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Genre: Contained Horror Thriller
Premise (from writer): A woman fights to escape an isolated home controlled by an Incubus, a demonic force that feeds on sexual energy. A task made more difficult by her co-hostages, who are content to remain under the creatures spell.
Why You Should Read (from writer): Something interesting about me: Watch the pilot episode of “The Wire” and you will see my elementary school in the background behind the young Barksdale dealers. I went from playing marbles to shooting craps on the same corners where many of the show’s stories were ripped. I’ve loved movies and writing since childhood. They provided a 90 minute respite from an oft times less than ideal environment. I’ve had many people tell me that a career as a writer was a dream beyond my reach. Admittedly, I believed them. But even without the hope of making a dime let alone a living, I kept writing, reading scripts, and consuming all I could to learn about the craft from sites like Scriptshadow. I can’t stop writing. I’ve tried. It is a part of me. A part I want to make better. A goal I work on daily. “In the Flesh” is a sample of that effort. I believe a good one. One that people will one day read and enjoy. If I’m wrong, I’ll write something better tomorrow.
Writer: Ken Alston
Details: 91 pages
note: I read this without knowing the logline (Miss SS picked the loglines for Amateur Week) which I think really helped my enjoyment of it.
Whoa, the last Amateur Offering Post was a dead heat. 172 comments long and at the end, I still didn’t know which script had come out on top. A little backstory might help explain why I went with In the Flesh. If you received the last newsletter (the new one JUST WENT OUT – if you didn’t get it, check your SPAM now!), you know I touted a big surprise in those offerings. Well, that surprise was that none other than Grendl had written one of the scripts (Tall, Dark and Handsome). I figured it might be interesting to put one of his screenplays in there under an alias. As we all know, the cave-dwelling commenter can be a bit antagonistic, and that makes it hard to read his stuff objectively. Without anything cluttering our judgment, I anticipated a fair contest. It seemed to work for awhile until a couple of long-time readers sniffed out the surprise, recognizing his style from previous posts.
The thing was, Tall, Dark and Handsome did well, going neck and neck with In The Flesh, but when it was all said and done, I decided to give the review to the writer who hadn’t had a review on the site before. And I mean, how can you not love Ken after that “Why You Should Read” section? His comments convey hard work, overcoming adversity, a love of screenwriting, humility, and a great attitude. A little more heartwarming than, “Because I wrote it.” That’s not to say I’ll never review Grendl’s script. I probably will at some point. Just not this week.
Weak heroines not apply in “In The Flesh.” Alison, 28, is the kind of girl who goes after what she wants. And tonight, after a couple of drinks, she wants Cole, the one guy in the bar sexy enough to make her forget about morals.
The two spend a wild night in the throes of drunken passion, and upon waking up, Alison isn’t ashamed. This isn’t the kind of guy you wince at come morning wondering how you’re going to spin it to your friends (“Well, he was wearing nice… shoes?”). Cole’s the real deal.
The thing is, the real deal isn’t around (they never seem to be once the morning comes). But he was forward-thinking enough to leave her some brand new undergarments. Which begs a few questions Alison doesn’t want to ask. Weird clue #2 is when she goes downstairs and tries to leave, there’s no doorknob on the front door.
It’s here where she runs into Breeze, an airhead-ish hippy who’s as sweet as a bowl of cookie batter. Alison assumes Breeze will have answers, but she seems just as clueless as Alison is. In fact, Breeze assumed that Alison lives here. Hmmm, now things are getting really strange.
Alison quickly realizes that if they don’t get out fast, they’re going to be decorating the wormy underground of the backyard. So she tries to break out the window. Unfortunately, she’s met with electrified bars! Eventually, Alison meets a third tenant, Doyle, a proper British gentleman who seems to have been here for awhile. Doyle informs Alison that she should stop trying to get out because… no one gets out.
That night, Alison’s introduced to another piece of the puzzle in the form of a beast-like growl coming from the basement. Are they all food? A constant influx of main courses accompanied here for late-night consumption? We certainly think so. But the great thing about In The Flesh is that it never quite goes where you think it will. Things keep changing, and with every change, we become more unsure of our heroines’ fate.
One of the marks of a good script is if you don’t typically like the genre that you’re reading, yet you’re still into it. Actually, the setup for In The Flesh was right up my alley. A woman waking up in a strange house with a bunch of locked doors, each with their own mysterious tenant? I was in.
But then later (spoilers) we learn that there’s a monster in the basement. And usually that’s where I go “Ehhhhh, no thanks.” But the characters were all so well-drawn and expectation-defying, and the script kept tripping me up as far as where it was going, that I wanted to find out what would happen.
So when we do find out what’s in the basement (a person) and see how it acts towards our protagonists (tries to bite them), we assume it’s a vampire. But again, the great thing about In The Flesh is that it’s constantly going against convention. It’s not a vampire at all, but a Succubus (or Incubus?). Now I’ve never seen a Succubus used as a monster in a script before, so I thought that was a nice twist.
The monster fit the tone and theme of the script well. This was about flesh, about sex, about want. A Succubus (or at least this succubus) survives by sucking all the life out of you through sex. We see this nicely handled not only with Alison and Breeze, but with the mysterious frail girl living in one of the rooms who’s only a shell of her former self (she’s been sucked dry) as well as the overtly subordinate Doyle.
Which makes Alison stand out all the more, because she’s the only one here who wants to get out and will do anything to do so. In other words, she’s ACTIVE, which is exactly what we want our main character to be. I mean this is easily one of the strongest female leads I’ve read in awhile.
Also, this horror script succeeded where so many others fail in the emotional component. We need a relationship to latch onto, something to play with, something that changes over time. That’s what gets us through the second act. Here it’s Alison’s relationship with Breeze. At first she’s disgusted by Breeze, calling her a moron, a retard. She even offers her up to the Succubus in a deal for a better room! But after awhile, she becomes attached to Breeze, and she wants to save her just as much as she wants to save herself.
I did have a few problems with the script. It was a little too bloody for me. I prefer the “cutaway” approach, cutting away before the blood starts gushing. And to Ken’s credit, he does that sometimes (the scene where the Succubus attacks Breeze in her room for example). But at the end, there’s so much blood, it almost becomes comical, and I think it undermines how clever the script has been up to that point.
I also thought some of the rules in this universe were unclear. I never fully understood why the Succubus slept during the day. I thought it lived by similar rules to the vampire in that it had to avoid sunlight. But this seemed to be true sometimes and not true others? I don’t now. It was confusing. A minor problem to clear up though.
Oh, and let me say this. This may be the first sex scene I’ve ever read in a script that I’d consider “hot.” Usually sex scenes are boringly or awkwardly written, but when Breeze makes a move on Alison, I am not going to lie, I forgot I was reading a screenplay. Yeah yeah, I know everyone will be saying, “Girl on girl. What guy isn’t going to like that??” I’m telling you, I don’t care what the sex scene is – I’m always aware I’m reading it. This was the first time in forever that I got lost in one. Kudos to Ken for pulling that off.
So the verdict is, this was a darn good script. It’s great to find and celebrate another talent here on Scriptshadow. ☺
Script link: In The Flesh (note: this is a newer draft of the script that Ken wrote after the comments he got on Scriptshadow. So it’s probably even better than the draft I read)
[ ] what the hell did I just read?
[ ] wasn’t for me
[xx] worth the read
[ ] impressive
[ ] genius
What I learned: Try to store something in the freezer for your readers. One of the issues I see with amateur writers is they lay everything out right away. If a character shows up, they explain him. If something weird occurs, we’ll get three minutes of dialogue telling us why. Good writers give you a glimpse of something, then store it in the freezer for later consumption. I love how Ken introduced the Frail Girl, but before we could figure out anything about her, she was tucked back in her room, not to be seen for another 20 pages. We want to know what’s up with that girl, but we only get to find out when the writer takes her out of the freezer.