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By now, Robert Landridge’s new film The Mind of Madman should be hitting theatres. I understand it is a huge box office success. The premiere of his movie has sparked a great deal of controversy after a member of the audience mysteriously died of fright, and several had to get up and leave before it was finished. Though many are calling for a ban, it seems that the controversy has only increased attention. People have been going to the theatres like mad to see this film.
I had not heard of the work of Robert Landrige when I was first offered the job of script supervisor to his latest project. It seemed fortunate at the time when a friend of mine loaned me a copy of one of his first movies, Pencilface. This, I was informed, was the film that really put Landridge onto the map as a film director, though he had a number of weird and mind-boggling shorts before it. He had only made a few movies since then with periods ranging from a few years to a decade in between projects. Nonetheless, the films he had made were all very strange projects that had a reputation for their disturbing and non-conventional qualities.
It was a surreal and nightmarish experience to sit through that film. I won’t bother you with the details of what precisely went on in that film, especially since I have no idea myself. It was only an hour and a half long, but the nightmarish imagery made it a frightening experience to be sure. In a weird and twisted sort of way, I was fascinated by his non-linear and subjective approach to telling his stories. I was curious to see what kind of project he would have in store this time, and I accepted the offer.
I first met Landridge at a scheduled reading of his script. We were working on an old worn-down studio and the meeting was being held in a dusty soundstage. At the time, he seemed like a friendly, if somewhat eccentric man. I told him that I was excited to be working on an independent movie, and mentioned how I felt about Pencilface. He immediately responded with a great big smile. “You liked that?” he said, chuckling slightly. “This one will drive you completely insane.”
I was surprised to find that only two other people arrived for the reading, both actors. One was a young man by the name of Henry Irvine, who was excited about working with Landridge, and the other an actress, Alena Herrington. “So what is this script about?” I asked as we sat down to do the reading.
“Honestly,” Henry replied. “I have no idea. This story is baffling.”
He was hardly kidding either. As we began the reading I noticed that this script had very little story to it at all. What it amounted to was a lot of weird imagery and over-the-top amounts of gore and body horror. You would think that it would be nothing but crap, and far below the level of a man like Landridge, but it was more interesting that you would expect. There was something about the descriptions of the visuals that made it striking. I could vividly imagine this movie scene by scene.
It was hard to keep myself from gagging as we broke down each grotesque scene piece by piece. Then suddenly Alena jumped to her feet and stormed outside. “I guess it’s time for a break,” Landridge said. We had gotten about half way through the script at that point. The four of us got up to stretch our legs, and I went outside to check on Alena.
I found her crying outside. I sat down with her and asked her what was wrong. She replied by rambling about how Landridge was a madman for wanting to do this script. She took a moment to compose herself before I finally convinced her to come back inside.
As we re-entered the soundstage, Landridge was seated on the table, flipping through some of the later pages in the screenplay. “What’s the deal with this script!” Alena cried out.
Landridge took a deep breath before he began to talk to us. “It’s not actually my script,” he explained. “I believe The Mind of a Madman was first written somewhere in the 1920’s, and it has a dark history to it. You see, this is a script that has been passed around various studios over the years, and it is widely believed to have been cursed.”
“Cursed?” I asked. “By what?”
“I don’t know,” Landridge said. “I don’t know if there really is a curse to this screenplay, but it’s not hard to see where that idea came from. The first attempt to make it was in 1925, but the director hanged himself before it could enter production. Later on another attempt in the 1960’s saw the footage destroyed, two of the actors went insane, and a third also dying supposedly of fear. There was another go at it in the 1980’s that entered production only for the cast and crew to abruptly destroy everything they had prepared for it. They never explained why. As you can imagine, this was a very exciting project for me to try out.”
“Do you think this thing’s cursed?” Henry asked.
“Oh no,” Landridge replied. “However, I understand if it distresses you. If any of you would like to leave before production begins, I won’t hold it against you. You’ll receive a fair paycheck for everything you have done so far.”
No sooner had Landridge made his statement than Alena left the soundstage, a wise move on her part. I wish I had been smart enough to do the same, but something about this project intrigued me. I was hooked, and there was no way I was going to drop out of one of the most interesting jobs I’d obtained so far.
Landridge did eventually find a new actress, and production began. The funny thing is that Landridge didn’t work like other filmmakers. Normally shooting a movie takes a wide variety of different people to do everything, but Landridge seemed to prefer to do all the technical work himself. He personally placed the lights, operated the camera, and even held out the clapperboard in front. He probably would have done all the acting if he could. I sometimes wondered why he even needed a script supervisor.
As the shooting went on, Landridge seemed to grow more and more passionate about his project. He was confident that The Mind of a Madman would become his greatest achievement. He would obsess over his project like mad. When we weren’t shooting he was always surrounded by papers, sketching out storyboards or making notes about how he was going to shoot this scene or how the lighting would be used in that one moment.
It seemed like he would never stop, and at this point, I started to become worried about his mental health. One evening after a rough day of shooting, I stayed on set to help Landridge clean up. He was more interested in planning out the next big scene, but that was when I first noticed something strange. His hair, previously solid brown, was now beginning to show a few faint strands of grey. At the time, I did not give it much thought, but with hindsight that was about the point where things started to change.
After that day, I started to see less of the actors, especially Henry. He was only ever seen when we were filming, and that was just the beginning. Landridge did the special effects himself, and I could not help but notice how shockingly realistic they were. The makeup that Landridge placed onto Harry was especially grotesque. His character was to face extensive mutilations over the course of the film, and every time he arrived on set, he was looking worse. It was as though parts of his body were actually being systematically amputated. I tried to reassure myself that it was nothing, just a very good makeup job, but I felt unconvinced.
In addition to all this, I began to feel an overwhelming sense of dread every hour I spent in the studio. It seemed as though I was being watched by something, something not human. I was beginning to think that Landridge’s own madness had begun to spread, affecting those around him with feelings of paranoia.
After the final day of shooting, I could not help but notice that Henry had failed to attend our celebration. I went out to his trailer and knocked. When he failed to answer I stepped inside, looking around nervously. “Henry?” I asked. All I heard was a faint moaning. The place had been poorly maintained. The whole interior was covered in brown stains, and there was an unpleasant odor that terrified me for reasons I could not place.
I finally found Henry lying on his bed, desperately covering himself with a sheet. “Henry?” I called out. He responded with a simple “go away!”
I sat down next to Henry, reaching out towards his sheet. “DON’T LOOK AT ME!” he cried. I pulled the sheet off and jumped in fear at the sight before me. Now I understood why the makeup had been so convincing—it was not makeup at all. Henry’s face had been slashed multiple times. One eye was missing, covered only by a piece of fabric wrapped around his head. One side of his cheek had been cut from the end of the lip. An ear had been severed, as had have his nose.
I could barely recognize the man anymore. “What happened?”
“Henry put one arm up towards the window of his trailer, through which we could see the soundstage in which I left Landridge. “HE DID!”
I was confused, shocked. I had no idea what to do. “Now I understand why nobody could finish this project,” Henry said. “This isn’t just any film. There’s… something behind this, something inhuman. I’ve seen it. That… thing.“
Trying to reassure Henry, I quickly pulled out my cell phone and dialed 911. I knew Henry would need medical help, and I couldn’t let a madman like Landridge get away with his actions. As I sat there, listening to the dial tone, I struggled to wrap my mind around what had happened. Landridge seemed like a nice enough guy when I met him, but somewhere down the line, something went wrong. Something had changed him, and I was scared to know what.
My phone call failed to get through. I tried dialing the number again, and also got nothing. After assuring Henry I would get help, I bolted out of the trailer and ran for the nearest exit. There was a gate out back, and I ran towards it. I opened it and charged outside, only to find myself still in the studio. I was just on the other end, looking at the soundstage from the front. I went back through the gate, only to find myself stepping out of a building near the middle of the studio. Whatever was going on, this place had been warped to prevent me from leaving. There was only one thing I could do. I ran back toward the sound stage, stepping in through the front door. Little did I realize the horror that awaited me inside.
I saw Landridge there, and he was talking to… something I could not see. As I approached, I looked up to see a swirling vortex in the ceiling. Something I care not to describe was moving within. Landridge’s hair had turned solid white. He turned toward me, with a smile, not much different from the one he gave when I first met him. I asked him what was going on.
“Don’t you see?” he asked in cheerful tone. “This is more than just any old film. It’s a code. This movie contains instructions to open you mind to the universe. Now it’s all so clear.”
“What are you talking about?”
“This is why so many couldn’t make it. None of them could handle the sheer power of the knowledge my movie will unlock.”
“What about Henry?” I asked.
“Oh I had to,” Landridge replied. “I had to make sure his transformation seemed real. There are powers in our universe, beings the likes of which we cannot begin to comprehend. I have now managed to tap into that power.”
He pointed toward the open door. “You are free to go,” he said. “I will not need your help in post.”
I began to back towards the exit to the soundstage. My eyes remained fixed on the vortex above. Something was moving, coming out. Before I left, I heard him mutter something in a strange language, and though I do not know the meanings of the words, I remember them very clearly.
I ran out the door as fast as I could, and breathed a sigh of relief as I looked on at my surroundings. I was outside the front gate. For a time that was the end of it. I tried to contact the police, but they found no trace of Landridge or Henry in that old studio. I went back to my old life, though I could not stop thinking about what had happened.
Then I received a letter in the mail. Landridge had invited me to the premier of his movie. I shuddered at the notion, but I also knew this might have been a chance to take action. I replied saying that I would be attending there.
Before the movie began, I hung out with Landridge, acting polite as much as I could. As soon as I had time to myself, I snuck into the projection room where the film was being prepared. I tried to burn the film, but my efforts were in vain, for someone must have seen me. A security guard caught me in the act and had me detained. Now I remain here, in police custody and under constant psychological evaluation.
I have heard the stories of what happened to those who saw The Mind of a Madman, and I know there is something horrible behind it. I still hear noises at night. Sometimes I can just barely hear inhuman voices speaking in some alien language, and I see things in the mirror. Landridge was right, this movie would drive its viewers insane.
And so I plead, for the good of all humanity, that all copies of The Mind of a Madman be destroyed. I just hope that my warning does not go unheard.