OCTOBER MIXTAPE by Ryan Bradford
A Scary Movie
I spent my high school career caring little about anything except making movies. The memories and nostalgia I have from this era were huge inspirations for my book Horror Business, which I wrote after realizing that my career as a film director probably wouldn’t pan out. But I did learn that movies and writing books aren’t very different — the theories of storytelling carry over across mediums, one just requires a lot more red food coloring and corn syrup.
I still think about making movies all the time, usually when I’m driving alone at night and the music’s loud enough to numb me to the tension, worry and anxiety I’ve carried in from the day. It clears my head, and makes it easy to think of dark shit, which, paradoxically, is where I’m most comfortable.
In the spirit of October/Halloween, I built a scary movie around a soundtrack. Listen to it at night when you’re driving in your car.
Remember: Always check for people in your back seat. Never pick up hitchhikers.
1. Daniel Johnston, “Deviltown”
The movie’s called Dangerous Children. It will be about a family — a mother, father, their son and daughter. The parents are unremarkable stereotypes, which allows us to focus on the brother and sister. The brother — let’s call him Ryan — is a withdrawn genius. The sister’s name is Shirley Jackson (homage to Shirley Jackson).
The family moves to a town where things seem off. Parents, for the most part, are absent. The entire population is made up of teens — all interchangeable, awkward, and withdrawn. This is the perfect environment for Ryan, who just wants to fit in. Shirley Jackson, being more independent and strong-willed, immediately senses something wrong.
SPOILER ALERT: Everyone’s a clone.
Imagine this song over the opening credits, which would be in Albertus font with leading caps (homage to John Carpenter).
This would also be the song for the trailer, which would include split-second reveals of horrible images. There would be no indication of plot. No dialogue. Just images. (Which, if we’re being real, really only qualifies as a teaser).
2. Crocodiles, “I Wanna Kill”
Establishing shots will be silent, tranquil, eerie images of manufactured suburbia. All houses will look the same. Copies of copies. Let’s get the clone motif started. Then, this song fades in, increases until an SUV carrying our main characters enters the screen. Non-diagetic music becomes diagetic. CUT TO: inside of the car. Ryan is listening to this song on a Discman (movie is set in the late ‘90s.)
Dad tries to get Ryan’s attention, but Ryan is too busy brooding in the backseat. Dad says something like, “Is he listening to that shit again?”
SPOILER ALERT: Ryan (or clone Ryan?) kills the father later in the movie. This song = foreshadowing.
3. Beach Slang, “Dirty Cigarettes”
In John Carpenter’s Halloween, there’s a scene where Laurie and her friend are driving through town, smoking weed. Blue Oyster Cult’s “Don’t Fear the Reaper” plays on the radio. I hate that “More cowbell” ruined “Don’t Fear the Reaper,” because it’s a great song. It’s sad, a little scary, a little romantic.
I was also watching that scene when I touched a breast (singular) for the first time.
This would be the song during a scene where the viewer could touch a breast if both parties were interested.
4. The Motels, “Suddenly Last Summer”
This scene will be a party in the woods. Significance TBD.
I like this song because it song fits into a genre that I refer to as “haunted summer.” It’s the only song that I can think of right now that fits into this made-up category.
5. Chromatics, “Cherry”
Chromatics can make anything sad and creepy.
In this scene, Shirley Jackson is fed up with everyone ignoring her suspicions about the new town. She’s takes the car and drives around. This song plays from the car stereo. When she passes groups of teens — standing on street corners, etc. — they stop talking and stare at her.
I used to have an irrational fear of people jumping in my car when I was in high school. Back then, my best friend lived out in a rural area, and to get to his house meant a two-mile drive on a dirt road. I hated going there at night. I’d have this intense fantasy about stopping at one of the unnecessary stop signs along the dirt road (why were there stop signs?), and a bloody person would jump against the passenger door, trying to get in. What do you do? Do you help them? Do you open the door?
I would have never opened the door.
6. Soft Riot, “Your Secret Light Shines at Night”
At this point, let me clarify that the clones in Dangerous Children aren’t necessarily clones of each other but clones of past teens that have lived in the town, although there is definitely a vague resemblance between them, similar to the indistinguishable characters in American Psycho.
The way clones are generated is through having sex with a clone. In this scene, a lady clone seduces Ryan, who has never been with a girl (as we all expected). This act of copulation produces Evil Clone Ryan, which gestates at an incredibly rapid speed, emerges from lady clone — a gruesome “birth” — and SPOILER ALERT kills Ryan (homage to reactionary “promiscuity = death” motif of ’80s slasher movies)
7. Liars, “Mask Maker”
Speaking of sex.
I had started seeing a girl shortly before The Ring came out in theaters. We had been on a few dates and things were going well. We decided to see The Ring, even though I was skeptical that it would be scary, given the PG-13 rating.
It’s a little embarrassing to say, but that’s probably the most scared I’ve ever been in movie theater. The videotape footage, the ominous dread, and the shocking imagery (which looked like it was pulled from a Stephen Gammell illustration) shook me in ways I’d never experienced before.
Later, it was the first time we ever tried to get down, but I couldn’t perform. I told her that it was probably due to the terror I had previously felt at the movie. I don’t know why this seemed like a good excuse.
Anyway, this song would play during a rave or something. I don’t know.
8. Pharmakon, “Body Betrays Itself”
Someone’s intestines get pulled out to this song. Obviously.
9. Weekend, “Mirror”
This one is also a shout-out to my man, Kevin, who plays guitar in Weekend. I became friends with him in college, and he went on to be in this rad band.
Shirley Jackson has figured out everything about the clones and the town’s initial effort to destroy them. She has learned of the grown-ups who were murdered and the few that survived only to become subservient, and now stay alive by luring virile teens into town to help the clones propagate.
This song plays over a montage of her building a bomb to destroy the town. Her expertise with explosions will have been established earlier in the movie.
By the time we were seniors in high school, our videos were being shown every morning during the video announcements. One of the videos was a parody of the Evil Dead Footmovies, called Evil Foot, which was about our friend’s foot becoming possessed. We stayed up all night filming it in my friend’s horse barn. We ended up building two bombs to blow up the foot prop after the first bomb failed. Two bombs! Most kids don’t even get to play with one bomb these days.
When Evil Dead Foot played over the announcements, we didn’t get the praise that we expected.
Our classmates didn’t get it. Not very many of them had seen Evil Dead. “Was that it?” they asked.
“Disappointing, boys,” a teacher said. A goddamn teacher.
10. Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds, “Push the Sky Away”
In this scene, everyone is dead. There needs to be emotional dissonance during this song, a feeling of “nothing will ever be the same.” Shirley Jackson has her family’s blood on her hands, literally. The trauma of stabbing her clone brother so many times shows on her face, which now looks wise beyond its years.
Once, I watched the old horror movie The Changeling with a group of friends. During a very serious, traumatic scene, my friend did a great George C. Scott impression. We couldn’t stop laughing. Another friend, the one who’d brought over the movie, actually got up and ejected the tape and wouldn’t put it in until we stopped laughing. He was really mad.
11. Lemonheads, “Skulls”
You can’t have a Halloween mix without some variation/iteration of a Misfits song, and this happens to be the best one. This will play when Shirley Jackson leaves town. The sun rises in her rearview. It’s a new day. Perhaps this is what she’s wanted all along.
Then, right before cutting to black, we hint that she’s a clone. “The End… ?”
12. Groovie Ghoulies, “Deviltown”
To be played over credits.
One time, after my friend’s dad watched one of our movies, he said, “That was fantastic. Now, you just have to learn how to end them.”
— Ryan Bradford is the author of the novel Horror Business, as well as the founder and editor of Black Candies, a journal of literary darkness. His writing has appeared in Quarterly West, Vice, Monkeybicycle, Hobart, New Dead Families and [PANK].
Image: Actor/director Ryan Bradford (left) in Evil Dead Foot, 2003