When I watch a movie, it’s like there are two of me in the same seat. There’s that regular movie-going guy who likes blood and boobs and things that explode, the kind of movies we call POPCORN MOVIES. But there’s another fellow who accompanies him. This guy likes some of the same things as his friend, but he is a seeker and connoisseur of SERIOUS CINEMA. This guy doesn’t just want to see a movie, he wants it to change his life. It goes without saying that these guys don’t always see eye to eye.

POPCORN (muffled): Dude.

( Cinema opens the door to find his friend standing there in a Cthulhu mask, holding up a very fake looking severed leg which is covered in equally fake looking blood. )

CINEMA: You’ve finally lost your damn mind.

POPCORN: It is me, Cat-two-loo. I have come with a bloody gift.

CINEMA (laughing): Well, who am I to deny Cat-two-loo? Come on in.

( Popcorn walks in, directly into the wall. )


( He holds out the bloody leg, as if giving it to Cinema, though he’s nowhere near him. Cinema goes to retrieve the leg, which Popcorn drops before he gets there. )

CINEMA: Thanks for the, uh, gift.

POPCORN: Oh no, dude. The leg ain’t the gift. I got something else.

CINEMA: If it’s a bunch of tentacles, I’m going to be very upset.

POPCORN: Nope, no testicles. But I got something else you gotta see.  

CINEMA: If this is another one of your home movies . . .

POPCORN: Nah, man. You’re gonna like this, or at least you might not throw up. ( Turns to walk into the living room, but crashes into a table against the wall, knocking a vase full of flowers and numerous framed photos to the floor. ) So where’s the TV?  

( They make their way to the couch. While Cinema turns the television on, Popcorn sits down, still in the Cthulhu mask. )

POPCORN: Alright, man. Put it on Tubi.

CINEMA: The best free streaming service ever.

POPCORN: Damn right. So I was listening to this podcast called Discover the Horror

CINEMA: Hey, I listen to that too.

POPCORN: The best horror podcast ever.

CINEMA: Damn right.

POPCORN: There’s these three dudes, right? They have a topic, like Hammer movies, and each dude picks a movie they wanna talk about. Listening to it’s like hangin’ out with some friends that really know their shit. Kinda like you, but more likable.

CINEMA: Paul does something similar with a couple friends, called Jason and the Movienauts. It’s not strictly horror, but definitely worth a listen. The David Cronenberg episodes were spectacular.  Those guys are probably more likable than me too, I suppose.

POPCORN: Oh definitely. I’ll check it out. So these Discover the Horror dudes did one about gore. That shit was cool as hell, dude. They had this guy named Putrid on there. I wanna be called Putrid.

CINEMA: Oh, you are.

POPCORN: They were all shootin’ the shit, right? ‘Bout all these balls-to-the-wall scenes, the eyeballs in Fulci and the chick on the stick in Cannibal Holocaust, that kinda thing. And somebody says something about this dude named Olaf Ittenbach . . .  

CINEMA: German gorehound, right? He did Burning Moon.  

POPCORN (dramatic voice):  “No matter what you have seen . . .

CINEMA: ” . . . you have never seen anything like The Burning Moon.

POPCORN: These guys reminded me about him. The trailer was on an old VHS of Traces of Death I watched back in the day.

CINEMA: I’ve seen the trailer, and I read about it.  

POPCORN: Read about it? Dude, you gotta see it.  

CINEMA: Oh, I’ve seen a few things. Ittenbach was part of the German underground gore movement of the late 80s, early 90s . . . wait, did you want to hear about this?

POPCORN: What? You mean, you’re actually gonna ask before unloading a bunch of random info on me? Usually you just go ahead and –

CINEMA: In an attempt to shed its violent reputation, there were rarely any horror films made in Germany in the decades following World War II. The few that were released enjoyed very little success: Horrors of Spider Island, The Blood Demon . . .

POPCORN: ( sigh )

CINEMA: . . . then, in 1987, filmmaker Jorg Buttgereit wrote and directed Nekromantik, which opened up the floodgates for gore. A few years later, Andreas Schnass made Violent Shit, shot very cheaply and released directly to video. It’s got everything that readers of Fangoria wanted to see. There are beatings, meat cleaver murders, cannibalism. At one point in the film, the protagonist encounters a crucified Jesus in the forest, which he hacks open and crawls inside of.

POPCORN: So it’s a religious movie.

CINEMA: Well, it’s better than God’s Not Dead. Obviously, it wasn’t a mainstream success, but enough horror fans saw it (and Nekromantik) to encourage other filmmakers with a video camera and a gruesome ideas to get to work. The whole point of these films was to be extreme, to show people something that they hadn’t seen before. They weren’t necessarily illegal in Germany, but they were often banned. There were some pretty heavy fines for distributing or importing that kind of thing.   

POPCORN: The Gestapo was the good guys now, huh?

CINEMA: The longer I live, the more I’m convinced that we all do the same horrible shit; we just have our own specific reasons to justify it. Anyway . . . as far as the films go, Schnass spent no more than a couple thousand dollars to make Violent Shit, which led to Ittenbach’s early work . . . which I understand was pretty raw . . .

POPCORN: It was like Ed Gein’s home movies. But if you grew up in the 80s, sneakin’ peaks at Traces of Death, and Faces of Death before that . . . you just had to see the shit.

CINEMA: That was his second film, right?

POPCORN: Yup. He did one called Black Past first. I never saw that. But Burning Moon . . . dude.

CINEMA: Intense?

POPCORN: Shit was crazy, man. This druggie dude is babysittin’ his little sister, so he tells her a couple bedtime stories. About this chick going on a blind date with some escaped lunatic. She figures it out and ditches the dude, but leaves her wallet in his car . . .


POPCORN: . . . so he follows her home and kills her family to prove he loves her. And he kills ’em real good. Sausages and ketchup, bro. The next one starts with a priest raping someone in the woods, then shooting her in the head. Just for starters. Cuz he met Cat-two-loo when he was a boy or something.


POPCORN: Oh yeah, those descriptions don’t even do it any justice, man. You got decapitations, severed limbs, gunshots to the head, throats getting cut, teeth getting drilled, nails going in places you don’t want nails to go, chains rippin’ folks in half. The one chick has to eat her mother’s eyeball.

CINEMA: Didn’t he do all the effects himself?

POPCORN: Yeah, dude. He did that shit with love, too. He wrote it, directed it, played the druggie brother. Even did some stunts himself. There’s this scene where he crashes through a window and someone sets him on fire. He did that.

CINEMA: Talk about burning for your art.

POPCORN: He said it cost too much to hire anybody, so fuck it, I’ll do it myself. When he wasn’t makin’ his own movies, dude was doing effects for other people’s shit.

CINEMA: Like a budget Tom Savini.

POPCORN: Uh-huh.

CINEMA: My stomach is rumbling, but now I have to see it.

POPCORN: Too bad, dude. That’s not the movie I got.

CINEMA: What???

POPCORN: Sorry, I got even less budget than Olaf. You’ll have to find that one on your own. I just wanted to make sure you knew a little bit about him. But there’s a few I can show you for free. Cue up that Tubi, my friend.

( On the television screen, the titles come up: Olaf Ittenbach’s NO REASON. )

POPCORN: Got any food, man? Cuz you definitely wanna be eating while you watch this.

CINEMA: There’s some leftover sausages and ketchup in the fridge.

(  Mellow music plays over happy home movies of a father, mother, and their daughter playing with a new puppy. They frolic in the snow, throwing snowballs and laughing. Everything is idyllic. Cut to a car pulling up outside a gritty warehouse, then a fully naked woman pointing a gun at a man who seems guilty of something. He tells her that he’s got a wife and children, trying to bargain for his life. She replies that she had a child too, a son. )

CINEMA: Not a bad start.  

POPCORN: Keep watching.

( Within the next two minutes, the woman, named Jennifer, has shot the man in his chest and then turned the gun on herself. She puts it against her temple and pulls the trigger, splattering the floor beneath her with blood and brains. “Why?” she asks in voiceover, while doctors work on her blood-soaked body, “Why did I have to go through all of this? Is it finally over?” A strange, deep voice responds, “It’s over. It was very important for you to experience that.” )

CINEMA: I thought this was just going to be a gorefest.

POPCORN: Oh, it is. Believe me, dude. But it’s got this artsy thing going on too. Bunch of meaning of life kinda shit. That’s why I figured you’d dig it.

( There is a flash of Jennifer, fully clothed, firing guns with both hands. Then back to her body on the gurney as medical personnel pump her chest, trying to revive her. The voice says, “Suffering is a solution. If you accept it, you will grow from it. If you deny it, you will experience the same situation over and over.” )

CINEMA: That’s a very Zen perspective to be found in a film like this.

POPCORN: How’s that?

CINEMA: The first of the Buddha’s Four Noble Truths is the truth of suffering, that it’s an inevitable part of being human. When we learn to accept, even embrace our suffering, it becomes a tool for growth . . .

POPCORN: Speaking of tools, wait ’til you see what they do to this dude’s dick. Shit would make the Buddha cry.

(  Jennifer appears full frontal in different colors lighting before flashing back to the continued efforts to save her. The voice says, “If you realized that you’re not living your dreams but dreaming your life, what would you do to find salvation?” An alarm goes off. Jennifer wakes up, greeted by her husband, who tells her that he already changed their infant son’s diaper.  )  

POPCORN: What starts out a kinda normal day ends up going sideways. Like, movers are coming or something. The husband says all she’s gotta do is give ’em some beer. Chick takes her kid to a neighbor’s house so she can go to the store. But all this weird shit’s going on. This creepy mailman shows up, then some other people. Nobody seems right, so she takes a bath –

CINEMA: Makes sense.

POPCORN: When she wakes up, she’s in this room full of body parts –

( Tosses the bloody rubber leg at Cinema. )

POPCORN: Dude, how come some of us get into this shit?

CINEMA: In your case, I’d say it’s because you’re emotionally and mentally scarred, bordering on deranged. You were probably bullied too much as a child and harbor violent revenge fantasies. It would be for the best if you were institutionalized.

POPCORN: Really?

CINEMA: No, you idiot. It’s a matter of taste, for one.

POPCORN: Like, when somebody watches rom-coms?

CINEMA: Well, that’s just bad taste, but sure. Psychologists say that it takes things that are disturbing and puts them into a fictional context so we can handle them. It’s a way of dealing with fears by giving us a small dose.

POPCORN: Like a vaccine.

CINEMA: Sure. It’s also a bit like a car accident . . . morbid curiosity, I think. Some people have to slow down and take a look. Even if it’s going to haunt their dreams later. I’d say there’s a bit of an adrenaline rush to watching extreme horror too, sometimes even when you see real horrors on the news. It’s . . . safe, maybe?

POPCORN: I’m always thinking, no matter how fucked up my day is, at least I’m not that guy.

CINEMA: Exactly.

( Both watch the screen for a moment, silently, lost in their own thoughts. Finally, Cinema speaks. )   

CINEMA: Interesting use of colors.

POPCORN: Yeah, there’s a reason for that. It’s kinda set up in different parts. There’s a red level and a green level and a blue level . . .

CINEMA: Like Dante’s nine levels of Hell?

POPCORN: Yeah, I guess. You gotta wait to find out why, though. First, this weird dude shows up wearing a Cat-two-loo mask, and . . . .

( Cthulhu, in the form of a masked Popcorn, watches as Cthulhu appears onscreen. The onscreen version begins to guide Jennifer through a variety of hellish scenes. )

CINEMA: You know what? I’m actually enjoying this.

( An eye is scooped out of its socket. Bodies are whipped so hard that flesh is torn. The creepy mailman is wrapped in plastic and whipped until his body is coming apart. A naked man is strapped to a chair while someone kneels in front of him with a pair of scissors. )

POPCORN: Here it goes, dude. The reason to watch this movie.

CINEMA: Wait, are they going to . . .

POPCORN: Show it?

CINEMA: Ohhhhh!

POPCORN: Yeah, they are.

CINEMA: Oh my god. Noooo . . .

POPCORN: Not what you thought was gonna happen, right?

CINEMA: No!!! It was even worse.

POPCORN: How ’bout that for some effects?

CINEMA: It’s effective, that’s for sure.

( Cat-two-loo looks over at his friend, holding up the food on his fork. )

POPCORN: Want a sausage?


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