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Penpal: An Original Horror Story

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Good horror stories are hard to come by, often we are left with over dramatized clichés like The Happening, The Wicker Man, or The Mist. I have unfortunately seen all of those terrible terrible films, The Mist being especially bad. If you have seen The Mist then you know what I am talking about when I say the ending to that movie was one of the worst decisions I have ever seen anyone make in a film ever.

With all these bad horror stories going on, it's good to see something original break onto the scene. So original in fact, it started on Reddit.

In 2011, Dathan Auerbach posted on Reddit (in the r/nosleep sub-page) the begging of a short story that would quickly gain in popularity.

-It started when he was six years old, a series of unexplainable footsteps—“muffled, rhythmic beats” gently thumping on the carpeted floor. They woke him up every night, jolting his childish imagination and bringing him “back to consciousness, terrified.”

The post "Footsteps" gained nearly 3,000 upvotes and launched Auerbach, a 27-year-old philosophy teacher, down a path that would forever change his life. He, along with help from Kickstarter, has now chronicled and expanded his short story into a full length book titled Penpal. You can buy the book here.

Auerbach's story didn't stop there however. He is now in the works of landing a movie deal with Rich Middlemas, an Oscar winning producer from Undefeated. He blames the Internet for his success.

“The Internet has opened up doors that were seemingly hermetically sealed for a lot of people,” Auerbach said. “This means there’s a lot more content out there, for better or worse, but the fact of the matter is that for the first time in a long time the public has tremendous control over what gets seen and what rises to the top, and there’s no way that’s a bad thing. There are a lot of talented people out there without an agent or publisher, and now they have the ability to get their work in front of people whether a publisher thinks it’s economically viable or not.”

Main Link: Daily Dot


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Great response. I agree with the in large part with what you think. I agree that the exploration of existential nihilism is central to the movie, and that it seems scary (existential nihilism) as hell. But I don't think that is a good excuse for the ending. If he survives the ending though, doesn't that change his perception though? He could now argue that someone was looking out for him (military arriving just in time, only enough bullets for everyone but him.. ect). At the time I just felt it was a cheep shot to leave a lasting impression.. which I guess it has because I am still thinking about it.. but cheap. Some of your thoughts are forcing me to rethink the ending though.. so thanks!

Sidenote: one of my roommates does script coverage regularly and he likes what you wrote.
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Thanks for the reply. My take: The Mist is an exploration of existential nihilism--the creeping fear that comes with the knowledge that we probably live in an uncaring universe without meaning or order (such is the basis of much of the work of H.P. Lovecraft, btw). This fear becomes salient to the people in the market when the Mist and it's horrors descend on them. They struggle in vain to make sense of the situation--"What is this mist? "Does it go on forever?" "How could a loving god in a just universe inflict something so terrible upon us?", etc. They don't really want to know the answers because they sense the truth, and it scares the hell out of them. Some people in the market, like those in ancient times who had similar fears about the uncontrollable and destructive natural forces around them, resort to human sacrifice as a means of "appeasing the gods"--a vain attempt to restore some measure of the order they'd known before (a false comfort is better than none at all, or so goes the reasoning). Others, like those who escape in the jeep decide that perhaps it's better to stare the void in the face and take their chances. I'll grant you that their ultimate fate seemed pointless and cruel, but that's exactly it. The point was there is no point. The ending served to underscore the horror of knowing that there's no one "up there" looking out for us, which is why I felt that it was perfect for the movie. Just my two cents anyway.
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He shoots everyone in the car because he is running out of gas. Kills them so they don't have to be torn to bits by alien monsters. He steps out of the car in order the to let the creatures kill him, but suddenly the mist clears and the military arrives. Mind you this is seconds after he just killed his son and everyone else in the car. SECONDS after. I hated that, what's the message there?
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