Being murdered in the first 30 seconds of an eight-minute horror flick is not a backslapping event to write home to Teslin about.
Nor is it an auspicious career launch.
I want to be an actress who wields superhuman strength and protecting my make-believe unborn child like Jessica Biel did in the Chainsaw Massacre remake.
Wait a minute!
Maybe Scott (the director) secretly prefers Stephanie and Erin (the Barbie Munchkins) as leads. Is this why I am murdered first?
But he hasn’t even seen my brilliant performance yet!
“Because you two are such seasoned actresses and Ashley … ahhem … is an amateur … I am reserving the main parts for you two, but don’t tell Ashley. I don’t want her to be jealous and wreck my film.”
My heart thumps recklessly. ‘Diva rage’ washes through me. Diva Rage: (Dee-Vah Ray- Jah). Uncontrollable and irrational negativity caused by an importunate ego in a person’s psyche triggering sudden irritability, radical mood swings, lashing out, hysterical crying and other untoward childlike behavior.
Think ‘humble Yukon woman’—strong, smart, surviving long cold winters and taming wild northern men.
The sticky shrinking cellophane wrap is cutting my flesh. Washing the fake blood off my body before it stains my skin permanently is highly appealing. The other actresses’ skin will be stained red after marinating in the corn syrup and food colouring … hah … ahem. Scott approaches.
“You, misses, have an essential part in this film. You are going to be our psychotic killer’s masterpiece … Death by music. Come with me.”
Mom will be proud.
I follow Scott into another room where the crew is busy setting up the camera. Because the contest rules demand one victim die by music, Scott figures the murder weapon should be a sharp piece of broken record.
A record that plays the tune We Might Drink Alcohol But We Are Still Human Beings, composed by an aspiring musician. A giant canvas rests on an easel in the middle of the room. Red tubes of corn syrup and food colouring drip. The tubes hang from the ceiling leading into a neighbouring room.
“Corey (the killer) will drag you from the bathroom into this room, his art studio, and prop you up in front of the canvas, where he will wrestle you, slit your throat forcing blood to spray across the canvas!”
Scott looks at me for a response. Butterflies circle figure eights in my stomach. A nervous smile spreads across my face and I nod.
“Great!” He says. “Let’s get to work.”
First, Erin and I are hooked up to blood-siphoning tubes in the bathroom. Scott directs us to be, respectively, lethargic and feisty. Erin lies lifelessly in the bathtub and I am lurched over the side of the tub with tubes protruding into the crevasses of my body latched on with masking tape.
The set reminds me of when I learned to clean fish at Jackson Lake on a Grade 6 field trip. I remember feeling both devastated and enthralled. A pang of sadness washes through me as I had examined the helpless little fish. I avoid meeting eye contact with the glossy marble eye of the lifeless trout as we are instructed to slice and tear. Fish guts and blood cover me from head to toe. I never imagined a small cold slippery animal could bleed so much.
I swore I would never clean a fish again.
Scott says, “I want you to begin by pulling at the tubes. In a lethargic haze let your survival instinct help you desperately wrestle to escape.”
He pauses for a moment.
“Wait! We’ll have a tube in your mouth and you pull it out spraying blood … what will we use as blood? Hmm,” he pauses.
I cross my fingers hoping it’s something digestible. Scott spots a crewmember drinking a soda. He snatches the can.
“Can you hold some of this in your mouth and the tube for a couple seconds?”
“Sure.” I say.
I am like a child covered in mud … what’s a little more mud going to do?
The crew aids me in putting the tube in my mouth after I am filled to the brim with Coke. Hurry.
“Quiet on set! Action!” Scott yells.
I struggle to remain perched on the edge of the tub while ripping a tube from my mouth and letting the Coke dribble down my chin. I fiercely begin to pull at the tubes one by one.
“Cut!” Scott yells. “Great. Perfect. You are amazing! Let’s do it again.”
I manage a confused “OK.”
“Try it this time feeling listless. Your brain tells you to fight, but sooo much blood has been drained from your body you are in absolute stupor!”
Scott has become like an aerobic instructor.
“Action!” We do the take a number of times until he is satisfied.
The struggle scene. The killer (Corey) barges in on my attempt to escape. He wrestles my fierce, but sluggish body to the floor and drags me to the neighbouring room. Meanwhile, Erin pretends to be dead, intent on escaping through the window while I am taken away.
Frankly, I am not too impressed with my performance; my expression reads too much lethargy, my movements are fierce but my limbs are stiff. I literally look like a zombie. Acting is hard! It’s like rubbing your stomach and patting your head, talking on the phone and applying moisturizer simultaneously. Being dragged to the next room was a breeze. I kicked my feet and squirmed around.
The death scene! Ooooh! I can do this. I’ve been practising!
Corey struggles to prop my limp body in front of the canvas. A feral intensity beams from eyes implanted in my slumped over carcass. Corey takes the sharp piece of broken record and in a horizontal backhand slits my throat. I jerk my head in unison with the motion of his hand and throw my head back to reveal my eyes welling and bulging as life leaves my body. Corey drops my dead body to the floor and admires his work.
We do the take a number of times until Scott is happy.
Scott examines the footage and exclaims, “You’re done, honey.”
The crew and cast clap. Clapping for me? Erin and Stephanie congratulate me on a job well done. I am exhausted and happy to be going home, bitten by the acting bug.
I mark this moment.
From here on I know I will have to spend much time away from my home in the Yukon to pursue my acting career.
Next year, I would be in the blood shots horror film and ready to die in whatever way Scott fancies. This is the beginning of a tradition. If asked to be drowned by a psychotic baby in a toilet of my own vomit, if I had to stick my head in a dirty fish tank and scream under water (this actually happens) … I would be up for it.
Stay tuned for my second Bloodshots performance Afterbirth.
Soylent Red was runner up in the 2006 Film Festival judged by celebrity guest Rod Rodriquious (Sin City) and was nominated for a Leo Award. It won best use of dialogue and was voted online Best Death.
Ashley Hunking grew up in Teslin. She is now a freelance writer and actor who lives in Vancouver.