Friday, December 4, 2015

Red Light Fight Night VHS

The entire scene is awash in dirty, neon red. Shadowy figures mill around a parking lot, chanting and shouting.  Background: pitch-blackness. The camerawork is shaky, leaving everything to the imagination.

Fleeting, blurry shots of rabid faces atop meaty shoulders.

The screen turns to static, followed by more arms and slick faces. Then it comes into view—a fight. Two large men grapple on the asphalt, heaving their weight and bringing clenched fists at the ends of hook arms into contact with back, ribcage, face.

Looking on, the rabid faces and wild eyes shift into a dense circle around the struggle. These watchers, they are leaning, chugging beer, stomping, roaring. The shitty lighting emanates from retrofitted construction equipment in the back of the shot.

Red bulbs, red light.

The figures on the ground change from silhouettes to actual humans and back again as they thrash around, in and out of the decaying glow.

It is impossible to tell who, if anybody, is winning.

A man—mustachioed and sporting a filthy grey waffle shirt—steps into the frame from the mostly-flannel crowd, pours malt liquor on the fighters. Another man, massive and seething with minuscule eyes, rushes forward, grabs the mustache man by the throat, tosses him back into the undulating mass.
More static lines.
The image moves upward on the TV screen. Repeats for a few moments. More static lines.

The image returns—clarity.

The fighters stand opposite each other, amid the human ring, squaring up, shuffling around. The camera turns, pans the audience. Bulging, weathered faces. Suddenly, a loud scream from beyond the shot, and several orange tobacco embers dangle from slackened jaws.

One man spits viscous brown from his mouth, toward the fighters.

Another shouts, “Cheap son of a bitch! Kill him!”

The camera spins sideways, back to the fighters. The bigger of the two men marches around, sneering. He barks something at the other man, who is now a crumpled shadow, lying on its side, coughing up liquid dark. Some in the crowd jeer, others chant.

“Kill him! Beat his ass!”

Static snow. Some ten seconds of it.

The image returns. The crumpled shadow-man is again standing, reconstituted, holding something.

A tool.

A ball-peen hammer.

The crowd volume drops until a lone voice says, “Holy Jesus, he’s gonna do it. He’s gonna do it.”

Then others start.

“Oh shit, oh shit, oh shit…”

“Frank, don’t…”

The man with the hammer charges toward his opponent, whose eyes grow tremendous as the camera zooms in on his wet face.

Static lines.

Then the man with the tremendous eyes raises his hands, steps backward into the crowd. He might be pleading something, but the crowd’s growl swells, and his voice is nowhere to be heard. The camera shakes, zooms in and out on the scene, blurring the image.

Static lines.

A voice cracks, “Frank, Jesus!”

The man with the hammer swings his arm down—down toward the eyes.

Raw static. Some five seconds of it.

A new scene. Two different fighters drenched in glowing red, squaring off in that familiar circle, preparing to come to blows.

A problem though.

The audio—it doesn’t match the images.

A horrendous shriek blasts from the speakers of my television. It’s backed by a sea of shouting and crowd roar. The sound of a grunt, and then a piercing, wet crack. Gagging, coughing, background shouting. Gurgled sobbing, frantic gibberish, another wet crack. Panicked, unintelligible screams from the crowd.

Then the audio cuts out. Silence.

Onscreen, only two men pacing atop asphalt, skirting the interior edge of the ring of bodies. They haven’t even touched each other yet.

The audio returns, seems to match the footage this time. Crowd ambience, the two men taunting each other.