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Author Topic: Pseudopod 304: The Last Reel  (Read 4020 times)
Bdoomed
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« on: October 19, 2012, 01:05:02 AM »

Pseudopod 304: The Last Reel

by Lynda E. Rucker

“The Last Reel” originally appeared in Supernatural Tales #10, in 2006 and was reprinted in THE MAMMOTH BOOK OF BEST NEW HORROR #18 (2007).

Lynda E. Rucker’s fiction has appeared in such places as Black Static, THE MAMMOTH BOOK OF BEST NEW HORROR, and THE YEAR’S BEST DARK FANTASY AND HORROR, among others, and is forthcoming in Postscripts. When not writing, she works as a composition instructor, writing tutor, and copy editor. She was born and raised in the South, has lived on three continents and both coasts, and currently calls Athens, Georgia home. Check out her blog at the link under her byline!

Your reader this week, Mark E. Phair, is an engineer and a storyteller. Find him online at MarkEPhair.com, Logibate.com, and @MarkEPhair on Twitter.


“Working in a kitchen had left her inured to minor cuts and burns. ‘Let’s see what’s in the box.’

Let’s not, he wanted to say, but what came out when he followed her back to the bed was, ‘Three movies featuring a head-in-a-box. Name them.’

‘God,’ she said, ‘do you have to be so morbid? Seven.’ She lifted the lid.

‘That’s one,’ he said, so he wouldn’t shout something stupid and hysterical like Don’t look inside!

‘It’s filled with photographs,’ she said. ‘Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia.’

‘That’s head-in-a-bag, not head-in-a-box,’ he said desperately.

‘Oh, for God’s sake. Picky, aren’t we?’ Her voice changed. ‘That’s weird.’

‘What?’

‘I don’t know how she got hold of these. It’s all pictures of me.’ “



Listen to this week's Pseudopod.
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I'd like to hear my options, so I could weigh them, what do you say?
Five pounds?  Six pounds? Seven pounds?
Fenrix
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« Reply #1 on: October 19, 2012, 10:34:45 AM »

Love the horror movie guessing game.
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Bdoomed
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« Reply #2 on: October 19, 2012, 12:30:18 PM »

I saw where this story was going as soon as she found the box of pictures, and was waiting for the inevitable the whole time. Though part of me just wanted it to happen, the rest of me really enjoyed the execution.
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I'd like to hear my options, so I could weigh them, what do you say?
Five pounds?  Six pounds? Seven pounds?
scarcrow
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« Reply #3 on: October 22, 2012, 07:29:06 AM »

I've listened to this story three times in succession and I always feel as though I'm missing something.  Not sure what it is but I'll have to give it another go or two because it sounds like a really good story.
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« Reply #4 on: October 23, 2012, 09:07:59 AM »

I loved the horror movie guessing game.  It felt very authentic, made the characters feel like real people.  I don't play that particular game with my wife, but it felt like the kind of game we would play while out on such a trip to help pass the time, and then it could become the creepy focus.

The interesting thing about this story is that I'm not sure that anything supernatural actually happened.  The protagonist seems to think it did, but all the clues were subtle enough that he could very well just be freaking himself out because the house bears such a resemblance to his favorite movies.  Even at the end where he doesn't want to look at her, he never actually sees anything because he's too scared to look, right?  Or did I miss something.

In the end, I'm not sure if I like it overall.  I think I did.  I feel like nothing actually happened, except for a possibly-creepy relationship with the aunt, though I'm guessing her mother just sent her the pictures.  I wondered for a while whether it would turn out that the mom and aunt were different parts of the same person, though I think that sprung not necessarily from any actual clues but from my mind exploring the possibilities.  So, yeah, I think I liked it.  It doesn't get confused in my head with other stories, which it probably would've if it had taken a more conventional approach.

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ZephyrMyst
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« Reply #5 on: October 23, 2012, 09:47:01 AM »

As the male character stood outside of the locked hidden room and listened to his girlfriend moving as if dancing he mentioned the phrase "Witch's Reel".  Thinking this was a horror movie reference I was unaware of I immediately looked it up and had an ah-ha moment.  The "Witch's Reel" was a dance where, while going round, dancers would grab the arms of bystanders bringing them into the dance.  One of the possible outcomes on not being chosen to join the dance before the song ended was possession by the "Devil" or a form of evil.  

There are other interpretations of the possible consequences of being a wall flower but it seems like this interpretation was what the author was using.
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Sir Postsalot
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« Reply #6 on: October 23, 2012, 11:39:25 AM »

As the male character stood outside of the locked hidden room and listened to his girlfriend moving as if dancing he mentioned the phrase "Witch's Reel".  Thinking this was a horror movie reference I was unaware of I immediately looked it up and had an ah-ha moment.  The "Witch's Reel" was a dance where, while going round, dancers would grab the arms of bystanders bringing them into the dance.  One of the possible outcomes on not being chosen to join the dance before the song ended was possession by the "Devil" or a form of evil.  

There are other interpretations of the possible consequences of being a wall flower but it seems like this interpretation was what the author was using.

Yikes!  I thought it was bad enough being the person not picked to dance, even without the devil possession thing. 
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scarcrow
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« Reply #7 on: October 23, 2012, 02:42:01 PM »

As the male character stood outside of the locked hidden room and listened to his girlfriend moving as if dancing he mentioned the phrase "Witch's Reel".  Thinking this was a horror movie reference I was unaware of I immediately looked it up and had an ah-ha moment.  The "Witch's Reel" was a dance where, while going round, dancers would grab the arms of bystanders bringing them into the dance.  One of the possible outcomes on not being chosen to join the dance before the song ended was possession by the "Devil" or a form of evil.  

There are other interpretations of the possible consequences of being a wall flower but it seems like this interpretation was what the author was using.

Yikes!  I thought it was bad enough being the person not picked to dance, even without the devil possession thing. 

I suppose I get it now.  Just didn't click with me in that way, still...
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BeggarKing
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« Reply #8 on: October 25, 2012, 11:46:41 AM »

As the male character stood outside of the locked hidden room and listened to his girlfriend moving as if dancing he mentioned the phrase "Witch's Reel".  Thinking this was a horror movie reference I was unaware of I immediately looked it up and had an ah-ha moment.  The "Witch's Reel" was a dance where, while going round, dancers would grab the arms of bystanders bringing them into the dance.  One of the possible outcomes on not being chosen to join the dance before the song ended was possession by the "Devil" or a form of evil.  

There are other interpretations of the possible consequences of being a wall flower but it seems like this interpretation was what the author was using.

This just confuses me even more.  Wouldn't that mean He'd be the one "possessed" and not her?
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Scattercat
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« Reply #9 on: October 30, 2012, 11:39:03 PM »

As the male character stood outside of the locked hidden room and listened to his girlfriend moving as if dancing he mentioned the phrase "Witch's Reel".  Thinking this was a horror movie reference I was unaware of I immediately looked it up and had an ah-ha moment.  The "Witch's Reel" was a dance where, while going round, dancers would grab the arms of bystanders bringing them into the dance.  One of the possible outcomes on not being chosen to join the dance before the song ended was possession by the "Devil" or a form of evil.  

There are other interpretations of the possible consequences of being a wall flower but it seems like this interpretation was what the author was using.

This just confuses me even more.  Wouldn't that mean He'd be the one "possessed" and not her?

Or the one who's damned...
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eytanz
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« Reply #10 on: October 31, 2012, 02:58:52 AM »

I have mixed feeling about this one.

On the plus side, I agree with all the above posters that the characters felt well fleshed out and real, and that the movie naming game was a really nice touch. I really got the sense that these two are an actual couple and got a sense of their relationship, without it slowing down the story at all. That was very well done.

But on the other hand, the actual story left me cold. It's trajectory was obvious from the very beginning. A couple of weeks ago, NPR's Pop Culture Happy Hour podcast had a discussion of suspense and they made the very good point that suspense is often about knowing exactly where a story is going but not knowing how it will get there. That was what this story was clearly aiming for. But it felt to me like the author herself did not know how to get there, so she filled the story up with a random set of spooky events that neither gave me the sense of progression, nor gave me any indication of what was actually happening. It was neither mounting suspense, nor mounting revelations, but rather just "this happened and then this happened and then this happened and at some point in between Sandy was possessed".
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Scattercat
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« Reply #11 on: November 10, 2012, 03:33:50 PM »

One thing I think is interesting about this story is that it would have confused the living hell out of 14-year-old me.  The story's suspense entirely hinges on the reader's knowledge of haunted house/possession stories to fill in what happened.  I love implication, but this one struck me as almost too skeletal a framework; if I'd read this without my now extensive experience of horror fiction, I would have sensed that something meaningful was happening in that final scene but been unable to detect exactly what it was, and the ending would have just muddied the water further.  It's good, but I wonder how effective it would be for a general audience.
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Fenrix
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« Reply #12 on: November 12, 2012, 08:32:53 AM »

Did anyone else visualize the cabin as the one from Evil Dead?
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« Reply #13 on: November 12, 2012, 08:43:28 AM »

Did anyone else visualize the cabin as the one from Evil Dead?

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« Reply #14 on: November 12, 2012, 10:56:13 AM »

One thing I think is interesting about this story is that it would have confused the living hell out of 14-year-old me.  The story's suspense entirely hinges on the reader's knowledge of haunted house/possession stories to fill in what happened.  I love implication, but this one struck me as almost too skeletal a framework; if I'd read this without my now extensive experience of horror fiction, I would have sensed that something meaningful was happening in that final scene but been unable to detect exactly what it was, and the ending would have just muddied the water further.  It's good, but I wonder how effective it would be for a general audience.

That's true.  It does seem to be aimed at a horror aficianado.

Which I think is fine.  I'm not convinced that there was anything horrific or even supernatural happening in the story, but because the main character IS a horror aficianado it freaks him the hell out.  It's appropriate for it to be aimed at an audience who sees the world likewise.
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H.P. Lovesauce
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« Reply #15 on: February 06, 2013, 11:33:07 AM »

None of the previous comments have discussed the reader, so I suppose I must be an outlier in that I didn't want to listen to the story for more than a minute.
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