I spent some of my birthday downtime revisiting some old back issues of the EC Comics I used to love. Of course Tales from the Crypt and The Vault of Horror were always favorites, as were the DC variations from the ‘70s like House of Mystery and the Warren Publishing titles like Creepy and Eerie. But this past month, resubmerging myself in the reading habits of my younger days, I found myself most taken with the decidedly non-supernatural tales in my old copies of mags like ShockSuspenStories. These scenarios, which featured the usual oversaturated color and visual hysteria found in the pages of EC, were no less morbid and fatalistic than the ones spun by the Cryptkeeper, but they did tend to sprinkle elements of more recognizable social issues, like race and drug addiction, among the more routinely clever and demented horror imagery. And they were sometimes even adapted from short stories by big-name authors in the genres of horror and science fiction—one of my favorites, which I rediscovered this past month, is a tale derived from a Ray Bradbury short story called “The October Game.” It’s the story of a madman who hates his wife so much that he dismembers his own daughter, the symbol of the woman’s greatest love, and in the story’s elliptical and shocking finale distributes her body parts to the young guests gathered for a Halloween party. The comic book uses the form brilliantly to allude to the tale’s most gruesome and psychologically searing imagery, in much the same way that the story might be told in its more purely literary form, and proves, particularly for genre tales in the short-story format, that less can often be far, far more. (Click here to read the story in its entirety.)
I’m in the mind of EC Comics and the art of concise, allusive storytelling this morning because Bruce Lundy, an actor and now producer living in Eugene, Oregon, who also happens to be my best friend, is helping to mount the production of a short film which I believe has the potential to be powerful and haunting in the manner of the best of these kinds of stories. The movie is called Left with You, written and directed by a young filmmaker by the name of Tim Schneider. It tells the story of two men (played by Lundy and a young actor named Alexander Fraser), the only survivors of the crash of a starship on a desolate, frozen planet, and the lengths to which they are driven to try to revive a damaged emergency distress beacon and send a rescue signal before they both succumb to the unforgiving elements of this strange world. I’ve gotten a glimpse at the latest draft of Schneider’s screenplay which, if it is like most of the templates from which movies are crafted and willed into existence, will undoubtedly receive further refinement as the process of readying it continues. But as it is now, it’s a wonderfully precise piece of work, lacking the busy-ness of some scripts of this nature whose aim is more to dazzle the reader than leave room for the creative process of the director and his actors. What I like most about the way Schneider has written his story (and, I’m assuming, the way he intends to tell it) is how it retains the kind of suspense and the trajectory toward an unexpected and shocking resolution while leaving room, even within the constraints of the short film format, for his actors to do their jobs in a creatively suggestive manner. As I read Left with You I was struck by how well it would have fit into the tradition of a magazine like Shock SuspenStories or Weird Science-- the touchstones of grim, realistic science fiction are all there, and it has a conclusion worthy of the best of the EC Comics classic twists. But its contemplative tone suggests that Schneider has designs on finding a visual style that will allow the bitter cold of the Oregon locations to reflect both the nature of the men’s predicament as well as the despair and the perhaps paradoxical capacity for feeling that resides in both of them as they confront an icy fate, isolated far from the rest of humanity. (Even the title offers a clue, choosing to allude to the more personal nature of the material rather than the more exploitable angle of hypothermic horror.)
(From left in photo, writer-director Schneider, producer-actor Lundy in background, and Fraser)
Schneider and Lundy project that the film’s entirely modest budget will top out at around $30,000. Once it has been completed they hope to get the film a shot at the festival circuit. And right now, if you haven’t already deduced as much by the widget found at the top of this blog’s sidebar, it is within your power to help them realize their vision. The two filmmakers have registered the movie with the popular Kickstarter online financing campaign in an attempt to raise $10,000 of their projected budget. They would appreciate any help you can give, and as a backer myself (I couldn’t contribute much, but as they say every little bit helps) I can honestly say that I feel Left with You is a movie that has the potential to make anyone who had even a small hand in getting it made very proud that they did. To make your contribution, just click this link or the one on the sidebar above and follow the simple instructions. In a few seconds you will have made your contribution and added monetary momentum to the push to get this film made. Schneider, Lundy and Fraser are all confident—as the video below amply demonstrates— that they’re onto something special here, and based on their testimony and the current draft of the film’s script I find it hard to disagree. Click over to Kickstarter and become a backer of Left with You-- the fundraising campaign has only 32 days left before it closes out, and the $10,000 goal must be reached if funds are to be distributed to the filmmakers. If they (we) fall short, then Left with You is back to square one. But they’ll (we’ll) get there. And I promise, after the movie gets made and shown we’ll all gather back here at SLIFR and talk about the final result. I have a feeling that’s going to be an entertaining and lively discussion.