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This is a short film I wrote, directed, edited, and created special fx for. Campus Alert follows a student on campus who is stalked by a strange masked man at night while the campus is on high alert due to incidences of assaults and muggings. Terror ensues for all parties involved. I like to thinks of it as a slasher film with a fun twist!
But for those interested, I’d like to talk a little bit about the inspiration for it. I had the idea for setting a horror film on a college campus for a while. I have a slight case of insomnia from time to time so sometimes when I’m up all night I’ll get the urge to go outside and go on walks. While living at my school’s dorms, I’d go on these walks on campus at weird hours. Not to mention the school’s library is opened pretty late most weekdays, usually to 1 and sometimes even 2 AM. The whole scope of that setting at night, with all the open space and empty buildings, you get a real sense of aloneness. Not to mention when you are alone, you get weird vibes whenever you come across other people like you who wander around at weird hours. You’re not sure if the person is a potential threat. On one of my late night walks, I remember someone with a foreign accent yelling across a parking lot at me “Am I safe?” from afar when he noticed me. And even though I would walk about at weird hours, I never actually ever felt unsafe. After all, I was living in Salt Lake City which was one of the whitest, safest cities around for the most part. Especially in the area of the University.
So for a while I thought about possibly doing a horror film about a female student being stalked by a masked man, basically Halloween set on a college campus. But I could never really come up with any ideas on how to develop it further, until a while back students at the University were receiving “campus alert” notifications about two assaults that happened on campus within a short period of time and warned students about being careful when walking at night. Which I guess made me underestimate the safety of college campuses in the area as an adult male. This eventually lead to the idea that this college set slasher film should be set on a campus that is on high alert because this thing has been happening a lot at night. To a point that masked killers roam freely at night, which a lot of friends of mine who have seen the film reminded them of The Purge.
And even though I love slasher films like Halloween and Texas Chainsaw Massacre, I’ve never really been all that interested in creating a film that focused entirely on a damsel in distress scenario. Eventually that lead to an idea which I don’t want to spoil too much, but there are a few twists and turns within the 8 minutes. Kind of akin to films like The World’s End, From Dusk till Dawn, and the Anna Paquin short in Trick r Treat. Basically this is a fictional college campus where a lot of crazy **** happens after dark.
I also love old school horror films such as The Evil Dead and I used this as a chance to do some practical gore fx, all done in camera and nothing digital. This is not just meant to be scary, but also fun and for fans of more old school horror flicks.
NOTE: This pasta was submitted in dual forms: text and video. I’ve embedded the video below – if it’s not displaying for you, please click the link below the embed space to visit the video’s page on YouTube.
The full text of the story is posted below the embedded video, for those of you who prefer to read rather than listen.
“Houston, come in. This is UN Space Station Libra. Come in, Houston.”
No reply, just like every other time. I throw the receiver in disgust, the weightless environment causing it to float mockingly in front of my face at the end of its retention strap. I’m bathed in the soft red glow of emergency lights that serve to illuminate every inch of my tiny cell. I take a deep breath to calm my nerves before returning to fiddle at the maintenance panel. I’ve been in here for two weeks now.
Libra was designed as the successor to the International Space Station. Typically there is a minimum two crew on board at any one time. I was supposed to be out of here three weeks ago with the British and Chinese astronauts who came up with me, but unfortunately the replacements had some mechanical complications, and then nasty weather delayed the Moscow launch another week. Even so, they should have been here days ago.
–“You sure you’ll be all right up here by yourself, mate?”
–“Sure. Somebody’s gotta keep the lights on. Besides, the Russkies will be here soon. Just have a drink for me when you get landside, yeah?”
–“I expect I’ll have two. Godspeed.”
I was ready to spend seven to ten days by myself on the station, waiting for the Russians to get their act together and get me my ride home. I’d done some time in an isolation chamber during my training, so I knew how to handle being stuck in a confined space with myself; the trick is to not listen to the voices. The station itself isn’t roomy, but it has five different modular compartments, more than enough space for one person to not feel enclosed. Even better, every module except for the emergency cell has specially reinforced portholes giving magnificent views of the earth far below. It was photos of this breathtaking panorama that had first driven me into the NASA program almost twenty years ago, so what better way to spend a week then by gazing at the world in all its glory? Since our planned experiments were complete, other than basic maintenance that’s exactly what I spent the first several days doing. I could lose myself for hours watching the blue water and brown land fly by underneath, the sun rising and setting every time I completed an orbit. Then came the event.
Five days into my lonely vigil I’d been roughly woken by a blaring alarm; Houston was trying to reach me, and they needed me now.
–“What’s going on, Houston?”
–“Weird readings, Libra. Satellites register some sort of anomaly we’re just now picking up. Don’t know if it’s solar flares, some kind of field left behind by a passing comet, or something else. We’ll be moving into the area within the hour. There’s no telling how the systems are going to respond. Better button up in the emergency cell until we’re through”
–“How long will that be?”
–“Don’t know…we’ll be in touch.”
It was good advice. Alarms started sounding almost exactly sixty minutes later and abruptly whole sections of the station’s instrument panels started shutting down. I was able to keep track of everything that was going on from the master controls in the emergency cell, so I knew exactly when power to the station completely cut out. There was a tense five to ten seconds before the emergency batteries kicked in. Then with a soft whine, they powered up the red lights I’d been basking in ever since.
I pause my work at the maintenance panel. For the thousandth time I take out the photo of my wife and daughter. They’re both smiling, holding each other close.
–Are you going to space again, daddy?
–Yes, honey, but not for too long this time.
–I don’t want you to go.
–Don’t worry, I’ll be back before you know it.
The emergency batteries are designed to provide minimum function, pretty much just life support and basic communications. Theoretically they’ll last long enough that I’ll have to be more concerned with running out of food and recycled water before worrying if they’re going to run dry. But I’m blind and deaf in here. The communications are rudimentary, designed to run on almost no power, so it’s small wonder I haven’t been able to reach Houston. I have to do something. I can’t even see outside since the emergency cell was designed specifically without any kind of view port. The walls are starting to close in, and in a cell this small there’s not much room to shrink. At least the voices haven’t started yet. Like I said, the trick is to avoid them, but in here there’s nowhere to run, nothing to distract my mind.
The main system is powered by exterior solar panels. The system had been tested and retested to automatically restart in the event of a catastrophic failure, but when it actually counted, something stopped the reset. After a day or two, I decided to take matters into my own hands and popped the cover of the maintenance panel. After two weeks I’ve gotten exactly zero response for my efforts.
As I put the photo of my family back in my pocket, the fear and unfairness of it all momentarily get the better of me. Dammit, I was supposed to be home weeks ago! In frustration I hit the panel as hard as I can with my open hand. Amazingly, that does the trick.
With a click and a whir, the red lights shift to white and the instrument panels begin powering up to their fully operational state. Ecstatic, I throw myself across the cell to the communication array.
“Houston, Houston, come in. This is space station Libra.”
I try the line for twenty minutes. Still no response. What the hell is going on? A gnawing pit is growing in the base of my stomach. While the system was down, I could make excuses for the radio silence, use them to keep the panicky feeling to a dull roar. But now…
I have to get out of this stupid cell. I may not be able to talk to the people down there, but at least I can watch them. If I imagine hard enough maybe I’ll see my little girl, looking to the sky to see if she can spy the station as it passes overhead. I unseal the airlock and move to the next module. I chuckle to myself; maybe I’ll be able to see my replacements’ shuttle. I peer through the view port. Then, frantically, I move from module to module looking through each porthole in turn, the pit growing deeper with each passing moment.
–She doesn’t want you to go.
–She’s a kid. Of course she doesn’t want me to go.
–I don’t want you to go either.
–I know. But?
–But I know you will anyway. And I won’t stop you.
–I love you, babe.
–I love you too.
It takes the station’s computer two hours to identify our position. Finally it finds enough known stars to triangulate where we are; exactly where we should be, two weeks after the last measurements were taken. The rest of the universe, though, is a little off, ahead of itself by about fifteen hundred years. In my gut, I’d already known that though. I’d known when I looked through the view port and didn’t see the big, beautiful earth shining below me, just the dark, empty blackness of space filled by only a few, lonely stars. In that moment everything became clear. I knew I could never go back.
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