Premise: When pipeline construction encroaches on its pristine Dakota Badlands territory, a giant prehistoric pig creature unleashes hell on a group of unsuspecting humans, who must band together in order to survive.
Why You Should Read: Longtime SS lurker here, ready to throw my script into the pit. Hellpig is a heapin’ helpin’ of action, gore and camp with a Sharknado tone, a unique monster and buckets of blood. Thanks to Carson and everyone for the opportunity and the reads.
Writer: Michael Harper
Details: 96 pages
It’s awfully funny.
Just yesterday I was watching Maximum Overdrive, the Stephen King directed film that was featured in the script I reviewed Wednesday. That film exists in the same universe as Hellpig. And despite being written by someone who doesn’t yet have a produced credit, much less 40 best selling novels, I gladly contend that Hellpig is better than that film.
How much better? After Scriptshadow’s own, Steph Jones, came up with the script’s tagline (“Go pig or go home!”), I’d say it beat the King debacle by a full lap.
But let’s be honest. Maximum Overdrive is hardly a cinema classic. Which means Hellpig hasn’t yet secured a passing grade. Let’s lift the cover off this pig in a blanket and see if it passes the ultimate test – the ‘squeal like a pig’ test.
45 year-old Walt Harvey is the most hated man on the planet. He’s one of those big game hunters who kills animals then takes douchey pictures with them before blasting the pictures all over social media. His latest conquest was a hippopotamus, which he and his camo-covered wife took down.
When rumor hits the street that the hippo was old and possibly fenced-in, however, Walt looks like a ten-ton asshole. The only way to redeem himself, in his mind, is to kill a 16-point elk, which he’s looking for in the heart of South Dakota.
Nearby, Harlan Hawes runs a Christian Rehabilitation Youth Academy that’s got four new members. There’s 17 year-old Max, who’s got a gambling problem, 17 year-old Kaci, who’s been suckin face with multiple men. There’s Doyle Choi, a 16 year old Korean pyromaniac. And 18 year-old Jed, a rich kid who steals anything he can get his hands on.
Harlan’s plan is to escort (force) them into the forest and rid their bodies of Satan. Little do any of these people know that a giant Hellpig is in the vicinity, burping out a new kill every few hours. Hellpig is not some made-up monster either, but a real pig that used to exist hundreds of thousands of years ago. Everyone assumed they went extinct. They were wrong. There’s a new brand of pepperoni in town.
Our hunters and rehabilitators eventually run into each other, and when Hellpig kills Walt’s wife, it’s game on. He’s getting revenge. Or maybe looking for fame. It’s hard to pinpoint which motivation drives him more. All our misfits know is that they want to get as far away from this killing machine as possible, but can’t because Lunatic Walt keeps taking them closer.
What Walt doesn’t realize is something everyone else knew the second they looked into this monster’s eyes: This is one piece of bacon that can’t be cooked.
What surprised me the most about Hellpig was how seriously Harper took the subject matter. You see the title “Hellpig” and you expect, well, Maximum Overdrive with pigs. But you can tell a lot of thought went into this. Three entire scenes are dedicated to the backstory of Hellpig.
Now you may say, “Carson, you tell us backstory is bad. Backstory slows the script down.” This is true EXCEPT when the backstory is interesting. Sure, if you’re telling me Mikey got a beating by Daddy’s hand when he used to come home late from school as a child, I don’t want to hear that. But if you’re telling me about a pig that used to be a fucking dinosaur that went extinct hundreds of thousands of years ago – I want to hear more of that.
I knew I was in good hands early when an oil pipeline subplot was introduced. This may seem pointless at first glance. But by adding that plotline, you’re telling the reader, “I’m not just going to give you 90 pages of a pig that looks like the devil tearing people apart. There’s going to be more to this.” And there was.
For starters, you know that old screenwriting tip everybody says you should do but nobody actually does? How you should be able to black out all the character names yet still know which character is speaking? In other words, each character sounds so distinctive that we don’t even need to see their name to know who’s talking? Well you can do that here.
Walt is always pissed off about not being taken seriously as a hunter. Max is always making some wise-crack or betting other campers about something. Kaci is always trying to get in Max’s pants. Harlan doesn’t say a single sentence that doesn’t include “God” or “Satan.” These distinctions created a legitimate variety of characters, and not just generic Hellpig victims.
Also, yesterday we focused on the power of conflict. There’s a major conflict lesson right out of the gate in Hellpig. These four teenagers have been FORCED to go to this Hawes Christian Youth Academy and participate in something they don’t want to do. Therefore, before we’ve even SEEN Hellpig, we ALREADY HAVE CONFLICT.
Beginner writers ask me all the time: How do you know the difference between professional and amateur writing? Well, it’s choices like this one. When you create situations that include conflict before the main source of conflict even enters the story? That means you know how to write a screenplay.
As far as negative feedback, I would encourage Harper to give us more of the teenagers. As much as I liked them, there wasn’t enough of’em. All the focus was going to Walt and his hunting crew. And while Walt was funny to carry all those scenes. So were the kids. Since the groundwork is already laid out, all you’d have to do is give them more screen time. I mean Doyle shouldn’t die before we even got to know him.
Otherwise, this was a really solid Amateur Friday entry. You guys continue to do a good job of finding the best material out of the scripts presented. Thanks a lot for that. It makes my job a lot easier.
To all of you I say… Oink. Oink Oink……. Oink.
Script link: Hellpig
[ ] No squeal at all
[ ] Barely a squeal
[x] Squealed like a pig
[ ] Squealtacular
[ ] Golden Squeal
What I learned: Once you’ve identified the location you’re going to place your story in, research that location to come up with plot points and set pieces that are unique to that area. This will help set your story apart from others. I loved that we were dealing with the oil pipeline, a South Dakota specialty at the moment. Or that we ran into an old Native American cemetery, South Dakota being rich in Indian reservations.