I walked out of the theater quite satisfied with the reaction.
Groans, boos, hisses, cries, screams, shrieks, every vocalized manner of a strong emotional response. Disgust and anger and fear.
This is why I do what I do.
I made an indie movie that includes an extraordinarily graphic murder scene of a woman.
Essentially, this is the set up — the movie follows this cam girl who becomes a prostitute. She goes on a journey of self-discovery across the nation, finds love, loses it, gets it back again, does all the romantic and touching shit that a movie about a woman needs to do in order to appeal to its target demographic. At the end, the world finally treats her as the special, unique being she’s always seen herself as and all is well. She doesn’t have to sell her pussy anymore, and she finds a nice beta male to settle down with, and they watch the sunset entangled in each other’s arms.
Then, at the very end, she’s brutally murdered by one of her former clients from the camming site. He tracks her to her apartment in San Jose after she’s settled down and beats her to death while the nice guy is at work. The reasons why are apparent in the film but I won’t go into them here. They involve all the usual issues — jealousy, bad mental health, etc.
There was silence first when the screen went black, everyone going quiet as they expected her to wake up in the hospital or something.
When my name came up as the director and the credits started rolling, that’s when they understood it was really over, and they began to react. It was glorious, I tell you.
The scene took three days to film. The actress is this little sprightly thing — built like a bird and very pretty in a Jennifer Lopez kind of way. The actor is a bald bruiser who kind of looks like a cross between Paul Giamatti and John Cena, and he used to work construction before he started his c- level acting career. Big-bellied bear of a fellow. His arms are three times the width of hers.
The character catches her in her apartment and corners her when she goes out to make breakfast. Like I mentioned before, her current squeeze has left for work in Silicon Valley. She sees him, freezes.
He smiles at her.
“You already know me,” he says.
She doesn’t say anything, has the look of a young gazelle that’s about to be eaten by a crocodile. All cornered prey have the same expression on their face, regardless of species. It’s this sort of blankness stretched over a bottomless fear tinged with the desperate hope of an implausible escape. It only lasts a second — between when the maneuvers are finished and the strike is imminent.
He charges and starts on her. It’s not poetic.
The blows are meaty and real-sounding. You hear her ribs crack and cave in like a wet bundle of sticks. You hear her skull smash. Her limbs snap. The actress made the most beautiful noises. Helpless cries cut off by his fists that turn into groans and gasps. Unattractive noises, like a cow giving birth or something, but at the same time there’s an ecstasy to them, a release. The character knows its over. He doesn't just murder her — he ravages her. And the camera doesn’t cut away, ever.
But the real piece de resistance is where he starts ripping her hair out. He kind of feels it after he’s reduced her to a groaning pulp, runs it through his fingers delicately. Then he grips it with his fingers and takes a huge chunk of it and just starts tearing. You hear it come out, like grass getting pulled up by the roots. You hear parts of her scalp come away. The sound design team did a bang-up job on that.
The actors really knocked this out of the park — I prepped with them on this scene before I did anything else. And the crew only knew of it as a pick-up shoot that would come at the end of production. Except for me and the two leads, everyone in production assumed that the movie would end with that sunset scene.
The scene lasts ten minutes. Ten minutes of this guy slamming his fists down on this small girl’s body and face. He chokes her for two of the ten minutes. The actor did an incredible job. Afterwards he admitted to me that it, “was way hotter than he’d ever tell his wife.”
I heard he had a nervous breakdown some time after. Poor guy. He earned his money, though.
The female actress thought it was disturbing, but that was a good thing — the controversy would definitely elevate her career to the next level. She’s a nice girl, just looking to get ahead like everyone else.
I haven’t spoken to either of them, nor anyone who worked with me on the scene. They didn’t even come to the premiere today. They’ll take the publicity but not the responsibility, not even to go through the motions. Whatever. I wish them the best.
I don’t think I’ll make another movie after this — and a lot of people probably won’t want me to anyway — but I can already tell I’m going to be famous. The reviews are already going viral. Twitter’s got a hashtag trending. Hilarious, really — they could’ve just ignored this and no one would’ve known about it but they have to trumpet their outrage. More people will be drawn in and soon the movie will be a household name.
They’ll call it gratuitous, distasteful, pornographic, uncultured, disrespectful to women (and men, too) who’ve actually had something like this happen to them.
They’re all right. That was the point.
The publicity will attract business men looking to capitalize on it. The suits will come for me, maybe offer me a film for some intellectual property with a built- in audience that they’re looking to turn into a series. Maybe they won’t. If they do, I’ll turn them all down. I’ve made my point.
As I walk out of the theater people are throwing their refreshments at me and calling me a bitch and a cunt and an enabler and everything else.
Some of the more sensitive ones I can see are barfing into their popcorn bags or running for the trash cans. There are a lot of wet faces, hands over mouths and eyes squeezed shut. Triggered.
I smile to myself.
I don’t know what I’m going to do next, but I can tell you it will definitely still involve some kind of art.