One of the earliest Creepypasta stories I looked at in this ongoing series was that of the iconic Jeff the Killer. For my last Creepypasta feature I looked at The Expressionless, a story written by one Tom Lever aka Ivysir.
This week we continue with Ivysir’s prose as he gives us a story that shares several themes with Jeff’s: Liars.
Liars was first posted Creepypasta.com in July 2012. You can read the story in it’s entirety here, but to summarise it tells the story of High School student Jimmy, a smart Alec kid whose mouth often sees him become a target for bullying.
Jimmy always claims that honesty is the best policy, and by saying what he does to the bullies and their violent responses, both are being transparent with one another.
However, one day Jimmy antagonises the wrong boy, the psychotic Brett, who rounds up a gang of boys with an axe to grind with Jimmy. Between them they plot to teach Jimmy a lesson he’ll never forget.
Later they corner their helpless victim in a science room at school, then mercilessly pour a bottle of floric acid over Jimmy’s head. He suffers catastrophic burns then render him mute, so when a teacher arrives on the scene he is unable to contradict the bullies’ story that it was some sort of accident.
Jimmy is taken away to hospital while Brett and his gang remain unpunished.
However, in hospital Jimmy broods. No longer a witty, carefree individual, something snaps inside him and he plots a savage revenge. Throughout this time he regains some semblance of speech, however, all he rasps is one word: ‘Liars’.
Later Brett is home alone when he receives a parcel. Inside is a videotape.
When Brett watches the tape he sees poorly shot footage in a basement. However, he then spots the naked, battered and bloody form of one of his gang, begging for his life. In the background the lifeless bodies of his fellow bullies can be seen.
As Brett’s friend pleads for mercy, it is revealed that somebody has carved the word ‘LIAR’ into the flesh on his back.
Suddenly the camera cuts to a snowy exterior shot. It is revealed that Brett’s helpless friend is holding the camera, before he turns to face his assailant: the hideously mutilated Jimmy.
As he does so there is a sudden shocking blare of noise and the word LIARS appears on screen before the video abruptly cuts to black.
Frantic, the terrified Brett dashes to the bolt the door to his home, but it is too late.
The tape was found still inside the player, beside Brett’s corpse. His injuries were synonymous with being doused in acid.
The way in which Liars riffs on the Jeff the Killer story is pretty obvious. A young man left mutilated extracts bloody revenge on the bullies who tormented him.
It even comes with a trademark image (which is arguably the strongest part of the story) featuring the inhuman face of its monstrous anti-hero.
However, inspired by JtK or not, it’s unfair to dismiss Liars as a simple rip-off. First, it’s a far-better written story than any of Jeff’s stories. Not just in terms of technique, but also in terms of character and story.
Lever uses a pretty expansive vocabulary and doesn’t rely on the overused standard phrases that so many Creepypasta stories lean on. Ok, it’s not exactly Stephen King, but for a young, amateur writer, this is pretty encouraging stuff.
While the dialogue clangs now and then, the real strength of Liars compared to Jeff is that each character is given a motive, a reason for them to act the way they do.
It’s not the most complex of motives, but at least it’s a motive.
Much like Lever’s The Expressionless, this is a simple story that delivers some basic scares in an efficient, if not spectacular way.
With elements of Jack Nicholson’s Joker in his origin, the single raspy word a la Resident Evil’s Nemesis, the Saw-esque sadistic torture and mutilation of his victims and the use of a creepy videotape calling card a la Ring’s Samara, Liars’ Jimmy is a potent creation that combines plenty of elements from some of pop culture’s scariest monsters. Teens in particular, the main consumers of Creepypasta, will pick up on these elements and be able to visualise them.
However, even if the reader lacks the knowledge or imagination to formulate a disturbing image in their mind’s eye, the attached picture drives it home excellently.
Clearly this is a heavily doctored image, but that doesn't stop it from being genuinely unsettling. The grainy quality of the picture only adds to its disturbing nature, giving it the appearance of a real frame of video footage (and with that upping the realism), while also adding an otherworldly feel to the picture AND masking any deficiencies in photoshop skill. It’s decidedly gory and packs a real punch coming at the end of Lever’s story.
What many readers may not realise is that the image was not actually created specifically for this story. It’s actually the front cover of a single, 2004’s We Fenced Other Gardens With the Bones of Our Own by British alternative band Liars.
The single is from the album They Were Wrong, So We Drowned (http://amzn.to/1qi5Xt6), and the image is actually a doctored still from the video for the track (which you can watch here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FaMbPbFz8h0).
As writer Lever is a Brit and his story first appeared on the web a full eight years after the release of We Fenced Other Gardens With the Bones of Our Own, it’s probably pretty safe to assume that he took inspiration from the single’s artwork.
From Lord Snowdon’s photograph that accompanied The Expressionless, to this image alongside Liars, it seems one of Lever’s biggest strengths is hunting out legitimately disturbing imagery to accompany his prose.
As I wrote in my feature on Jeff the Killer, the bullying victim pushed too far has become a real cause of concern, especially in American schools. Bullies tend to pick on outcasts, those that are different. Somebody with an existing social or psychological disorder, would struggle to fit in, which could certainly cause opportunistic bullies to single them out. These same disorders make them far more likely to snap when provoked. It’s a cruel cycle, in which violence begets violence, and with a notable number of incidents of school shootings appearing in news headlines, the vengeful misfit is a horror archetype that is sure to resonate with young, High School-age readers, the primary audience for Creepypasta.
And resonate it certainly has.
At Creepypasta.com, Liars holds a very high rating of 8.8/10, with over 1100 votes cast. What’s more, it’s inspired all the usual fanart, including YouTube entries that both attempt to create the VHS from the story, or the always fun Creepypasta readings, such as this one by the prolific Mr Creepypasta.
The best horror takes our real world fears and gives us a cathartic release for them by presenting them with a fabricated face. We address the very real anxieties we have, but as they are still only fiction we can deal with them in a safe way.
Liars, like Jeff the Killer before it, embodies teenage anxiety over bullying. Sure, it’s in a rather frivolous and sensational manner, but if this story encourages school kids to look at the impacts of bullying, maybe it’s serving a purpose as well?
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Until next time, I hope you enjoyed your stay.
Until next time, I hope you enjoyed your stay.