“[Revolutions] have, as a rule, the tedious quality of pulling development back…
I believe more in evolution, in the small advances.”
-Carl Theodor Dreyer
The following narrative has been pieced together from a combination of eyewitness testimony and video evidence provided by cooperating members of the New Orleans Police Department.
The names of those involved have not been changed. None of you are innocent.
The decision to murder his ex had come to Rick in stages. What first got the wheels turning in his head were all of those reruns of Forensic Files that he had DVR’ed. It started as a joke (“I bet if I watched enough of this, I could get away with killing her, hardy-har-har…”)
But then Rick actually started studying the episodes with an obsessive attention to detail, scrutinizing the show with such intensity that it was as if he truly believed it contained some invisible cipher by which one could devise the perfect murder. It wasn’t long before he decided to finally put this theory to the test.
In Rick’s defense, though, killing Gloria did seem like his only real option at that point. What other choice did he have? How much longer was he really expected to let her go on like this?
Thankfully, Rick still knew Gloria’s iTunes password and had been keeping tabs on her location via the “Find My Phone” app since she first skipped town 11 months ago. It had been the same day Gloria was finally discharged after a seven-week stint at Ochsner hospital where she was recovering from wounds (most of them self-inflicted, including the eye she gouged out) sustained during that fateful midnight screening at the Ashton which would become the catalyst for all of the awful things that followed.
New Orleans locals reading this might recognize “The Ashton” as the name of a vintage uptown movie theater which reopened for the first time after Katrina about a year ago before mysteriously closing again a short time later. That was the doing of local entrepreneur and cinephile, Rubin Stash, who Gloria just so happened to know from the gallery walks during her days as a pre-art school dropout.
Last year, while at a rare film auction Rubin had acquired a reel containing a lost short by the infamous Danish director, Garth Trout. To be fair though, for us to call Trout “infamous”, first people outside of only the most pretentious film geeks would need to have heard of him. See, Trout was a protege of Carl Theodor Dreyer.
Google him. Dude was a big deal (at least as far as Danish Surrealists were concerned.) But where Dreyer was interested in using the medium of film to bring dreams and (more specifically) nightmares to life, Trout’s vision WAS the nightmare. His mission statement had been:
“Show the audience something which would make the Marquis De Sade blush.”
The story goes that Dreyer had just discovered Garth’s “talents” at a film festival he’d been asked to help judge. But sadly, before Trout could make a name for himself with any kind of real audience, he was viciously murdered and under a set of truly bizarre circumstances.
Trout had been working on a short film that was, according to him, “going to melt the cinematic landscape that we’ve come to know and trust.” Unfortunately (or maybe not because that sounds awful), before he could do so, Trout’s partially charred remains were found floating facedown in a secluded pond about a mile from his home.
The body was sans tongue, eyes, and genitals, but despite the vicious nature of the crime, even back then the world as a whole didn’t care enough about surrealist Danish cinema to take much notice and the case never gained enough traction to garner its own media attention. Still, the investigation was well-documented by all authorities involved, provided you knew where to look.
According to a transcript from the police interview with Trout’s wife, the day before Garth’s murder he had received a phone call from someone saying they were in possession of a rough cut of the short Trout had just finished shooting. The caller claimed to be a local psychologist and explained that the film had been found in the home of a patient who recently committed suicide.
At first, Trout dismissed the claim as obvious bullshit because at that point, he had just wrapped principal photography on the project and wasn’t even finished with the initial editing process. Which is why Garth was so surprised when he questioned the caller about this supposed “rough cut” and realized that they were telling the truth. The caller had offered to return the reel to Trout but only if Garth agreed to meet him somewhere secluded and, of course, to “come alone.”
While trying to explain all of this to his wife, Trout confided in her that he was so sure this mysterious “psychologist” was telling the truth because they knew details about the film which the cast and crew hadn’t even been privy to. Decisions he’d made after shooting wrapped that he had told no one. His wife begged him not to go alone, saying that, “It wasn’t worth it,” which just ended up pissing Garth off.
He took her words to mean that a film he’d just spent months poring his soul into wasn’t worth trying to save. He told his wife she would never understand because she wasn’t an artist and stormed out “to go die dickless in a pond,” was how Rick liked to put it. He was not the biggest fan of Trout.
Cut to 70-something years later when the identity of Garth’s murderer was finally revealed to be one Malthe Bertelsen. And despite having the name of a character from Lord of the Rings, it turned out that Malthe HAD been telling the truth when he claimed to be a psychologist.
He had also been dead for more than a decade by this point and it was actually Malthe’s son, also named Malthe (apparently, the Danish don’t do the whole Jr./Sr. thing), who ultimately spilled the beans about his late father’s homicidal episode meer hours before Malthe Part 2 passed away of congenital heart failure.
According to M2: Judgment Day, the “patient” who committed suicide had actually been his mother and to this day it’s unknown how she ended up with a rough cut of Trout’s film, but apparently she had been clutching the reel when her husband found her hanging from a rafter in the Bertelsen’s private home theater (yeah, they were pretty loaded.) Taking this to mean that she intended for the film to act as her suicide note, the elder Malthe decided to watch it before alerting the authorities.
Shortly after screening Trout’s opus, Malthe went into a blind rage that ultimately led him to kill Garth. Though, Rick liked to point out that one silver lining to Trout’s untimely demise was that it “seemed to elevate the perceived quality of what little work he had produced prior to being murdered.”
Supposedly, Trout’s unfinished final film was never recovered from the studio Dreyer had been renting him and it became a sort of holy grail for collectors of obscure turn-of-the-century cinema, most assuming that either Dreyer or Trout’s wife were keeping the master print hidden to preserve Trout’s legacy.
And what a legacy it was. Modern critics liked to call him “the Cronenberg of the silent film era”; a comparison which bothered Rick to no end because he loved Cronenberg and, as should already be obvious, he hated Trout. Rick and Gloria had actually bonded over their mutual love of horror movies but this was one director that they had diametrically opposing views on.
While Gloria found Trout’s first short “haunting and truly cathartic”, he couldn’t stand it. When Rick initially tried to get out of going with Gloria to the private screening Rubin was holding for her, she gave him a bemused scoff and said, “I don’t get it. You’ll sit through something like Salo but a thirty minute short that was lost to fucking time until last week, THAT’S not worth it?”
“Salo was an impassioned plea concerning Fascism by a director who was LITERALLY a poet and a scholar. Garth Trout was the turn-of-the-century equivalent of that guy who made The Human Centipede.”
Gloria’s mouth curved into an exaggerated frown. “I liked The Human Centipede.”
“And I willingly have sex with you despite that fact. Because I’m a reasonable guy but I’m sorry, Gloria. Just because something pushes buttons doesn’t mean it’s intelligent and just because it’s in black-and-white doesn’t automatically make it good.”
Eventually, they reached a compromise by Rick agreeing that he would bring Gloria to the screening and even stay for the beginning but if he hated it, he was free to wait in the lobby and play on the vintage arcade cabinets out there until it was over. She would even have Rubin turn on free-play for him. And to his credit, Rick really did try to give Trout’s lost film a chance.
The short had opened with a wide shot of a run down shack in the middle of the woods that then dissolved to a closer angle of the same dilapidated structure. This closer point of view was looking through a window into the tiny shack, revealing a man seated in an ornate rocking chair.
The man had long stringy white hair and was covered in large, painful-looking boils. He smiled as he turned to face the window, exposing a mouthful of teeth that had been filed down to points. The next shot was from inside the shack; the man reached down to gently touch the handle of a bassinet slowly rocking on the floor beside him. A close-up of a crying baby then cut to a screen of text that read:
Barnet har grædt i timevis. Han har sine grunde.
They hadn’t noticed the blond gentleman seated beside Rubin until he suddenly spoke loud enough for Rick and Gloria, who were seated several rows in front of them, to hear him clearly say, “The child has cried for hours. He has his reasons.”
In Rubin’s rush to show off the new addition to his already impressive collection, apparently he hadn’t had a chance to get English inserts made for the film, so he simply hired someone to translate it for them in real time. The term “Amish subtitles” popped into Rick’s head and he let out a spontaneous chuckle. Gloria glanced away from the film to give him a concerned look.
On the screen in front of them, Boil Man turned to face the shack’s closed front door as his smile widened, becoming the grin of a cornered chimpanzee. Another shot of Danish text filled the screen and their translator almost shouted, “I might as well let the wolves have him.”
The shack’s door suddenly flew open and a pack of wolves rushed in. They made a B-line for the bassinet. An extreme close-up of the crying baby quickly cut to an equally close shot of canine teeth tearing flesh from bone. As he watched the carnage unfold off-screen, the man began to pick at one of the boils on his cheek, eventually revealing a third eye just beneath the pustule’s exterior film.
“Yeah. I’m good,” Rick said and stood, ignoring Gloria’s disdainful scoff. As he started toward the exit, a disappointed Rubin glanced back and tilted his head, asking a silent question that Rick answered with, “Maybe some things are lost for a reason.”
Rick let out a sigh as he entered the Ashton’s stylishly refurbished lobby. He had made it almost halfway through the second level of Polybius before Gloria started screaming. Rick had vaguely registered the translator growing louder and louder in the proceeding moments but he was so absorbed in the arcade game that he barely registered the increasing volume. It was Gloria’s terrified voice that finally cut through his daze like a sharpened blade.
He started toward the double doors leading into the theater proper but then the platinum-haired translator suddenly came running out and the sight of him stopped Rick in his tracks. The translator was repeatedly punching himself in the face hard enough that his nose was gushing blood and his right eye had already begun to swell. The deranged man sprinted past Rick, yelling, “Gud få det ud af min hjerne!”
He swiveled his head around to watch the translator hurry out of the building while continuing to shout an endless string of Danish gibberish. When Rick turned back to face the theater entrance, Gloria was already plowing through the double doors and screaming…
“Please god let me stop seeing it! I need to stop seeing it! I need to stop seeing it! I need to stop-stop-stop-stop-stop!”
Rick wrapped his arms around Gloria, pinning her hands to her side as he brought her to the floor. Eventually, he was able to get her calm enough that by the time EMS arrived, Rick had decided to exclude the part about HOW she lost her eye because he didn’t want them listing Gloria as a psych risk.
The responding officers claimed to find Rubin’s body dangling from a light fixture in the projection booth.
[AUTHOR’S NOTE – While researching this case, I came across an interesting factoid: On Rubin’s death certificate, the cause is in fact listed as “suicide via strangulation” but when I was going over the original M.E.’s report, I happened to notice that cause was listed as “heart failure re starvation”. Figuring it was simply the result of a clerical error, I mentioned my findings to my contact at the department and was told in no uncertain terms that I wasn’t allowed to use that part in my story, which is why I didn’t…]
Gloria had already gone into shock before they got there, so the cops had no one to contradict Rick’s version of the events.
Still, he had been mostly truthful with the detectives who showed up to question him; he simply claimed that Gloria was already missing an eye when she exited the theater. Naturally, the cops assumed Rick was limiting his own involvement and that there was a lot he wasn’t telling them but other than the eye thing, he hadn’t omitted much.
Honestly, Rick wasn’t exactly sure WHAT took place in that theater, though he did have every reason to believe the Trout film was its cause. He also had no reason to think it was anything more than an isolated event. Still, he probably should’ve seen this next part coming.
There had been a lot of signs that something was wrong in the days that followed but it wasn’t until Gloria’s first night out of the I.C.U. that Rick really started to worry. Gloria had good healthcare through her job and they moved her to a private room for recovery as soon as the risk of infection had minimized. Her doctor even said it was finally okay for Rick to spend the night.
Unfortunately, they were still keeping Gloria pretty doped up at this point and she had already nodded off long before he arrived that evening after work. Though, he noted it was the first time he had seen Gloria look peaceful in almost a week. Rick hadn’t realized just how much he missed the sight of her not in abject pain until this moment.
Elated by the thought, Rick curled up in a lumpy armchair at the other end of the room and it seemed like he had just managed to find a position that allowed him to comfortably nod off when he was pulled out of his half-slumber by a sudden and intense sense of dread.
Gloria was standing beside him, her remaining eye glaring down at Rick. She was clutching a scalpel in one hand and gesturing at herself with the other as she said, “I feel numb.”
Unsure exactly what to do here, Rick took a moment to consider his options before finally replying, “That’s a contradiction.”
“I AM numb,” Gloria said without missing a beat. “I can still see it.”
Rick gestured at the scalpel in her hand and said, “I don’t think gouging your other eye out is going to help.”
“I know that now. I also know the proper solution but you’re not going to like it.”
Gloria paused to consider something and then finally nodded down at him. She said, “Go back to sleep.”
Gloria placed the scalpel on the table beside his chair and then started back toward her bed. Rick had wanted to question her further about this “proper solution” but was afraid to push too hard too soon. When he showed up at the hospital the next day and tried to check in at the nurse’s station, Rick was informed that Gloria had added his name to the “Restrict from Visitation” list.
After that, she stopped taking his calls. Texts went unanswered. Rick didn’t even know she had skipped town until her sister called him several weeks later to see if he had heard from her. That same day, a new mother was accosted in the hospital’s parking garage and her newborn baby boy was kidnapped.
The perpetrator was wearing a mask and hoodie but, according to police and based on security footage recovered from the scene, the woman’s assailant matched Gloria’s height and build. Three months later, DNA tests confirmed that the abducted infant’s remains had been located in the basement of a house in Baton Rouge that was being rented under a phony name by a woman matching Gloria’s description.
The baby’s death certificate had the official cause listed as:
ANIMAL ATTACK, HOMICIDE
Which would probably be a pretty baffling combination of words to anyone who hadn’t seen the first few minutes of the lost Trout short. Rick, having not been afforded such a luxury, feared (correctly) that Gloria was just getting started. That’s when he began to keep track of her movements via her phone.
The same day the missing infant’s remains were discovered, Gloria fled Baton Rouge and didn’t stop until she’d crossed the state line into Texas. She settled in Beaumont for about four months before hitting the road again, this time heading North. That same morning, Beaumont P.D. discovered the skinless body of a 65 year-old woman on the shoulder of Highway 96.
Rick had set up a Google alert for “Beaumont, TX”, “murder” and “crazy bitch” (just to be thorough) and after reading about the incident above, he finally broke down and began to plot his “perfect murder.” The first step would be waiting for Gloria to pick her next destination (a tiny town south of Texarkana named Fouke) and then going there and physically finding her. Once he did that, it was simply a matter of learning her routine.
Luckily, these days a comically pirate-like black eyepatch covered the fleshy maw where Gloria’s right eye used to be, making her considerably easier to locate in such a small town. It was also probably what made her the perfect hire for a place called “The Monster Mart”, where she had been working as a cashier four nights a week.
The store was basically a glorified gas-station/souvenir-stand; one of many trite-but-charming tourist traps along that stretch highway which were dedicated to the Boggy Creek Monster. For the uninitiated, BCM is a vicious mythical swamp monster that the popular culture has come to think of as sort of a southern-fried Bigfoot.
The Monster Mart itself usually didn’t get much business after 7PM but that night, at around nine, this really pretty teenage girl came in and the sight of her seemed to trigger something behind Gloria’s one good eye. As the young girl turned her back to the counter and proceeded toward a row of drink-coolers at the rear of the store, Gloria casually got up from her stool and started out from behind the counter.
“Can I help you find something,” she asked, sounding genuinely polite.
As the girl turned around, her mouth half-open and poised to respond, Gloria swung a full 2-liter of soda down onto her head. The blow was surprisingly hard; hard enough that it knocked the young girl back against the coolers and into a stunned daze as the cap exploded off of the 2-liter and Mountain Dew went spraying everywhere.
Gloria let the 2-liter drop from her hands, propelled by its own carbonated momentum, and then bent to grab the half-conscious girl by her ankle. Gloria dragged her through the puddling soda and over to a door leading to a storage room behind the row of drink coolers.
Once inside what was essentially a large walk-in closet, Gloria rolled the girl onto her stomach and zip-tied her hands behind her back. Gloria stood and was just about to lock the storage room door when it flew open, revealing a man wearing a ski-mask and holding a gun.
“Bitch, don’t move,” he shouted in an obvious tough-guy affectation as he pointed the gun at Gloria, who squinted at the masked man.
He fired a single round into her face. The .45 caliber bullet entered through her good eye before exiting out the back of Gloria’s head, pulverizing the rear of her skull into dust and splattering the wall behind her in liquified brain. This was not what he had planned.
Rick hadn’t expected Gloria to be quite so brazen about snatching her next victim and he definitely hadn’t thought it would be this soon. Rick realized that was simply what he got for thinking he could use rationale to predict any of this. It didn’t change the fact that he needed to figure out a way to deal with the bound teenage girl who now knew his name.
Rick looked down at Gloria’s lifeless body, at the slack-jawed face of the woman he used to love. The woman he just shot… And that was when it finally dawned on him: Why hadn’t he just told the cops where Gloria was?
The answer came to Rick in Danish with English subtitles…
“Han har sine grunde.”*
*[”He has his reasons.”]
Rick knew then what he had to do.
Rick cut the zip-ties from around her wrists and said, “Go.”
Without a moment of hesitation, she climbed to her feet and bolted out of the storage closet. Rick silently counted down from 30 as he stood there, staring down at Gloria, and then he started back to New Orleans. Rick reached the city limits at about 10 AM the next morning and headed directly to the Ashton, which detectives still had taped off from that fateful screening when all of this began.
Once inside the darkened theater, he dialed 9-1-1 and when the operator asked for the nature of his emergency, Rick told her that he wanted to confess to a murder. He was transferred to a homicide detective with the N.O.P.D., who Rick then informed of his location and promised that he would “stay put.”
The two officers who first arrived on scene to apprehend him assumed that they had been sent on a wild goose chase. Someone had torn down the police tape out front but the building itself appeared to be vacant; at least until they reached the small booth located at the rear of the theater proper and saw Rick standing there, beside a large ancient-looking projector that seemed to fill half of the tiny room.
When Rick first arrived at the Ashton, he hadn’t been surprised to find Trout’s film still loaded into the theater’s projector. This was the room where Rubin hung himself after all and the booth was even taped off separate from the rest of the building. But in the back of his mind, he was all too aware of the truth.
Rick knew the reel would be here because he could sense its existence on an almost visceral level. Obviously, since Rick had only watched the first minute or so, it hadn’t had nearly as intense of an effect on him as what happened to Gloria or the others when they attempted to watch the whole thing. But even after walking out of Rubin’s screening that night, it was like he could still feel the film running through the projector.
It was hard to admit at the time but something had changed in him as well that night. A piece of Rick went missing and another, much darker piece was put in its place. Until now, he had simply been too distracted to give it much notice. Then he saw the Trout film dangling flaccidly from the projector’s supply spool and his heart literally skipped a beat.
“Good god… Is he…” That was all the first officer could get out as he gazed into the booth and any remaining words he might have intended to say were ripped from the cop’s partially open mouth by the sheer breadth of what he was looking at. So instead, he simply repeated, “Good god.”
Rick was naked from the waist down and standing balanced on a stool beside the massive projector. Trout’s lost short was still loaded onto the supply spindle and Rick was using his right hand to feed the ancient celluloid film strip into his mouth and down his throat. His left hand…
His left hand was pulling the other end of the now-soiled film strip from his anus and feeding it through the take-up spindle and into the projector’s loading slot. He had just clipped the tainted end of the film strip into place behind the gate when the cops arrived. As the two dumbfounded officers stood there staring at him, he smiled and switched on the projector.
The most awful noise followed; it was the wet smacking sound of Rick’s innards being yanked out onto the cracked linoleum floor like he was a Thanksgiving turkey being prepped for stuffing. That sound would continue to haunt the dreams of both officers for months afterward and at least one of them would eventually list it as a primary cause in their suicide note.
No charges were ever filed relating to this or any of the other cases mentioned. The popular misconception that there’s no such thing as haunted movies forces the proper authorities to dismiss most of the presumptions made here. In fact, the NOPD recently sold Trout’s lost work to a Danish film restoration company.
The Blu-Ray is scheduled for release in 2016.