Thursday, September 23, 2010

The house that madness built

Posted by on Thu, Sep 23, 2010 at 10:17 AM

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Imaginary Movie Soundtracks are just that -- the soundtracks to movies that don't exist. We pick the songs, write the story, and your mind makes the movie.

A haunted house story is always good for a spooky time. Be it the Haunting of Hill House, the Others, or the Orphanage, a house's creaking floor joists can easily become the footsteps of a dead former owner, returned for vengeance. The week's tale tweaks that idea with the story of a house protecting itself. We like to call this story Hell Comes to Your House.

A young couple, Joe and Pam, are searching for a new house. They've recently moved to a small town from their previous big city locale, and the apartment that was meant to be "just for a while" has been their home for several months, and is beginning to stifle them with its confining size. The two are driving back country roads one day when they happen to come across a house for sale, seemingly in the middle of nowhere. They decide to go up and see what's what. They knock on the door, and a woman appears. She seems slightly off, but invites the couple in. We hear the strains of "Dead End Street" by the Kinks play, presaging what will come later, as well as speaking to the cramped conditions in which Joe and Pam currently live.

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The woman shows the two around, and they're amazed. They expected a bit of a fixer-upper, but the house is brilliant. It must be over 100 years old, but the place looks as if it's been locked away, a building out of time. Everything is period correct and sparkles. Pam comments to the woman that they couldn't possibly afford anything as nice as this. The woman shakes her head, and rather hurriedly remarks that she's priced the place to move. Pam and Joe converse with one another, agree they need the home, and ask the cost. The woman names a figure lower than the couple would ever have dreamed. She says that the only stipulation is that they change nothing about the home. Joe makes the crack that, "If all I have to do is nothing, then I'll sign right now." The woman remarks, "If only it were that easy." As the montage of signing papers and moving things goes, Murder By Death's "Those Who Stayed" plays, ratcheting up the creepy factor.

Once the couple has moved in, they begin to realize the extent of what they've agreed to do. Living in a museum piece has its moments, but when all you want to do is take a shower, and all you have is a claw-foot bath tub, the idea of renovations start to sound appealing. Pam and Joe decide that a few things, "stuff nobody'd notice," couldn't hurt. How wrong they are. Every time Joe or Pam attempt to install something modern or add in something new, near-disasters seem to happen. Electrical shocks are kept from being fatal by mere luck of a breaker blowing, and it's only by happenstance that Joe averts decapitation by a falling ceiling fixture. They slowly begin to realize that anything they want to change results in some weird shit going on. The slightly chilling, slightly playful "Satan Takes A Holiday" by Anton Lavey scores the attempted renovations.

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Eventually, an accidental fire in the kitchen leads the couple to consider doing a complete remodel. While the contractor attempts to bring in the new stove and dishwasher, something goes terribly wrong, and one of the workers is crushed underneath the pallet. The couple realizes something is not right. They contact the former owner and demand an explanation. It seems that the house is trying to protect itself. It was built with wood harvested from the former site of a hospital noted for the terrible treatment of its patients, and especially the unnecessary surgeries performed. The woman theorizes that the house is trying to prevent something being done to it the way the patients were harmed. Neko Case's "Knock Loud" gradually ramps up as they move through the house, realizing that what they thought was a dream has now become a nightmare.

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Joe and Pam decide that this is their house and they want it, and no spirit's going to keep them from doing what they want. The couple picks up sledgehammers and enter the house and start working it over like a demolition crew. They're constantly dodging falling debris or doors slamming or any number of things trying to kill them. As they make their way to the attic, the two destroy half the home. Once in the attic, they realize they've no way out. The attic fan kicks on, a giant whirling blade, and the floor collapses, sending them near it. Pam starts to slip and Joe barely saves her. They escape through an attic window, and run pell mell for their car. As they drive off, Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys play us off with "Stay A Little Longer."

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