She must have lost her head.
If you’ve been on Instagram or TikTok at any point over the last month or so, chances are you’ve heard the haunting dulcet tones of Karen Skladany telling the story of “mother’s crazy sister Kate” who “put her poodle one time in a microwave oven”. You’ve probably heard it while an alt girl or two smiles—perhaps menacingly, or not—into the camera. Whether it unsettles or delights you, there’s no escaping or ignoring it. After weeks of scrolling past video after video on TikTok of horror-loving femmes staring directly into my soul while they smiled through the story of a double cross-species homicide, I decided to go digging for the source. What I found was unusual, unsettling and brilliant.
The by-now viral TikTok audio is from a 1983 short film written and directed by Cecelia Condit titled Possibly in Michigan. It follows two women who meet at the mall to shop for perfume. They end up being stalked by a masked man who follows them home. There’s something off-kilter about the whole film right from the opening scenes. The score is both saccharine and discordant, the mall is otherwise abandoned, everything feels at least a little bit threatening. Thanks to a voice-over description of our protagonists, we find Sharon (Jill Sands) and Janice (Karen Skladany) have a “penchant for violence and perfume”. It’s a combination of interests they share with their eventual attacker.
Terrifying Tales From Innocent-Looking Femmes
Yet nothing is quite as it seems at any one moment of the entire 12-minute short. The women intertwine their love of feminine pursuits with the most horrific shit you’ve ever seen or heard. From recounting the tale of the aunt who died with her microwaved dog (a story, according to Condit, based in reality at a time when microwaves were still novel appliances), to the casual mention of that one time Janice dated a cannibal (“is it up to me to turn them into dead ones?”), Possibly In Michigan makes it clear that neither woman is to be trifled with.
They may look innocent. But while the TikTok teens are terrified of the microwave oven bit, Janice is simply delighted to discover such a plot twist. Incessantly intercut with snippets of dogs, fire, and the increasingly disturbing images of decay over a beautifully displayed sleeping Janice, this is the kind of story that happens when you let the women with abyss-level black humor behind the camera. This is what happens when you ask for a modern-day fairy tale with the sensibilities of the source material. Possibly In Michigan is Sleeping Beauty for an age with venom on its lips.
A Masked Stalker Lurks In The Shadows
The anonymous stalker is clad in what just might be one of the most disturbing masks ever committed to your computer’s pixels. He forces his way into Janice’s home and attacks her. He tells himself he is doing it “for love”. While he cannot remember exactly who he is or has been thanks to his perpetually shifting hidden identity, he will become the Prince Charming Janice wants him to be as soon as they kiss. If he consumes her afterward, well, that was for love, too.
While he seems to believe this exchange of her life so that he may know himself as a hero, Janice sees him for what he truly is. He’s a wolf on the hunt. And if the rules are to eat or be eaten? Didn’t she mention before how she turns abusive, violent men dead when they come too close? She might kiss one, yes, but if he bites? Well, she’s got a song for that too:
“I bite at the hand that feeds me
Slap at the face that eats me.
Some kind of animal, cannibal
Made an impression on me”
Women with dark streaks have always been construed as dangerous. And in a sense, we are. We have to be. Sometimes the only way to defeat the monsters who wish to see you erased from the world, swallowed up by their own ideas and desires of how you and your body should be, is to take the first bite.
It’s All About Dark Desire
Possibly In Michigan is an enigmatic, dig-under-your-skin short about dark desires, dark threats, and the fairy tale of survival-by-cannibalism. It opens itself up to about as many interpretations as nightmares. Like the best of David Lynch or Maya Deren, it’s guaranteed to linger in your mind long after its 12 minutes have ended. A brief perusal of the YouTube comments beneath the video shows the range of emotional responses. Does it leave you numb and entranced? Calm and at peace? Terrified to your core? I haven’t decided yet, myself. But I have watched it three times. And, thanks to TikTok, I remain horrified far more of crazy sister Kate and her poor, overheated dog than I could ever be of some cannibalistic queer women fighting against a society who would chop them to pieces before letting them shop in peace.