusement park stuff that I never thought I’d love, but can’t get enough of.

At some point, I came across a channel called Night Mind. This dude does magnificent deep dives into all sorts of Internet Weirdness, with a focus on ARGs and unfiction. In fact, the first video posted to the channel is all about my first and favorite creepypasta YouTube series, Marble Hornets.

Real quick: Shortly after the Slender Man myth was created, some brilliant filmmakers took the idea and ran with it to create their own found footage series. I’d never seen anything like it, and I was OBSESSED. It was called Marble Hornets and it ran for three seasons. You have probably divided yourselves into two groups, now. Half of you are like OMG MARBLE HORNETS I LOVED THAT and the other half are like I have no idea what you’re talking about.

After Marble Hornets, my life took me in a direction that veered away from internet creepypasta. I’ve been catching up on what I missed, via Night Mind.

Last night, I saw a relatively recent upload about a new found footage webseries called The Backrooms. I started watching it, veered off of Night Mind and to the source (as suggested by Night Mind’s host, Nick Nocturne), and an hour later I was like WHAT THE FUCK DID I JUST WATCH HOLY SHIT.

As of about an hour ago, I am caught up (mostly) on the current Liminal Space deal that creepypasta kids are exploring. It’s fascinating and squarely in my wheelhouse. The Backrooms is terrifying, if you allow yourself to buy into the story, which of course I did because it’s fun.

Okay. So. I know that for people who are plugged into whatever the current Internet Hotness is, this is all very old news. I guess the Liminal Space deal has been happening for awhile, and this video I’m about to link to was released in January of this year, making it ancient in Internet time.

Here is the original film, The Backrooms (found footage)

You can watch the entire thing, including all the uploads, in around an hour. Now, I know there’s some show you spend an hour watching that doesn’t deserve your time (I’m looking at you, Reality TV) that always leaves you feeling a little unsatisfied, like you gorged yourself on a Wonka Bar and now you are still hungry. If you are nodding along with me, GO TO NIGHT MIND AND START THERE LIKE I DID.

This series is magnificent, and if stuff like this makes your brain light up in the right places, you will LOVE Night Mind (presuming you don’t know about it already).

This morning, I have wandered around lots of Internet I don’t usually visit, reading about and learning more about The Backrooms and the Liminal Space stuff. It’s deeply satisfying, kind of tickles my imagination, and is tremendously engaging. If you like the same things I like, I think you’ll be real glad you spent some time checking this out.

Oh, and one last thing: the guy who created and directed this stuff, Kane Pixels, is sixteen years-old.

i wanna rock (rock)

I was playing Donkey Kong yesterday, listening to my 80s Arcade playlist, and I got this idea to write something that like ten people in the world would find amusing. Because I am one of those people, and my friend, Josh, who gave me a good note on the bit, is another, I’d like to say a special hello to the eight of you who also enjoy this the way we do.

*Extremely Patrick Bateman Voice*

Twisted Sister found international fame in 1984 with their album Stay Hungry, powered by the success of “We’re Not Gonna Take It”, which reached number 21 in the US. Some of the song’s popularity can be attributed to the ambiguity of what “it” was Dee Snyder would not take. Some critics claim it allowed a disaffected generation to claim the “it” for themselves, whatever “it” may be. Snyder spoke for them all, while simultaneously empowering their own voices.

But it is the album’s lesser-known single, “I Wanna Rock”, released in October of that year and only reaching number 68 on the Billboard Hot 100 that is the true anthem for the moment. “I Wanna Rock” asks nothing of the listener. It allows for even less. It declares, “I Wanna Rock, and I don’t care if you’re going to take it or not,” and in so doing, defines the entire decade.

*Ax Swinging Intensifies*

May His Memory Be A Blessing

Late yesterday afternoon, I saw that Howard Hesseman passed away. I didn’t know him, but I worked with him once, and he was wonderful. It was in the 90s, when Anne and I were still dating, in a tiny movie a classmate of mine wrote, produced, directed, and starred in. We filmed it up in San Francisco. Howard and I played rival drag queens. Oh, how I wish I could find a photo of us. It was magnificent.

It was so long ago, I can’t recall much about the movie, but I loved the story and I loved getting to do full-on drag (in a Peg Bundy wig, 10 inch platform thigh-high boots, showing way too much flabby belly God it was glorious) and I loved the unvarnished grind of making an indie movie in the 90s. I’m pretty sure Howard and I were in the same scene at least once, but I can’t recall if our characters interacted at all. I don’t think they did.

I also remember that one day on the set, we were sitting in cast chairs, talking, and the subject of jazz came up. I confessed that my familiarity with jazz musicians was ten feet wide and half an inch deep, but

I enjoyed Miles Davis, Dave Brubeck, John Coltrane, Chet Baker. He asked me if I had ever listened to Charles Mingus. I told him that I hadn’t hear OF him, much less heard him play music, so Howard walked to his car, which he’d driven up from Los Angeles, and came back with a cassette of Mingus Ah Um that I still have today.

“You will love listening to this while you burn through the 5 on your way back to LA,” he said.

I loved the image of burning through interstate, just setting it afire and letting it turn to ash behind you before it blew away, having served its (your) purpose. It was so much more romantic and rebellious than the reality of trudging through mile after mile of “are we there yet” and cattle yards during seven monotonous hours.

“How can I get this back to you?” I asked him.

“You won’t want to,” he said. “I’ll get another copy. Forget it.” I can still hear the glee and enthusiasm that was in his voice. He was giving me so much more than a cassette tape.

Anne, Nolan, and I listened to Mingus Ah Um on the way home, and Howard was right. We loved it. I still love it. And I have Howard Hesseman to thank for it.

Rest easy, Howard. Thank you for being kind to me and my future family. May your memory be a blessing to others, as it is to me.

Star Trek Day: 2021

Star Trek premiered this week, 55 years ago, and tomorrow we will celebrate all things Star Trek, past, present, and future with a live, free, global streaming event that I can not believe I get to co-host.

I’ve read the entire script, and I’m about to leave for rehearsal, so I know most of the OMGAREYOUSERIOUS stuff that will be revealed. I’m not going to spoil anything, but I will tell you that if you love Star Trek the way I love Star Trek, you won’t want to miss it.

I mean … look at this:

 

I’m co-hosting with my dear friend Mica Burton. We’ll be coming to you, live, from the Skirball Cultural Center, starting at 5:30pm Pacific / 8:30pm Eastern. Star Trek Day will be streamed on Paramount+, YouTube, Facebook, and via Rutherford’s cyborg implant.