Witching Hour Theatre
ISBN 1894953231 (ebook) 1894953371 (chapbook)
$3.00 (ebook) $6.50 (chapbook, May 2006)
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On a cool October night at the Starlight Cinema, an all-night horror movie triple feature is about to begin: Witching Hour Theatre. It's the one exciting thing in Larry Wilson's life, not counting the lovely brunette who works the concession stand. Settling in, he loses himself in the atmosphere of the old place: the crowd, the screams, the popcorn and the blood.
But when the second feature ends, only thirteen moviegoers remain. Among them, a woman of nineteen with a fondness for piercings and the macabre, a cop and his wife, a trio of bad-tempered bullies, and a solitary figure sitting silently in the shadows of the back row.
On this endless October night, Witching Hour Theatre will become Larry's worst nightmare. For the movie on the screen is growing stranger by the minute. His fellow theatergoers are disappearing one by one.
And the figure from the shadows is advancing.
"Witching Hour Theatre is one of those quiet little novellas that has a way of sneaking up on you."--Nate Kenyon, Horrorworld.org
Death Mountain starred a couple of names he'd seen in the recent entertainment mags, teen idol types who'd made their start on daytime soaps. The supporting cast included two horror movie veterans and seeing their names, Wilson felt a tug of nostalgia. One had played a masked psycho in a mediocre scare flick and its tepid sequels. The cheers that accompanied the actor's name separated the zealots from the novices.
The makeup, Wilson was heartened to find, had been done by a master in the field, so even if the movie turned out to be crap it would still be visually interesting. The screenplay, he saw, had been written by four different people. Definitely a bad sign, he thought.
The director's name faded and was replaced by an establishing shot of a lake in the moonlight.
Wilson stuffed popcorn into his mouth as a good-looking pair of teenagers made their way through the woods by the quiet lake. The pair emerged from the forest onto a pallid beach. As the boy spread a blanket on the sand, his companion kicked off her sandals and let fall her jacket, revealing an impossibly tight tank top. At the sight of her perky nipples poking through her white shirt, a number of men in the audience cheered wildly and drummed their feet on the floor. In response, some woman called out “Pigs!” and the audience broke into laughter.
Wilson smiled. The feeling of community, of sitting around a giant campfire with a group of companions, was strong tonight.
As the girl was about to shed her tank top, a twig snapped in the woods nearby; she lowered her arms, the tank top creeping back down her sides. The lack of nudity was met with boos and other derisive taunts and another wave of laughter rippled through the audience. Her boyfriend moved to embrace her and soon the pair was kissing passionately.
They lay down on the blanket. The moonlight was preternaturally bright, but of course it had to be for the audience to get a good look at the young woman's large round breasts as she discarded her shirt. As the predominantly male audience pumped their fists and exchanged high fives, the young man onscreen unbuttoned her jean shorts and began to lower them down her hips.
Another sound and the girl, her silicone breasts jiggling, stood and fastened her shorts. The audience groaned. Her boyfriend was as anxious to continue the goings-on as were the men in the audience, but the girl convinced him to investigate the source of the sounds.
Here we go, Larry thought. The only question would be who would get it first. Wilson 's money was on the boyfriend. Eight times out of ten, it was. So far the film hadn't shown him anything original, so there was little reason to hope for anything but a paint-by-the-numbers opening slaughter.
True to form, the camera followed the boy as the woods swallowed him up and then cut to the killer's perspective as he or she or it watched the boy from the shadows. The boy's footsteps were unnaturally loud as he asked “Who's there?” and spoke such lines as “This isn't funny” and “You better come out and show yourself.” It took four writers to come up with that? Wilson thought and smiled.
The director cut to the girl kneeling on the blanket, hugging herself against the chill of the night air. She looked very young and very pretty in the moonlight. Her eyes were a light brown. A little bit like Nichole Patterson's, Wilson thought. As the scene cut to the boy's hesitant exploration of the woods, the temptation to ask Nichole for a date again tickled at the back of Wilson 's mind. To be sure, he was a good deal older than her, but she was old enough to make her own decisions and she seemed interested in him.
So why exactly was he balking at the prospect of taking a lovely young woman out for a nice dinner? It wasn't as though his schedule wouldn't allow it. He hadn't been on a date in over a year, and even that had been a disaster. What had he to lose?
A scampering rabbit startled the boy onscreen, jolting Wilson out of his reverie. In the row in front of him Blue Sweater and White Shirt screeched and giggled. Wilson thought: this is usually when the bad thing happens—right after the false scare.
The boy turned and opened his mouth to scream. An axe whistled through the air and cleaved his head in two, stopping the scream. The upper half of the boy's head landed on the forest floor, his shocked eyes gaping at the camera.
So much for subtlety, Larry thought.
The girl on the beach didn't hear the division of her boyfriend's skull—a proposition Wilson thought unlikely given their proximity—so she rose and walked down the path he had taken.
Now, he thought, is when we'll have another false scare, followed by the girl finding her butchered boyfriend, followed by a chase during which we'll get more of the killer's perspective, ending with the big-breasted girl's demise.
Wilson regretted to find he was correct. After the girl took the obligatory fall and sustained the requisite injury, she tried to crawl away from the killer. The one saving grace of the contrived scene was the manner in which the director showed her head tumbling off her body as the axe sprayed blood over the camera. The scene was clichéd, but the excellent makeup work was showcased. That had to count for something.
Wilson sucked down more root beer and waited for the body count to rise.