One of the features that led to the success of the Marvel Cinematic Universe is that its various branches covered different genres. Hulk was the Fugitive/man on the run, Captain America was James Bond style espionage, Guardians of the Galaxy was Star Wars lite, and so forth. Not resting on their laurels after becoming the most successful film franchise of all time, Marvel swung high with their latest entry. The Eternals brings the MCU into Clash of the Titans territory with their own mythology and millennia spanning arc.

              The first MCU film with an opening crawl, The Eternals starts with “In the beginning,” establishing its vast backstory. The titular group of superpowered beings serve the god like giants known as Celestials and protect mankind against a group of monsters called the Deviants. Their absence from past MCU stories such as Thanos and the Infinity Gems is explained by their oath to not interfere with the human race unless they are threatened by the Deviants.

              Deviants make their return in the modern era, a time when the Eternals have gone their separate ways. Slowly the Eternals regroup, during which we get various flashbacks explaining their backstories, their relationships with each other, and their role, and lack thereof, throughout human history.

              With a cast of ten Deviants, it is difficult for any one character to stand out, but each of them are given moments to shine. Sprite has the body of a young girl and is frustrated that she never seems to age. Kingo became a rich Bollywood star who passes himself off as his son every generation (He also owns Captain America’s original shield).  Angelina Jolie plays Thena, a skilled warrior who suffers from a mental illness that results from a brain holding thousands of years of memories, and so forth. Also, of interesting note, Superman is referenced as a fictional character. I guess this means we won’t have a MCU/DC film.

           The Deviants take a smaller role in the narrative than expected. As the plot advances, we learn the true nature of both the Eternals and the Celestials, and it is this truth that drives the conflict. It’s almost just as well as the Deviants don’t bring a sense of fear and foreboding that is expected of a movie monster. More obviously CGI than other creatures of the MCU, the Deviants look as though they were lifted from a video game and are not as scary as they needed to be.

              Having said that, the Eternals mostly delivers on its high ambitions of telling a vast world sweeping time spanning epic tale, adding a major piece of mythology to the lore of the MCU. Completely unconnected to the Infinity saga that had dominated most of the Marvel films, Eternals feels like a breath of fresh air to the franchise. It is the first Marvel film in quite a while that feels like it just could have been its own separate unique property.

Eternals is currently streaming on Disney Plus.

Rocky IV premiered in 1985, a period which was arguably peak American culture. This time capsule of 80’s bombastic-ness transports Rocky from his first film’s mean Philadelphia streets to the Soviet Union; where he fights the near superhuman Ivan Drago in what is simply the greatest fight in cinematic history. In 2020, looking for something to do during Covid lockdown, Stallone decided to retool this now classic of 80s cinema, the result is Rocky IV the Director’s Cut, A.K.A. Rocky vs Drago. In this cut, he adds some humanity to his monstrous opponent, and dials back the over-the-top nature of the original film.

Most Rocky’s open with an exciting recap of the previous film’s fight set to a rousing score, such as Survivor’s Eye of the Tiger. Here we open to the much gloomier moment of Rocky getting knocked out by Clubber Lang. Cut to the beginning of Rocky’s friendship with Apollo Creed leading up to the rematch and finale of Rocky III where Rocky regains his title, ending not with Eye of the Tiger, but Sweetest Victory, from the original ending of IV. This recap of Rocky III takes up the first 6-7 minutes of the director’s cut; and establishes the friendship with Rocky and his former opponent Apollo Creed.

Just as in the original, Apollo is now swimming in his pool while seeing news of Soviet boxer Ivan Drago coming to America. This is followed by the first actual new footage of the director’s cut. Rocky and Apollo talk outside of Rocky’s mansion, where Rocky reveals that the boxing commission was approached by the Soviets about an exhibition bout with Rocky. At the time, Rocky was hesitant, telling them he’d think about it, feeling he didn’t have to do it if he didn’t need to.

While playing around with a football, possibly a nod to Carl’s real-life stint as an Oakland Raider, we get more insight into Apollo’s motivation for wanting to fight Drago first. Apollo sees this potential fight to be not only against Russian propaganda, but as a great historical moment that he wants to be a part of. This is followed by the original scene of Apollo talking with Rocky’s family inside the house, with the addition of Adrian talking about medieval armies fighting to the death, illustrating the intelligence she had in the first movie. There is also a new scene where Rocky and Adrian talk in the kitchen. Adrian can see through Apollo’s hubris, realizing not only that Apollo is afraid of being forgotten about, but that this is something her husband will face one day as well.

Stallone recently said he now regrets having killed off Creed in Rocky IV. It is interesting to think how the rest of the franchise would have carried on with a living, but wheelchair bound Apollo. Of course, Apollo still dies in the director’s cut, but he is shown as putting up more of a fight, even in the second round after he has already been badly beaten.

One of the subtle but more significant changes is that Rocky is not asked by Duke to throw in the towel. In the new cut, Rocky picks up the towel but drops it just as Apollo is dealt the fatal bow. His motivation now is not guilt, but a belief in a warrior’s code that Apollo had previously expressed (Adrian’s previous insight is apparently ignored). This is followed up on during Apollo’s funeral, where his trainer Duke gives a eulogy of how the warrior has the right to decide his way of death. Rocky follows this not with his somber speech about how Apollo always did things the way you wanted, but with a few wailing lines about how Apollo gave him a chance. What Rocky says makes sense, he owes everything he has to Apollo, who believed in him and gave him a break when no one else would. The problem is in 1985 Stallone wasn’t an actor anymore, and what should have been a very moving scene is instead cringeworthy.

Now we’re off to the Soviet Union for the two training montages, where it’s revealed that Rocky did in fact plan to spar, but the Soviet’s conveniently forgot to provide sparring partners (we do see him hitting a heavy bag in a training montage). This was a nice touch, showing his opponent’s home country purposely trying to screw Rocky over in training.   

The director’s cut of the fight itself remove the sins of the original in that we don’t see punches that obviously missed scored with a shotgun blast sound of impact. Here the sound effects are scaled back and the editing is redone as to not show missed shots having an impact. There’s also more commentary about Drago being younger than Rocky, adding to the champ’s underdog status. Before the last round the ref threatens to stop the match. Nothing comes of this of course, but the ref also almost immediately calls the match after Drago is knocked down, not even bothering with a ten count.

Drago’s wife is almost absent from this cut. Her sincere lines about the threats on her husband’s life and her wicked smile during Apollo’s death are inexplicably cut. Drago’s promoter Nicolai Koloff does have a few lines adding to his already great performance. We learn that the Balboa Drago fight will take place in Russia partly because they believe the fight would not be scored properly in America. There’s more of an emphasis on how the Russian’s really wanted Drago to face Rocky first, and we see see Koloff’s isolation and can sense the looming consequences he will face once Rocky is victorious.

There is an attempt to humanize Drago, as he is portrayed more as a tool of Soviet propaganda as opposed to a superhuman monster. His punching demonstration to the press is shown, but without the context of him being stronger than average boxers. We can see that he wants to speak for himself; and does not care for his superiors speaking for him. He has more charisma, openly mocking Apollo during their match. After killing Creed, he adds to his after-match speech that soon everyone will know the name of Drago, and we see via a reaction shot that his superiors don’t approve of Drago going into business for himself. However, there evidently wasn’t much more of anything filmed of Drago to add to his character. It would have been nice if they’d subtitled whatever was said to him right before the Apollo match. It’s also too bad they didn’t film more dialogue of Drago’s training, as this would have helped Stallone’s intent in recutting this film 35 years later.

Rocky vs Drago has about the same run time as the original. While there are a few short new scenes, most of the “new footage” is simply different takes and re-edits of the scenes we already know, such Rocky and Apollo’s conversation while watching their rematch, Adrian telling Rocky he can’t win, Rocky’s talk with his son (who we don’t see again) and Rocky’s post fight speech are abbreviated and shown with different takes. I’m unsure why Sly felt the need to shorten these scenes as it just makes them all feel rushed and less meaningful. Also, this angle of following the warriors code does not seem as interesting as the guilt Rocky felt in the theatrical cut.

Rocky IV was the first film in the series not to use Bill Conti, opting for composer Vince DiCola, whose score added to the otherworldly feel of this entry. The director’s cut insert’s traditional Conti compositions over certain dramatic scenes in an attempt to make this sequel feel more like the previous films. It also ends with Eye of the Tiger, trading places with Sweetest Victory which is now played at the end of the Rocky III recap. These changes make Rocky vs Drago feel more like the previous films, but there-in lies the problem. Rocky IV was not just another Rocky film. The complete absurdity and over the top nature of Rocky IV at the mid-point of Reagan’s America is exactly what made it work. One can’t possibly scale back all of Rocky IV’s bombastic-ness, but in making the attempt, it takes away from what made the original special in the first place.

No one knows Rocky better than Stallone, but I have to disagree with the creator on most of this cut. Artsy types romanticize the lone artist’s creative vision, but movie making, perhaps more than any other medium, is a collaborative art. Sometimes the lone creative vision isn’t the best one. See George Lucas’s Star Wars prequels or Rob Zombie’s Halloween II for examples, and I feel you can add Rocky vs Drago to that list. While Rocky IV’s Director’s Cut has some interesting additions, I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone other than a diehard Rocky Fan.

For my review of the original Rocky IV, click here.

No Gein: A Second Helping

Chapter Sixteen. Deviant

Hallow-con, New York City, October 2004

“I don’t know, do you!” Franklin hated newbies, and this one was ruining his Orpheus session. The new World of Darkness role playing supplement was right up Franklin’s alley, but the player next to him was wrecking the mood asking stupid questions like “Do you I have a flashlight?” 

Even worse was the game master was some dumb girl. “Cool it pal!” she said to him through her black lipstick laced lips before encouraging the newbie to be even more newbish. “If you want to have a flashlight I’ll let you have one, but next time write it down on your items list.”

“Have you even run a campaign before?” Franklin asked. Now he had the woman’s attention, along with everyone else at the table. 

“Really? You’re gonna question my cred!” Franklin didn’t understand why she got so upset over a simple question. “You’re playing a sleeper, you’re cryogenically frozen and your body ejected your soul,” then pointing to the young teenager Franklin previously berated, she continued, “He is a Hue, which is like a Spirit except while alive he took the drug pigment which kept his spirit from being fulfilled.” 

“Whatever.” Franklin thought to himself. He figured she probably got a cheat sheet from her man or whatever which was probably the only reason she got this gig as a gamemaster, or storyteller as they called it in World of Darkness. He figured this fake fan probably could see the unimpressed look on his face as she just kept running her bitch mouth.

“If that’s not enough, asshole, I can tell you the thirteen clans in Vampire the Masquerade, or the sixteen tribes that serve Gaia in Werewolf the Apocalypse, or I could just save us all the headache and tell you to get the fuck out of here right now!”

Franklin was flabbergasted. How dare she talk to him like that? He traveled a long way to get here and this is what he gets. “You can’t kick me out!” he protested.

“It’s my game and I have the discretion. If you have a problem with it check the convention guidebook. You’ve been a shitty player and I can tell you’re a shitty human and we don’t need that in our community!”

“Fuck you bitch I’m outta here.” Franklin tossed his dice toward the woman as he stormed away. 

“Kick his ass Vicki!” He heard one of the players taunting. Probably some white knight douchebag that was desperately hoping for a shot to nail her. He didn’t need that shit. Her and her jetblack hair and black eye makeup looking all goth and…He could have nailed her, if he wanted to, nail her right against the wall, but whatever.

Franklin was still steaming as he walked the convention floor. “I wonder what that goth bitch’s head would look like on a stick.” he thought to himself. While walking amongst the rest of the convention goers he thought he spotted a familiar face. He couldn’t quite make him out, but whoever it was they were wearing an old hunting cap. Walking down the aisle, whoever this person was, Franklin lost him in the crowd. Franklin now found himself by a booth selling horror movie posters. As luck would have it, the vendor had the poster for last year’s Freddy vs the Devil movie. He snapped that up, along with the only Halloween poster he didn’t have, the cyberthriller Halloween H2K that came out four years back. The Halloween franchise just dropped some news which Franklin was excited about. 

 He soon reasoned to himself that it was probably better off that he left the role playing session early as he scored a spot in line for the Freddy vs the Devil booth. Though early, there was still a big line ahead of him. He wished he could get a chainsaw and mow through all these fucking people that were his way. He couldn’t wait to meet Kane Hodder for the first time. Kane reprised his iconic role as Freddy Krueger in last year’s smash horror crossover Freddy vs the Devil, the long awaited crossover with the Friday the 13th series. Finally, once everyone got out of his fucking way he almost laughed out loud at what he saw. There was Robert fucking Englund of all people, his little body tried to fill the imposing Jersey Devil costume of the Friday the 13th series. For the life of him Franklin couldn’t figure out how Robert got this role. In some parallel universe inside Franklin’s own mind it would have at least went to someone like Ken Kirzinger. Pointing his finger at him, Franklin mocked “Haha, Freddy kicked your ass!” The actor knew not to say shit back as he signed Franklin’s newly bought poster. Franklin even gave a thumbs down during their picture together. 

Finally, Franklin saw the man he travelled across the country to see. “Yeah, there’s the man right there!” Franklin shouted as he shook the hand of Kane Hodder, who was all decked out in his Freddy Kreuger outfit and makeup. Nodding to that little bitch of a Devil, Franklin said “You showed that pussy what’s up huh!” As Kane’s large hands reached towards him, Franklin knew what was coming next. Hodder was known for giving his fans a lovingly squeeze on the throat during photo ops. “Damn, he does squeeze tight,” he thought to himself as the convention staffer took the photo. 

Now he was really getting his money’s worth as the actor gave him a bit of a violent shake as the camera flashed. “Calm the fuck down.” He heard Hodder whisper as the polaroid emerged from the camera. Franklin quickly wiped his eyes as he took the photo and staggered away. Looking back at the graphic hanging above the booth, he was thrilled to see that Freddy vs the Devil was not only getting a sequel, but it would add another horror icon into the mix. “Freddy vs the Devil vs Ash! That is so cool!” he said while Kane gave a polite nod as another convention staffer led Franklin away from the booth. 

“You alright?” the convention staffer asked. Wiping his eyes again, Franklin thought this bitch needed to mind her own business. Ash from the Evil Dead films was going to be in a movie crossover with the Friday the 13th and Nightmare on Elm Street Series, of course he was going to be alright.

Walking through the convention floor again, he heard someone say. “Sick shirt.” A man dressed up as Marvel Comics’ Blade commented on Franklin’s Jeffrey Dahmer T-shirt. 

“I know it is.” Franklin replied, presuming that was a compliment. Franklin thought this fan’s Blade outfit was pretty cool too. Blade III was coming out this December, and Franklin wondered if comic book movies would ever cross over like the horror characters now were. One of the big bits of news from this convention was that, due to the success of Freddy vs The Devil, a crossover film would be made with the Hellraiser series. Franklin was so stoked for who Pinhead from Hellraiser would be fighting. For the first time in over 20 years, Michael Meyers from the first two Halloween movies would return to film, and would be facing off against Pinhead. If Marvel or DC could ever start making movies where their comic book superheroes cross with each other, that would do some big business.

Regardless, the early aughts were turning out to be a great time to be a horror fan, and one of the reasons was the man he was going to see next. George Kohler directed the Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake which was a smash success, and as a result every studio was going through their vaults to see what old scary titles they could dust off and repackage. Prom Night, Maniac Cop, Stepfather, My Bloody Valentine, When a Stranger Calls, The Hills Have Eyes, Last House on the Left, Black Christmas, Pumpkinhead, Silent Night Deadly Night, and countless more were greenlit for a remake.

He went into the ballroom where George Kohler would be speaking. Coming into the large room, he spotted that hunter’s cap again. Whoever wore it was sitting down in the middle section. Franklin walked over thinking he’d join him, but he soon became lost among the flood of fans, who all cheered when George took the stage.

Kohler wasn’t here to talk about Psycho II, his third feature film which as usual had controversy. Franklin remembered when he was a teenager seeing the first Psycho in the theaters. It was so awesome, with a twist that completely blew his mind. Psycho II did the same, where the end reveals Norman Bates was killed by a hitchhiker from the first act, and the identity of the movie’s main killer Franklin never would have guessed. Near the end of filming Psycho II Kohler had to leave the set due to a personal tragedy and a friend of his directed the final remaining scenes.

Today Kolhler wasn’t here to talk about movies, but his new book, Deviant. Franklin was super stoked about it. He boisterously cheered along with everyone else in the audience while George took the stage. George waved politely. “Thank you for coming. I really appreciate it. My father wasn’t a fan of this scene,” 

As soon as Franklin heard this he let out a loud “boo!” The best part was he could tell it registered on George’s face. Still, the director continued. 

“but he was really proud of me.”  All the sheep then cheered at this sentimental shit. Some old red headed hag in the front row was even crying. What the fuck was she crying for? It didn’t matter. George went on to explain the topic of his book, which was how some bizarre events intersected with the lives of several members of his family, including an incident with a murderer who went undiscovered for 50 years along with another unrelated incident with a family of psychopaths that were mixed up with the mob. “I know a lot of you want to go out to Plainfield and see this stuff for yourself, but there’s nothing there to see, and the townspeople don’t like the attention. There’s a lot of good people there, as well as the rest of the great state of Wisconsin. I should know, my family is from there.” George then elaborated how the authorities wanted to keep a lid on things at first, but, given everything that happened, including what happened to George’s father, George decided to, after talking it over with his sister and the authorities, publish this book and put it all out there in the open. 

  After his talk he took a few questions from his fans. Some people asked him about Psycho II and why he made the decision to kill off Norman Bates. “I think Robert Bloch would have wanted that.” George then explained that the author, who wrote the novel Psycho just before he died in 1994, may have been a horror fan, but he wasn’t a fan of some of the violence in horror movies. “He sucked.” Franklin thought to himself. George speculated that Bloch might not have wanted, say, four movies about Norman Bates killing people. Having said that, while he couldn’t reveal plot details, George assured his fans that there still would be a Psycho III. Not only that, but a Bates Motel prequel series was in the works about a young Norman Bates and his mother set in the 1970s.

After the talk Franklin got in line to meet George and buy his book. “I’m from Plainfield.” was the first thing Franklin said when meeting the author.

“Oh really,” George said. “Wow, thanks for coming all the way out here.” 

Franklin immediately went to the question that had been burning in his brain.

“So when can we expect the Ed Gein movie?”

“Never.” George answered immediately, following up with, “I mean if someone else makes it I can’t stop them, but there won’t be an Ed Gein movie on my watch” He then handed  Franklin the autographed book and turned his attention to the next fan in line.

Once again Franklin was led out of the line, and once again he was enraged. How the fuck would George not make an Ed Gein movie. The best horror movie ever fell right into his lap and he was going to throw it away. Here was a chance to put Franklin’s little shit town on the cinematic map, it had to happen. Franklin didn’t give a shit about his dead dad, he wanted his fucking movie. One way or another, that movie was going to get made, even if it was over George’s dead body.

It was then that Franklin noticed him again. He was still wearing that old hunters hat. As Franklin watched him on the convention floor everything else around him started to look blurry, almost as though he  was dreaming. Franklin was starting to feel dizzy, like he was detached from his body which was making slow steps towards the image of the man in front of him. Upon closer look he recognized that little glob of flesh that hung from his eye. He knew it from old pictures the local news showed on TV last year. 

“Want me in a movie huh?” The fellow Wisconsinite said. “You do what I tell you, and they’ll even make one of you.”

Hungry for more. Stay tuned for the final chapter of this trilogy of pop culture alternate history. No Gein III: The Final Cut, coming soon!

No Gein II: A Second Helping

Chapter Fifteen: Leftovers

“Jerry! Jerry! Jerry!” Springer took Marilyn’s mind off all this madness and war, at least it did for a little while. The Nurse sitting nearby laughed along with her at the latest shenanigan’s of the tabloid TV talk show. Then reality walked back in as Marylin’s daughter entered, and the memories of all the stories Marilyn heard on the news came rushing back to her mind.

“Kristina!” Marilyn reached her arms out at her daughter, “Jesus honey are you OK?” 

“I told you I was OK.” Kristina answered before embracing her.

Marilyn didn’t like the sternness in her daughter’s voice. She was worried about her little girl, “Wait till she has kids.” she thought to herself. “She then recalled that Kristina did phone a few days ago and told her what happened. Those memories only brought that pain to her hip again as she said “I told you not to be messing around with that!” Through her tears Marilyn then  reprimanded her daughter.

“Didn’t you want to know what happened?”

“All I want to know is that you’re safe.” 

Before pulling away her daughter answered. “I know mom. I am safe, OK?”

Kristina then went into her purse and pulled out an old envelope. “What’s this?” her mother asked.

“This was for you mom.”

The paper of the envelope was worn and brittle. It looked like it had been sealed a hundred years ago. A tiny specks of dust fell to her lap as she unsealed the envelope, about to excavate the contents inside. The nurse got her Marilyn’s spectacles as she began to read.

“If you’re reading this then chances are things didn’t turn out well for me. Shouldn’t surprise me, had to fight my whole damn life. Maybe I shouldn’t even be writing this letter. Some say I might be making shit happen by doing so, but I don’t feel like taking the chance that I’ll have a happy ending.

I damn sure hope you get one though. Forgive my French, writing letters isn’t my strong point. Just wanted to get down into words so you don’t think I forgot about you. I can’t imagine how hurt you might feel, thinking I left you all alone. I don’t blame you for hating me, you might hate me forever, but maybe one day you’ll understand.

If you would know about our family tree you’d want to burn the whole thing straight to hell, but that doesn’t matter now. What matters is what we do from here on out. I hope to leave you something money wise and make things right somehow. I don’t know if I’ll ever see you, and when you’re older if you don’t want to see me, I understand. Just hope you can know someday how much I love you. I’m so sorry things got as bad as they did. I’ll try to make all this shit right someday. Keep your chin up kid.

Love, 

Your mom,

Henry’s vision got blurry, the image of Helen and Chuck faded away, like it was all just a dream. He opened his eyes and he was standing in front of his old house in Amherst. The sun shined bright and the sky was a luminous blue, it looked so clear above him it was almost like magic. It was then he heard the song.

“Why was I born. 

Why am I living?

What do I get?

What am I giving?

Why do I want a thing I daren’t hope for?

What can I hope for?

I wish I knew.”

As Henry remembered how his parents liked that song, he realized it was coming from the car approaching down the road. It was his dad’s car, and it was kicking up a big pile of dust behind it, just like it used to when he was a kid. As the car parked he saw that familiar smile. As she stepped out of the car, she was just how he remembered her, all those years ago.

“Look at you all grown up!” she said to her little brother.

“Sally?” In his mind he was shocked, but in this place, wherever he was, his body couldn’t feel shock, only happiness. A joy and wonder sprang forth from him, like the joy of a thousand sunrises.

“Oh my god.” Henry hugged his sister, and while he couldn’t understand where he was, he knew that wherever he was, he was so happy to be here.

He then pulled back and looked at her, and for a moment in infinity she remembered all the terror she’d ednured. “Sally, my god, I’m so sorry.”

She put her finger to his lips saying, “It’s ok. I took on a burden. I took it so others could live.”

“What?” Henry was growing ever more confused.

His sister simply giggled as she shrugged her shoulders suggesting even she didn’t fully know what she meant. “It’s hard to explain, but it all works out in the end.” Then she playfully jabbed him on the shoulder. “Besides, you know I was a Beatnik, I was never gonna fit in anyway. And hey, live fast and die young. I mean come on, could you see me growing old? Ew….”

Henry laughed as somewhere in his gut he knew she was right.

“Anyway, let’s go see mom and dad.”

“Mom and dad?” He didn’t have time to process that he might see them in this place too, but he heard that familiar sound from so long ago of the wooden door creaking. Out came what was, as a child, the most beautiful thing he could see, his mother standing there with a big cold jug filled with ice and lemonade. Behind her came his father, exactly as he remembered him as a boy, smiling at him wearing a leather baseball glove. 

“Yeah, you might be surprised. We’ve gotten pretty close actually. That’s what happens when you’ve got nothing but time.” Sally then excitedly ran away. “Race you there,” she turned her head back to tease him. “Last one up is a rotten egg!”

“Hey you cheated!” While Henry complained at the unfair advantage his sister took, he didn’t even notice his vantage point had suddenly lowered as if he suddenly shrunk by a few feet. He just knew he couldn’t let his big sister beat him again. His little legs ran as hard as they could, kicking up baby clouds of dust through the Wisconsin plains as they headed home. 

Far across in the distance, an angel looked on, smiling at the sight of a little boy racing his big sister to their front porch.

One more chapter to go, and I promise this one will have some chills. Come back on Halloween for the conclusion of No Gein II: A Second Helping!

No Gein II: A Second Helping

Part Fourteen: Three on a Meat hook

“This is it.” Kristina said as she rode with Chuck and Helen in Henry’s pickup truck. The small two story house looked a little worn down but not as though it’d been abandoned. They didn’t see anyone else around, though it looked like there were some fresh tracks in the driveway. 

Approaching the house, they could see its white paint beginning to chip. Walking up the creaky steps Henry looked around and said, “Doesn’t look like anyone lives here.” 

“Why do you say that?” Kristina asked.

Looking at the splintered wood in the door. “The door is busted.” Henry explained. It looked like someone took a sledgehammer to it. Henry then kneeled down, looking closer at the white chipped paint, it looked like something splattered on the porch. It looked like, no it couldn’t be. 

“You two wait here, Chuck you come with me.” Henry said as he drew his pistol. 

“Should I get the shotgun in the truck?” Helen asked.

“Not yet,” Her father said. “Just wait here.”

Someone had been living in the house, as evident by the furniture and cans of beer in the living room. The TV screen was on but with only snow on the screen. “Hello?” Henry called out. “Is anybody home? Looks like your door’s been busted. Are you OK?” There was no answer.

Nothing unusual awaited as they walked into the dining room. At the far end was a door Henry presumed led into the kitchen. It was then he noticed the smell.

Outside, Helen and Kristina looked over the house. “What do you expect to find here?” 

Helen asked. “I don’t know.” Kristina anxiously paced the porch as she answered. “I just want to be able to tell my mom that I saw where my grandmother was.” Walking again to the far end of the porch, she noticed it, a white shape sticking out from the bushes. Whatever it was, she thought she saw it move. 

“Where are you going?” Kristina didn’t answer, she just hopped off the porch. As she got closer to the bushes, she saw a van, then she realized there were two vans, two vans and an old beat-up pickup truck. One of the vans looked as old as the truck. The other van looked brand new, and then she saw the big logo on its side. 

“Shit” she thought to herself. Kristina was hoping to avoid the media on this trip, but there the news van sat. The thing was it was sat unattended. “Were the reporters inside?” she wondered. Then she saw the movement again, it was the news van, slightly rocking back and forth. Jesus, was someone fucking inside?

“Hello?” Henry said, not too loud, but loud enough that he expected an answer. There was none. Henry wasn’t liking this, but he knew he had to move forward. Chuck slowly moved behind him as he opened the door. What hung behind it was simply unreal. Henry’s friends who served in Nam shared some awful stories, but he’d never seen or heard of anything like this. There they were, three on a meat hook, three corpses swung back and forth on steel hooks as Henry and Chuck audibly screamed. Adding to the shock was that Henry recognized the female corpse. It was that reporter he saw on TV and on George’s set. While this woman may have pissed him off, prying into his family history, he never would have wished, nor could he have imagined, such a horrible fate falling upon her. 

Supplementing the madness was that distinct cackling. A crazed old woman threw a hot pan of water at Henry before charging them armed with a meat cleaver. “Run!” Henry shouted to Chuck as he wiped the scalding water from his face and stumbled to the ground. Chuck charged out into the dining room when the steel from a sledgehammer grazed him in the ribs. It wasn’t a hard shot, but it was hard enough to knock him down. As Chuck looked up, holding his possibly broken ribs, he saw an elderly man standing over him. “Can’t swing it like I used to.” the old man thought out loud as he again sent the steel hammer swinging towards his intended victim. 

Clarice leapt from the van striking Kristina in the head with a camera. “Teehee, I just found a new hobby. We’re gonna make a movie!” Dropping the camera she stood over Kristina while reaching into her pocket. while saying “I’m gonna play the slasher!” Pulling out a small knife she continued, “and guess who you’re gonna be!” Kristina tried to scurry away on her hands and knees as Clarice gave quick jabs with the knife, making small scrapes on her victims skin. Kristina managed to grab a small rock and throw it at Clarice’s face before leaping up and running away. 

The stone struck Clarice below the eye. It stunned her for a moment but didn’t do any real damage. Once she wiped her eye she saw her intended victim trying to run away, the sight of which excited her. “Oooh a chase scene!” she gleefully shouted as she ran after her. The Wisconsin sun pounded down on both of them as their feet sped through the prairies. Helen motioned for Kristina to come to the truck. Her speed increased as Clarice began breathing heavily and slowing down. 

“Ah, it’s too hot for this.” Clarice said in frustration. She then pulled out her gun, saying, “We’ll just fix this in the editing.” 

“Gun!” Helen shouted as Kristina dove to the ground just before the bullet shot through the barrel. Hot steel whisked through the air harmlessly striking the ground below. The next sound Kristina heard was the ratcheting of Helen shotgun as she fired back at her assailant. 

“Wow, A Texas shootout!” Clarice giggled as she hid behind a tree. “Too bad we’re not really in Texas!” 

“It’s a regular Thanksgiving feast today!” The grandmother proclaimed as she swung her meat cleaver down towards Henry, who just in the nick of time pulled a wooden chair over himself to block the blow. The blade of the cleaver dug deep into the seat. The elderly woman quickly tried to pull the blade out, but Henry managed to kick her hard against the wall. Her back slammed against the stove, and in one swift motion Henry reached for his gun and shot her between the eyes.

In the next room Grandpa was making short thrusts with his sledgehammer, trying to strike at Chuck. Hearing the gunshot, he immediately used his hammer to tip the dining room table over and ducked behind it. “Honey, honey are you OK?” he shouted.

“Your old lady’s dead and your next asshole!” Henry taunted.

Hearing this horrible news, Grandpa shouted, “Milton, get your ass down here now!”

Milton was surprised as they actually found what they were looking for in this house. His parents went to check on the noise they heard downstairs as he inspected the bag. He didn’t care about the envelope it held, tossing that aside, he looked over the diamonds and jewelry. His dad said it wasn’t all here, but was happy to find what they found. Now, hearing his father call out to him, Milton marched down the steps with a purpose. When they first arrived, Clarice anxiously killed the sole occupant of the house. As fortune would have it, a pair of reporters arrived not long after. Grandma got that pretty reporter in the chest with his sledgehammer, and that little bitch of a cameraman tried to run, but this time Milton got him. He didn’t have his newest toy handy, but he grabbed the man around the waist, drug him kicking and screaming like a bitch back into the house, and stuck him right on the meat hook. Releasing his body onto the sharp steel, Milton felt that incredible rush again. Finally he tied with Jason. One more, and he’d beat his record. He just needed one more kill, and, now hearing the gunshot and the pain in his father’s voice, he already knew this would be a special kill. This kill would be for revenge. It felt like 1974 all over again as let loose the roar of his fresh new chainsaw.

Coming down the steps all decked out in his suit and tie, his moment of glory was short-lived as his grandfather yanked on his arm. “Duck you idiot.” His father said, pulling him to the ground behind the dining room table as Henry fired off another shot. Milton’s father with his hand mimicked the words “Where’s your gun?”

“I don’t use a gun.” Milton answered. “Where’s your gun?” 

“He’s got a gun you moron!” His father said in great agitation. “We gotta shoot back.” 

Patting the handle of his trusty chainsaw Milton explained “You know this is what I use. The saw is my modus operandi.” 

“I don’t give a fuck what your motor operator is,” his father shouted, “we need to kills this fucker now!”

Helen and Kristina could see Clarice running off into the bushes. Handing the keys to Kristina Helen said “You drive.” before climbing back into the cab. Kristina drove the truck towards the bushes where Clarice ran. Scanning the field for this crazy bitch, Helen didn’t know if Kristina could hear her, but she yelled “Look out!” as the news van came crashing into the truck. Helen leapt out of the back before impact and both vehicles came to a stop.

“This is going to be a great movie!” Clarice laughed as she backed up the van then got out. Running over to the truck, she figured it would fit the slasher motif better for her to carry her knife instead of her gun. She could see the poor girl passed out inside, “Should have worn your seatbelt.” she said out loud as she opened the truck door. 

Kristina was playing possum, having unbuckled her seat belt after impact. Now she could elbow her assailant in the face, knocking her back, Kristina then crawled to the other side of the truck. Clarice grabbed her by the ankle “Na ah ah,” she mocked, as her other hand brandished the knife. The next sound she heard however was the ratcheting of the shotgun. “Oh yeah!” Were her last words, as she realized she’d forgotten about Helen. It didn’t matter anymore, as her pretty face was now gone, exploding like a watermelon as her body fell to the floor.

Henry couldn’t get a clear shot as the two maniacs hid behind the upturned dining room table which had been pushed to the doorway of the kitchen. The new saw blade cut through table wood extending into the kitchen frantically darting around attempting to draw blood. Henry motioned to his son in law, holding up three fingers, then with his thumb gestured toward the kitchen’s backdoor. On three they rushed toward the back, but Grandpa had the same idea, having already circled the house while Milton kept his chainsaw running in the dining hall. “Shit!” Henry shouted. Chuck pulled him out of the way and grappled with the sledgehammer wielding killer. Chuck’s ribs still ached, and didn’t want to grapple for long, so he kicked him in the knee sending the old man falling besides his deceased wife. 

By then Milton burst into the room and with his trusty chainsaw. Henry faced him with his gun, but with one quick thrust the chainsaw struck him in the chest. “NO!” Chuck shouted as Henry collapsed to the ground. Milton raised his chainsaw in the air. Normally in this situation he might recite a speech by Romulus or Genghis Khan, but the pride in him was so great it overwrote his oratory skills, and he instead let out an animalistic roar. 

The roar of the shotgun followed as Milton collapsed to the ground. The chainsaw bounced about for a moment before shutting off. A cloud of smoke filled the room from the firearm as Helen entered a room filled with death. 

Milton had fallen face down on the hardwood floor, breaking his nose in the process. His face would be even more ugly now, definitely wouldn’t be appearing in any movies. Wouldn’t matter for much longer, as through his whole body he felt this indescribable sensation, as if his body knew its soul was about to be ejected. His family was gone or about to be gone anyway, so wherever they were going, they would be going together. His head faced toward his last victim, who lay facing up, blood shooting up from his body as his family gathered around desperately trying to help, but Milton knew it was too late. A wound like that is something you just don’t survive. He took pleasure in the shocks and agony that hung on their faces like flesh hanging from a meat hook, not to mention the disgust when they saw Milton smile. As he lay face down in a pool of blood, he knew he finally accomplished what he set out to do. “I beat his record.” were the last words that escaped his lips. No one around him knew what they meant, but he would die knowing he finally killed more people than Jason.

His moment for basking in glory was short lived, as now it was he whose face wore a look of terror. For what he saw next, not even the epic poetry of Dante’s Inferno could accurately describe. What he saw was not in this room where he was, but was where he was going. All the horror he inflicted on other people was coming to fall upon him a thousand fold. For all his madness and violence, Milton always prided himself on his intellect and articulateness. His whole life he quoted the great poets like Whitman and Chaucer, but as his soul fell into the abyss, the final sound his body ever made was a simple, unintelligible, animal-like squeal. 

Grandpa was now the only one left of his clan. Laying on the floor in emotional agony,, he kissed and caressed the dead corpse that was his bride. “My family.” he said as he looked over at what was his son, who for nearly twenty years was his only son, but he was now gone too.

“My family!” Helen shouted as she pointed to her bleeding father on the floor. “Your granddaughter or whoever that sick fuck was, her brains are splattered all over the grass outside!”

Kristina shrieked horribly at the buffet of death as she entered the kitchen. The worst sight for her was not the bodies hanging on the meat hooks, or the dead murderer laying in front of her, but Henry bleeding out on the floor. Unrelenting pangs of guilt filled her as she saw an elderly man crawling in the back, and when she saw the sledgehammer, she instantly knew this was the man who gave her mother a lifetime of pain. She marched over the bodies towards the elderly man and said ”Mary’s daughter sends her regards.” before kicking him in the face. 

As his head bounced back she saw the birthmark on his chin, hidden within his stubble. She could see his eyes widen with understanding, comprehension of the incalculably mad events that brought them together. “You’re her granddaughter?” His tone was across between an inquisitive statement, and an acknowledgement of what he already knew.

“ Who are you?” Kristina asked. 

“I’m, I’m your..” his head then burst open and the thunderous sound of the shotgun once again roared as Helen could no longer wait to complete her vengeance.

Kristina screamed at the sudden sound of the firearm, but she did not blame Helen for her spontaneous action, she fully understood her need for vengeance. Kristina simply felt guilty, if only she’d just gone home, but it was too late for all that now now. She rushed to Helen’s side. “Oh my god I’m so sorry, Helen I…”

Through her tears Helen answered “It’s OK, it’s not your fault, but I need you to help me now and get an ambulance.” Kristina nodded and rushed into the next room to use the phone.

Chuck and Helen knelt beside Henry. “Oh god dad,” Helen cried, “we gotta get you to a hospital.” She grabbed some paper towels and desperately tried to cover the wound. 

“Love you two.” Henry said, coughing up blood, “so proud of George.”

“No dad,” his daughter pleaded, “just hang in there, we’ll get an ambulance.”

“It’s OK. Everything is impermanent. Franki taught me that.” Then he looked away, up at the ceiling, as if he could see something far beyond. He only said one word. “Sally.” Through the pain he was smiling. His eyes did not reflect the grotesque sights of this room, but a sense of wonder as he said “She’s singing to me.” Helen was even more scared now as it appeared he was babbling.

Her fears seemed to be confirmed as he said his last words. “Careful in the shower.” She wailed in sorrow as her father grew cold. She couldn’t possibly understand at that moment, but here in this room filled with horror, a man died at peace.

No Gein II: A Second Helping

Chapter Thirteen: Bloody Reunions

Pine Grove, Wisconsin. December 8th, 1954.

“Keep your chin up kid.” Mary wasn’t the crying type, but tears welled up in her eyes as she wrote these words before stuffing the paper in a white envelope. Upon sealing it, she placed the envelope in a small bag filled with what was left of the family jewels now hidden it under the floorboards of her bedroom. Placing the wooden boards back in their proper place, she remembered the last time she hid something in a spot like this. Saved her husband from a lot of trouble when cops raided. Looking back on it, maybe she would have been better off if the cops caught her crazy ex. Who knows, maybe Marilyn was better never getting anything from her at all. What she did know was that in that moment she needed to get out of the house. 

Stepping outside into the Wisconsin plains, she marveled at how It was so open out here, it was like you could see off into forever. This definitely was Kodak country. Someone could be watching her from miles away and she would never even know. She didn’t like to think about that as she drove to her establishment that she’d opened with the money she grabbed from Whitman. Figured for all the insanity she’d endured; she should get something for her troubles. 

Plainfield Wisconsin, 2003

Milton wasn’t about to find any literary magazines at the hardware store, but his mother was happy as she browsed the wrestling magazines. Milton couldn’t quite understand his parents’ love of this glorified carnival show, “It’s Shakespeare for the masses!” his mother once explained to him. 

As Milton’s mother flipped through one of the grappling magazines she came across a special report from Japan. There was a large photograph of a wrestler standing in the middle of the ring holding a chainsaw. Clarice walked by and grew excited upon seeing the picture. “Wow.” she exclaimed. “That looks like you Uncle Milton!” 

Milton didn’t care either way for the picture, but Clarice’s grandmother complained “That bastard stole your uncle’s bit! We should sue!” She said jestingly. 

“I don’t understand why you still like that stuff.” Milton complained. 

“Well,” his mother answered, “they say wrestling is in your blood. I don’t know about that, but I once had a wrestler in my belly!” she cackled.

“May I help you?” Milton and his family turned around to see a very elderly woman standing before them.

“Do you work here?” Milton said, not hiding the surprise in his voice. This woman looked even older than his own parents.

“Oh heavens no, I’m long retired.” The woman answered. “But I owned this store a long time ago. I still like to visit sometimes.” The woman introduced herself as Bernice, spying the magazine, she added. “Oh, are you a wrestling fan?”

“All my life!” Milton’s mother said. Then, pinching her son’s cheek as if he were a newborn, she said “When this one was just a little baby we used to watch Gorgeous George on the television set.”

“I remember him, he was such a scoundrel!” Bernice recalled. Her wrinkled cheeks then blushed as she added “I was a fan of Lou Thez. That man was a tall glass of water!” Then she revealed with a giggle. “Used to make my husband so jealous!” The ladies shared a laugh before Berncie said “Well if there’s anything I can help you with just let me know.”

“Actually, we’re in the market for a new chainsaw.” Milton said.

“No problem, right this way.” Bernice immediately led them to the section that held chainsaws. She detailed what they had in stock as if she were still an employee. Milton gazed at the selection, and there, hanging up high on the shelf, was the one for him. It was a ferocious looking farm and ranch saw like the one he had in his heyday. “That’s our newest model.” Berncie said as she watched Milton eye the particular saw like a kid in a candy store. “The 74 Hooper. Runs 20% longer than other saws before refueling, has a built in shock absorber, throttle trigger, and a pre-separation air filtration system. A few of the rancher’s around here picked this one up and I haven’t heard any complaints!”

“Imagine the damage you can do with this Uncle Milton.” Clarice said in awe.

Milton reached his hands up to the saw and firmly gripped its handle. It felt very comfortable in his hands. It had been so long since he’d held a saw blade, he felt like Arthur withdrawing the mythical sword from the stone, proving by that act alone that he was the rightful King. Staring at the blade as if it were an extension of his own body, he only said one thing. “I’ll take it.”

Kristina sat alone in the police station waiting room. She wasn’t sure what to expect. Since the local news broke a lot of reporters and curiosity seekers were descending on this small little town. It hadn’t occurred to her that con artists and attention seekers might come out here to tell a similar story to what she had. She hadn’t come out here for attention, she just wanted the truth.

“Kristina.” The secretary said. “He will see you now.” 

She walked back to the Sheriff’s office where she found the Officer who’d previously introduced himself as Jonathan sitting at his desk and on the telephone. “OK see you soon Henry.” she heard him say before he hung up. Seeing her, he stood up and gave back her driver’s license and the stack of papers back that belonged to Kristina’s mother. “Here you go ma’am.” the officer politely said. “Please understand, there’s been all kinds of weirdos coming out here since the story broke, but your story checks out.”

“So do you have information about my grandmother?” She asked. 

“Ok, here’s what I’m gonna do.” Jonathan said in a low voice. “I’m gonna give you directions to this address.” He handed her another slip of paper saying “It’s my friend Fred’s home. I want you to go there in about a half hour. He’ll be expecting you. Myself and some others will be there shortly. There won’t be any prying eyes there, so once we get settled in, I’ll give you some information.”

Kristina wasn’t expecting Tom Clancy Cloak and Dagger business coming out here but given how many people she saw snooping around she could understand why. The directions brought her to the old house on the outskirts of Plainfield, where she was greeted by an elderly gentleman named Fred, who was Jonathan’s father. He invited her in, where she met another older man, along with a couple who looked around her age.

Fred introduced Kristina to the three saying, “This is Henry Kohler, his daughter Helen, and this is Helen’s husband Chuck.” 

These three looked familiar, but Kristina couldn’t place it. “Have I seen you before?” she asked. 

“No, I don’t believe we’ve met.” Helen said.  

Kristina was certain though. “No, I’m sure I’ve seen you before. Were you on TV?”

“Helen’s brother is George Kohler,” Fred explained, the film director. 

“Oh wow!” Kristina now remembered seeing them on the entertainment news, but then, understanding the implication of what she just heard, she grew a little worried. “Um, are you going to make a movie here?”

“Hey Dad.” Jonathan said as he walked in and greeted Fred. After greeting the rest of the group, he said “To answer your question Kristina, no, they won’t be making a movie. Actually, they’re here for a similar reason you are. You might want to sit down.”

Once everyone took a seat in the living room the Sheriff cautioned. “Now what you hear in this room stays here OK? I’m doing my damndest to keep a lid on this thing so this whole town doesn’t turn into a carnival. Understand me?”

“Sure.” Kristina said. She had no desire for publicity, she just wanted to know what happened to her grandmother.

“That pit where they found those bodies” the officer explained, “about a quarter of a mile away there used to be an old farmhouse. About 50 years back there was a man there by the name of Edward Gein. Ma’am, I’m afraid your grandmother’s body was on his property.”

“OK.” Kristina tried to calmly process this fact. “How do you know this?”

“I had a sister.” Henry began to explain. “Her name was Sally. Long story, but one night she accidentally ran into him. Almost got killed herself.” Pointing to Fred, Henry went on, “Short version of the story is she got a hold of Fred. He went to the house along with a policeman. They weren’t sure what was happening, but they’d found Ed, and.. God.” Henry shook his head as he remembered that horrible night when he learned the truth about his sister.

Fred took it upon himself to finish Henry’s sentence. “It turned out Ed had been grave robbing for years, and he’d kept the bodies in his house.”

“Oh my god!” Kristina explained. “So this man robbed my grandmother’s grave!” 

“No, actually we think he murdered her.” The officer said. “She lived in a town called Pine Grove just down the road. Her old house is still standing actually. Anyway, she had a little tavern which Ed was known to frequent. One day she came up missing, and in her tavern a pool of blood and a bullet cartridge were found on the floor. There were always rumors she was hiding from the mob out here, so at the time people figured her past had caught up with her. But that night, my dad found your grandmother’s, uh, body.” He did not wish to tell her the awful details of how his father found Mary’s face peeled off and stored in a plastic bag. He could see his father shiver, knowing he was reliving that horrible moment. Jonathan went on. “We know Ed owned a gun that would have matched that cartridge, and rumors were he joked about having Mary at his house. Dad figured he killed her. I’m really sorry ma’am.”

As much as it was a shock, at the same time it felt like a weight had been lifted off her shoulders. The truth was god-awful, but at least she knew what that awful truth was, and at least she could tell her mother before she passed. “You said she had a house nearby?”  She asked.

“Yes that’s correct ma’am.” The officer said.

“I’d like to see it.”

“You’re perfectly free to do that on your own time.” Jonathan said. “Anywhere I go now is going to draw attention, but you are free to do that if you like”

“We’ll go with you.” Henry said.

Kristina was grateful for these people willing to accompany her. The officer gave her the address. She would see this home where her grandmother walked, hopefully this would provide some closure, and then she could tell her mother what she’d learned.

Pine Grove Wisconsin 1954.

Cleaning off the bar, Mary couldn’t get the thought out of her mind. Maybe Marilyn was better off without her. No, no she needs to see her. Maybe she should leave right now and go see her, but what if she got caught. Her mind bounced back and forth between the possibilities. Luckily happy hour was about to start. The locals came pouring in and the usual conversations kept her mind off her troubles.

Hours later she announced last call. Soon the usual hangers on staggered away. Her little establishment was doing well for itself, but as the patrons left, Mary’s troubles rushed back into her mind like the tide of an ocean that never reached this land. The bell chimed as the door opened again. “Shit” she thought, “who was coming this late?” Then she heard the footsteps, quiet little footsteps that sounded like they belonged to a small man.

“Hi Mary. You OK? You look upset?” The late patron observed.

“Oh, I just got something in my eye. No trouble.” It was old Eddie Gein. “What are you doing out so late? If you’re hunting rabbits, you won’t find any here.”

“Oh, I know, I was just having trouble sleeping.” Eddie’s hands fluttered and his eyes darted around the room as he spoke. “Is it okay if I have a drink?”

“Well I’m closing soon, but I’ll give you just one OK?” Mary then turned her back to him as she poured a short beer. Eddie always seemed like a harmless fellow, if not a little odd. She heard about how he often helps out around town, sometimes played with the local kids. She also heard about his crazy mom. What she never heard was the gunshot. She didn’t hear her own body hit the floor either, as she was already gone.

No Gein II: A Second Helping

Chapter Twelve. Campfire Stories

Carcasses of their victims hung from a spit over the fire as the family camped out in a secluded area of forest just off the highway. Milton was grateful his mother packed bread in their cooler so he could made himself a nice little sandwich. “Oh my god, this is the best meal I’ve had in years!” he said, taking a bite of the freshly cooked flesh packed between the two wheat slices. Looking at his niece he said through a mouth full of food, “I’m telling you; don’t you ever go to prison. The food there is awful!”

“Don’t worry Uncle Milton,” Clarice giggled while using her fingers to eat a piece of meat off a paper plate, “they’ll never take me alive!”

“They’d better not. By the time you’d get out I’d be dead.” Clarice’s grandmother cackled.

“You’ll be dead a lot sooner if you don’t stop using so much salt!” Clarice’s grandfather said as he ate his freshly made stew.

“Whitman, I’ve been making it that way since before I even met you and don’t you forget it.” Emily barked back.

“Wait,” Clarice said, “I thought the family recipe was from Grandpa’s side?”

Pointing to the old metal pot in which chunks of flesh floated from their latest victims, Clarice’s grandmother, Emily, explained, “The meat stew is from Whitman’s side.” Then holding up her own sandwich she said, “I’ve been eating this since the Great Depression.” Watching the flames dance around the remains of their victims she recalled “Daddy went and died, and mom and I could barely survive on the farm in Oklahoma. I remember being so hungry, so hungry it brought me to tears. Must have drove my poor mother mad, how I couldn’t stop crying.” Her voice shook from the sting of that pain she still felt decades later. “We had a loaf of bread, but not even a lousy vegetable to put between two slices. One night a straggler came by, tried to take advantage of my mom. She killed the bastard dead.” Emily had the full attention of her audience as she finished her tale. “We were starving, but, next thing you know,” Her face changed from an expression of sorrow to triumph as she proudly held up her sandwich and proclaimed. “Bon appetite!” 

“Wow.” Clarice marveled at the story. “So did you introduce the appetite to grandpa?””

“No, I already had it.” Whitman answered his spouse’s question. “In fact, when we first met, I kept it a secret!”

“So how did you find out?” Clarice asked.

“Well, actually he caught me!” Emily laughed. “I kept the appetite to myself when we’d first met. One day he was away on business, and I was at home starving. We had plenty of food mind you, but the appetite was overpowering. I went and out and got somebody tasty, but Loe and behold he came home early, I thought I might have to kill him!”

“I almost killed you when I saw how much salt you were using!” Whitman reminisced.

Looking at his niece, Milton laughed, “They’ve been fighting about that all my life.”

“Aww,” Clarice fawned, “So the appetite kept you together. That’s so sweet.” 

“Yeah, my first wife couldn’t take the heat,” Whitman recalled. “so she got out of the kitchen so to speak.” he said laughing.

“Wait” Clarice was shocked at this truth her grandfather just dropped. “You had another wife?”

“Yeah, her name was Mary, tough old broad, just like your grandmother, but she didn’t like our family’s peculiar, uh appetite, as we say.” Grandpa explained before eating another mouthful of his stew. 

“What happened to her? Clarice asked.

“Actually, this is why we’re heading out west.” Whitman revealed. “I had this old set of jewelry; it belonged my mother, bunch of diamonds and shit. That bitch took it all along with some cash and took off. Never saw Mary again.”

“Wait,” Clarice asked, “so did you just find her?” 

“Well someone did!” Whitman laughed. “You see the news about those bodies that turned up in the plain states?

“No, really?” Clarice answered.

“Too busy on that internet shit!” Her grandmother complained.

“Hey,” Clarice protested, “rotten.com is an awesome site! I’m telling you, you’d love it.”

“Look I don’t give a dam about gotten.com or whatever the fuck you’re talking about!” Clarice’s grandfather said, agitated. “Those jewels belonged to my mother, and I always wanted to kill that bitch for running off with them. Well, it turned out some Psycho beat me to it like 50 years ago. Apparently she had a home out in Wisconsin.”

“And you think you’re going to find these jewels 50 years later?” Clarice wondered out loud.” She probably pawned them off.”

“Maybe, but I just gotta know. Mary always hid shit in that space under the floorboards some old houses had.” Grandfather laughed as he recalled. “Actually, Mary saved my ass one time during a police raid. If her old house is still standing. I bet that at least some of that shit is still in there.”

“And if there’s any people in that house?” Clarice asked out loud, knowing full well it was a rhetorical question.

Grandmother ate the last bit of her sandwich before answering. “Well, we’ll get hungry again I’m sure!”

Then Clarice wondered, “So how did you get the appetite Grandpa?”

“It was the war.” Grandpa remembered. “We were on a fishing boat off the coast of Iceland. One night a German U-boat took us out. Our boat was partially afloat, and me and a few other gus clung to the wreckage.” Taking a sniff of the night air he could recall that peculiar aroma from so long ago. “I remember the smell of the ocean mixed with that distinct smell. It was the smell of cooked meat. A few bodies floated by. I remember one in particular, part of it was blown off, and the heat from the explosion burnt some of the flesh. We could all smell the meat. I’m sure we were all thinking it, but I was the first one to say it out loud. Of course, the other survivors thought I was mad.”

Grandfather finished off his meal as he came to the conclusion of his story. “As the night passed, one by one the other survivors faded one by one. By the time the sun came up the next morning, I was the only one left, all the others sank into the sea. I could feel something, something in my whole body. I can’t describe it, but it was almost like I could feel my soul about to leave. As the sun was coming up, I looked out at the surface of the water kissing the horizon, and I could see my parents. They were at their old home in the highlands, sitting on the porch waiting for me. I knew what was about to happen, but I didn’t want to go. I turned away to see one of the bodies floating past me, big burly guy, his frame could have filled up a whole doorway. His arm was blown off from the night’s explosion, and parts of his flesh looked like they were partially cooked. Looking down at the flesh, I bit in, and I stayed alive.”

No Gein II: A Second Helping

Chapter Eleven: Road Trip From Hell

Milton missed driving. When they first embarked on their journey his parents insisted on taking the wheel, as Milton couldn’t even remember the last time he drove. His folks were getting up there in age though, and he could tell they were getting tired; so after some persuading, he at long last had his own foot on the gas.

  After living in a box for so long Milton was now On the Road with the whole country open before him. He felt like Jack Kerouac and Neal Cassady, zig zagging around the country with no end in sight. He wasn’t sure where they were going, but they weren’t going to stop until they got there. Milton especially appreciated this part of the country. New Jersey, in the shadow of the Big Apple, was so cramped and crowded, but once they got past Chicago, they entered that realm where you could see for miles. Far off in the distance, the sun was setting in the prairie fields. It looked so far away that Milton pondered how he was probably watching the sun set in the next time zone.

The blare of the semi-truck’s horn shook Milton out of his daze, where he had unknowingly drifted ever so slightly into the next lane. “Watch the road moron!” His father shouted as Milton yanked the van back.

“Watch your speed too.” His mother nagged. 

“I’m not speeding!” Milton insisted as he glanced at the speedometer.

“I know but we’re coming up on the spot.” his mother said.

Milton had forgotten, but his memory jogged once he saw the road sign his mother told him to look for. Hitchhikers were common out here. Dangerous thing that is, especially for a young girl, a young girl like the one who waited there before him. Her golden locks bounced in the setting sun as her thumb pointed in the air. Her sexy midriff was bare and exposed like Shania Twain, and she was decked out in cut off jean shorts and cowboy boots. To top it all off was her sign. On it was a pair of thick red lips with a tongue sensually slithering out, a drop of saliva falling from the tip. Above it read, “Head for Food.”

Milton’s heavy foot pounded the breaks hard. The van door swiftly slid open as the woman stood there grinning. “Young girl like you shouldn’t be out here hitchhiking,” Milton heard his mother say, “could be dangerous you know.” 

“Dangerous for who?” The woman shot back. 

“Get in here.”  Milton’s mother took the young girl by the arm and pulled her into the van.

The girl’s arms wrapped around the elderly woman as she said, “Grandma!” 

Milton’s father turned around from the passenger seat and patted her on the head saying. “Good to see you, Clarice.”

Confused for a moment, Clarice asked “Wait, then who’s driving?”

Milton gave a polite little wave as he pulled back onto the road. Clarice beamed like a child on Christmas morning as she saw the scarred face in the driver’s mirror. “Oh my god, Uncle Milton!” From behind she wrapped her arms around him and kissed him on his scarred cheek. “They finally let you out!”

Milton patted her niece’s hand as he continued driving. “That’s right baby, I’m finally out.” Looking at her reflection in the rear view, a flood of memories came rushing back to him. Taking a deep breath, before setting his eyes back on the road he said “You look just like your father.”

“Awww.” Tears welled up in Clarice’s eyes as she again kissed her Uncle on the cheek. “That’s so sweet.”

“Just keep your eyes on the road!” His mother interjected as the van got back on the highway.

Darkness was falling over the plain states as the white can continued down the road. In this part of the country there were almost no other cars around. Only a few lights here and there lit the road, their surroundings otherwise covered by forest. Far ahead Milton noticed a pair of yellow lights blinking. Driving further forward, everyone in the van could see a car sitting on the side of the road. An older man was inspecting a flat tire, and it looked like two other people were inside the car. Milton’s blood rushed through his body, his breathing grew heavy and sweat began to form on his forehead as the possibilities illuminated his mind in this darkness. Milton only had one question. “Are you thinking what I’m thinking?”

“Whose hungry?” his mother cackled. It was a rhetorical question. 

The van pulled up to the parked car, and the door slid open. “Need some help?” Milton asked as he shined his Mac flightlight on the man inspecting his tire. 

“I could sure use your light if you don’t mind.” The man said, not noticing Milton’s scarred face in the dark. “I can change the tire, but I can hardly see out here.”

“At least someone knows how to change the tire.” A woman, Milton presumed to be the man’s wife, said while puffing a cigarette. She stood on the other side of the car and nodded her head towards her vehicle. A faint light glowed from inside, and for just a moment, a pimply faced teenager turned his eyes away from the screen of his Game Boy Advance. Looking out the window with a dazed look on his face, he asked “What happened?”

Milton’s hands trembled ever so slightly as he held the torch like Mag light in his hand. Here were two potential victims right before him, but he knew the dangers of tied being greedy. Someone else could have the punk in the car, but once he took out the parents, he would have tied Jason’s record. As the flat tire was finally released, Milton saw Clarice creeping toward the car. He was a little nervous for her, but was excited too. This would be the first time they would have some action together. He laughed as she got the teenage dork’s attention. His mouth fell agape as she pulled up her shirt, teasing a flash of her tits. Her hand let go of her shirt before the full reveal as she then made a motion mimicking fellatio then nodded her head towards the woods. The Game Boy instantly fell to the floor as the car door quickly opened and the boy almost fell out of the car.

“Where are you going?” His mom asked, not noticing the girl who already pranced off into the nearby forest.

“Uh, I’m just going to stretch my legs.” He nervously said before bolting off into the woods.

“Ok, well don’t go too far.” mom said.

Milton was so proud of his niece, he could already tell this wasn’t her first rodeo. With that dork out of the way, he raised the flashlight higher in the air. Just as he was about to bring it crashing down he spotted his father who had gotten out of the van. He motioned with his hands indicating he wanted Milton to wait.

The few minutes it took for the spare tire to get on the vehicle felt like an eternity, but finally it was done. “Thanks for your help.” the man said. Milton only nodded in affirmation. It was then he heard the whistling. In the moonlight they could all see the female form of Clarice skipping towards the two vehicles whistling along the way, not another soul in sight. She was carrying something in his hands.

“Where’s Troy?” The mother asked, stomping out her cigarette.

Upon hearing that Clarice shouted “Heads up!” before swinging her arm into the air. The object released, and spun like a basketball as it flew through the sky. It was a perfect shot, crashing into the windshield cracking the glass. Both parents screamed as they saw the decapitated head of their son bouncing off the hood of the car.

Their screams were mixed with howls of laughter from Milton and his family. “That’s my niece.” Milton thought to himself. Beaming with pride he forgot anyone else was even around him. Only the screams of his father snapped him out of it. ‘Oh yeah,” Milton thought to himself as he grabbed the father from behind. Milton allowed him to struggle a bit, he enjoyed letting his victim think he had a fighting chance as Milton released one of his arms to grab his small blade. His body felt that incredible rush of adrenaline as he held the blade up in the evening air. Once he couldn’t withhold his urges any longer, Milton plunged the blade into the man’s throat, letting the blood wash over his hands in the warm night. One more, and he would tie Jason’s record.

Milton lustfully looked at the newly made widow as her breasts heaved with her deep breaths of terror. “One more.” he thought to himself. Clarice’s laughing was only matched by the screaming mother who ran down the road. Milton immediately followed in pursuit. He didn’t chance throwing the blade. He hadn’t thrown in so long, and if he missed then his blade easily would be lost in the dark. He made a point to exercise while in prison, hitting the weights and walking the track, but he hadn’t run like this since he was young. His chest heaved heavily as his thick legs pounded the macadam trying to catch up to his prey. She wouldn’t get away. She couldn’t get away. He had to get her, he had to tie Jason. Thoughts of murderous glory propelled him faster down the deserted highway, allowing him to close the distance between him and his victim. She was so close he could taste her fear. Now he would have her, soon he and Jason would be equals. 

There was a popping sound just before blood squirted from her head. The next sound was the woman’s body hitting the ground, and then there was that distinct smell, a smell he hadn’t experienced behind bars. He turned back to see Clarice standing in the moonlight, a whiff of smoke rising through the air from her pistol.

“Dammit Clarice, I almost had her!” Milton protested.

“Bullshit, your old ass wasn’t getting anything!” Clarice mocked.

“Well, since when do we use guns anyway?”

“Come on Milton, it’s not the 70’s anymore. We gotta keep up with the times! “

To Milton, this was blasphemy. “Keeping up with the times isn’t our modus operandi!” He complained.

Holding up the pistol, Clarice explained, “Well this is mine. I’ll have you know this gun was a gift given to me when I was but 13 years old. The motherfuckers who had it before me were the ones who killed my daddy!”

Milton was struck dumb by this truth. He couldn’t possibly respond. He stood still for a moment as he remembered his brother, this wonderful girl’s father. As he reflected, he became bathed in the glow from the headlights of the family van, through which he could see Clarice walking away from him. He also saw his mother poking her head out the window shouting, “Will you two stop fighting and get these bodies off the road! I’m starving!”

No Gein II: A Second Helping

Chapter Ten: On Set

“Cut!”

At that command the cameras stopped rolling while Dan, George’s old friend from film school, removed his Norma Bates wig. Looking down at his “victim” Dan teased, “Anyone ever tell you you scream like a girl?” 

Relishing being covered in fake blood, the director of Psycho II popped back up to his feet and replied, “Anyone ever tell you dress like one?”  

Flipping through the pictures on the dresser. Dan teased his friend saying, “Dude, your sister’s hot!” knowing the woman in the prop photo wasn’t really Helen, but a random model they’d cast. 

“I know right?” George agreed. “Even she were my sister, I’d still wanna fuck her!”

“You sick bastard!” Dan laughed at the director’s morbid humor as they walked out of the room.

An assistant provided George a towel as he entered the house’s working bathroom. George thanked the assistant before cleaning off the fake blood. As water splashed his face he asked his longtime friend, “Haven’t had a chance to chat with you lately. How is Vicki?”

“She’s great!” Dan wasn’t sure if he wanted to share the news yet or not, but since George asked he figured he might as well. “Actually, I wasn’t sure if I should bring it up now, but, well we’re expecting.”

George’s face lit up like a child’s. “Wait, you two are gonna have a baby?”

“Yeah.” Dan said with a nervous smile.

“Shit that’s awesome! Congrats man!” Dan received a high five from his friend who continued, “We gotta go out and celebrate!”

“Uh, Mr. Kohler?” George’s assistant returned.

“What’s up?”

“That news reporter is on set.”

“Ah shit!” George exclaimed. “Hey man, I gotta step out a minute, but we’ll talk about this later. Proud of you man, awesome news!”

“Thanks.” Dan said. As George walked away, Dan thought to himself that he was proud of his friend as well. Even back in film school, Dan knew George had the talent to really make it in this business. More importantly to Dan, he was also proud that his friend scaled back that grating ego everyone remembered. Hollywood success seemed to have had the opposite effect on George than it has on most people. Actually, as Dan thought about it, George actually seemed to have a change in attitude pre-fame. 

A few years back he ran into him at a horror convention, where he seemed to be the same self centered nerd, but maybe a year later George called him out of the blue. Dan was surprised to hear from him, but as they talked on the phone, George asked how he and Vicki were doing, and they had a good hour long conversation. When Dan hung up the phone he told his then fiancé Vicki that George seemed really different. He couldn’t quite put his finger on it. “What was it?” She asked.

It took a minute for it to finally register with Dan before he answered. “He actually asked how you and I were doing.” 

“So?” 

“He never does that. Back in school whenever he’d call me it was either to brag or complain about something.”

As time went on George and Dan rekindled their friendship, and, while Dan never pressed the issue, he got the feeling something happened to George. He didn’t know what it was, but George very suddenly appeared to grow humble. In fact, sometimes it seemed like something really rattled him, but George never divulged what it might have been, and Dan never asked.

Outside the Psycho House, George grabbed a special item he saved for moments like this. He didn’t like interruptions while he was working, and he didn’t know how this nosy reporter got on set, but he was tired of her mess. There she stood with her cameraman anxiously awaiting him.

“Mr. Kohler, did you believe the stories of your Aunt Sally to be true?” George furiously pumped the shotgun like device he carried in his arms. Showing no fear, she continued “Do you have any comment on the mass grave found near Plainfield Wisconsin, near what was believed to be the property of a Mr. Geaaahhh!!!!”

Vanita gagged on the blast of water erupting from George’s high powered water gun. “Eat it bitch!” he yelled as the water continued to hit her in the face causing her to fall to one knee. He then aimed the stream of water directly at the camera.

The camera man backed away as he protested “Shit, you got my camera!” 

“You’ll be hearing from my lawyer!” Vanita protested as her and her camera man stormed off as George and others on the crew howled in laughter.

Among the crew laughing was his friend Dan, who came outside knowing shenanigans were about to take place. As he came outside, he passed on a message he’d just heard from George’s assistant.

“Hey, your dad wants to see you?”

“Ok, but I have to prep the next scene.”

“He says it’s urgent.” Dan added. “Something about back home.”

Turning to his friend, George said “Well the next scene is mostly set up, think you could take over for a minute?”

“Sure!” Dan said. And just like that, Dan would be directing his first scene in Hollywood.

Walking towards the private trailer Enterprise Pictures provided for George’s family, he saw his father pacing outside. Eyeing some of the fake blood that still remained on George’s clothing, he asked “What happened to you?” 

“I just died on screen.” 

“What are you trying to be like Hitchcock, appearing in all your movies?” 

“Look at you taking a shot!” George said laughing.

From a distance Henry saw that reporter and her cameraman leaving the set. “Eying her legs as she ran off Henry said “That’s that bitch that was just on TV. I would have liked to have a shot at her.”

“Don’t let Franki hear you say that.” George smirked. Then he realized what his father just said. “Wait, you just saw her on TV?”

“Yeah,” Henry said. “Son, we gotta talk.”

Henry revealed to his son how the now wet reporter dug up information on their family, and how a mass grave had been dug up in Plainfield Wisconsin, near the former property of one Ed Gein, a name neither of them wanted to hear again.

“I can’t show my face there.” George said after thinking about it for a while. “I’ll draw too much attention.”

“Since when did you not want to draw attention?” His sister Helen playfully jabbed him.

“I was thinking,” Henry explained, “maybe Franki and I will go. We could stay at my property out there and scope things out for a day or two.” Since George made it in Hollywood, he bought his dad a house where he was born in Amherst Wisconsin. The last few years he’d gone back and forth from there and his other home in Bethlehem PA while reconnecting with the few distant relatives he had left.

“We’ll go out with you too.” Helen said. 

“Yeah, sounds like a good idea.” her husband Chuck added.

“You’ll like Fred.” Henry said to his son in law, referring to a fellow Wisconsinite in Plainfield he’d formed a friendship with a few years back.

And with that it was decided. The Kohler family, save George, was going back to their homeland, back to a place where a long-buried horror awaited.

No Gein II: A Second Helping

 Chapter Nine: Counterfeit Sympathy

Hollywood California, Enterprise Pictures back lot, September 2003

After a post lunch meditation Franki remained in a lotus position as she sipped her herbal tea. While she had no care for the glitz and glam of Hollywood, California was growing on her, with its various locations for spiritual retreats and yoga sessions.

A now familiar cracking sound of air rushing out of an aluminum can pierced Franki’s ears. Her husband Henry walked back from the fridge with a cold one in his hands. It wasn’t her beverage of choice, but she loved her husband just the way he was.

“So, you don’t want any tea?” Franki asked rhetorically.

She blushed as he answered. “I think the universe wants me to have a beer.” 

Chuck, who also joined their meditation exercise along with his wife Helen, laughed at his father in law’s joke. “I wish I’d thought of that.” he jested as he sipped on his own tea. Franki could tell by his facial expression he didn’t really care for it.

“I don’t think Buddha had beer in mind when he talked about enlightenment.” Helen said jokingly.

Henry then walked over to the small television that sat in the trailer. “Let’s see what’s on TV.” he said as he turned it on.

Franki never cared much for world affairs, so she went to the extra room she used for a little studio. While her husband and the other’s watched the news about Iraq she continued working on one of her paintings.

Normally she could zone out the television, but something caught her ear that brought her back out to the room. Her husband didn’t notice her coming out as he watched the TV intently.

“Now for some breaking news.” The small TV announced. “An employee of the Mendota Mental Health Care Institute in Madison Wisconsin has come forward claiming he treated Sally Kohler, who allegedly encountered a killer in the town of Plainfield Wisconsin in the early 1950’s. Ms. Kohler committed suicide in the institution in 1975. She was the aunt of controversial film director George Kohler, whose latest film, a remake of Texas Chainsaw Massacre, has been heavily criticized over its alleged influence from the Jeffrey Dhamer murders of the last decade. This controversy has not hurt its box office, as the film has now grossed….”

Franki recognized the female reporter on the TV from their night at Mann’s theater. She didn’t recognize the man whom she was interviewing, and her gut told her neither did Henry. “I always believed her,” an older man said into the microphone, “even when no one else did.” Franki watched Henry’s face fill with disgust as the man shed crocodile tears. “Sally was a beautiful young girl, so full of life. One night she was driving through Plainfield and ran out of gas. She went to get help, but what she found was a true house of horrors. When I think about the things she saw there.” He wiped the tears off his face while Vanita looked on with expressed concern, “Oh my god it’s just too horrible, there were bodies everywhere. She encountered a man, well, God he wasn’t really a man, he was more like a monster.” Franki placed her hand on Henry’s shoulder, who seethed at this bastard milking it for all it was worth. “She just barely fought him off and managed to escape the house, but she couldn’t escape that nightmare. No one ever believed her, no one believed her but me.” 

The man sobbed openly as the camera panned to the attractive reporter, her hair still in perfect place, her makeup untouched by this outpouring of emotion. “This is Vanita Williams signing off.”

“That son of a bitch!” Franki was startled as Henry’s beer bottle struck the TV.

“Oh, hon don’t let this get to you.” Franki said. “He’s probably just looking for attention.”

“We should sue him.” His brother in law Chuck said. His wife, Henry’s daughter, agreed. 

“Somebody better tell George.” Chuck suggested.

“I’ll tell him.” Henry left the trailer and walked towards the movie set on the Enterprise Pictures lot. “I wonder where Talbot is?” He thought to himself as he didn’t see the security guy at his usual post. No matter. Henry began the long climb up the facade of stone steps toward a solitary house up on a hill. The crew designed it to be a spooky old house, in the style of Second Empire Victorian. That’s where his son was. George always loved scary movies, and despite the horrors his own family faced, he was proud of his son for doing what he loved. Inside that house, Henry knew that George was in heaven.