Possibly in Michigan (1983)

Made with funding from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Ohio Arts Council, video artist Cecelia Condit’s nightmarish short has had many lives: as an art project to help her heal from her past, as a scare tactic shown on the 700 Club and a viral video that got shared with no context and was rumored to be a cursed film.

Starting with her film Beneath the Skin, Condit was using her video work to attempt to deal with the cycles of violence that she felt were all around her and so close to her. That’s because for a year she dated Ira Einhorn, the Unicorn Killer who also was one of the reasons why we have Earth Day. The entire time that they dated, the rotting body of his ex-girlfriend Holly Maddux was in a trunk. A trunk that Condit constantly walked past, one assumes.

It made it onto religious television because beyond being about the self-destructive behaviors of men toward women, it also looks at female friendships and love. It’s lead characters, Sharon and Janice, may be a couple. Or they may just be supportive women. Or both, who are we to put any bounds on their relationship?

It’s now become a viral sensation several times, as teens try to copy its strange musical numbers and send it to one another as a curse straight out of The Ring.

Our ladies are just trying to shop for perfume — this was shot at Beachwood Place in Beachwood, Ohio, where Condit sat outside the building manager’s office until she was allowed to shoot there; she was given twenty-minute blocks of time which was a challenge — when Arthur begins to stalk them, a man whose face changes with a series of latex masks.

Arthur is the kind of Prince Charming that shows his love to women by hacking them to pieces, his always changing face is a way of showing the roles that abusive men have taken in their relationships. We also discover that Sharon is attracted to violent men, but also likes making them think the violence is their idea. Regardless, love should never cost an arm and a leg.

The songs, written and performed by Karen Skladany (who also plays Janice), are insidious in the way that they worm they way into your brain while this is the kind of weirdness that is completely authentic in a way that today’s manufactured social media creepypasta weirdness cannot even hope to be a faint echo of.

As frightening as this can be, it’s also a film about absorbing — eating a cannibal is one way, right? — and getting past the worst moments of life without being destroyed by them. This also lives up to so much of what I love about SOV in that while we’ve been taught that the 80s looked like neon and sounded like a Carpenter movie, the truth is that the entire decade was beige and sounded like the demo on a Casio keyboard. This doesn’t nail an aesthetic as much as document the actual 1983 that I lived within, you know, minus the shape-changing cannibal and singsong happy tale of a dog in the microwave.

Consider this absolutely essential and one of the most important SOV movies ever.

You can watch this on YouTube.

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