Deep in the far reaches of Montebello, in a secret temple, a young monk arranges sacred objects on the altar with exacting specificity. Each item is invested with hallowed significance and placed in its preordained place.
The sacrosanct enclave, on the second floor of an unassuming apartment building, just around the corner from McDonald's and 7-Eleven, is the manifestation of an evolved devotional practice. Few in the order achieved the level of mastery practiced in Anthony's Temple of Scream.
Anthony Torres, a high-strung young feature-film-trailer editor, has been collecting memorabilia from Wes Craven's horror series since 1996.
Leagues beyond the shallow realm of fetishism, transcending the addiction matrix, Anthony is not a Scream-aholic. He haunts a dimension surpassing devotion and obsession, having spent $3,000 on Scream 3 collectibles alone. The young archivist has logged, captured and curated a collection that defies categorization.
A sprawling display of horrific masks dominates the space on a single bed in his room, each with its own decisive markings distinguishing it from the others: place of manufacture, gauge of plastic, almost imperceptible variation in expression. Elsewhere are books, autographed stills, costumes, dolls, posters, authentic and look-alike props from the films, all frozen in time, suffocated in vacuum-sealed plastic.
Anthony navigates through the tight space to the heart of the collection, the pièce de résistance: an original sparkling black hooded robe, a prop from the movie, complete with a certificate of authenticity.
"I spend about 25 percent of what I make on Scream stuff," Anthony, 26, admits downstairs in the family living room. His mom says it's closer to 75 percent, but his younger brother, Chris, says it's easily 90 percent. Anthony's friends Sean Hernandez and Nestor Arce concur with Chris. His grandmother just shakes her head. "He's crazy. He loves it," she says and laughs.
Anthony, Sean and Nestor bonded on horror as students at Inner City Filmmakers, a film-school boot camp housed in the Lantana Center in Santa Monica.
Now a union costumer, Nestor recounts the time Anthony dragged him to every fabric store in the Fashion District, looking for material to replicate a black robe from Scream. "He brought his Scream robe with him. The people in the stores thought we were crazy."
Sean, a film editor and photographer, remembers when Anthony made him rent a car and drive to Vegas to collect a stockpile of Scream masks from every souvenir store on the Strip. "They were, like, $5 masks. He bought them all," Sean says.
Nervous by nature, Anthony is a finely tuned precision machine with a neurotic component that takes over the system when Screamabilia is in the mix. When he becomes aware of a new piece for his collection, he fixates. All sound is sucked into the vacuum, all motion is suspended as he zooms in on the object of his desire till he attains the goal.
Today Anthony is on tenterhooks at Green Monster Advertising in Burbank, where he's cutting a trailer as the clock counts the seconds to the hour of truth -- the Scream 4 premiere at Grauman's Chinese Theatre on Hollywood Boulevard. "I haven't been able to eat any solid food all day," he says.
He looked everywhere for tickets and finally breathed a big sigh of relief when he found five filler seats on a website. He jumped in the car and raced to Hollywood to pick them up last night.
Sean and Nestor have been queuing up since noon around the corner on Orange Avenue as Anthony arrives to stand in line for three hours.
A kinetic frenzy erupts across the street from the red carpet, in front of McDonald's, as the Scream stars arrive. Autograph pimps and paparazzi rush the barricades as the kooky guy with the estranged TV-actress wife signs autographs in a suit that looks like the Rev. Al Sharpton went shopping at Fred Segal in 1986.
An overweight guy arrives in a shiny white suit, greets his fans momentarily and makes a beeline for the Access Hollywood cameras. Confused tourists caught in the scuffle clutch their children, not knowing whether to snatch a cellphone photo or head for the Hollywood Hills.
A guy in a handmade Scream T-shirt and a big girl from Minnesota in a slinky, low-cut dress and world-class cleavage get plucked from the line by a terse assistant publicist in a tight-fitting pinstriped pantsuit. They are escorted in as eye candy for the filler section.
The anticipation is almost too much to contain. Anthony is ready to burst, literally. He's had to piss for two hours but wouldn't consider leaving his place in line, even to duck around the corner to the alley. Finally the line inches forward as Anthony's toes hit the Walk of Fame. He, Sean and Nestor are the next to be seated. It's go time as the terse assistant publicist returns to escort the next small group of fillers into the theater.
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"Sorry, there is no more room in the theater," she says flatly. "There is absolutely no more room. There is not one seat. None." She turns on her heels, leaving the security guard to take the force of the blow.
Anthony's face is frozen in shock. His feet are glued to the sidewalk as the weight of her words penetrates his brain.
All masks now off, the mood in the parking garage is dark. Anthony takes a beat to begin to digest the horror of what has happened as he gets in the car with Sean and Nestor for the long ride back to the Temple of Scream.