Thursday, 8 September 2011

Snow Black, Scotland's secret bunker and Office Killer

I moved to Edinburgh aged 19 to study, and I was really worried about being a fresher. Freshers were crazy and stole traffic signs, freshers like parties (I tend to avoid social gatherings like the plague), freshers drank alcopops (I was already onto spirits) when I arrived in my halls I quickly found out the few people I could be friends with, but before discovering these few sane people I sometimes took myself to the Cameo Cinema which was just minutes away from my room. The first time I went was somewhat of a culture shock, people laughed at things that weren't that funny in the film as if they just wanted their laugh to be heard, and at the end of the film, they applauded, it was weird, i felt like an alien and didn't understand the city at all and sometimes felt desperate to run back to the town I'd left just for some normality.
I remember clearly the night that I went to the Cameo, alone again as no one wanted to see a "weird film" , but stopped caring that I felt alone in the city, and stopped wanting to run home again, because I'd found a place I could go that didn't exist in my hometown, and somehow it didn't feel important that there was no one in my new town to share it with. Photographer Cindy Sherman was about to open an exhibition in the modern art gallery and so the Cameo had decided to do a one off screening of the film she directed-"Office Killer" I was so excited, and moreso because Cindy Sherman was supposed to be there to watch the film too (but she didn't turn up, there was quite a lame excuse given, maybe she hates social gatherings too) Looking back i'm quite glad she didn't turn up as I like the fact that I have only ever seen her in disguise in her photographs, and its quite nice to have some mystery left.

Office Killer remains one of my favorite films, 8 years on, I still won't lend my Video or DVD copy to anyone as they are really hard to find, but I suggest you get yourself on ebay and hunt down a copy, I cant even begin to describe how clever, disgusting and funny it is. Cindy Sherman's background in photography shines through as you can see her ideas behind the framing of some of the scenes.
But, as you are probably never going to watch it, i'm going to describe some of it. The main character is Doreen, a shy office worker with a demanding mother and a dark past, she's worked in the same office for years and gets overlooked and bullied by the other workers, all younger and prettier. One day, in an accident, Doreen kills a co worker and something in her mind changes, unseen by anyone else she drags his body into her car and keeps him in her basement. As things at work get worse, and the pressures of her past become too much, Doreen begins to kill co workers one by one, collecting them as such and placing them in her basement. She doesn't dump their bodies, but instead sets them up to face the television and talks to them as if they are the friends that they never where when alive. She, in effect, builds up her own office of co workers who she can pretend like her. Dont feel too sorry for her though, the end is amazing, but I wont spoil it just incase you have found that ebay copy.

Here are some screen shots from the film, the first being Doreen...

the best basement stills i could find online....

And so, my Office Killer memories lead me onto somewhere I visited earlier this week on a detour to pick up my cat from her Perthshire holiday home. Scotland's Secret Bunker must be one of Scotland's best museums, because where else do they have a dress up section with adult sized clothes AND a licensed bar;a vodka and orange followed by a stint posing in a RAF uniform?-yes please! Set in the Fife countryside amongst endless fields of Friesian cows (the best kind) the bunker is entered through an unassuming farmhouse. Built to house 300 people at the height of the cold war, it was decommissioned in 1993 when it was bought by a man who can be seen in this video (click here!) sporting some rather fetching camouflage gear.Not expecting to buy a nuclear bunker but instead just looking for a farmhouse, he has now converted the bunker into a museum. (and I thought I was lucky that I had a semi-secret attic conversion in my flat-now I want a secret bunker...)
Besides the vodka stocked cafe, there were lots of oddities within, and it really did feel like entering a time warp. It wasn't the lack of natural light that made the experience eerie for me, but rather the feeling that everything seemed untouched, like it had lied in the same place untouched for years, and would probably lie there for years to come. The museum seems to have been created on a budget with many items most likely donated or simply left from when it was a functioning working space. The owner however, has placed mannequins around the bunker, dressed in period uniforms. The disturbing thing about this was that they don't seem to be models made especially for a museum, but most likely they once stood modeling the latest outfit in BHS' window display circa 1988. The women have perfect make up and painted nails and the men have rather impressive toupees, they now look rather, well, forced into positions and this seems to have resulted in the loss of a hand or two or a coat that looks like someone wrestled with the mannequin to dress it. The thing that struck me was the position of their hands, they are creepy, unnatural and The focus of their shiny eyes and the un-natural poses of their hands made it really uncomfortable to be in a room with them, especially as you walk into a room and sigh a breath of relief and you think it is mannequin free, only to turn a corner and have one staring back at you.
The setting and posing of the mannequins reminded me of Office Killer, but instead of Doreen posing her dead office workers, someone here has had some fun touring clothes shops and buying up their old mannequins then had a massive game of dress up, posing them in slightly uncomfortable, but definitely comic poses, i wonder if they even realise the humour behind the way some of them are positioned, i hope not. I'm sure if this was Doreen's collection of people she would sit and talk to them, maybe update them on current affairs and put the radios on for them.I'm sure the owner of the bunker is a fairly normal bloke (besides the mismatched camouflage outfit, which I'm actually growing to love) but part of me wishes he was a bit mental and spent his evenings having a vodka orange or five in the cafe surrounded by his mannequin friends.
Here are some photos of said mannequins and their scary hands...first up, a missing hand ...

Lastly, is it a mannequin....?

Was it the natural looking hand or the converse that gave it away?.....

I just cant resist a good hat, and now have 1000 times more respect for my Grandad Jack having to wear one of these on the desert (its so heavy!)

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