Fear & Loathing @ the 2012 Philadelphia Film Festival Part I: Boozie Movies returns and goes to hell, literally.
What follows below is a true story. Names have been changed to protect the subjects' identities. This is only a prologue, an introduction for things to come. Parts 2 and 3 have already been written and the story that will be laid out in front of you is continuing to unfold now as I write this. I warn you, this is not for the faint of the heart.
I was talking to a fellow filmmaker and programmer within the film scene here in Philadelphia the other week when he asked me if I would be writing a Fear & Loathing style piece about the upcoming Philadelphia Film Festival. I wouldn't call this person a friend by any means. The truth is, if you're involved with film production, film distribution, or film presentation here in Philadelphia, you don't have friends within the scene. I once likened the Philadelphia scene to a pack of rabid dogs fighting over spoiled steaks that have fallen out of a meat truck en route to New York, and I'll stand by the sentiment today.
I didn't answer his question outright in fear that he might have been baiting me. If I were to admit my desire to air all of Philadelphia's dirty laundry within an internationally read forum (and Philadelphia's sheets are filthy), I knew damn well he would reach out to those involved with the festival and rat me out beforehand, squashing any chance I might have at obtaining a press badge. We've tried collaborating in the past, but it always turned into some back stabbing competition where I was the one trying to give myself a reach around and pull the knife out. Every time I see him at some event and we find ourselves in casual conversation over the future of film in Philly, we get along swell enough, to anyone else, it'd be easy to mistake us for close friends. But I find myself always thinking of Sun Tzu's Art of War; keep your friends close, keep your enemies closer.
Still, he had a point. There's been no shortage of emails and praise since I posted my fake review of The Dark Knight Rises and whatever success I can claim to have had in my writing, it's always been based on gimmicks.
I've been debating on what gimmick I ought to adapt for my coverage of this year's Philly film fest. I've mostly given up on the heavy benders and almost want to leave the Boozie Movie thing behind, but it's become something of a brand. Whether my name is recognizable at all, the Boozie Movie moniker is. Being an angry ranting drunk has opened more doors than merely being an ambitious, hard working and passionate geek.
But then something funny happened the other day. My gimmick came to me in the form of an email from a woman I thought I had forgotten about.
I opened the inbox to my Gmail account finding a short and simple enough message from an address I didn't immediately recognize.
"Hey, it's been a while. I just got a press badge for the film festival and thought about you. If you happen to be in Philly, it'd be nice to see you again, catch up, reconnect, and see some films together. Call me.... Gina"
At first, the name didn't click. I couldn't recall ever knowing any Ginas, particularly any Ginas who would have known me through the film festival scene here in Philly.
Naturally, I had to play internet detective. Although, I can't say it needed all that much work. A simple search of her email address on Facebook was all it took. A few mouse clicks and I found Ms. Gina's profile easily enough. Everyone is on Facebook.
The moment I saw her photo, a dam opened up, a dam of bad memories and horrific nightmares. My subconscious has long since buried any and all memories of Gina so deep that it'd take a shovel to dig them back up.
It must have been six years since I've last seen her. We shared a quick spell during the 2006 film fest, back when it was still called The Philadelphia International Film Festival and was still run in connection with the T.L.A. entertainment group, a local rental chain with a genre and GLBT distro arm. The festival is now solely run by the Philadelphia Film Society, a local non-profit group. A line had been divided with the split, many were forced to choose sides. The drama and resentment between the two groups is notorious here. T.L.A. gave it their best to keep their own festival going, but that light has since burned out.
My relationship with Gina started as a craigslist hook up. I was fresh out of college, working a temp gig with the federal government evaluating Alien H-1b work visas while working as a general manager for the festival. I was also working on bridge funding for a documentary about Japanese rape porn that I had started in school.
As a manager, I had my own VIP access badge and a pile of free passes. Naturally, I took to the internet in a disparate attempt to find a partner of the opposite sex to share these with. Figuring that I had some leverage being a higher up with the festival, I might actually be able to impress some young, attractive, and impressionable woman.
But if there's one thing I've come to realize through years of finding apartments and girlfriends through the wacky world of Craigslist, it attracts crazies like shit attracts flies. But then again, I figure if I'm using it as well, I should probably own up to being slightly off kilter myself. I can't help but the think of a chorus from an Against Me song, "God I hope I'm not like them, but I'm not so sure."
Gina was the only response I got and I found myself chatting about movies over a hot cup o' joe with her only a few hours after posting the personal ad.
Gina was twenty eight at the time, six years my senior. She had a bachelor's in sociology with a minor in Eastern European cinema. She later went to dental school and worked as an assistant at a New Jersey clinic. She was third generation Czech Slovakian, but more importantly, she was interesting, brilliant, and absolutely drop dead blue ball inducing beautiful.
We took to each other fondly almost immediately. Coffee led to beer and mussels which then led to further dates.
To say that her family history was interesting would be an understatement. She came from an ancestry of gypsies full of palm and tarot card readers, carnies, traveling con men, and other likes that I always assumed were just stereotypes that only existed in dime store fiction.
It was on our third date when she asked me if I believed in ghosts. I don't believe in ghosts nor do I not believe in ghosts. To quote Operation Ivy, "All I know is that I don't know nothing."
This lead to a big long winded debate on all things supernatural which ended with her telling me that she sees dead people and that she's even friends with the ghost who haunts her Cherry Hill home.
Only on Craigslist, folks.
She was an intelligent and rational woman, not some Sun Times reading conspiracy theorist loonie. The conviction in her voice told me that she wasn't playing some trick. She truly believed that she saw dead people. I had found myself a mystery, a puzzle that I needed to piece together. I decided to follow the rabbit hole further.
On the fourth date, after seeing some horror film in the Danger After Dark program, possibly The Descent, we found ourselves drinking at Bob and Barbara's down on South Street, a popular Philly dive where I would later run the Hell Fire Film Club. It's also the home of the special. If yer from Philly, you already know what the special is, if not, it consists of one 16 ounce can of Pabst Blue Ribbon and a shot of Jim Beam. Yeah, it's the official drink of hipsters, but here's the kicker, it costs $3.50 today but was a mere $2 back then.
It only takes two or three specials before you make a new best friend or meet your future spouse. By the time Gina and I were onto our 5th special, she had dropped any inhibitions she might have had about sharing her special ability. As the bartender poured more shots, she poured out all of her deepest darkest secrets.
Clairvoyance was a family trait, her parents and immediate siblings all had it. She showed me an outrageously bizarre wallet sized family photo from her purse. It was an image of her mother sitting at a dining room table with her father. There was food on a plate placed in front of Gina's mother and a wine glass in her hand. She had her arm around her husband and was smiling as though they had been celebrating. It must have been a bittersweet celebration as it looked as though Gina's mother had been crying shortly before the photo was taken. This is not what made the photo bizarre, what was bizarre is that the husband, Gina's father, was clearly dead.
Gina claimed that the photo had been taken a few hours after her father had died of a freak heart attack. But luckily for the family, they were able to speak to his spirit and share a formal and emotional goodbye before he passed unto the other world.
I had asked Gina if she ever felt afraid. I grilled her on all of the hard lining physics of being a ghost. If they can move and hide socks, open doors, and do other generally annoying shit, why can't they pick up hammers and bludgeon people they don't like? Why can't they simply push a living person down the stairs? Why do paranormal encounters with the deceased generally climax with only a few broken plates rather than broken bones?
Gina's answers didn't make much sense, but then again, we had five specials, so I won't hold that against her.
She told me she didn't live her life in fear although she had been in a few dangerous situations that she's come to learn from.
She talked like some doped out hippie, explaining that ghosts carry auras. There are positive and negative auras and she can differentiate the two. If she's in an area and feeling a negative aura, she's developed the internal instinct to leave.
She relayed a childhood story that should have sent me packing. She had gone camping with her sister as part of some elementary school field trip. It was one of those three day long sleepover camps that always divide the students between those whose parents can afford to send them and those who can't. The kids who can go have the three best days of their young lives zip lining through trees and learning to shoot bows and arrows while the others are left behind to write book reports in a mostly empty class room. Gina's parents worked hard and saved specifically so she could go. This was a detail that I thought was cute that she felt needed stressing.
Anyway, she was sleeping in some bungalow type thing with a group of other children but was feeling a supremely icky aura. Her sister shared her concern that there was something bad and dangerous there with them. She felt the need to leave but was in no position to do so. She was in fifth grade and was out in the middle of the woods somewhere in West Virginia with a crowd of pre-puberty peers who would humiliate her if she made a scene. This was an important time in her life. This trip would set a precedent for middle school which would set the precedent for high school which would set the precedent for college. The rest of your entire life is pretty much already determined for you when you're 10.
She woke up in the middle of the night on the floor screaming for her life. Gina could recall the nightmare that had caused her to fall off the top bunk of her bed in vivid detail. She was being strangled by an older man dressed in a confederate soldier's uniform from the Civil War.
She was not alone in her screams. Her sister was lying in a top bunk next to hers and saw a shadow-like figure sitting on top of her. Other students had even claimed that they saw Gina levitating at one point. She had to be taken to a nearby hospital by way of ambulance as her esophagus had nearly been crushed.
Gina might have been drunk when she told me this story, but she never batted an eye. As far as she was concerned, this story was fact, not some distant memory that had been reshaped by an over active imagination.
I still remember the shivers this sent down my spine when she told me this.
At the end of the night, she asked me if I'd like to share a cab back to her place. Even though I knew there was something seriously off about this person, even after she shared her ghost stories, even after she showed me the most fucked up family keepsake I've ever seen, I still thought she was an amazing woman, an amazing and drop dead blue ball inducing beautiful woman. Of course, I thought taking a cab back to her place was the best idea in the world at the time.
As we rode the taxi across the Benjamin Franklin bridge into New Jersey, weird New Jersey, armpit of America New Jersey, my only thoughts were that the sex was probably going to be awesome, and that it was going to cost an arm and leg to go home in the morning.
As the car pulled into her driveway the first thing that I noticed was that the lights in her living room were flickering on and off. It was not the type of strobe light flickering that signals a dying bulb, but from someone actively flipping the power switch on and off.
I turned to Gina but didn't have to say anything.
"It's my ghost, he's harmless, I swear. He's no worse than a hyperactive cat."
I tried my best not to snort in return.
"C'mon, you have a kid? Or am I about to get my ass kicked by your husband, or worse, is he some weirdo cuckold who's looking forward to a show between us tonight." I was now in New Jersey after all.
She didn't laugh.
I paid the cabbie while she unlocked the front door. As soon as we stepped inside, the lights came on and stayed on.
I felt another shiver run through my body and for a brief moment, I wondered if I had a chance of chasing that cab back down and hitching a ride to Philadelphia pronto.
But then I saw that Gina had already slipped out of her trippy 70's bar cloth blouse and saw that she was warning a garter belt and no longer cared if some ghost was going to play Mr. Peeper in the bedroom closet. Have I mentioned that Gina was beautiful, like really fucking beautiful? And I'm a short hairy film geek who really didn't deserve to have had a chance with someone like this.
When she asked me if I was 420 friendly and wanted to partake with her, I thought that this was indeed, the second best idea in the world.
Marijuana generally makes me paranoid, sometimes intensely so, but I was playing Don Juan here and wanted to be as suave as possible. Being suave is really another way of saying, being able to handle your drugs.
And I thought I had a handle on things. I ain't afraid of no ghosts.
The moment I took a hit of her brain melting Setiva, I knew that it was not the second best idea in the world. It was closer to being the third of fourth worst.
A gentleman should never kiss and tell, but what happened next, well, I think my gentleman days were instantly numbered.
She had practically torn my clothes off before we even killed a single bowl pack. I think I can remember her saying the words "She's going to be pissed if you get whiskey dick on her."
Looking back on it now, I should have been worried that she had started talking in the third person.
I'll spare you the details of the foreplay. We were both drunk and stoned. It was awkward and sloppy.
It wasn't until it I was up to bat to return the favor of some oral pleasure that things took a serious turn.
As I knelt down into position, my face only inches away from the holiest of the holy; I could hear a faint rumbling coming from below. It was no bodily function. It wasn't indigestion or hunger. Maybe rumbling isn't the best word, perhaps I should say rustling. I turned my head and leaned closer to her bare genitals to listen closer. It was like holding a sea shell to your ear where you think you can still hear the ocean even though you're nowhere near it.
I made an ass of myself, asking her if she had been tested lately, if there was anything I should know about before we proceeded.
Again, she answered in the third person.
"She has never had an earthly lover before; there is nothing to worry about."
Good, whoever I was about to fuck was DDF.
Yeah, even that seemed weird at the time, but then again, we met on Craigslist, have you ever gone out with someone from Craigslist before?
I hesitantly pushed two fingers in. Her insides were wet but cold. I could feel a cool wind blowing against my skin.
The next part is hard to explain, but it seemed as though my fingers had somehow detached themselves from my hand and were somewhere else. I could still move them but I would liken the sensation to a phantom limb. It seemed to me that I was experiencing something akin to what amputees feel.
When I pulled my fingers out I noticed that my nails had changed in shape and color, even my knuckles looked different. These were not my fingers.
Gina leaned in and kissed me.
I took this as dirty talk, but she was being literal.
She pushed me back and got on top. Hands caressing everywhere, our bodies intertwined, it seems crazy now, but I hadn't noticed that a giant fucking python snake had somehow made its way onto the bed and was in the process of wrapping its scaly body around mine. And Gina, well, she was levitating above me facing the opposite direction. It was totally a 69 position, only she was a solid 3 three feet above me. It was like that scene in Ghostbusters, only there was nothing cute or comical about it. I'm not as clever as Bill Murray and had no witty remarks to make. Still, the view kept me good and distracted from the giant fucking python that was slithering across my chest.
You might think that a situation like this would induce panicked hysteria but the truth is being confronted with some horrific and supernatural nightmare in reality is more dumbfounding than it is terrifying. Rather than screaming and making a run for the door, I lied there like a deer in headlights wondering where I might have left my cell phone. I wanted to capture all of this crazy on video. I'm sure it would have been a smash hit on YouTube.
And that's when I found myself staring eye to eye with the giant fucking python, its head nearly the size of my fist.
My only rationalization at the time was that this woman had some seriously strong dope. What I smoked must have been laced with PCP or something.
And then the snake sank its teeth into the soft fleshy area directly above my collar bone. Holy shit did that hurt. I felt the venom spitting out of its teeth, making its way through my body, numbing everything from the neck down.
My facial muscles stiffened and I found my mouth frozen open in some awful slack jawed expression that probably made me look like some hick who's just caught his girlfriend fucking the pet Doberman.
The snake retreated while Gina did some crazy spinning motion thing mid air before lowering herself back on top of me.
Only, it wasn't Gina. It was someone else, an older woman, possibly a relative of Gina's. There were faint physical similarities, but given the circumstances of everything that was happening, I wasn't able to make out much in specific physical features. She was not necessarily attractive nor was she unattractive. But that seems irrelevant now. She could have morphed into Megan Fox and the whole situation wouldn't have been any less fucked up.
While the snake venom had paralyzed my body, it was also working as some type of sexual stimulant. Sure, I'd taken Viagra for fun in and it was still nothing like this. I had the most intense erection of my life. I could feel the veins throbbing under my skin and I'm pretty sure I was probably a solid three inches longer than usual.
Gina, or, whoever, or whatever the fuck Gina had turned into, sat on top of me, fitting me insider of her or should I say it. I felt my penis leave my body and travel to another world or possibly another dimension. If my dick had eyes, I'm sure it saw something like you'd find inside a Heavy Metal magazine.
Demon woman thing worked me hard for a while. I'm not sure if it was minutes or hours or even days as time seemed to have stood still.
I looked down and saw something weird as if the word weird could even quantify anything that was happening at this point. There was a big droopy dog tongue wiggling its way out of her vagina, licking my stomach. I still can't decide if this was insanely hot or absolutely disgusting.
My penis in another dimension decided that this was insanely hot and I experienced the single most intense orgasm of my entire life and I had already spent two years bumming around Tokyo, this was no small feat. There's no way of knowing, but I'm pretty sure I most have blasted a few gallons of ejaculate on some distant moon. My orgasm lasted an entire two minutes. That might not sound very long, but seeing how the average orgasm for males generally last 15 -30 seconds, it seemed like an eternity at the time.
Just before I passed out "she" peaked as well. Her thighs nearly crushing my pelvis, demon gypsy lover woman held me down while speaking in some foreign tongue. She thrashed and screamed and threw up some type of ooze all over my hairy chest. It was going to take a good two or three showers to get that shit out. If anyone decides to make some Evil Dead porn parody, they ought to hire me as a consultant since I've already lived it.
After painting my naked body with purple vomit, she grabbed my hair with both hands, leaned in closer, and told me to swallow.
Swallow what I thought.
The skin on her face started to liquefy, melting away from her skull like butter on a hot skillet. It streamed down like a waterfall directly into mouth. It tasted like play doh as it clogged my throat. I tried to breathe through my nose but there was no use. A heaviness started to set in and I blacked out.
I woke up with one hell of hang over the next morning. Gina was lying on her side in the bed, her back facing me. I leaned over to double check that it was indeed Gina. It was.
Goddamn, she looked even more beautiful in the morning glow.
I could still remember the night before but initially played it off as some drug induced hallucination but the teeth marks above my collar bone signified otherwise.
Gina came to; she turned to face me, smiled, and invited me to stay for breakfast.
I sat in her small kitchen as she brewed coffee and fried some eggs in her underwear. I was sore, I was exhausted, but I didn't feel bad. I felt great actually, refreshed. I felt like I must have had a hundred orgasms.
Still, it was hard to think of anything to say. Every time I thought I had figured a way to ask her about what had happened, I stopped myself midway in pronouncing the first word.
Gina was content with eating breakfast and drinking her coffee in silence and therefore, so was I.
She called a cab as I got dressed and I left as though it had been a just another normal drunken night of sex with someone I only kind of knew. She gave me a hug before I walked out the door, and it seemed as though we were parting on amicable terms.
Obviously, I never saw her again. I decided to place that night within a group of other bad, humiliating, embarrassing, and painful memories that I would spend most of my young adulthood drinking away. And I mostly succeeded in that endeavor until now. Drink enough bourbon, and you can whitewash away any nasty past experiences.
But here I am 6 years later staring at my computer screen.
"Hey, it's been a while. I just got a press badge for the film festival and thought about you. If you happen to be in Philly, it'd be nice to see you again, catch up, reconnect, and see some films together. Call me.... Gina"
What the hell? I think my gimmick for the festival just found me.
So, dear readers,
I have indeed called Gina, and we will be reconnecting for the festival, and boy, what a festival it is. Expect Boozie Movie reviews for films including the ABCs of Death, John Dies at the End, I Declare War, Cloud Atlas, American Scream, and many more. But if things go according to plan, stay tuned for my following adventures with Gina throughout the festival. I invite you all to come join me in my journey to bowels of hell here in Philadelphia.
COMING TOMORROW: Fear & Loathing at the 2012 Philadelphia Film Festival Part II: Boozie Movies tries to review Silver Lining Playbook but Gets Stoned with a Demon and has a Threeway with a Stripper Instead!
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