Now it’s time to push further into the childhood abyss. I’m going to tell you about a darker aspect my teen years and the crazy movie idea it inspired. Next up from “The List”…
Recollections of a Teenage Monster, Volume 2: MY MANIAC TRILOGY
Like most Monster Kids it wasn’t always smooth sailing for me growing up. While I always had friends, there was a time in which I was bullied. Never anything too extreme; throwing my gym shoes across the locker room every day, a handful of people that always called me names, made anything I said into a joke, made fun of the way I spoke, and sometimes pushed me, threatened me. Being pegged as the nerd and the weirdo can suck and I dealt with it in a number of negative ways (more on that later). It’s not all bad though. I also channeled a lot of this fear, anger, and frustration into my movie ideas. One such idea was my wild Maniac trilogy! In addition to the bullying another inspiration was a film called The Banker. I remember renting the VHS after reading the review in Fangoria. The Banker was kind of a proto-American Psycho with a well-dressed business man by day and apeshit serial killer by night. Also, while I didn’t see William Lustig’s Maniac until adulthood I did see, love, and take inspiration from his Maniac Cop films. Bully a horror writer and they’ll write some crazy shit.
By day he’s a mild mannered manager at a fancy restaurant in the local mall. That is correct, middle school me thought the Ruby Tuesdays was high class fine dining. Anyway, by day he’s this normal guy serving assholes food, or supervising people who serve assholes food. At night he puts on a creepy cloth Halloween mask, goes to the homes of these assholes and murders the shit of them. Take that bad tippers and bullies of the world!
While police are baffled by the apparent randomness of the victims, one man is on the case. Let’s call him Rutger as he is no doubt a clone of Rutger Hauer’s bounty hunter character from the film Wanted Dead or Alive. So, Rutger traces it all back to Ruby Tuesdays. Meanwhile our Maniac is taking it to the next level, chaining the restaurant doors and going full on Terminator on the patrons and staff. Rutger interrupts the mass slaughter. A little cat and mouse leads our fiend and hero to a rooftop showdown! The confrontation ends in multiple gunshots to Maniac’s chest.
Later we’re outside with Rutger getting stitched up by a medic. As authorities sort through the injured and the dead a startling announcement is made. “We got a live one over here!” The Maniac isn’t dead yet…
I really rushed through that one didn’t I? That’s because I remember the most about the third film, and it holds the most relevance to me. Also it’s also batshit crazy and I love talking about it. But first a little more about being bullied and the dark path that can lead you down. In an attempt to strike back in some way, control something, I became a vandal. For about a year in middle school a buddy and me would vandalize and prank the crap out of our neighborhoods. This came to an abrupt end when we were caught in the act and taken downtown in a police paddy wagon. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve thought of those ugly things we did to people’s homes and property and felt sick inside. It took me years to forgive myself for being such a monster. On the bright side that’s why I can’t lie, and try every day to be the best human being I can be. I dream of a world where the monsters only live in our stories.
The Maniac Lives:
I only remember a few things about the second film, but they’re awesome things! We pick up where the first film left off. “We got a live one here!” Rutger watches, concerned as Maniac is put into an ambulance. On the way to the hospital Maniac goes all Halloween 4 on their asses, stealing the ambulance and leaving the mutilated corpses on the road….and I suppose using the stuff in the ambulance to patch himself up? More murders happen all over town. Now the Maniac thinks everyone’s an asshole and they all deserve it. Rutger somehow tracks him down again and we get in this crazy car chase finale! Maniac is in a stolen Tow Truck for reasons. Rutger is in some old sedan. We race down a busy street, cars are crashing everywhere, Rutger’s driving and shooting, Maniac’s hitting random pedestrians, madness! It ends with a spectacular crash into a giant, Dream Master, junkyard. The two duke it out again, possibly in the rain. Finally Rutger grabs an iron rod and rams it right through the maniac’s heart, impaling him. “It’s over.”
Or is it? Where do we go from here? When I was a kid coming up with this stuff I didn’t consciously know it was a reaction to being picked on; at least not at first. A distillation happened over the course of inventing these three films. At first our Maniac was after the jerks he saw at his work. Then he decided the world was a bunch of no good jerks.
But perhaps it wasn’t about those jerks.
Perhaps it was time to go home.
The Maniac Dies:
The Maniac is dead, his body carted off to the small town from whence he came. Some local teenagers decide to make a political statement by digging up the Maniac and putting him on the courthouse lawn. That’s normal stuff right? While driving his exhumed body to the courthouse the teens give some exposition about a crooked mayor and a town that hides corruption. They also have an old high school yearbook that they throw down on top of Maniac’s body, spurning his instant resurrection! The Maniac comes at them like a Re-Animator zombie on speed! He tears them apart except for the young woman that didn’t want to do this in the first place. She escapes to tell the tale and help save the day later. I don’t remember her character name so let’s call her Nancy after our beloved Elm Street hero.
Being bullied has so many strange consequences. By my second year of high school I dyed my hair black, loved The Crow, and listened to lots of Nine Inch Nails and other dark music. Letting my internal horror personality manifest in this way was good for me. I made friends with the fellow “weirdos”. I started dating a lot of girls. While this lead to some new bullying and bullshit, it also lead to an unexpected negative reaction. I was still fairly kindhearted, but I also had a huge ego problem for about a year. This lead to some shitty behavior on my part. I’ve made plenty of these blunders throughout my life, and always make great effort to be aware and be better. I had to let go of the past and not let it define me so that I wouldn’t be like our Maniac.
Awake and furious, Maniac goes through his high school yearbook marking all of the people that bullied him. This time it’s personal… and only slightly less ridiculous than Jaws IV. A fever dream of madness ensues! Bullies are dying left and right! One scene I remember: The police have units stationed with the remaining bullies. The Maniac is running out patience. He steals a car and daredevil crashes it into the living room of a bully’s house. Dead cops are smashed on the hood, the bully’s family under the tires. The bully sits on his half-destroyed couch, beer in hand, turning from the game in shock. Maniac leaps from the car and stabs the bully to death with manic glee. Fuck the American dream! I think there was a high school reunion massacre sequence in there too.
This all leads back to the number one high school bully, the mayor! Nancy uncovers evidence of his corruption and gets it to the press. The Maniac storms the mayor’s mansion, tearing through armed guards, annihilating everyone in his way! Outside, reporters reveal the mayor’s corruption with a live interview with Nancy. Finally, Maniac reaches the Mayor and kills the hell out of him. His vengeance complete, the Maniac falls to the ground; a rotten husk once more.
Let’s take a step back from the bullying for a moment. The other reason I had so much fun coming up with the third Maniac was also related to my changing taste in film. I love all movies but the stranger stuff really appealed to me. Evil Dead 2, Freaked, Halloween 5, Highway to Hell, Lunatics a Love Story, Demons, if the movie got a little crazy I was more likely to love it. I wanted that feel for The Maniac Dies. Anything can happen, and all the rules are out the window. I wasn’t reinventing the wheel but I was driving like a crazy person.
It’s upsetting to see so many violent acts performed by children today. I know firsthand how cruel people can be and how dumb and awful the world can seem. My hope is that more and more kids can find their escape in film, music, stories, and games. It’s hard to remember this when you’re in the dark place, but we’re all in this together and there are more of us that have been through the same hell than maybe you realize.
I love you all and hope tomorrow is a better day.
To leave on a lighter note and offer a shameless plug that is completely relevant to this story, here’s a link to the song “Monster Mask” from my horror band, Ghosts in the Graveyard. This song is about how we deal with our shitty days. It’s about coming home and putting on loud music, playing a game, watching a movie, whatever it is that is just for you and helps you feel better; your escape, your “Monster Mask”.
See you all next time when we talk about the idea for claustrophobic horror film Lock-In and about the great and weird terrain of childhood best friends. Don’t worry there’s lots of blood and murder too!