Tara awoke with a groan and grabbed her aching head. The place beside her in bed was cold and empty, though today that was more of a blessed relief than anything else. She sat up slowly and swiveled to the side of the bed, hissing when her feet touched the cold wooden floor. Tara sighed and reached for her robe... then found out she was still wearing her clothes and dropped it again.
She made her way from her bedroom down the stairs to her living room, passing the remains of the dinner for two and, most notably, the shattered wineglass and the wine stain on her wallpaper. And, of course, the empty wine-bottle itself. Yesterday evening, she thought it would be a shame to waste an expensive bottle of wine and merrily consumed it... Though it seemed like a good idea at the time, it was an action which she was sorely regretting right now.
Since having a foot filled with shards would be a bad way to start the rest of her life, she carefully avoided the bits of broken glass and checked the clock. 14:37... Not that late, actually.
Tara sighed and reached for her phone. She pressed the speed-dial, and every tone of the phone dialing shattered yet another part of her aching brain.
"Hello?" sounded Xander Harris from the other side of the line.
"Angelica left me," Tara stated simply.
There was a slight silence on the other side of the line. "Uhm, congratulations?"
"Ultimatum. Either my movies or her. Guess which I picked. Oh, I tried buttering her up with dinner and wine, tried to reason with her..."
"She didn't go for it?"
"I'm looking at a wine stain on my wallpaper. Still, it's not all that bad."
"She only hit the wall... but she was aiming for my head," Tara sighed.
"Told ya," Xander sighed. "You should never date actresses."
"We'd been having problems for a long time. Yesterday was the climax," Tara sighed. For the past few years, Tara had made a name for herself as a director of horror films. Making films, especially horror films was something she truly enjoyed, and luckily the public agreed, allowing her some measure fame and enough money to make a decent living. Angelica was a young actress she had met while visiting the set of another director filming at the studio lot next to hers some two years ago. Tara and Angelica had hit it off and moved in together after two months of intensive dating.
"Same old, same old," Tara continued. "She still wanted me to quit making horror and move on to, as she put it, more lucrative genres."
"Funny," Xander said. "She didn't object to helping herself to the money you made from those 'less lucrative genres'."
"Yesterday, I finally stopped dodging and told her I wouldn't do it, even if she would leave me. Then I got treated to a screech-concert and a glass to the head. She walked out the door and her lawyer called about five minutes later to told me she'll be around later today to pick up her stuff. Good enough reason for me to finish off the wine by my lonesome. Shame to waste a perfectly good bottle."
"Celebration?" Xander suggested. "Hey, you're finally rid of 'demon'-ica. Halleluja, you deserve a good belt for that."
"Celebration," Tara thought for a moment. "Well, yeah, I suppose. Yes and no. Still, my time with Angelica hasn't been all bad."
Or had it? Though their relationship had started with fiery passion, it had cooled relatively quickly. In fact, Tara doubted if she had ever truly loved Angelica. Oh, she was pretty and the sex was stupendous, but Angelica was arrogant and mean. She looked down on Tara's choice of movie genre, she acted as if she was Paris Hilton towards her family because they weren't rich. Angelica openly disapproved of Tara choice of friend friends and did her best to sabotage Tara's relationship with her friends at every opportunity. Luckily for her, her friends were not stupid.
But still, she had invested two years of her life in this relationship, and they did have fun... at times. So, yes, Tara still thought it was sad.
"Just took the winebottle, popped a couple of my favorites in my DVD-player... The Thing, Suspiria, Lady Frankenstein. I think I also watched Re-Animator, but I was probably too drunk to remember at the time," Tara said.
"Ah, timeless classics. At least Angelica won't pressure you into getting rid of your collection anymore," Xander chuckled on the other end of the line.
"True, true," Tara replied. "I think I'll stay a happy bachelorette for a long, long, loooonnngggg time. I dunno, Xand, all the girls I end up falling for turn out to be either straight or bitches straight from hell. Face it, I'm a magnet for misfortune."
"Don't be like that, Tar," Xander replied. "Look, I can toss a few cliches about how things'll get better and that there's more fish in the sea... But when push comes to shove, I mean, even kissing a tuna-fish is a step up from Angelica. Come on, Tara, what where you thinking?!"
"Hey," Tara chuckled. "What are you trying to say?"
"I mean, you considered the Bitch from Hell good dating material and let her inside of your personal circle. Talk about a lapse in judgment."
"Again, hey!" Tara chuckled.
"No, no, no. Now that you've broken up with her, I've got the right to speak my mind without fear of repercussions. Let me just say that Angelica is one of the few people who deserved to have her guts ripped out by a rabid were-deer. I'll grab a bucket of popcorn and watch when the aliens strap her onto the probulator. We'll see who's a 'talentless bum' then, ey. Oh, gods, I thought of it... when the tabloids find out about your break-up, it'll be huge publicity for you. I'm sure she's going to pin all the blame on you."
"Alright, alright, alright," Tara sighed. "Enough about Angelica, please. I, uhm, have other news. Yesterday evening I got the call from Mick Garris..."
Silence at the other end of the line.
"And? Well? Tell the Xand-man! Enquiring minds need to know!"
Tara chuckled. "Short attention span, ey, Xander? But, yeah. We got the episode."
More silence on the other end of the line.
"Oh, man, wicked!" Xander replied. "Why didn't you say anything, Tara? Oh, this is big. Are you going to..."
"Get the old crew together? You bet," Tara grinned. "Got some calls to make, Xand. Just get your make-up kit ready."
"Have FX-kit, will travel!" Xander replied. "See you soon, Tare!"
Evening was approaching fast and Tara had had a busy day. After phoning Xander, her first order of business had been to down some aspirin, some breath-mints, a shower and a fresh set of clothes. After that, she had calls to make.
Tara relaxed at her table over a nice meal of chinese take-out. Tara loved chinese take-out, but hadn't been able to eat it at home for two years because Angelica thought it was beneath her. In fact, Tara had to get rid of a lot of things she really liked to accommodate her now gone-lover. Tara had spent all day restoring her house as it had been pre-Angelica... all her horror posters were back where they belonged, and now that Angelica's crystal dolphins were out in the trashbin, all her collector's items were all back in the display cases where they belonged.
Tara held up her glass of soda and held it towards the only photo of Angelica left in the house. "Here's to you, Angelica. You did me a favor. I'm done with love... No more for me."
Yep, Tara thought. I can do whatever I want now. I can wear slacks all day... I can watch movies all evening without being dragged along the latest party where Hollywood's shallowest gather... I can decorate my house with whatever I want without having to worry about the latest fung-whatsit trend... I can eat what I wanna eat... Hell, I can even walk around naked if I wanted to. Ah, freedom...
The movie-posters of her own accomplishment, her own movies, now hung on a prominent place in her cozy living room. 'The Veil', about a girl in a coma losing grip on reality on the edge of death. 'Accidental Monster-kill', a horror-comedy about a Vincent Price-style actor in B-horror movies who gets kidnapped by fans and finds himself confronted by monsters that are all too real. 'Blood-drinkers', where a small town finds its inhabitants muting into feral vampires. 'Mazes and Trolls' in which a young PnP roleplayer finds himself the only sane person left in the world. 'Rarebit Nutters' a story of a group of kids who stay in an abandoned asylum that doesn't turn out to be haunted at all, but are done in by their own distrust. 'House of the Lonely' a whodunit style mystery... with psychopaths... and zombies. And she still had to get another batch of posters out of storage.
These films were her children. Each and every one of them. And to think she had had to hide these in her own home. For the last six months, she had put all her creative efforts on hold to try to salvage a doomed relationship. What a waste of time...
The Masters of Horror episode would be a fresh new and creative start of the rest of her life. Masters of Horrors was serial of hour-long TV episodes in which different famous horror directors would be given almost complete creative control in the making of them. It was exactly what Tara needed right now.
While still eating her take-out, Tara went over a few scripts and story-proposals she had taken from her file-cabinet. Over her decade-long career, she had bought the rights to quite a few stories, and a saved a lot of scripts that had been rejected from earlier proposals to studios. Plenty of material to chose from, and she needed the right story for this episode.
Hm, Tara thought while she took another bite from her chicken. Giant ants taking over Manhattan. Gi-ants? Uhm, no... she thought and picked up another script. The Grim Reaper running for congress? Why did I ever buy this crock of shit? Next! Hm, what's this? Sentient rats? No... High-schoolers trapped in a hellish convent? Nah, I need something funny.
Almost by chance, Tara picked a story called 'Survival of the Fittest' from the pile. Hey, I forgot about this one, Tara said to herself. It was a dark comedic story about two active serial killers living in the same suburb, who had picked each other as their next target while oblivious to each other's activities. It also starred a woman who just moved into the neighborhood and got caught in the middle of this struggle.
Tara smiled that mysterious half-smile of hers. "Perfect..."
One week later, gathered in Tara's living room and all eating chinese take-out, were Tara's friends and the crew she had been working with for the past decade. It had not been easy to schedule each and not all of them were there.
Xander, currently buried in his chicken gung bao, was someone she had known since high-school. Always into things gory and macabre, Xander had enrolled in the legendary Tom Savini's classes and was now running his own small, independent FX-studio called 'The Zeppo'.
Faith, leaning back and wearing her trademark black cap, was Tara's usual camera-person. She had a talent for getting difficult shots done in single takes and could always get the best quality picture out of even the most substandard pieces of equipment.
Buffy was a perky set-designer and location scout. The petite blonde was a walking encyclopedia of all kind of locations, as well as a designer with an incredible eye for detail. Not to mention perpetually happy.
And then there was Cordelia. A good costume designer, but someone who was easily bored with a production. It was, perhaps, a good thing that this episode would have a rather short production-time compared with a feature film.
Lastly there was Anya, the resident beancounter. It was her job to make sure Tara kept both feet firmly on the ground. Though Anya and Tara had had many heated 'creativity versus budget'-arguments in the past, she always made sure Tara's movies were finished mostly on budget and on schedule. She would be filling in the role of executive producer.
Veruca, Tara's usual composer and sound designer, was off on another project and would join them as soon as she was able. Dawn, Buffy's younger sister, was a licensed stuntwoman, would be joining them at location.
"Well, we all got the script," Tara said, and all her friends held up their copies. "Alright, I've been calling with Mick and we'll be shooting in Canada, Vancouver area. The rest is up to us."
"Perfect," Anya piped in. "Much cheaper to shoot there."
The rest groaned a little before Tara continued. "We also got our budget set. Buffy, any ideas?"
"Well," Buffy rubbed her chin. "I'll have to make some calls, but we could shoot in Sunny Pines. It's a suburb that could easy pass for american if we dress it up a little. It would be perfect for the outside shots and its not too far from the Sanguine studio lot."
"I've heard of Sanguine," Anya replied. "We could shoot the indoor shots there and not lose too much of the budget."
"I recommend building a set at the studio for the garden-chase scene," Buffy said. "It's simply easier to build a set than to ask permission and get the permits to storm through people's backyards."
"Cheaper too," Anya said.
"Alright, you work your magic, Buff. Let's talk interior sets," Tara asked.
"Well," Buffy bit her lip. "We need three houses. One for Killer 1, one for Killer 2 and one for Rosemary."
"Hold on," Anya checked her notes. "I see there's nothing used beyond a living room, a bedroom, kitchen and a basement in each wall. And we need a couple of stairwells. I recommend we simply build one type of room and redress each of the rooms as we shoot."
"We could do that," Buffy said. "All houses have the same design in these kinds of suburbs, so it shouldn't be to difficult to redress. I can make them all look different, don't worry. We'll let movie-magic do the rest."
"Agreed," Tara replied. "But I really want to have two separate basement sets. The basement is the inner sanctum for each killer, so I want them to be absolutely distinct. No redresses. I'll give you more details as soon as I have them myself, Buff. Still working on the Bible."
"One more issue," Anya pointed out. "'Survival of the Fittest' might not appeal to religious right viewers. I recommend changing the title to something like 'Suburban Jungle'. Idea?"
"Yeah, Ahn," Xander spoke up. "Let's make the movie first before we start changing the title, okay?"
"Marketing is important, Xander!"
"Costumes!" Cordelia spoke up. "Have you worked on the character descriptions yet?"
"I'll e-mail those to you later today," Tara said. "They're almost done, but I have some more minor details to work out."
"Great," Cordelia said. "It'll be handy to have an idea before the actors step through my door."
"No designer clothing, okay?" Anya pressed. "Not unless there is a specific reason to do so."
"Oh, you tightass. God," Cordelia sighed. "If I were cutting up someone with a hacksaw, I know would wanna to look good."
"Alright," Tara grinned at Xander, "there's ample opportunity for gore. We've got four random victims for our killers to play with, as well as past victims."
"I will make you carved up puppets that look so real, we'll all get arrested when the police raids us," Xander grins. "I'll have my make-up kit ready to make our actors look bruised, cut up, maimed and killed!"
"Good," Tara replied. "Now, actors..."
"I knew we forgot about something," Faith chuckled.
"I'm thinking we should go with local actors, unknowns mostly," Tara replied. "We need two killers, one leading lady and four victims."
"I agree," Anya said. "We'll already have the Masters of Horror name attached to our project, and it's know that you're directing, Tara. We don't really need big names to attract an audience."
"Really?" Tara replied. "I was kinda hoping we could cast Jeffrey Combs. Or maybe Ron Perlman. Or both."
"No!" Anya crossed her arms and shook her head resolutely. "They'll take a huge chunk out of our budget. If locals are just as good, we can use them."
Xander scraped his throat. "Ahum, Tara, you've had lunch with all the other directors, right? So, let's shove this all aside for a bit, because I really wanna know what the others are doing."
"Yeah," Buffy replied. "I'm kinda curious myself."
"Well," Tara thought for a moment. "I know John is doing something kinda like In the Mouth of Madness. It's all about the 'sanctity of film', but even John himself says it's a bullshit concept. Of course, he was stoned at the time."
"When is he not?" Faith chuckled.
"Stu is doing H.P. Lovecraft, no surprises there. It's going to be very good, I think. Oh, and Dario has got a really wild and creepy story. Sort of an inverted Beauty and the Beast, but you'll really have to see this one for yourself, so I won't spoil anything. Johnny Landis has a parody piece, as always. It's about a detective tying to make sense of a series op supernatural murders done by a mythological creature," Tara replied.
"Whoa," Faith whistled. "Impressive line-up. How are we gonna measure up to those?"
"By making a great story come to life through love and team effort?" Tara half-smiled. "Just a suggestion."
"Good point," Faith smirked. "Got my camera handy. What's George Romero doing, by the way?"
"He's no longer participating," Tara said. "Lucky is taking his place. He's writing a story which, he says, is a twisted lesbian love-story. And it involves insects somehow. I guess I'll find out when I'll see it. But I've already warned him that those lesbians had better be alive at the end of the story."
"Yeah, they'd better," Faith grit her teeth.
"Well," Tara grinned. "Let's get to work. We'll see each other tomorrow. I should have the bible finished and Angel'll start with the story-boarding."
"Alright!" Faith clapped her hands. "Let's get something on celluloid!"
"Huh?" Cordelia frowned. "I thought we were using digital camera's?"
"Figure of speech! Sheesh, grow a brain already!" Faith replied.
In a cold theatre in Vancouver rented for the occasion, Tara and Faith sat in the front row. Pre-production was almost over after only 6 weeks. Anya had taken on the more menial tasks of renting and buying supplies, while Buffy and her crew were almost finished building the sets in the Sanguine studio. Rather than renting out a hotel, a small village of trailers had been set up in the studio lot. Tara always preferred a small and tight crew, and this way, shooting almost felt more like a camping trip than actual work.
Casting had gone well, and Tara had found two actors to play the serial killers. A young actor named Jimmy Dumont would play Bruce, the youngest of the killers, who murdered his victims with a set of garden tools. A more experienced actor called Rene Perrin, would play Andy, a more sophisticated killer who murdered his victims by strangling them with a pianowire. The bit-parts of the four victims were easily found... but Rosemary took some more time. Shooting was scheduled to begin next week, and still having no leading lady was giving Tara quite a bit of stress.
In the end, Tara called for an open casting for local, hoping that the right girl would come along. She and Faith had seen many girls on the stage today, but still weren't any closer to finding the perfect Rosemary.
The blonde girl on the stage took a bow and walked off.
"What do you think?" Tara whispered to Faith. "I don't really think she captured the role."
Faith shook her head. "I think you're being kind. Her acting was bad enough to make puppies cry. And I don't think she'll look the part on camera. Our leads are way taller than her. It won't work, T."
"Alright," Tara called out. "Thank you for reading, Mindy. Next actress, please," she said, putting an 'x' behind Mindy's name on her clipboard.
Without looking at the stage, Tara flipped through the resume of the next actress. Lessee, 29 years old, more or less constant stream of work over the past five years. All stage work... very little experience with film, save for two television commercial advertisements. Some voice-over work.
Tara looked up to the new actress on the stage... and saw the single most nervous looking girl she had ever seen in her life. The willowy thin girl stood there, in a pink wooley sweater, almost ready to start hyperventilating at any moment. Her long red hair cascaded over her shoulders, which trembled as the girl shook from her nerves. Her gorgeous green eyes started from Tara to the script to the emergency exit as if to keep an eye on the nearest escape route.
"H-hi," the girl struggled over the word. "I-I'm Will..."
The microphone emitted a loud mechanical howl, causing both Tara and Faith to wince.
"Oh, I'm s-so s-sorry, I..." the girl accidentally knocked over the microphone stand, causing it to clatter to the wooden stage.
On the side, the actresses still waiting at the side of the stage giggled loudly. But they were quickly silenced by Tara, who directed an angry scowl in their general direction. Realizing they had made a serious faux-pas, the other actresses quickly shut their mouths and avoided Tara's scowl.
She shook her head. Tara simply didn't tolerate that kind of behaviour.
The girl on the stage, her face as red as her hair, quickly picked up the microphone-stand. "I, uhm, I'm so sorry. I'll... I'll go now."
"No!" Tara exclaimed before she could catch herself. "I mean, it's alright. Please, could you read for us?"
A genuine smiled formed on the girl's face before she started again. "H-hi, I'm W-Willow Rosenberg. R-reading for the part of R-rosemary."
Rene came out to help Willow read for the part. Both of them prepared for the first scene the actresses had been given. The scene was a simple introduction between the two character, yet was essential to measure the chemistry and ability of an actress.
Willow centered herself briefly and performed the scene. But to Tara, it more of a transformation than an actual performance. Gone was the nervous klutzy girl that had stepped on the stage. Willow had literally become Rosemary, exactly as Tara had imagined her.
After Willow was done, Tara turned to Faith. "Perfect delivery," Tara whispered.
"She's photogenic too," Faith replied. "Right size. She'd do."
"Willow," Tara said, liking how that name rolled over her tongue. "Could you please read the second scene for us?"
The second scene was a confrontation between Andy and Rosemary, more emotionally charged than the first scene. But Willow also pulled this one off to perfection. Tara could tell even Rene was impressed with her performance.
"I think she's a natural," Tara whispered to Faith.
"Amazing," Faith blinked. "She looked ready to pee her pants when she first came on stage. Hey, you think she's been replaced with a pod-person while we were looking?"
"Hey, Aliens can freeze time now. I read it in this tabloid, T."
Tara shook her head and turned back to Willow. "Willow, could you please read the third scene for us?"
The other actresses murmured nervously, as Willow had been the first girl to be allowed to read this third scene. The third scene was a long emotionally laden exposition scene. And Willow pulled it off magnificently yet again. Her delivery, her diction, her expression, her stance... it was all perfect.
Tara turned to Faith. The two friends smiled and nodded to each other. They had their Rosemary.
"Thank you very much, Willow," Tara told the girl. Willow smiled gently and left the stage. Tara circled Willow's name on her clipboard and put an exclamation mark next to it. She's let the other actresses read, out of courteousy, but she was eager to give Willow the call as quickly as possible.
Shooting could and would begin in a week.
1: I'm not putting words in John Carpenter's mouth. He actually said the concept of his story 'Cigarette Burns' was 'bullshit'. But it was creepy, and that's all that matters.
2: For the record, both lesbian characters survive with their sanity intact at the end of the episode 'Sick Girl' and have a happy ending. It looks like at least one person in Hollywood finally got it right.
2: For the record, both lesbian characters survive with their sanity intact at the end of the episode 'Sick Girl' and have a happy ending. It looks like at least one person in Hollywood finally got it right.