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Omagiu Diavolului[]

I consider myself a rather big fan of silent movies. My father had a couple of reels of old, grimy yet still elegant productions like Phantom of the Opera, Greed, and The Cat and the Canary. Every couple months or so, me and the rest of my family would all sit down and watch one of them with our old projector in a nice, relaxed movie night. They were always very fun, and many of my core memories center on those nights; the scream of terror I had when the Phantom’s true face was shown, the happiness when the menacing Cat was first arrested, and the initial confusion of attempting to follow many of these plotlines, the misplaced joy and anger as I followed the story my juvenile mind created as I watched.

As I have grown up, I have taken other interests and hobbies, but my love for classical, silent era film has never gone away. I have made friends who collect film reels just like my father. I have touched, held, and seen incredibly rare movies that if listed online, would easily go for hundreds if not thousands of dollars. I preface this story with all of this background because it is integral to how I have come across something so…bizzare.

A few months back, one of my friends gave me a contact of his in Europe, Serbia specifically, and told me that he had a film that he said I would be “fascinated” by, which also happened to be something he would be glad to load off himself for just around $200 of Serbian Dinars. Interested, I asked and received his contact information and later that day I sent him an email introducing myself and inquiring about the movie, asking basic facts about when it was made and if any other copies of it have surfaced. His response confirmed the film was as prophesied by my acquaintance.

In a slightly broken yet understandable English, he claimed the movie was filmed all the way back in 1907 and was of Romanian origin, also noting that he has not seen the film listed anywhere else which indicated it had not only been lost, but was so obscure absolutely NOBODY even knew of its existence besides me, him, and anyone else he happened to tell about it. He then went on to explain how he came into possession of the reel and a general run-down of the plot. According to him, his grandfather had bought it off a wandering salesman near the Serbian-Romanian border. He never spoke much of it, but the seller recalled his father telling him to watch out for roaming fences, citing that his own had seen “a man without a tongue babbling about some movie”. It had been kept in the family ever since, although nobody dared to watch it. Thus, he couldn’t give me a real summary of the plot, but he did say that the side read “Homage of the Devil” in Romanian. I could make my own conclusions from there, and I ultimately decided to buy it. I wired him the payment, he sent one more email thanking me profusely (In retrospect, I should have seen the warning signs starting here; it was 3 entire pages of the phrase “Thank you Thank you So Much” repeated over and over and over again) and then a few weeks later a package arrived in my mail. Opening it up, it was a dusty, iron movie reel with film wrapped around the center.

I took out my old projector and my screen, and I carefully inserted the reel. Turning it on and starting the movie, I had a strange uneasiness as I watched the film move. It started with just a black screen for a couple of minutes, before coming to an establishing shot of a small town. The picture clarity was unnaturally high for a movie so old, and it was clear that the town seen wasn’t a model nor a set, but a real one; people moved in and out of shops and restaurants, people talked to each other on the pathways and horses were seen carrying cargo on the cobblestone roads.

After a couple minutes of this shot, it cuts to a balding man writing something in a study of some sort. The room is dingy and dark, the only light being a couple candles at the table where the man is sat down. He’s bald and wears a disheveled suit with a plain undershirt, his pants have holes and cut off just around his ankles. I can’t see his shoes but I can infer they are in similarly bad condition. After a few minutes or so of just writing, he gets up and walks to a door, opens it and walks through.

We cut to another room, very small and connecting to a sort of dining room. There is a bed at the back where we see an emaciated woman and a young girl lying. The girl has black hair while the woman wears a night cap. Both wear white gowns and are under blankets that cover their lower bodies. The girl sways a bit back and forth, and seemingly tries to keep away from the woman on her right, who is perfectly still, almost like a corpse. When the camera cuts again, it answers why; it is a close-up of the woman, who stares directly ahead with large, unnaturally wide open eyes. Her pupils look like that of a goat’s, a long, thick horizontal line going across the eye west to east. Notably, there is a dent in her forehead. Not a hole, a dent, like if her head was metal and a hammer was taken to it like a nail.

It cuts again and the man is walking out of the house. He walks along the road, the camera cutting to show his walk in entirety from all different sorts of angles; across the street, from a second story of a building, right in front of him, etc. He walks inside a building along the way and it cuts again.

The man is in an office now, pleading with what seems to be a sort of executive of a company, an old fat man in a suit and beard. The man starts off the conversation quite normally, but as it goes on he increasingly gets more and more unhinged. He is screaming, acting out exaggerated gestures, and appearing to shed real tears by the end of his tirade. The fat man just laughs in his face as a response, and in return the man slaps him across the face and storms off in anger. It cuts again.

After what appears to be some time later, the man stands before an altar in a similarly dark room as before, a jagged dagger in hand and a thick book in the other. He places the book on the altar and takes his free hand above the book, brandishing his dagger as if to slice his palm and rain the book in blood. The spine of the book has a cross on it, indicating it is a Bible. The man’s demeanor is also quite off; his face cannot be seen but his dagger hand is shaking, turning it over in his hand constantly as if he is anxious and afraid. This was my first indication that this wasn’t a movie, but rather a documentary.

It cuts without showing the slash, but as the man is seen with wrapping on his hand, it appears he did go through with it. He is standing before a lake, appearing to wait for someone. It is very obviously night, the only lighting being the candles seemingly to have been provided by the film crew and the half moon reflecting off the surface of the lake. After a couple of minutes, the movie abruptly cuts to black, and cuts again to the lake scene, with one huge difference: a horrifying creature now stands before the man, almost looking like it hovers above the lake.

The abomination carries a human figure, a terrifyingly skinny one, with long and spindly arms and legs. Despite the black and white nature of the movie, I can certainly deduce the creature is pale, glowing in the night almost fluorescently. There is a mane of dark feathers around its neck, going down its back, and its face…oh God, its face. An ugly, wrinkled, inhumane mess punctuated by a large nose that almost appears like a pig snout, and huge bulging eyes with bloodshot vessels you could see from miles away. Around it, tendril-like limbs sprout and orbit around it, loose flesh and fibers flowing in the apparent wind. There is no conception in my mind as to how these most likely dirt poor Romanians were able to construct such a lifelike, complex, organic prop or even costume in 1907. The most likely thing is that they didn’t.

It stares at the man for a second, and before it cuts away I swear I can see it move towards him, if only for just a millisecond. The next shot is back in the bedroom with the woman and girl, this time the man is standing before them in his own nightgown. His expression is lifeless, like one of despair. It cuts to black again for a few seconds and the creature appears again, tendrils flowing and everything. It reaches a lanky arm out to the man and his attention is grabbed. He then just…stares at it for a second, and then the film cuts to black again and goes back to the scene for a final time. The creature is gone. The man is still staring at where the creature was, and abruptly starts walking out, ending the scene.

The next scene is not for the faint of heart, so I will spare gory details and give a brief summary. The man walks into the altar room with a small, bundled thing. The camera starts to zoom in from afar on a particular part of the bundle. The man slowly turns it, and it reveals a screaming, bawling baby. The camera zooms out again, and the man tries to shush it to no avail. Finally, he takes the dagger out again, pointing the blade at the baby.

The next scene is the man returning home, and the scene is disproportionately happy compared to the horrors in the last one. The woman, his apparent wife, greets him at the door with a hug and a kiss, while the girl who appears to be his daughter jumps into his arms. His wife’s head notably doesn’t have the dent anymore. The man himself has an odd air around him. His beaming smile and jubilant attitude are infected by this shame and dread, something that's not immediately noticeable but can be easily seen once you do. His eyes are shifty and the hand he held the dagger in shakes just a little bit, enough to be noticeable. The scene fades, doesn’t cut, into the next scene.

The camera fades into the same bedroom the wife and daughter were in, except the man is laid there instead. All of the furnishings and such are taken out of the room, leaving just a plain white room with a bed. The man coughs, and turns around in the bed in agony. His bald head shines with sweat from his sickness and is clearly in a lot of real pain. Just when the man is laid still and the scene appears to have run its course, a sudden pentagram appears on his chest. The lines of the star and circle burst into flames, igniting the man and the blanket. Soon, everything is on fire. The man can’t be seen very well but I can only imagine how fast he burnt into a human puddle. It is a clear repention for his previous deal and sin.

The last scene is a small funeral for the dead man. The coffin is already in the grave and a gravedigger is on standby for when it is over. Only one figure has shown up and it is not the man’s wife nor his kid. It is a tall figure, whose face cannot be seen due to the wide brimmed hat it is wearing. A priest comes into frame with a Bible, quickly giving his last rites before leaving. The tall figure steps forward slowly and offers a single, unknown flower before the camera cuts to a back shot of the figure walking away. As the figure took its hat off, I audibly gasped as it revealed 2 large, dark horns as it walked away. The movie ends with no credits.

I have no idea what to make of this movie. It is bizarre in a way I cannot hope to be seen replicated everywhere else. The frantic editing tells me it is a movie, but the lack of set designs and appearance of real emotion and the entity tell me it is not. I am so bewildered and confused. I fear I have stumbled across something that no man was ever supposed to see and I hope this does not make its way out of my possession. The knowledge of its existence and contents within could paint a target on my back and lead to the destruction of my life, and potentially the backbone of many other lives. I have but one question: if the devil looked like that, what in the hell was the thing that the man saw?

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