Yesterday’s Irony Logline Winner has just been announced. Go back to yesterday’s post if you missed the competition. Please keep all reactions to the winners in the above linked post. All comments today are limited to Insatiable discussion. Thanks!
Premise (from writer): When a law student’s girlfriend mysteriously vanishes from a truck stop diner, he suspects a shady trucker is to blame. But as he races to save her life, he discovers that the only thing more terrifying than her captors is the reason she was taken.
Why You Should Read (from writer): I need the help of the ScriptShadow community! I like scary things and enjoy a good horror film. I’ve been writing for quite some time and have advanced in some of the more well known contests including Nicholl. INSATIABLE was a semifinalist in Austin in 2011. A revised version was a finalist in ScreamCraft last summer and a semifinalist in Page. It has received some positive feedback, yet here it sits on my laptop. My question is this — is the story worthy of a movie? Can it get over the hump? Is the script worth revising or should I consider it a building block, leave it on my laptop, and move on? Please help!
Writer: Michael Morra
Details: 110 pages
I’ve always been a big fan of Michael Morra’s writing. He’s a guy who I’ve felt has been on the verge of breaking through for awhile now. And when you open one of his scripts, you’ll see why. He knows how to pull you in (what a great opening scene!), he writes in a way that yanks your eyes down the page, his writing is descriptive but never overbearing. And he writes in one of the most marketable genres – horror, a genre he clearly knows well. I feel like if a guy like Jason Blum gave this guy a shot, he’d deliver.
So what about Insatiable? Does it live up to my high expectations of Michael? Let’s find out.
Insatiable starts out hot. And I mean literally. At a popular truck stop diner just outside of the Appalachian Mountains, a dilapidated pregnant woman stumbles into the station, grabs one of the pumps, douses herself with gasoline, and then sets herself on fire. Without even paying!
As we ponder whatever the hell THAT was, we jump a few counties over to 24 year-old Jake. Jake’s one of those lucky young men who won the genetic and financial lottery. He’s got a pretty perfect life, and he’s about to officially share it with his farmer’s daughter girlfriend, Brooke, who he plans to propose to this weekend during an impromptu vacation with their friends Austin and Claire.
When they stop to grab a bite to eat (at that, um, exact same truck stop), Brooke drops a bombshell on Jake. She’s got one of those human beings growing inside her. Yup, she’s preggies. Jake doesn’t take the news nearly as well as she expected, a fight ensues, and Brooke storms outside in anger.
Jake decides to let her cool off, until a bunch of time goes by and Brooke still hasn’t returned. He heads outside, looks for her, and finds scattered drops of blood instead. He calls in the cops, who key in on a well-known trucker named Winston. Winston looks all sorts of guilty but they can’t seem to find any evidence linking him to the disappearance.
Jake’s not so sure though, and decides to head up to Winston’s house to get to the bottom of this. Meanwhile, Austin and Claire stay local and snoop around, looking for clues.
Just when it seems like Winston might not be their guy, Jake discovers a deep dark secret. That Winston’s wife is… well, how do I put this lightly – A FUCKING MONSTER! A monster who feeds off the blood and guts of the living. It’s her who’s kidnapping pregnant woman, so she can finally have the baby her husband was never man enough to give her.
One of the ways you can spot a writer on the verge is that they’re not precious about their material. Newcomers will hold tight to even the most banal idea. Every character, every page, every sentence, is treated as if Shakespeare himself wrote it.
Seasoned writers want to know if something’s not clicking so they can stop wasting their time and move on to the next idea. Which is the question Michael has posed to us today.
Unfortunately, the answer isn’t easy but I can definitely see why this script has advanced over the majority of the competition only to fall short of the final prize. Michael’s clearly a good writer, but there’s something about this script that feels – I don’t know – too familiar.
Horror is really a genre where you have to bring one of three things…
1) A fresh idea
2) A fresh take
3) A fresh voice
This idea doesn’t feel fresh to me. A woman gets kidnapped. That’s common. And then there’s some scary creature involved. Also common.
As for the “take,” I suppose it’s a little bit unique (I’ve never seen a bat creature before) but even that brings me back to the winged creature in Jeepers Creepers.
And finally, while the writing is excellent, I wouldn’t say the voice is unique. When you read a script like, say, February, there’s a very distinct flavor to that writing that you haven’t experienced before. And I’m not one to say that your voice HAS to be unique to sell a script. I see scripts sold all the time from writers with no voice. But, like I said, the script does need to be fresh in one of these three areas: idea, take, voice, and while Insatiatble knocks on the door of a couple of those, it never breaks through.
Now as a pure script, the setup and structure are solid, which is why a screenplay like this – while not perfect – advances past 90% of the material in a screenplay competition.
We have a girl that goes missing. A girl in peril always works. This then gives our characters a clear goal – find the girl. The stakes and the urgency emerge naturally from that. We’re even reminded that if she’s not located within 48 hours, their chances of finding her alive are cut in half.
And we’ve got a solid mystery box too. Why would a pregnant girl set herself on fire rather than live? What was it, exactly, that was growing inside of her?
I guess the reason this perfectly sound structure didn’t work on me is a combination of a couple of things. First, this isn’t my type of movie. Unless a creature-feature is done flawlessly, I’m more into the “real life” horror variety. I’m much more afraid of, say, the family in Texas Chainsaw Massacre since, theoretically, that could really happen. I know that I’m never going to run into any bat people any time soon, so I’m not nearly as scared.
And two, there was nothing new about the story. As I read through it, all I kept thinking was, I’ve been down this road before. And it’s for that reason that I’d probably encourage Michael to move on to the next idea. Insatiable puts his solid writing skills on full display. But this isn’t English class, where you get marks for “solid.” The movie world wants to be WOWED. They want something they’ve never seen before. And Insatiable, at least to me, didn’t meet that criteria.
I still wish Michael the best and encourage him to keep writing. And also, don’t just go by my review here. I want to hear from people who like creature features and get their take as they’re more familiar with the genre. Good luck, buddy. ☺
Script link: Insatiable
[ ] what the hell did I just read?
[x] wasn’t for me
[ ] worth the read
[ ] impressive
[ ] genius
What I learned: The “sort of” ticking time bomb that’s still a ticking time bomb. You know I like ticking time bombs. Create a deadline for your characters to achieve their goal or else everything goes to shit. It’s a tried and true device. But sometimes, when you use an EXACT TIME DEADLINE, it can feel artificial. “Man has 37 hours to deliver the drugs or the world explodes!” A nice alternative are these “sort of” ticking time bombs where there isn’t an exact time, but an implied time. Michael does this here and they did this in Taken as well. The cop in Insatiable says, “If we don’t find her within 48 hours, our chances of finding her alive are cut in half.” In Taken, Liam Neeson’s CIA buddies tell him, “If we don’t find her in 72 hours, stats say she’s probably gone forever.” Again, this isn’t a HARD TIME – it’s just a baseline. But it plants that seed in the audience how important time is without creating a LITERAL ticking time bomb that can seem artificial.