Before I start I should mention that the names of the crew who worked on the movie have been either changed or omitted. That being said, in 2016 an up-and-coming film director started work on a film that he thought would get his name out there. He was already gaining steam with a number of projects he helped on but he wanted something his name came first on. So he came up with a story and then began work on “Coming Home.”
The story was to center around a man who was honorably discharged from active service and the struggles he endured reassimilating to civilian life. The director who we will call Alan, wanted the film to be as authentic as possible. He knew the narrative beats had been done before so he focused on making the film as genuine as he could, this also made the process a much more frugal endeavor.
Alan scouted all over for the actors he would employ and was elated when he found a man recently discharged from active service. The man, Marcus, was virtually unknown as well. Alan had the idea that anyone on camera should be someone who had never been on film before. That was there was no chance of recognizing the actor and experiencing any disconnect.
When it came to location scouting Alan was incredibly specific with his choices. The most important piece was the apartment Marcus would live in, Alan stated it would need to be a character of its own. After about week of looking around Alan eventually stumbled on a dingy, back-alley set of apartments. It was the type of place where you were likely to find plywood doors and abandoned needles. The tenants ranged from coked out couples to the elderly with no means of supporting themselves and Alan felt it was perfect.
It didn’t hurt that Alan had to give the landlord a surprisingly little amount of money in order to film there. Judging by the state of things the landlord didn’t really care what happened in the building if it kept making him money.
The filming was fairly uneventful, there were the expected hiccups but nothing like unexplained injuries or spectral intervention occurred. No, in fact, everyone on board thought the shoot went better than planned. With the apartment, the idea was always that the walls were paper thin and with Alan’s search for realism, any noise picked up by the microphone was the ambiance. During the shoot Alan got plenty of that, crying babies, arguing couples and the whirr of vacuums all inserting themselves into the film.
“Coming Home” was wrapped and the process of editing and vetting for a spot in film festivals began. Alan already had a small following so grabbing a time-slot in a few underground festivals wasn’t too challenging and with that, a month or so later, the film was screened.
The audience reception was a bit confusing at first glance, while the film deals with some dower themes, it’s ultimately an uplifting experience. Yet when approaching anyone who watched the film they described experiencing a sorrow they couldn’t quite put their finger on. Like a distant memory, you couldn’t picture but the feelings still lingered. This reaction was consistent through all of the movie’s screenings. Alan became troubled and watched the film over and over. It wasn’t until a few weeks later that the pieces started to connect.
It all started in the apartment.
There was a couple in the apartment, they had been living there for a year or so and were raising a child together. They were, unfortunately, one of the tenants that were the cause of the discarded needles. I was with Alan as he read through the newspaper article, he would jitter between reading it and checking a scene in “Coming Home.”
Alan was looking for realism, the reality he found, affected everyone involved. The couple had been hiding their stash of drugs behind their vent, so all the screws were already loose. On the day of filming, they got so hopped up on whatever, that they neglected to tighten the screws on the vent. The child crawled out of the playpen that I was far too large for and ventured over to the vent, the nice cool air was like a siren call in the eighty-degree apartment.
The child was just small enough to squeeze into the vent, the sweat on his body made navigating the large ventilation system easy. That is until all of it wiped off on the metal walls, after which the child had difficulty moving around until he got stuck. Unable to for proper words yet and without a developed sense of reasoning, the child began to cry. The sound bounced off the vent’s walls and through the apartment building.
While the child did its best to struggle through it continued to cry for help, pulling inch by inch through the vents. The child, full of panic and desperation, would pass away in the ventilation system of that building while his parents were zombified in the other room. When the audience, editors, and Alan listened to “Coming Home.” They were hearing the final cries of that poor kid. I wish I could say that was the worst of it, that horrible situation.
In the scene where the child can be heard crying, Alan tried to mimic a dolly-like camera swing to create some dramatic tension. As the camera swings by the characters, for just a moment you can catch a glimpse of the vent. The artificial light very briefly, maybe just two frames, catches the small glint, of the child’s eyes. The whole crew was just inches away but due to the thin walls and the cries bouncing off the metal, the child sounded like it was in another apartment.
I’m sure you’ve heard of film shoots that carried a curse with them, movies like The Crow or The Exorcist. Well, “Coming Home” has a similar weight except it was a wave of mournful regret that ate away at the crew.
The lead actor, Marcus. He was in contact with Alan for a while after the discovery, he said he couldn’t stop dreaming about the cries. That it was all he could hear anymore, it’s all his mind would focus on. A week after he stopped making contact, he was found in his house, sprawled out on the floor next to an empty pill bottle and a broken bottle of jack.
Other actors involved in the film just vanished, none of them seemed to want to make it as an actor after being part of “Coming Home.” The individual that was filming at the time was said to have been admitted into a psychiatric ward, his family feared he’d end up like Marcus.
Alan has the only copy of the film left and all recorded footage of it has been scrubbed from the crevices of the internet. Now all Alan does is sit in his room and watch the scene on loop until he passes out. He is so hypnotically drawn into it that I can barely get him to eat or drink. I don’t think he’s coming back from whatever he’s dealing with. I can’t imagine what all this must have done to him.
Since he’s always playing the footage I’ve had to get used to the noise bouncing through the vents on quiet nights. Some nights I hear Alan whispering back to the footage. I think it’s driving me a bit mad too. One night when he was whispering I got up to go check on him and when I opened his door, the room was dark. The laptop was off and Alan was laying still in bed but I still heard the babies cries, but they weren’t coming from the room. I knew where they were coming from. I quickly left the room that night making damn sure…
…not to look at the vent.
Credit: JRT McMahon (a.k.a. AuthorJoJo) (Twitter • Facebook • Reddit • Amazon)
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