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Premise (from writer): When a young geneticist attempts to save the world’s forests from a rabid insect infestation she unwittingly unleashes a plague of apocalyptic proportions.
Why You Should Read (from writer): A new, original monster for the horror/nature gone wild sub-genre based on real science and current environmental concerns – and it’s a pretty swift read at 103 pgs. Plus, the first and last lines of dialogue are ‘fuck’ and ‘beautiful’ ;)
Writer: Drew Bryan
Details: 102 pages
I’m open to these kinds of scripts because they make movies. It’s not high art. It’s not Citizen Kane. But you have to see a script for what it’s trying to be, and judge it on if it succeeds. If you’re trying to be a dumb fun horror film, then you gotta try and make the “A” version of that. I downloaded a cheap fun B-movie called “Splinter” from Itunes the other day and loved it. It was stupid. It was ridiculous. And it was the exact kind of movie you want to watch on a Saturday night.
I need to find the people who like to make these movies though cause when I find a good B-horror script, I don’t know who to send them to. Lots of producers are afraid to touch these because they don’t want to be known as the “B-horror” guys, even though there’s a lot of money in B-horror. So if you’re one of these producers, e-mail me. Cause I wouldn’t mind being part of the next Tremors franchise.
Is Gripper one of the winners?
Well, it sure has a hell of an opening. We’re in the middle of a forest fire with two firefighters, 25 year old Gemma and 25 year old Bobby. This fire is bad news. So bad that it four-walls them. No way out and not wanting to burn to death, Bobby allows Gemma to kill him. So she takes a fire axe and SPLITS HIS HEAD OPEN! Good thing he axed nicely.
Before Gemma can join Bobby, a small hole opens up and she’s able to escape the fire. Gemma is so scarred by the ordeal that she does some investigating and finds out that forest fires are created by a certain beetle that eats away at the trees and makes it really easy for forest fires to spread. So if she can find a way to kill that beetle, she can stop the forest fires, and she won’t have to split anybody’s head open anymore.
So Gemma, who’s now a scientist of some sort, finds this fast growing-fungus that kills these beetles. But when she tests it, the fungus is out of control. It’s a bust. But it’s enough for Gemma’s former lover and boss, the darkly handsome Darius, to take the product out in the filed and test it.
So he hires a bunch of clueless assistant-types and takes them to a recently burned-down forest to see if he can get this fungus operating. Meanwhile, Gemma heads out to another part of the same forest to perform some other fungus related experiments with her new boyfriend, surfer-dude, Tor.
After a night of crazy sex though, she wakes up to find Tor not in the tent, but up on a tree, frozen in a strange comatose like state. It’s creepy. And it’s also the exact same thing the beetles in her experiment did when they were infected with the fungus. Uh-oh. This could be bad.
So Gemma heads over to Darius’s little operation, since she knows they have better equipment than her, and asks for help. They hike there, cut Tor down, but he’s acting nutso, twitching and cracking in weird ways, and desperately trying to get back up on that tree. This begins the infestation, where one by one, our team will get infected, with no help in site. Will they figure out a way to stop the mad fungus before it turns them all into fungus-creatures? Click on the link at the end of the review to read the script and find out!
Gripper started off great. I was NOT expecting that first scene. But then things start to get a little messy. We get one giant 10 minute scene (split into two halves) documenting this beetle experiment, and that was the first time my impatience set in. You never want to give a scene any more time than it needs. As soon as the reader feels like we’re hanging around too long, we get uncomfortable. And this goes double for anything within the first fifteen. Readers expect you to have them laser-focused during that time, or else how can they expect you to keep their interest 60 pages from now?
In addition, it was unclear to me why our main character, Gemma, who was a firefighter in that first scene, was now a scientist. Those are two completely different jobs that require two completely different skillsets. In retrospect, maybe they were in that fire AS SCIENTISTS and not firefighters, but if that’s the case, that needs to be made clear.
From there, we set out to this dead forest, and I was confused again. I thought Darius and Gemma were going out there together. I swear there was something in the dialogue that implied that. So later, when Gemma comes to Darius’s camp for help and he asks her what she’s doing out here, I was confused as hell. I eventually realized that they had both come to the same forest, but separately, for different reasons. That seemed overly-complicated. Why wasn’t the story written to get them there all together? Having two teams just confuses things. It makes it harder for you to write. And it makes it harder for us readers to follow. So it’s a lose-lose.
From there, I don’t think the story got going soon enough. I believe I was on page 50, halfway through the script, before they tried to get Tor out of that tree. That’s 50 pages without very much happening. Remember that you need STORY DENSITY in your script. You need to fill the pages up. Not drag things out. I felt like things were being dragged out.
The characters were okay. But nobody felt “real” enough for me to really care. Gemma herself was a strange character. It appears she has three different boyfriends in this (Bobby, Darius, and Tor), which is fine. I’m all for banging as many people as you want, but in a script, it just looks unfocused. We don’t know what to make of it.
And then when Tor starts turning into one of these spore-like hybrid monster thingeys, Gemma is strangely unaffected. She’s more concerned about capturing and quarantining Tor than she is losing someone she cares deeply about.
When you’re writing one of these movies, which is basically a zombie movie (or an “infected” movie), this is one of the best conceits you have. Is having someone love someone else, and then that person gets infected, and our hero has to figure out whether to kill them or not. Watch that opening episode of Walking Dead, where that father has to decide whether to shoot his zombie wife. How hard it is for him. That emotion is pouring off the screen. We don’t get any of that here. Nobody really seems to care about one another so it doesn’t really matter if someone gets hurt. That needs to be fixed.
This is all very hard for me to say because I think there’s something here. I think the monsters Drew’s created are borderline genius. I’ve never seen anything like them before. Where I see writers fail in this genre, is when they make monsters that they just think are cool. They haven’t really thought about them, their origins, their evolution, the reasons for why they look the way they do.
Gripper put a lot of thought into its monsters. I love the way they crick and crack and twist. The way they have to climb up high on the tree, just like the beetles did, the way the long spine grows out of their mouths and the spores explode up out of them, populating more areas in order to spread the disease. It’s freaky as hell and is going to make for one hell of a visual.
But none of that matters unless this other stuff is shored up. Cut down all the techno-babble in that early ten-page scene. Get them out to the site sooner. Make it one group, with Darius and Gemma together, instead of two separate groups. Cut down your character count. There are way too many people here and it was hard to keep track of them. And then just work on your character building. Make sure people actually care about each other so that when they start dying, there are emotions involved.
Oh, and one more suggestion. Usually in these movies, there’s one big final ‘super version’ of the creature. This is a really cool creature you’ve created. I wouldn’t mind seeing a version of it that’s balls-to-the-wall insane.
There’s something here, Drew. It’s just not there yet. Good luck on the rewrite though. You seem like a fungi. ☺
Script link: Gripper (note: This is an updated version of the script from the one in Amateur Offerings with changes made based on commenter feedback)
[ ] what the hell did I just read?
[x] wasn’t for me
[ ] worth the read
[ ] impressive
[ ] genius
What I learned: Before you kill off a character, make sure there’s someone who cares about that character. That’s the only way you’re going to get emotion out of us. My favorite example of this is in Aliens with Vasquez and Drake, who were best friends. When Drake got killed, Vasquez went nuts, so we actually cared. Had they not known each other, our reaction to Drake’s death would’ve been less intense. That was my problem with Gemma and Tor. I didn’t think Gemma gave two shits about him. So who cares if he turns into a monster. And they don’t even have to be boyfriend-girlfriend for this to work. They could’ve been best friends since they were kids. But they need to care for each other.