Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Tales from the Darkside: Slippage

I'll always think of David Patrick Kelly as Sully from the Arnold Schwarzenegger movie Commando. Kelly exits that movie when Arnold drops him off a cliff ("Remember Sully when I promised to kill you last ... I lied."). I like to imagine "Slippage" as the life away from crime Sully imagines he could have had as he plummets to his death. As he gets nearer to splattering on the ground, he begins to fade from that imagined life.

"Slippage" reminds me of the Richard Matheson "Disappearing Act." Kelly plays commercial artist Richard Hall, a man who discovers that he is slipping out of existence. First, his boss can't find his paycheck. Then, the new job he applied for has lost his portfolio. His vehicle registration comes back listed under his wife's maiden name, and his best friend from high school didn't send an invitation for the class reunion. At first, Richard suspects his wife and a co-worker are up to something shifty, but when he visits his mother, she doesn't recognize him, adding that she never had children.

At one point in "Slippage," It's a Wonderful Life is brought up. In that classic Christmas movie, Jimmy Stewart plays a man who gets to see what life would have been like in his hometown if he had never existed, witnessing everyone as worse off without his presence; what he sees convinces him to live. Of course, that alternate reality is presented by his guardian angel as a reminder of the good he's done and warning of the type of things that might happen if he goes through with suicide.

"Slippage," in some ways the darker version of that scenario in It's a Wonderful Life, generates its tension from the notion that Richard is caught up in the middle of a new reality replacing the existing one, and the new one has no place for him. He's not being shown an alternate what-if scenario; his life is being erased piece by piece. It's never revealed why or how this is happening; there aren't any angels or demons around pulling strings. As Richard theorizes, he's slipping through the cracks of time. At one point, we witness as his high school yearbook photo simply vanishes into nothingness, just as Richard fears he's doing.

In modern society, we take for granted all the stuff that proves we exist: a driver's license, a Social Security card, photographs, etc. These items offer evidence of who we are, what we've done, and what we plan to do. Take those away, and what's left of who we are? How would you be able to prove who you really are? Those are the interesting questions "Slippage." Forget being pursued by a ghoul; being forgotten about, now that's terrifying.

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