Everyone secretly thought the costume looked a little silly, but no one would say it. This was Sam’s big day, and no one wanted to rain on his parade by suggesting that the costume he’d built in his basement out of latex, sheet metal, and fake blood looked like the skin from a living hot dog. It was a little awkward at first, with everyone pretending that they loved it, telling him it was very scary and no, you couldn’t tell it had been built in a basement by an amateur for almost nothing. But, of course, they were just lies you tell your friends. Everyone thought it looked awful. Just terrible.
Sam had titled his film Garbage Monster, and although he’d gotten tired of explaining that the title was intentionally bad for irony’s sake, he kept it because it had come to him in a dream of sorts when he was only about half drunk. It became the icon of the production, this title no one liked which fit perfectly.
They held it together for the first few takes. Kelly had agreed to be in the film because Sam had helped her with her physics homework a couple times. She had been asked because Sam knew she owed him a favor, although it never crossed his mind that anyone would not want to be in his film. She had no experience in acting, but since Sam had no experience in directing, it didn’t seem like a big deal. He had big plans for post-production, always telling her, “That take was fine. We’ll fix it in post.” She wasn’t sure he could change the inflections of her voice or remove the smirk from her face, but she went along with it. Her throat was already raw from the three times they’d done her big scream scene. Anyway, it hadn’t been a problem if she’d laughed because she was screaming directly at the camera since, supernatural editing ability or not, Sam couldn’t actually create scenes in post. When Sam came out of the woods dressed to the nines and looking like a bloody hot dog, she snickered, and it started a chain reaction that spread through the crew. Sam wasn’t sure what was happening, so he hollered for everyone to get back to their places so they could shoot the scene again. They shot it twice, three times, and Kelly couldn’t keep a straight face. She told Sam she was just thinking of something funny, but she wouldn’t tell him what it was.
Although Sam intended for the title to be ironic, he’d hoped it would give his film an additional element of surprise. He envisioned it being rented by teenagers seeking a cheesy b-movie, and then, in the same way he had been blindsided by Carnival of Souls, they would be terrified, not just by his gory, disconcerting visuals but by his stunning grasp of the inner conflicts of teenagers, and how his film showed them taken to their most extreme ends. He was especially proud of the film’s denouement, a showdown in a junkyard that ended with the Garbage Monster being knocked into the car crusher by Kelly, driving a 1960’s era Corvette. Sam didn’t know how he was going to find the Corvette, but he was hoping he could fix it in post.
Kelly finally went home for the evening, but Sam stayed in the field where they were filming, carrying his camera around looking for location shots he could edit in. Through the little viewfinder, the cinematography looked like it was going to be amazing. Here’s a field, unspoiled, with just the tiniest hint of a factory smokestack in the periphery. Here’s a pigeon, pulling a worm from a rusted engine block. Nature versus industry, nature vs man, the script versus the ability. Sam took a few more shots then went home.
The next morning, everyone was there again, and Sam was walking around the set in full Garbage Monster regalia, trying to get everyone used to it so they wouldn’t laugh. He knew they must be laughing because of the novelty of the thing, not the ridiculousness of it. He went into the woods and walked out, and Kelly pulled off her part perfectly. She broke up ten seconds later, but editing would fix that. They filmed one death scene, in which a dummy representing the character played by his friend Mark was tossed off the water tower. Darken it up a little, add some music and sound effects, it’s as good as real life. The watermelon-based head explosion was less convincing, but Sam thought he could do something with it.
Day three, Sam decided to rewrite the ending. Now the Garbage Monster would fall into a drainage lake. Sam wished it could be more ironic, but he couldn’t decide of Garbage Monster represented man or nature. He decided that the lake represented both, and so maybe it and the monster could cancel each other out. Plus, it was a lot easier.
Thursday was the last day Sam’s rented camera was available, so he and Kelly shot the rest of their scenes. Sam was secretly worried that the film was a bit Kelly-heavy, but she was a) the hero and b) an attractive girl and c) the only person who was willing to spend more than a couple hours working with him, so that’s how it went. He’d asked her about a kissing scene, but she’d refused, laughing it off, and Sam was cool with that. They filmed the last scene, and Sam almost teared up as he saw his dummy Garbage Monster sinking slowly beneath the water of Kelly’s swimming pool, which would be sufficiently toxified in post. He thanked Kelly, gave her a hug, and told her he’d bring the film by Saturday.
All weekend, Sam was in his room, pushing his computer as far as he could, trying to finish his post production before his trial software ran out. He cut out the part of the film where Kelly laughed, but he couldn’t make the water tower death look real or the lake look toxic. He overdubbed some dialog to make the lake a swimming pool in the film, and cut out the water tower scene entirely. This, unfortunately, left him with a horror film with no on-screen deaths, but he was certain that the pacing and acting would make up for it. He burned it to a DVD and showed his parents. They smiled politely, and his mother said, “Oh my!” the first time he came out as the Garbage Monster. His father laughed a couple times in inappropriate places but afterwards assured Sam that his film was quite good and he was sure everyone would be very impressed. Sam was no longer so sure, but he wrote “Garbage Monster” on the disc with a sharpie and went to bed.
The next morning he took the disc over to Kelly’s to watch it. He’d called the rest of his tiny crew/troupe, but they were all busy. He didn’t mind. He knew they’d see it later. He and Kelly sat on the couch, a foot apart, and he pushed play. The film started with his credit sequence, added in post, featuring the letters dripping slime and Kelly Kazinski’s name in bold. She giggled when she saw it. The film started and it didn’t look as good as Sam remembered it. The lighting was all wrong. The musical cues were off. Kelly wasn’t a very good actress. The pacing was too slow, or too fast, or too frenetic, the script was crap, the ending made no sense, and all of his characters disappeared without explanation except for Kelly. They watched the whole thing, including the end credits, which Sam had set to ‘For Whom the Bell Tolls,’ and then Sam sheepishly turned off the projector. Kelly didn’t really know what to say, so they sat on the couch, a little closer now, and talked about how nice it had been to make, and then Sam said his costume looked ridiculous, and Kelly laughed, and it was ok.