GateBuster: An American Werewolf in London

The car door swung open as I gazed upon a ghost; not the one under the white sheet mind you, but rather the visceral one that elicits emotions long thought dead and buried. The blue and yellow sign was welcoming, but my mind pushed out a sentence, just to alert the spirits I was here: “GateBuster, weren’t they all called… erm, never mind.” The neon sign said open, but the lack of any human presence told another tale. The door was slightly ajar, so I pushed all the way in and was subsequently greeted with that acrid smell of cleaner. It was clearly used with reckless abandon, possibly trying to mask something more nefarious. Who knows, perhaps I was having a stroke. My eyes shifted from right to left until I spotted 25 V/H/S tapes lined up perfectly, like toy soldiers at attention, waiting for my approval. The names were familiar with an accompanying list behind them. I scanned the tapes until one leapt into my brain like a poker through the eye; the horror classic “An American Werewolf in London”. At this point, my body was practically yipping with excitement over its eerie cover of two backpackers with a foreboding full moon in the background. Had it not been for the chunk of my arm that was still missing (I’ll get to that), the cassette would’ve been thrown into my bag carelessly, so I gingerly placed it instead.

Heading back to the front of the store, the lights flickered like an ominous warning…or perhaps a warming invitation. No one was there at the counter, just a stack of review cards to fill out, and a simple set of sentences:  

Be Kind, Rewind. Return on time. If not, Late Fees for the Crime.  

The hairs stick up on the back of my neck, and I don’t hear my voice come out, but the word “odd” escapes. Possibly an unfair assumption, I mean where is the harm here…harm, sounds like arm, like that piece still missing, fuck. People really need to control their dogs, ESPECIALLY, when you are minding your own business running on a cool summer night. Apologies for the sidetrack there, the mind… it wanders. But, let me digress because we have a film to enjoy!

As I’m sure people who are over 65 are the last VCR holdouts, I take the video to my parent’s house. Recalling my father’s opinion on V/H/S tapes (in his best Terminator impression stating, “They’ll be back”), I slide the film into the VCR using my good arm. The screen brightens, and it’s as if a nostalgic aneurism goes off in my brain. The movie begins innocently enough as we meet David and Jack, young backpackers from the Big Apple making their way through the English countryside. A friendly farmer warns them, “keep off the moors, stick to the roads.” Why is it when any knowing Englishman tries to give sage advice to young Americans, it is so quickly left to the roadside? My nocturnal attack was different, there was no sage advice to heed, only a closed park sign. I ALWAYS run in the park, closed or not, it’s a PUBLIC park paid for by MY tax dollars. Leash laws exist for a reason, it’s… again, sorry, this gaping wound in my arm is still burning and reapplying Neosporin to it is like treating cancer with Kool-Aid. It ain’t worth shit. Last outburst, I swear. 

We find David and Jack as unwelcome patrons in a quaint English pub, “The Slaughtered Lamb,” where the locals unceremoniously tell them to move on. As any ignorant American does when abroad, they ignore all local customs and find themselves wandering the foggy moor, on a night very similar to the one I find myself watching this on; a full moon. Deep in the moor, a howl rents through the pitch of night. The screams of the beast convince the boys to make a run for it, but alas Jack finds himself torn to pieces while David is maimed, and subsequently saved by the same pub-goers who cast them out. 

David, now marked with the curse of the beast, begins convalescing at a hospital. He’s being cared for and eventually REALLY cared for by Nurse Alex (vis a vi they have adult fun). Jack appears in the initial stages of a decaying zombie to warn David of his eventual turn into a werewolf, and his need to commit suicide before the next full moon. As the damned are want to do, David passes off his rotting friend’s advice as trauma induced delusions. Like so many horror films, the protagonist rarely sees the light before the train hits. Itching, itchy, itchiness, more interruptions and more apologies, but god, this arm, THIS ARM, I would lop it off if I could. 

Where was I? Oh yes, enough plot, more review. Rick Baker steals the show here with his Academy Award Winning Makeup, it just… SOUND. WHAT IS THAT SOUND? THE DRYER IS SCREAMING! WHERE DID ALL THIS NOISE COME FROM?

Just need, to adjust here. God, my muscles feel so tight. The itch… the itch is under my skin. What is happening to…

Needles. Thin. Needles. EVERYWHERE. It’s as if 10,000 arrows are ERUPTING FROM MY SKIN. Hands,      HANds.   Hansds.   FIJngers    Aaarrr too bigd forr thissl

My mouth is dry, but tinged with a metallic taste. Dried Blood. Whose Blood? My blood, their blood….their..? The house is turned upside down, I don’t understand. Was there a robbery?? I DON’T UNDERSTAND. My muscles burn and my lungs won’t catch enough air. The movie is paused and an image is burned on the screen. I look into a pair of eyes attached to a beast glaring back at me, but I see the soul beneath it; David’s. His eyes were filled with fear, pure fear. The eyes of a son who has done wrong. The eyes of a man unable to control the animal it has become. My mind cannot keep up with the wave of horrible memories torturing me. But something is certain; late fees be damned, I don’t think this film is making it back on time.



The Blue Light that Never Went Out

It’s always been there, just on the edge of town. One small strip mall off the beaten path. But you remember going there when you were young. Mom would always let you pick out one movie to rent. It was the highlight of the weekend. You were so excited to tell all your friends what you watched when you met up Monday on the playground. Sometimes Mom would get take-out from the Great Wok II right next door.

After rushing from the car to the store front, you’d always look at the return slot and think “what if someone pushed a movie through there?” but that never happened. When you walked in the droning iridescent light made the yellow walls seem like a welcoming sight. Rows upon rows of aisles filled to the very brim with v/h/s tapes littered the store but those weren’t for you. They each had a label atop that said their genre “action”, “horror”, and so on and so forth. But where you would rush to was the wall. It was time to test your luck with the New Releases. A heavenly spotlight shone on their wall, as if touched by the video Gods themselves. If you were lucky, maybe Mom wouldn’t even check the rating so you could watch Mortal Kombat like all your friends had. These memories are ingrained in your mind. Walking around the store, the smell of popcorn, and the strange people of your town picking out their films. It was nearly over when you arrived at the counter. There was a sign for upcoming releases, a plastic crate filled with returned movies, and some form of the “be kind, rewind” phrase. They’d warn your Mom about late fees, you don’t want the late fees…

But you know as well as I do, that time corrodes all things. You grew up. Started to get too cool to hang out and watch movies with Mom. Started to get too cool to stay in on Friday nights to watch movies. You started to go out. You met new friends, learned about life, and all sorts of coming-of-age things. For a long time, you never even ventured to that part of town where the blue ticket stub light would flicker in the parking lot, a hauntingly beautiful  reminder of days past.

One of your friends mentioned the store to you a year or so ago. These memories came flooding back so you took a drive. You nearly missed the parking lot because the lights were out. The ticket stub was gone. Great Wok’s letters were missing but their shadows still lingered, and the movies… the movies were gone. Turns out it’s been closed for a number of years. The owner just went missing one day. He was always a weird fellow. Once you realized that your childhood had ended, those nostalgic feelings washed over you while sitting your car. You called your Mother to tell her you love her. Time is fleeting, tell someone that you love them.

Now, today, the lights are back on. There is a new sign outside that reads “GateBuster”. The Chinese food place is now a deli. There was no big Grand Opening event or anything like that. One night the lights were off and then the next day they were on. It was as if the reality you knew crossed over with a dimension of nostalgia. Now, I have to tell you the truth, or my version of the truth, because everyones experience is so drastically different. Some reports have said that there is never staff working. That the lights are on and the store is pristine without a single sign of human life. Others say they are greeted by a wonderful staff full of smiling faces in their blue polos. They help those people find what they need as if they knew exactly what they had come in for. There have been other reports, but there is one thing that is always nearly the same.

The list on the wall behind the counter.

Rumor has it that there was a tub of 25 films in a box on the counter from the previous owner. On the large tub were the words “Grave Robber” etched into it. But now those 25 films are behind the counter. The list is displayed carefully on the wall. It’s just there waiting for people like…well like you, whoever YOU are or want to be. This town is full of weirdos and upright citizens who are looking for a bit of entertainment. You can rent one of these movies, but we ask that you fill out our review card that accompanies every film. 500-1000 words about you, the movie, and your thoughts. All you need to do is to let us know what you’d like to rent, we will check if it’s available, and then you return it with your review card. Simple and clean.

But please… return them on time… you don’t want the late fees…

The Management