Oooh oooh ahhh ahhh ahhhhhh (you have to imagine that in a dark spooky voice). Come one, come all, to the return of……..HALLOWEEN WEEK! We skipped it last year but it’s back with a vengeance baby! I just know it’s going to be fang-tastic. Get it? “Fang?” As in the fangs of a vampire? Oh boy, I’m pathetic. Seriously though, the only thing that scares me these days is another installment of Twilight. Please, no more Robert Pattinson. For the love of God NO MORE! No but here’s the thing. If I were a producer, I would greenlight EVERY ONE OF THE MOVIES I’m reviewing this week. Except for maybe one. Now that doesn’t mean I liked all of them, but if I’m taking off my writer cap and putting on my producer cap, I could see all of these movies turning a profit. Starting with today’s. So grab your bag of mini-Snickers. Halloween Week begins………….now.
Premise: On the day Zak plans to break up with his girlfriend, she dies. Problem is, she comes back from the dead and still thinks they’re together – FOREVER.
About: This is a project that Joe Dante, the director of Gremlins, has been developing for a while. It’s been close to going forward a few times and Alan Trezza, who I believe wrote the original draft, even produced a short film of it.
Writer: Todd Beverly
Details: 97 pages – undated (This is an early draft of the script. The situations, characters, and plot may change significantly by the time the film is released. This is not a definitive statement about the project, but rather an analysis of this unique draft as it pertains to the craft of screenwriting).
This is the kind of horror comedy that’s itching to be made. The best loglines allow you to imagine a bunch of great scenarios from the movie, and this logline achieves that in spades. But being able to pull off a few funny scenes isn’t enough. We gotta have characters we’re rooting for. We gotta have a second act that doesn’t drag. The central relationship has to be interesting. None of those things have anything to do with the logline, which is why there’s so much disappointment in this industry. You think you found a winner, but then you open it up and it falls apart. Does that happen with Burying The Ex? Read on and find out.
Our boyishly handsome and socially awkward hero, Zak, believes he’s found the love of his life. That would be Evelyn, his way too pretty girlfriend of eight months. She’s got a Pilates body and a smile to pillage for. But as everybody knows, the hot ones always have you working.
Evelyn’s main problem is that she’s so damned possessive. She hates that Zak still hangs out with his loser best friend Travis, who is so poor he has to bring dates back to Zak’s place in order to pass himself off as a functioning member of society – which he isn’t.
This carousel of conflict is heading towards a nuclear meltdown and all three of them know it. Zak is going to have to make a choice. It shouldn’t be surprising then, since Evelyn has his testicles tucked away in her purse, that he decides to give Travis the boot. He and Evelyn then make a promise to each other that they will always and forever be together. A promise that, unfortunately, is made next to a possessed demon doll!
Over the next few weeks, it starts to hit Zak that Evelyn is way too clingy, and he realizes that he’s going to have to break up with her. So he sets up a date at a local restaurant and heads over there just in time to see her get plastered across the front of a bus. Well, at least she didn’t have to ride on it.
Zak mourns for a while but eventually meets a hot alternative girl named Olivia. The two become disgustingly obsessed with each other, and this really looks like the person Zak’s supposed to spend the rest of his life with. Which he probably would if he didn’t open his door one night to see………….. Evelyn!!!
After Zak pulls his jaw up off the floor, he figures that that stupid demon doll has made it impossible for Evelyn to die. And Evelyn plans on living up to their promise – that they’re going to be together – forever. For some reason, being dead makes her really horny, so all Evelyn cares about is getting a piece of little Zak.
He eventually recruits Travis to help him figure out what to do, and it becomes clear that if he’s going to be with Olivia, they’re going to have to KILL Evelyn. Umm. Again. But how do you kill somebody who’s already dead?
The first thing that impressed me about Burying was the way Todd Beverly handled Evelyn. A common rookie mistake when giving your hero a girlfriend (or boyfriend) they’re not supposed to be with, is making them the biggest bitch/asshole in the world. Yeah, you need the audience to dislike them so they’ll want our hero to be with the other girl, but why would your hero willingly be with the world’s biggest bitch? It makes the hero look stupid.
Beverly walked the perfect line of making Evelyn cool enough so that we understood why Zak was with her, but controlling enough where we didn’t want him to be with her. That isn’t an easy thing to do so kudos for pulling it off.
I also really loved Olivia. I loved her spirit. I loved the chemistry her and Zak had together. Everything about them worked.
Having said that, there’s something missing here. I hate to be vague but my big complaint would be that nothing surprised me during this story. Everything happened exactly how I thought it would. I wanted to be caught off guard. I wanted to be shocked. But I always felt like I was 20 to 30 pages ahead of the screenplay.
Maybe it was the comedy. The jokes didn’t seem cutting edge enough, like they were taking enough chances. Later on in the week, I’m going to be reviewing a script called Zombie Baby, and there was a scene in that script where the main character wakes up to find his zombie baby sucking on his head (trying to get to his brains). So he leaps up and hurls the baby across the room. It’s a hilarious moment because it’s unexpected. You don’t think a character is going to pick up a baby and throw it.
Now even if you don’t think that’s funny, at the very least you have to admit that it’s risky. And that’s what I wanted more of here. Because even though we have a great premise, the comedy is too safe and too familiar. Travis, for example, is the same nutty “best friend” character I’ve seen a million times in this type of comedy.
I also wish Evelyn would have been more dynamic. Her motivation for the most part is to have sex, which gets old quickly. And it doesn’t make a whole lot of dramatic sense to be honest. It’s not like she gains anything important by having sex with him. And it’s not like he really loses anything if he has sex with her. So to focus so many scenes around this conceit really hampered the story. If there’s nothing at stake in the conflict, it’s not going to be interesting.
Now that I’m thinking about it, I realize I was never really sure what the endgame was. We know that Evelyn wants Zak. But what represents achieving this goal? Is it when she has sex with him? Because we know even if she manages to, he’s still not going to like her. Since this isn’t clear, the script kind of goes in circles.
To solve this problem, maybe Evelyn finds out that if she doesn’t consummate the relationship, she’ll dissolve into nothing, and has roughly one week to get the deed done. I admit that’s rough and you’d need to play with it a little, but at least now there’s an endgame. We know that if she doesn’t do “x” by “y” amount of time, she’s dead. Now the script has a little more focus and we have a better understanding of what’s going on.
Another thing I’d focus on more in the next draft is fulfilling the promise of the premise. This needs to be way bigger than simply a dead girl popping into an apartment every once in a while and demanding sex. There needs to be more variation. The set pieces need to be bigger. I don’t know if they had a really low budget so they wrote it to be cheap, but I would think a lot bigger, sort of the way Zombieland approached it. Let’s get these people out there doing things and having crazier situations on a more consistent basis. Too much of this script takes place in small rooms.
Having said all that, I would keep rewriting the script until you got it right because this is a movie I would see.
It’s a great premise with the potential for some huge laughs.
I just think they’re playing it too safe at the moment.
Let’s get crazier next time.
[ ] What the hell did I just read?
[x] wasn’t for me
[ ] worth the read
[ ] impressive
[ ] genius
What I learned: I alluded to this in last week’s article, but it’s a good idea to not only give your main character a goal for the story, but to give your other characters goals as well. And to make those goals as specific as possible. Yeah, technically Evelyn has a goal. To get back with Zak. But it’s too open-ended. If you make it more specific (my rushed example is a base point), this story is going to have way more focus. And give Travis a goal too. He’s a musician. Maybe he’s trying to land a huge Halloween gig. This gig then happens to be the location of the climax. The more people you have who want things, the more active everybody’s going to be. And active characters make interesting characters.