Sunday, December 16, 2012

#Goodreads - Oscar Bait


Rope of Silicon has compiled a list of downloadable screenplays from Academy Award hopefuls. I’m especially interested in Beasts of the Southern Wild, Hitchcock, ParaNorman, and Snow White and the Huntsman. Check them all out here.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Pacific Rim Trailer


After watching the Pacific Rim trailer, I suddenly felt there was a strong possibility that I had somehow slipped into a parallel universe where Guillermo Del Toro was a hack who made soulless films with giant robots, lots of ‘plosions, and featured Maxim models as his leading ladies (Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental). Clicking my heels together didn’t do much to change my surroundings, so I did a little Googling and found a few interviews that eased my fears...



Del Toro hasn’t changed. He’s still the same imaginative filmmaker who gave us Cronos, Pan’s Labyrinth, and Hellboy. The ability to combine spectacle and story is a rarity these days. He’s giving us a little more spectacle than we’re used to, but I suspect subsequent trailers will shed more light on character and story. I really want this film to do well. Its success would definitely increase the odds of a Hellboy 3.



Tuesday, December 11, 2012

M.I.A.

Posts have been more sporadic than usual because a wonky computer, but expect a flurry topics at the end of the week...

Friday, November 30, 2012

Jump Scares



Ah, the jump scare. Even the most seasoned horror fan will occasionally fall for them, but they’re most effective when used sparingly. All too often, this advice falls on deaf ears. Characters are constantly subjected to cats springing out of cupboards (How do they manage to close the doors behind them?), sneaky buddies popping up out of dark alleys, split-second shots of spooky faces in bathroom mirrors, etc. It's all about balance. You can't have your ghost/monster/killer to appear in every scene that requires tension or else they'll lose their effectiveness. There's nothing wrong with a quick, cheap scare, just stay away from the same old cliches. Put a new spin on them.



Monday, November 26, 2012

The Moth Diaries


As the body count rises, a teen (Rebecca Bolger) begins to suspect the fetching new student (Lily Cole) at her all-girl boarding school is a vampire.

With a blurb like that, The Moth Diaries sounds like it could be one of those trashy, late-night cable movies brimming with bad acting and over the top titillation every ten minutes, but that’s hardly the case here. For the most part, it’s a decent attempt to tell a story about a girl doing her best to deal with a loss...

I didn't say it was totally devoid of titillation.

I can’t say the film held my attention throughout, a bit dull in some spots and too artsy in others, but the third act resolution wasn’t half bad. Most thrillers settle for the twist ending or see-you-in-the-sequel. What we get here is a protagonist with a legit arc. Her peculiar journey/adventure suddenly makes more sense. While I don’t do spoilers, mentioning the film was directed by Mary Harron (American Psycho) should be a big enough clue. Not a great film, not a lot of fans on the imdb.com either, but I have to give it credit for trying something different...




Tuesday, November 13, 2012

All You Zombies


After vampires and werewolves had their run, aliens were supposed to be the next big thing, then somebody decided that angels were definitely it, but the undead dragged their rotting corpses under the radar and managed to infect Hollywood before we knew what was happening. You could make the argument that they’ve leapfrogged werewolves in terms of mainstream popularity.


Zombie films are the ultimate pressure cooker stories. Throw together a bunch of people from different backgrounds in a confined space, give them a looming threat, then watch the magic happen. Big budgets, multiple locations, or lots of special effects are not required. Their biggest Achilles heel is often a lack originality. The Romero films are cool, but no one wants to see a rehash of the same story with only minor cosmetic changes. Two upcoming films don’t seem to have this problem.


The World War Z trailer brings a whole new meaning to the wave. More of a tease than insight into the story, it seems like The Walking Dead on steroids. Still, I’m intrigued.


Horror comedies can be iffy with audiences, but Warm Bodies looks like fun. Zombies regaining their humanity. Clever.



Thursday, November 01, 2012

The Blood List (2012)


The 2012 edition of The Blood List is upon us! Behold, loglines from the top 13 most liked, unproduced, dark genre screenplays of the year:

THE DISCIPLE PROGRAM by Tyler Marceca

Logline: A man begins an investigation into his wife's mysterious death, only to find that it goes much deeper than he imagined.

STEPHANIE by Ben Collins & Luke Piotrowski

Logline: A young girl has strange powers that doom her to a world of solitude. PAPERHOUSE meets CARRIE.

LOCKDOWN AT FRANKLIN HIGH by Joe Ballarini and Gregg Bishop

Logline: A straight-laced teenage girl tries to save her socially outcast, rebellious brother during a high school lockdown due to a terrifying alien attack.

STORY OF YOUR LIFE by Eric Heisserer

Logline: When alien crafts land across the world, a linguist expert is recruited by the military to determine whether they come in peace or are a threat. As she learns to communicate with the aliens, she begins experiencing vivid flashbacks that become the key to unlocking the greater mystery about the true purpose of their visit.

FEBRUARY by Osgood Perkins

Logline: An unidentified young woman makes a pilgrimage to the site of a demonic possession at an all-girls boarding school in the dead of winter.

COUNTRY OF STRANGERS by Sean Armstrong

Logline: Based on true events, the story follows an Inspector during his forty year search for three siblings taken from an Australian Beach in 1966.

INTERSTATE 5 by Seth M. Sherwood

Logline: The son of an infamous serial killer and the daughter of one of the victims go on the road in hopes of tracking the killer down only to find themselves haunted by demonic forces intent on driving them mad. JACOBS LADDER meets NATURAL BORN KILLERS

SOMNIA by Mike Flanagan & Jeff Howard

Logline: A couple who recently lost their son take in a young boy as a foster child. They soon discover that the boy's dreams manifest themselves in the real world when he sleeps.

DARKFALL by TS Faull

Logline: A group of residents must survive the night in their apartment complex as they slowly learn that DARKFALL (the rising of demons to take over the Earth) is upon them.

VIRAL by Dustin T. Benson

Logline: Told from the 1st person point of view via the helmet camera of a bio-safety suit a female scientist searches for her missing daughter in a quarantined area of Manhattan. I AM LEGEND meets OUTBREAK.

THE IMPORTANCE OF BLOOD by James Breen

Logline: The mute servant of a modern-day vampire returns home to her estranged family twenty years after her disappearance. As she grows closer to her family, her loyalties to her master are finally tested.

SHUT IN by T.J. Cimfel & David White

Logline: An agoraphobic woman must fend off a home invasion while she protects a dark secret.

PESTE by Babarba Marshall

Logline: A 16 year old girl begins to record her life for her high school media class just as a terrifying virus begins to spread.

Not familiar with the titles, except for THE DISCIPLE PROGRAM. It was one of those rare six figure spec sales that made headlines back in May. THE IMPORTANCE OF BLOOD sounds like it has an interesting POV -- don't think I've seen it before. The loglines for VIRAL, SOMNIA, and STEPHANIE all sound like excellent concepts.

BTW, you can follow The Blood List on Twitter

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Mockingbird Lane


I’m surprised how much I enjoyed the pilot Halloween Special, because it sounded like such a crummy idea on paper. From the casting of Jerry O’Connell as Herman Munster, the name change, and making it an hour-long dramedy, I was absolutely dreading the final product. But I’m happy to be wrong on all counts.


Although Mockingbird Lane has far more in common with The Addams Family (which was more my thing) than the Munsters, Bryan Fuller still manages to capture its spirit: a family that cares about each other. He skillfully balances the characters trying to preserve their humanity with a healthy dose of dark humor. Writing comedy is hard, but horror-comedy is even harder. While the original series was mostly sight gags and tame one-liners, Fuller's version has Boy Scouts attacked by a werewolf and jokes about a serial killer stuffing bodies into the walls of the Munsters' new home, it definitely takes a pair of stones to write stuff like that for a family-oriented show.


The ratings were a respectable but unspectacular 5.4 million viewers -- especially when you consider the hefty 10 million dollar production budget. Seems unlikely that NBC would order more episodes and it’s too costly for the SyFy Channel. A shame it probably won't find a home...


Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Black Listed


The Black List has started a spin-off service looking to help aspiring screenwriters get their scripts into the hands of the right people. For a monthly fee, scripts can be uploaded, hosted and evaluated.

As a brand, The Black List has an excellent reputation in the screenwriting community. You’d be crazy not to want their stamp of approval, but I don’t think this service is going to be a game changer.

“The great hope is that...some little fat girl in Ohio is going to be the new Mozart and make a beautiful film.” - Francis Ford Coppola, 1991

Screenwriters have more resources at their fingertips than ever before, but are we better storytellers as a result? Nope. While there might be a few gems buried deep, deep, deep in the slush pile, most amateur scripts just aren’t very good. A lot of folks would be better served joining a writing group or free workshoppping sites like Trigger Street and American Zoetrope, before signing up for these pay services.

Secondly, getting reads is tough, but hardly to the point where your ONLY option is to plunk down cash in order to get someone to crack the first page. All it takes is a good logline, persistence and a bit of luck. Heck, I’ve gotten opportunities off the strength of my very average blog. The real challenge is crafting a script that’s worth reading -- still working on that part. This Black List service is probably best for writers with a few scripts under their belts; not the desperate noob gambling with rent money and his first script.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

#goodreads - An American Werewolf in London


After all these years, with all our newfangled, CG techno-whatchamacallit, this is still one of the best transformation scenes ever.


The meat and potatoes of the transformation is just three blocks of description, and not as detailed as you might expect. Some newbie writers would be tempted to overwrite the hell out of a scene like this, describing every wolf hair as it sprouts out of his skin.

You can read John Landis' script here.

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Anne Rice on Werewolves


Stumbled across an insightful podcast from Wired Magazine with Anne Rice about her recent novel, The Wolf Gift. Interesting to hear how she tries to put a fresh spin on the werewolf genre. Nothing revolutionary, but I'm curious enough to check out a few chapters.

You can listen to the mp3 here.

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

666 Park Avenue (Series Premiere)


With only 6.97 million viewers tuning in for the premiere, ABC has to be incredibly disappointed. But I’ll bet the marketing folks probably wish it had been a little lower. Imagine all the possibilities with 6.66 million viewers. Maybe the show causes Nielsen boxes to malfunction! Then followed by stories from the cast about spooky incidents occurring on set. Maybe a priest has to come in and -- Ah, well....

All in all, I thought the pilot was solid. Naive couple (Rachael Tayler and Dave Annable) unwittingly sign their souls away to creepy power couple Terry O’Quinn and Vanessa L. Williams, and move into the swank Drake apartment building. Meanwhile, one resident gets attacked by an elevator, and another must kill in order to keep his wife alive.

Seems like a mix of Fantasy Island, and to a lesser extent, The Devil’s Advocate. The setting reminds me of another Manhattan apartment building with a dark history, the Shandor Building (aka Spook Central) from Ghostbusters.

The other obvious comparison would be American Horror Story, but I don’t think that’s a fair one. Cable shows have far more freedom and smaller expectations when it comes to ratings. But networks do seem genuinely surprised when they try to emulate a popular cable show and it fizzles.

While I liked the cast and setting, I thought the jump scares were all too familiar and lacking in creativity. The only thing missing was a black cat jumping out of a cupboard at an especially tense moment. For a show involving Faustian pacts, ghosts, death and whatnot, it was rather tame -- especially for the 10pm slot. I’m not advocating decapitations and ritualistic sex, just for more suspense and more interesting twists than a character’s nightmare turning out to be real.


In case you missed it, watch the pilot here.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

The Tall Man Trailer


Probably the most interesting thing about The Tall Man trailer is the fact that Jessica Biel is the star and executive producer. I figured she’d be campaigning for something more high profile like Wonder Woman or Xena: The Movie at this stage in her career.

Actors are an impossible bunch to figure out from afar. I read that one of the reasons Mark Walhberg did The Happening was the opportunity to play someone other than a cop or criminal. Viola Davis says she’d love to do comedy, but she only gets offers for dramas. Maybe Biel really wanted to work with writer/director Pascal Laugier -- still haven’t seen Martyrs.

Sure, some actors might only be interested in the size of the paycheck, but it never hurts to do a little research.

Anyway, this seems like a generic thriller to me... okay, after some digging, there’s more going on under the hood than what the trailer suggests. I’m puzzled by the limited theatrical run. How does that happen to film with a recognizable lead?



Will check out when it hits DVD shelves.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

H+


Revolution had a solid debut on Monday. 11 million viewers overall, and was especially strong in the magical 18-49 demographic. But after the ho-hum pilot, how many of those viewers will return for week two? That question is probably more intriguing than anything I watched. Still, I’ll stick around for at least 4-5 episodes.

If you’re looking for better way to get your post-apocalyptic fix, check out H+ the Digital Series. Produced by Bryan Singer, it’s a web series set in the not-too-distant future; where a significant portion of the population has brain implants that keeps them continuously connected to the internet. Something goes awry, people start dropping like flies, and the world plunges into chaos.

Impressive for the 2 million dollar budget. Good production values. Didn’t recognize the cast -- except for Alexis Denisof. The narrative jumps around from past to present with multiple storylines, which I guess helps with the writing. Easier to fine tune. The whole thing reminds me of Lost, but in a good way. Episodes are short though. Gotta wait every Wednesday for a new one. I’d like to see the entire series stitched together as a feature length film.

The web does is a new frontier for aspiring filmmakers/writers -- and some established folks. You might not have 2 million bucks lying around, but a little creativity may be be all that’s needed.

Check out the first episode below. 



Saturday, September 08, 2012

#goodreads - Poltergeist


One of my favorites from the 80s. I haven't seen it in ages, but a recent discussion over at Go Into The Story about horror movie recommendations brought it back to mind.

Check out one of my favorite scenes:




Now look at this script excerpt:



Screenwriting style really has changed over the years -- or maybe we obsess too much over formatting these days, rather than coming up with the best scene/story possible.

I love that suspenseful moment between the clown disappearing and Robbie eventually "finding" it. It's also interesting how a wardrobe decision can change the tone of a scene. JoBeth William's character in the script was sensibly dressed in a nightgown and robe when the ghostly shenanigans began. What we get on screen is more titillating than scary, which I guess was Spielberg's intention.

You can find the entire script here.

Friday, September 07, 2012

Lovely Monster

Here’s a cool short that Lionsgate plans to turn into a feature.


Kind of beautiful with its simplicity. Minimal effects, just a slow build. The idea reminded me of a Black List script called Maggie. It was about a girl turning into a zombie over the course of several months. The story is less about the monster aspect, but more about how it affects everyone around her. It turns out that Maggie’s author, John Scott 3, will be the one to adapt Lovely Monster into a feature length script.

Great concept, but I’m curious to see if can work beyond 5 minutes....



Wednesday, September 05, 2012

NBC's Revolution Pilot


Our entire way of life depends on electricity. So what would happen if it just stopped working? Well, one day, like a switch turned off, the world is suddenly thrust back into the dark ages. Planes fall from the sky, hospitals shut down, and communication is impossible. And without any modern technology, who can tell us why? Now, 15 years later, life is back to what it once was long before the industrial revolution: families living in quiet cul-de-sacs, and when the sun goes down lanterns and candles are lit. Life is slower and sweeter. Or is it? On the fringes of small farming communities, danger lurks. And a young woman's life is dramatically changed when a local militia arrives and kills her father, who mysteriously - and unbeknownst to her - had something to do with the blackout. This brutal encounter sets her and two unlikely companions off on a daring coming-of-age journey to find answers about the past in the hopes of reclaiming the future.

I should start off by saying that I can count my favorite post-apocalyptic TV/movies on one hand -- and still have a few free fingers. They’re just not my thing. Not even the involvement of J.J. Abrams, Jon Favreau, and Eric Kripke could get me excited about Revolution.

Some nagging thoughts running through my mind as I watched:

1) Why does the cast look like they stepped out of a J.Crew ad?

2) What’s up with their perfectly coiffed hair?

3) The female lead is scrappy. We know this because she has a unisex nickname.

4) This ‘no electricity’ thing makes no sense. Maybe it’s some kind of nanobot virus?

5) Would airplanes just fall out of the sky like that? Wouldn’t they still have momentum?

6) Anybody heard of bicycles? They’re not as cool-looking as horses, but they’d be a heck more practical.

7) Didn’t I see a similar closing scene in the Jericho pilot?

Stop nitpicking, Scream. It’s just the pilot episode. Ever heard of suspension of disbelief? Give it some time. It’ll all make sense eventually -- on a J.J. Abrams show?

Anyway, see for yourself and watch the pilot below:



Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Contest Alert!


Fanfic is considered a dirty word in some parts, but this FREE contest encourages the submission of your totally unauthorized Teen Wolf stories for a chance to meet showrunner Jeff Davis and rub elbows (or paws) with the TW writer’s room -- plus, a free trip to Los Angeles.

I saw a decent amount of the first season, which held my attention, but I don’t think I know enough about the show to come up with a 3,000 word story. The only stipulation about age is that entrants must be at least fourteen, so if you're a regular viewer, it's worth a shot...

Check out the official rules here.



Saturday, August 25, 2012

Cathartic Horror


I think I already mentioned this on Twitter, but it's worth repeating here. A few months back, the Writing Excuses podcast had a great episode on channeling our traumatic experiences into some good horror. Check it out here.

Friday, August 17, 2012

#goodreads - Being Human (UK) Pilot


While Syfy’s Being Human has done a fine job of establishing its own unique identity, I’m still partial to the original BBC version. The idea of a ghost, vampire, and a werewolf living together does sound very much like a bad 80s sitcom, but the show weaves together a seamless mix of comedy, horror, and drama. Although the original cast has moved on, the writing perseveres. You can read the pilot here.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Intruders


Two children living in different countries are visited nightly by a faceless being who wants to take possession of them. (via imdb)

Just some quick thoughts on this 2011 foreign thriller directed by Juan Carlos Fresnadillo (28 Weeks Later, Intacto, and the upcoming Highlander reboot) and starring Clive Owen. The slick marketing suggests something in the vein of Nightmare on Elm Street -- I’m surprised it wasn’t called Hollowface. But Intruders in no way resembles a supernatural slasher flick. Aside from some brief nudity and a few intense scenes, I’m not sure how it got an R-rating. The ole bait and switch might bring in extra eyeballs initially, but only results in bad word of mouth in the long run.

I was searching for the right adjective to describe this film, and I came to the same conclusion as several Netflix reviewers: Shyamalanesque. There’s a big mind-bending twist in the third act that makes you reevaluate everything you’ve seen up to that point. If the S-word didn’t make you head for the hills screaming, I can say the twist is... different. I appreciate a story that takes the less traveled path. Now the twist doesn’t totally work and it seems more than a little implausible, but the actors really sell the scene.

Although Intruders will probably annoy many a horror fan with its false advertising, there’s some worthwhile stuff for aspiring writers. A script with multiple storylines can be a challenge. For the most part, this worked well. And see it for the (shaky) twist!

I don’t know what this bodes for Fresnadillo’s Highlander reboot, but Intruders and 28 Weeks Later seem to suggest an interest in the parent-child bond. I'm guessing Connor MacLeod is gonna have some Daddy issues...



Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The Dark Knight Rises


It's hard to get into without divulging spoilers, but I can say that The Dark Knight Rises is a fitting conclusion to the trilogy. As a guy who likes to write stories about ordinary people thrown into far-out situations, I admire Nolan's ability to take the fantastical and keep it grounded enough to connect with the average moviegoer. Too often we get summer blockbusters that are all sound and fury, yet signifying nothing -- I'm looking at you Michael Bay.  

After the deaths of Harvey Dent and Rachel Dawes, Bruce Wayne/Batman (Christian Bale) has been in seclusion for the last eight years. But now a terrorist called Bane (Tom Hardy) has set his sights on Gotham. Can The Batman return to form and take on his most dangerous adversary yet?

Clearly, this is the most ambitious story in the trilogy. Everything is bigger this time around, stakes and obstacles. Bane is more than Batman's equal, physically and intellectually. The consequences of past actions comes back to haunt Gotham City in a big way. This is an old fashioned crime thriller played out on an epic scale -- with a protagonist who likes to dress up like a six-foot bat. Nolan tosses in some ripped-from-the-headlines elements to make the story even more relatable.


With all that said, this is not a perfect film. In fact, there are more things to pick at than the previous films combined. Characters make choices that seem illogical or a case of lazy storytelling just to reach certain plot points, which is highly uncharacteristic of a Chris Nolan film. The ending itself isn't forced, but the script feels like it needed a few more passes. Some critics have argued the film should have been split in two, in order to flesh things out -- not the worse idea I've ever heard...



It would have been impossible to duplicate Heath Ledger's Oscar winning performance as the Joker. Thankfully, Tom Hardy doesn't try to go there. Bane is his own uniquely scary entity. And while I had some reservations about the casting of Anne Hathaway, she gives a solid turn as Selina Kyle. Marion Cotillard also gives a memorable turn as Miranda Tate. I've made the argument in the past that female characters have had little to do in Nolan's Dark Knight universe, but this isn't the case here.

All in all, I guess I'm trying to say The Dark Knight Rises is a good film with some great parts, but not on the level of Batman Begins or The Dark Knight. It'll be interesting to see how it holds up 2-3 years from now. I found an outstanding interview with Nolan about The Dark Knight Rises on a recent podcast of The Treatment. It's only around 30 minutes long, but gives tremendous insightt into his process. In fact, I liked it so much that I rounded up links to other Treatment episodes with Nolan on Batman Begins and The Dark Knight.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Query Like A Boss!

I came across a handy add-on for Gmail (via lifehacker) called Right Inbox. It allows you to schedule e-mails to be sent at a specific time, which is cool in itself, but the more interesting feature is the ability to track e-mails. The majority of our query letters will go unanswered, but now you can determine if someone is actually reading them. I sent out a few and it worked like a charm. While the service is $4.95 a month for unlimited e-mails, there's also a free version limited to 10 e-mails monthly.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

8 x 10 Tasveer



A forest ranger (Akshay Kumar) with the ability to astral project himself into photographs and witness past events, tries to determine if his wealthy father's death was the result of foul play.

I'm still not entirely sold on Bollywood, but it's next to impossible for me to pass up a thriller with supernatural elements. My current script has something to do with photographs so that piqued my interest as well.

Unfortunately, 8x10 Tasveer fails on a very basic level: nothing's at stake. If Jai can't prove his father was murdered, the story could basically end with a disinterested shrug. There's no sense of urgency. We get a few obligatory action/suspense sequences, but they accomplish very little in terms of raising the stakes. There are some nonsensical restrictions placed on his ability to create tension (if the photograph is destroyed, he'll be trapped inside forever!!), but I wasn't buying it. A good thriller should have a protagonist feeling like he's running out of options, friends/allies. His back should be up against the wall.

When we finally get around to the big reveal, something ripped straight from the big book of soap opera clichés, all you can do is groan. This is right around the time when the acting goes from average to terrible. The attempt to tie his ability and a childhood trauma to present events just doesn't work. I almost wished there were some musical numbers to breath a little life into the story -- almost.

I could chalk this all up to being clueless about Bollywood sensibilities, but audiences didn't care for the film either. It was both a critical and commercial disappointment.

While I was searching for a trailer with English subtitles, I found the entire film on youtube. Have at it, but you were warned!




Sunday, July 15, 2012

Underworld: Awakening


I've slowly come to the realization that I expect way too much from the Underworld franchise. Despite the intriguing premise of a hidden war between vampires and werewolves lycans, they're simply suped-up action movies with classic movie monsters. The subtext of the first film, the fear/hatred of miscegenation, seems like a distant memory. Not sure why I keep hoping for more character development. This is the fourth installment of franchise that's grossed almost half a billion dollars. If it ain't broke...

I guess I've been spoiled by Bryan Singer's take on X-Men and what Chris Nolan did with Batman. Films with fantastical elements AND relatable characters/situations. If you're emotionally invested in the characters, that cool action sequence becomes even cooler.



While it's hard not to appreciate Kate Beckinsale strut around in latex and kick butt, where's the fun in watching a character with zero depth?

Lycans and Vampires are no longer hidden in the shadows. As a matter of fact, it's open season on supernatural creatures. Selene has been in a cryogenic sleep for the last twelve years, but now she's awake -- get it? Selene's goal is to find her lover Michael and protect a young hybrid that everyone seems to want.

Hard to believe it took four screenwriters to come up with that. There's a half-hearted attempt at a mother-daughter relationship between Selene and Eve, the young hybrid, but it falls flat. Someone must have been digging around in Milla Jovovich's trash, because the story seems like a mash up of the bad parts of Ultraviolet and whatever Resident Evil flick we're up to.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

9 Months Later...



I get a response from a production company informing me that they don't accept unsolicited screenplays. It took nine months just to say, 'We're not interested.' Don't they think I might have gotten the hint by now? It's not like I was flooding their inboxes on a weekly basis with desperate e-mails. I queried a few places earlier in the year, but my focus has been procrastinating writing. Thank God I didn't plunk down money on some screenwriting contests because my supernatural thriller was so not ready. Still not exactly sure when it will be...

My last script got some reads, did well in a few minor contests, but in the end, it just wasn't good enough. There's no shame in admitting it. The only thing I can do is try to learn from my mistakes and move on.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

#goodreads - Take Shelter



If I made a list, Take Shelter would be among my favorites of 2011. This overlooked gem is a hard one to classify. Not quite horror/thriller, but calling it purely a drama would be a mistake. Maybe understated thriller fits best?

A working-class man (Michael Shannon) begins to have disturbing dreams about an impending disaster.

Reminds me of M. Night Shyamalan's early work like The Sixth Sense and Signs. Not in terms of big twist endings, but rather a quietly rising tension. Shannon gives a terrific performance, as does Jessica Chastain. Sony Pictures Classics has the screenplay online. Read it here.




I also came across this interview with writer/director Jeff Nichols. It starts off on the wrong foot, but gets good after that.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

V/H/S Trailer


I can't say I'm a huge fan of found footage films. The mere mention of the words "Blair Witch Project" is enough to get my blood boiling. And while the first Paranormal Activity had a certain spooky effectiveness, I haven't gone out of my way to watch the sequels. However, this trailer for V/H/S caught my eye. Looks like a nice mix of practical effects and CG. I'm sure the producers are downright giddy when they see headlines like this:

The horror movie so terrifying it made audiences SICK: Ambulances called to screening at Sundance festival

Sounds like it was taken directly from The William Castle Handbook of Movie Promotion...



Monday, June 18, 2012

Hemlock Grove



I came across a good interview on The Business with Eli Roth and author Brian McGreevy on adapting McGreevy's novel Hemlock Grove into an original series for Netflix.

A young girl is brutally murdered and found near the former Godfrey steel mill. As rumors mount, two of the suspects in her killing--Peter Rumancek, a 17-year-old Gypsy trailer trash kid rumored to be a werewolf, and Roman, the heir to the Godfrey estate--decide to find the killer themselves.

I know what you're thinking: Another cheesy paranormal romance with teenagers and werewolves? Curse you, Stephenie Meyer!!! Well, unless Roth has gone soft, I doubt that's what we'll be seeing. The novel has an edge and supposedly reinvents the werewolf myth. Not quite sure what that means, but I am definitely curious. I'm even more curious about Netflix developing original content.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Storytelling Rules (According to Pixar)

I retweeted this from io9 last week, but it's worth mentioning here as well.

#1: You admire a character for trying more than for their successes.

#2: You gotta keep in mind what's interesting to you as an audience, not what's fun to do as a writer. They can be v. different.

#3: Trying for theme is important, but you won't see what the story is actually about til you're at the end of it. Now rewrite.

#4: Once upon a time there was ___. Every day, ___. One day ___. Because of that, ___. Because of that, ___. Until finally ___.

#5: Simplify. Focus. Combine characters. Hop over detours. You'll feel like you're losing valuable stuff but it sets you free.

#6: What is your character good at, comfortable with? Throw the polar opposite at them. Challenge them. How do they deal?>

#7: Come up with your ending before you figure out your middle. Seriously. Endings are hard, get yours working up front.

#8: Finish your story, let go even if it's not perfect. In an ideal world you have both, but move on. Do better next time.

#9: When you're stuck, make a list of what WOULDN'T happen next. Lots of times the material to get you unstuck will show up.

#10: Pull apart the stories you like. What you like in them is a part of you; you've got to recognize it before you can use it.

#11: Putting it on paper lets you start fixing it. If it stays in your head, a perfect idea, you'll never share it with anyone.

#12: Discount the 1st thing that comes to mind. And the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th – get the obvious out of the way. Surprise yourself.

#13: Give your characters opinions. Passive/malleable might seem likable to you as you write, but it's poison to the audience.

#14: Why must you tell THIS story? What's the belief burning within you that your story feeds off of? That's the heart of it.

#15: If you were your character, in this situation, how would you feel? Honesty lends credibility to unbelievable situations.

#16: What are the stakes? Give us reason to root for the character. What happens if they don't succeed? Stack the odds against.

#17: No work is ever wasted. If it's not working, let go and move on - it'll come back around to be useful later.

#18: You have to know yourself: the difference between doing your best & fussing. Story is testing, not refining.

#19: Coincidences to get characters into trouble are great; coincidences to get them out of it are cheating.

#20: Exercise: take the building blocks of a movie you dislike. How d'you rearrange them into what you DO like?

#21: You gotta identify with your situation/characters, can't just write ‘cool'. What would make YOU act that way?

#22: What's the essence of your story? Most economical telling of it? If you know that, you can build out from there.

Although some of these rules might sound like common sense, it never hurts to restate the obvious. I especially like Rule#19, regarding coincidences.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Hisss

Lest anyone think I've totally abandoned watching schlocky horror movies for snooty art house thrillers, here's a return to my roots. Hisss is my first Bollywood Horror movie. Well, to be more precise, it's my first Bollywood movie. I tend to avoid musicals like the bubonic plague. Song and dance are the cornerstones of Bollywood, so their films didn't seem like a good fit for me. It didn't help matters that a fair amount of material also seemed to focus on fluffy romances. However, as I started to see more Bollywood films delving into fantasy, sci-fi and horror. It felt like a good time to broaden my horizons with something vaguely familiar.



An ugly American abducts a Nagin/snake goddess' (Mallika Sherawat) mate, demanding a cure for his brain tumor, in exchange for its safe return. Snake Goddess goes on a rampage to find her lover. Meanwhile, an overburdened cop (Ifrran Khan) investigates a string of bizarre killings involving cobra venom.


The Species influence is kind of hard to miss.


Hisss has a little bit of everything: superhero flick, revenge story, female empowerment, creature feature, musical, love story, comedy and an attractive lead in Sherawat. Khan gives the film a much needed boost of credibility. It's like a poor man's Species -- minus the nudity but added music. Lowered expectations are a must. Apparently, nobody told Bollywood. The film bombed with both critics and audiences. Writer/Director Jennifer Chambers Lynch("Boxing Helena") made a documentary about her hellish experience making the film.

This might be more interesting than the actual film!


Surprisingly, I wasn't traumatized by the occasional music video montage. Nowhere as grating as I had feared. Lynch didn't get the love story she wanted, but this isn't a disaster. If you can sit through Cockroachasaurus on SyFy, you can get through this...

I have an affinity for ancient myths and legends so perhaps I'm grading on a curve. But wouldn't it be cool if we gave ghosts, vampires, werewolves and zombies a rest and looked for more interesting monsters? Or at the very least, what makes the zombies/werewolves in your script different from all the rest?

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Awake Finale



Had a few days to think it over and I'm still satisfied with the way things wrapped up. Detective Britten took down the conspirators and lived happily ever after -- in what appears to be a new delusion. I'm sure some viewers were looking for a more definitive answer as to which world was real, but that was never the point. Britten was always willing to risk his sanity if it meant he could be reunited with his family, so the final scene makes sense.

Although creator Kyle Killen says there were ideas for another season, I'm somewhat relieved it won't happen. The format might have changed and apparently there was a desire to move away from the procedural aspect. I'm not sure how that would have worked -- I suppose that's why he's had two series on network television and I'm just some dude with a blog. If Netflix and Amazon are smart, they'll try to develop some projects with him.

Not every concept will translate into big ratings, but I applaud the effort to try something different. Awake will probably end up on some brilliant-but-cancelled list in a few years. I pray the DVD is loaded with extras.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

666 Park Avenue


Judging by the youtube comments, I'm not the only one getting flashbacks of The Devil's Advocate when looking at the promos for 666 Park Avenue. All in all, this looks like a safe bet by ABC. American Horror Story -- I show I have yet to warm up to -- was a big success for FX, so why not try to ride the wave with a similar concept on network television?

Welcome to The Drake, the premiere apartment building on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. Owned by the mysterious Gavin Doran (Terry O’Quinn) and his sexy wife Olivia (Vanessa Williams), The Drake is home to dozens of residents who are unaware they’re living in the dark embrace of supernatural forces. They think their dreams are all coming true, only to find they’ve been lured into making, what feels like, a deal with the Devil. When a young Mid-western couple – Jane Van Veen (Rachael Taylor) and Henry Martin (Dave Annable) — is hired to manage The Drake, they soon discover that evil, obsession, and manipulation has a home.


Smart casting: Vanessa Williams brings in some of the Desperate Housewives crowd, while Terry O'Quinn can attract Losties.

I would expect a show like this to (initially) pull in decent numbers, but will it be enough? The River averaged a disappointing 4.5 million viewers in its limited run on ABC, but American Horror Story averaged 4.4 million viewers was considered a ratings bonanza by cable standards.



Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Do No Harm

Is it too early for the Jekyll vs. Do No Harm comparisons? I'm all for new twists on the classics, but didn't NBC already mine the multiple-personality territory with My Own Worst Enemy a few seasons back?


Dr. Jason Cole is a highly respected neurosurgeon who has it all - a lucrative career, confident charm, and the gift of compassion. But he also has a deep, dark secret. One morning, when he wakes up disoriented in a wrecked hotel room amidst several near-naked women he's never seen before, he knows one thing: it's happening again.

Every night at the same hour, something inside Jason changes, leaving him almost unrecognizable - seductive, devious, borderline sociopathic. This new man is his dangerous alternate personality who goes by the name of "Ian Price." For years as he's battled Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID), Jason has been able to keep Ian in check with a powerful experimental sedative. But now his - their - body has developed a resistance to the serum, setting Ian free once again. And to make matters worse, after being suppressed for so long, Ian's hell-bent on taking revenge on his oppressor.

With everyone Jason cares about at risk - patients, friends, co-workers and even the woman he loves - he's got to stop Ian once and for all. Will they find some common ground, or will they bring each other down? Hell hath no fury like an alter scorned.




At least the protagonist isn't a spy in this one. And just in case you forgot:



Doesn't appear as strong as the BBC series, but a more grounded approach might be more appealing to mainstream viewers. I wonder how it's going work on a weekly basis: Jason has to stop Ian's villainous scheme of the week, or will we be introduced to some dark, tangled conspiracy? At any rate, it certainly looks more intriguing than Revolution—I'll get to that later...


Saturday, May 12, 2012

Dry Spell

It's been quite some time since I sent out some query letters and even longer for a read request, but one did dribble into my inbox the other day. We'll see what happens...

I decided to pass on the Austin Film Festival. Although I've made major headway, the script isn't contest ready. The entry fee money might be better served with a few months on IMDbPro.

Badass Character Intros: Jared Nomak



This opening sequence from Blade II is a great example of playing with expectations. The set up is almost identical to the blood rave scene in Blade: some poor schmuck wanders into a den of blood-thirsty vampires. But instead of the Daywalker showing up and saving the day, we learn that this guy isn't a schmuck after all. Jared Nomak isn't terrified by the presence of vamps. As a matter of fact, vampires should be afraid of him! He then proceeds to wipe the floor (and walls) with them. Similar set up, but completely different payoff.

This sequence introduces Nomak as the primary antagonist and establishes him as a formidable opponent for Blade. It actually does a better job in this regard than the first film. Although we see Deacon Frost briefly in the blood rave, he doesn't do much. We have no indication that he's any kind of physical threat—beyond being a vampire. His fighting skills in the big showdown were always a bit sketchy to me.

We even get a little bit of foreshadowing when Nomak talks about not being in contact with his family. Far from a perfect film, but it certainly has its moments.

You can read the full script here.
EXT. COMMUNITY BLOOD BANK - NIGHT

PULL BACK from a neon red cross ablaze in the cold December
night to REVEAL an inner-city, store-front clinic.  Trash and
leaves blow over wet, snowy pavement.

ANGLE ON a PALE FIGURE standing across the street.  He looks
feverish and strung-out, in serious need of a fix.  This is
JARED NOMAK, 20s.  He starts towards the clinic.

INT. COMMUNITY BLOOD BANK - ENTRANCE - NIGHT

Potential DONORS sit in a waiting area, filling out forms,
leafing through informational material.  A sign in the window
reads: "Se habla Espanol".  Others read: "YOU ARE MAKING A
DIFFERENCE", "GIVE LIFE", and "BECOME A PLATELET DONOR".  We
overhear a bored-looking EMPLOYEE behind the information desk
quizzing someone over the phone:

    EMPLOYEE
 Have you recently visited a tropical
 country?  Uh-huh?  In the past twelve
 months have you gotten a tattoo, non
 sterile acupuncture, or undergone any
 ear, skin or body piercing?

We MOVE PAST the employee to Nomak, waiting.

  NURSE (O.S.)
 Jared Nomak?

Nomak looks up.  We get a better look at his face now - he
has a thin scar running from his lower lip down his chin.  A
childhood accident, perhaps.  A NURSE smiles and motions for
him to join her.  She's carrying a clipboard.

  NURSE (CONT'D)
 Hi.  We're ready for you now.

INT. COMMUNITY BLOOD BANK - HALLWAY - NIGHT

Nomak follows the Nurse into a dimly-lit hallway.  We track
their progress in a convex safety mirror suspended from the
hallway ceiling as they pass all manner of medical supplies --
centrifuges, an apheresis device, etc.

  NURSE
  (referring to her clipboard)
 I see from your questionnaire that you
 don't have any immediate next of kin?

  NOMAK
 Not that I'm in contact with.

  NURSE
 Nobody to call in case of an emergency?

  NOMAK
 No --
  (apprehensive)
 Does that mean I can't be a donor?

  NURSE
 It depends.  We came up with some
 unusual results on your blood test.

Nomak follows the Nurse to a steel door were TWO SECURITY
GUARDS await them.  Both look bored, paying little attention
to the monitor which offers a view of the examining room
beyond.  There is also a small window with safety glass.
GUARD #1 opens the door, following Nomak and the Nurse
inside.  GUARD #2 remains behind, manning the hallway.

INT. COMMUNITY BLOOD BANK - EXAMINING ROOM - NIGHT

The Nurse ushers Nomak into the room, indicating he should
sit in a kind of reclining dental chair with arm and
headrests.  Nomak notices a security camera mounted above.

  NOMAK
  (anxious)
 How unusual?

Beat.  The Nurse sets aside Nomak's file, looking
uncomfortable.

  NURSE
 Your blood has a very rare phenotype,
 one that's quite valuable to people like
 us.

  NOMAK
 Us?  What are you talking about?

A kind-faced DOCTOR enters, nodding to Guard #1.

  DOCTOR
 It's a good news-bad news scenario,
 Jared.  Good news for us, bad for you.

The Doctor and Nurse smile, BARING FANGS.  We realize now
that they are both vampires.  The Guard, too.  He grips Nomak
by the throat, forcing him back into the restraint chair.  As
the vampire Guard does so, his hand brushes against Nomak's
jaw.  The flesh on Nomak's chin briefly separates along the
scar - almost as if it were a seam.

The guard pauses - and Nomak LAUGHS.  Definitely NOT the
reaction the vampires were expecting from a potential victim.
Nomak starts to shake and twitch, like he's going into some
kind of seizure.  The whites of his eyes bleed red.  He
throws his head back, opening his mouth as a PAIR OF RAZOR
SHARP CANINES extrude from his gums.  These are longer, much
more lethal-looking than the fangs of the vampires and --

Nomak lashes out, knocking the Guard backwards.  The Nurse
SCREAMS.  Nomak clamps his mouth onto her throat, SLAMMING
her back against the wall.

The vampire Doctor rushes to the door, scrambling to unbolt
it.  Nomak reaches for him, HOWLING with blood-drunk laughter
as he lifts the Doctor up.  Nomak flings the Doctor about
like a toy, using his body to SMASH the lights, then the
security camera above.

INT. COMMUNITY BLOOD BANK - HALLWAY - NIGHT

We hear SCREAMS and HORRIBLE NOISES coming from the examining
room.  Guard #2 draws a gun and looks to the security monitor
with alarm.  The screen goes black.  He looks to the small
window, trying to peer into the now-darkened room beyond --

SPLASH!  A wave of blood smears across a window.  A HAND
wipes a patch of blood away, revealing Nomak's baleful,
distorted eyes.  Guard #2 starts to back away when --

BANG!  Nomak slams against the other side of the steel door.
BANG!BANG!BANG!  The door begins to bend, hand-shaped
impressions bulging outward as Nomak starts to peel the door
apart like it was an aluminum can.

Guard #2 has seen enough.  He turns and runs even as the door
CAVES INWARD off its hinges.  Forward momentum sends the door
sliding across the hallway floor where it trips up the Guard.

ON THE DOORWAY

as Nomak steps into the hallway.  Because of the lights
above, there are alternating pools of light and shadow in the
hall.  Nomak advances towards us, his face coming in and out
of darkness.

  NOMAK
 Vampires --

With each pool of light, his awful smile seems to distort
further and further, until his mouth seems to be widening all
the way back to his ears.

  NOMAK (CONT'D)
 I fucking hate vampires.

On the floor, the vampire Guard CRIES OUT in fear, helplessly
raising his hands to defend himself.  Nomak HOWLS and leaps
towards him/us, blacking out the screen with his hurtling
form as we --


Thursday, May 10, 2012

Listen...

Heard two excellent interviews recently:

Kyle Killen, the executive producer/creator of NBC's Awake:

http://www.scriptmag.com/features/writer-profiles/tv-writer-podcast-050-kyle-killen-awake-lone-star

BTW, I came across an intriguing theory that Detective Britten is actually in a coma and the parallel worlds are both dreams. Furthermore, Hannah and Rex survived the accident. They're at his bedside, talking to him. Makes sense.


Seth Grahame-Smith, screenwriter of Dark Shadows and the upcoming Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter—he wrote the novel and also adapted the screenplay. Additionally, Seth is working on the long-rumored Beetlejuice sequel:

http://www.screenwritingu.com/darkshadows

There's a running theme of persistence in both interviews. Their success didn't happen overnight, but they kept plugging away.

Saturday, May 05, 2012

Fringe: Brave New World (Part 1)

Although I haven't missed an episode of season 4, I've been that somewhat disengaged. These aren't the same people we've been watching for the past three years. I mean, they look the same, but they're practically strangers to the viewers. Playing the same characters this long is probably a chore for the cast, so I'm sure they jumped at the chance to breathe new life into their roles. Season 4 feels like someone pushed a magic button and changed the dynamics ever so slightly. It reminds me, to a lesser degree, of the big Superbowl reset in Alias' second season.


I kept waiting for Peter to leave *that* place and get back to our timeline. There wasn't a worthwhile payoff to the alternate, alternate world -- until last night. I was genuinely surprised (won't spoil it) by a certain revelation, but it makes perfect sense. Looking forward to Part 2 next week and season 5!

Anyway, I thought I'd pass along a great interview with writer/director/producer Akiva Goldsman about working on the show and developing certain ideas. Great insight from someone coming from movies and having to learn how television works. You can listen to it here.

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Quartier de la Madeleine


If you're always late to the party like me, you might have missed this segment from Paris, Je t'aime (2006). Directed by Vincenzo Natali (Splice, Cube), it's a fun short starring Olga Kurylenko and Elijah Wood, about a chance encounter with a beautiful vampire that turns into love at first sight...




Tuesday, May 01, 2012

Eyes Without a Face (Les yeux sans visage)

Netflix suggested Eyes Without a Face on several occasions and I totally ignored it. The majority of Netflix's recommendations have been good to great, but that rare stinker will cause some doubt to creep in. This didn't look or sound like my kind of film. Honestly, I really hate the thought of reducing my passion for film into a bunch of cold ones and zeros, and then attempting to predict what I'll like next. I'd like to think I'm too complicated for that -- fortunately, I'm not...

A recent airing on Turner Classic Movies made me a fan of this 1960 French film directed by Georges Franju.

Dr. Génessier kidnaps beautiful young women and steals their skin in an attempt repair his disfigured daughter Christiane's face.

Sounds like your basic slasher film with a high potential for lots of camp and schlock, but this understated foreign thriller surprisingly defies the odds.

I've been on a steady diet of foreign horror/thrillers for quite some time now. Most of them have been different from the typical Hollywood fare -- different, not necessarily better. I've been drawn to stuff that doesn't fit neatly into a specific genre box and this film fits the bill. It's basically the love child of a stylish art house film and your basic B-movie plot. And while the story might not blow you away, it's hard not to appreciate some of the surreal visuals.



What the film also does very well is present sympathetic antagonists. The doctor isn't a monster, he does monstrous things for the sake of his daughter, all the while blaming himself for her condition. The violence itself is pretty tame by today's standards. Your average episode of C.S.I. is more graphic. Two scenes stood out for me: the face transplant scene, and the time lapse shot of a slowly decaying face -- reminded me a little bit of The Walking Dead.

Eyes With Out a Face also seems to bear more than a passing resemblance to Pedro Almodovar's The Skin I Live In from last year -- I'm going to do post about that one shortly. If that wasn't enough, check this out:


John Carpenter is a fan as well.


Now I was familiar with this Billy Idol song, but unfamiliar with its origins:

Finally, brought to you by the magic of youtube, the first ten minutes:


Doesn't it almost feel like the opening of a Hitchcock film?


If I'm going to discover more hidden gems like this, I for one, gladly welcome our new Netflix algorithm overlords.


Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Shellshocked



I don't think I'm going to make the Nicholl final deadline -- there goes that New Year's resolution. It's still possible, but highly unlikely at this point. Even if I did, I probably wouldn't be satisfied with the quality of this current draft. Despite the fact that I could feel myself falling behind, I just didn't apply enough pressure to get over the hump. Given enough time, anyone can pound out a competent feature-length screenplay. Writing with a clock over your head is another matter.

James Cameron wrote Aliens, Rambo: First Blood Part II, and The Terminator in 1983. Clearly, I'm no James Cameron. There's a distinct line between hobbyists and people serious about becoming professional screenwriters. Gut check time.

So now what? My last paragraph might have been a *tad* melodramatic. I'm still going to write like I have a deadline to meet. Beyond that, there's always the Austin Film Festival. I could even swallow my pride and go for one of the smaller genre contests (again). However, my primary goal is to finish the darn thing. I still like the premise and outline is solid. Not as niche as my last script, but that's probably a good thing. Onwards...

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