Guess who’s back? Back again. Guess who’s back. Tell a friend! It’s Roger Balfour capitalizing on all the vampire mania with a review of Bubba Ho-Tep’s sequel: Hubba Bubba Something’s In The Tubba! Or something like that. I like when Roger reviews scripts because he always sees the best in them. It’s a reminder that I can be a bit too critical at times (not that I’ll change). Anyway, the good news is I’ve already read this week’s scripts, and while I’ve ranked a certain upcoming action-comedy-romance a strong ‘worth the read’, there is a 1.75 million dollar comedy spec from a few years back that was absolutely dreadful. I also have a dark psychological supernatural thriller that may be starring two gorgeous actresses. And finally a black list entry from 2006 that should get supporters of films like “The Squid And The Whale” and “Rachel Getting Married” excited (if they’re not too hopped up on anti-depressents that is). And hey, we should have a couple of script links as well. If I may quote Anakin Skywalker: “Yipeeee!” So let’s start it off with a little vampire action, shall we? Take it away Roger…
Genre: Horror, Black Comedy
Premise: Elvis shoots a film in Louisiana when he runs afoul a coven of she-vampires.
About: The sequel to 2004’s Bubba Ho-tep.
Writer: Don Coscarelli & Stephen Romano. Based on character by Joe R. Lansdale.
Let’s get real, people.
You already know if you’re going to like this or not. You either loved Bubba Ho-tep or you hated it.
Bruce Campbell has parted ways with the project? Pump the fucking brakes. Who the hell can bring the same classy B-movie gravitas to the role of the King? Who else can possibly bring a legendary Horror hero pedigree to the table other than the chinned-one?
Ron Perlman, that’s who.
Okay. So Campbell is out. Perlman is in. Campbell left over creative differences and writer changes. Giamatti is fucking in, as they say, to play Colonel Tom Parker. And this yarn sets up the third film.
Yep, Bubba Insert Classic Horror Creature Here is a trilogy. And writer-director Don Coscarelli envisions different actors playing Elvis for each sequel.
But didn’t Elvis die at the end of Bubba Ho-tep?
Yeah, and The Lone Ranger died when you saw him and Silver fly off the cliff during the last commercial break.
This is the serialized pulp story template. Heroes don’t die. They survive. Their living-legend status has equipped them to asexually reproduce new adventures. Or in Elvis’ case, another geriatric black comedy romp into the woods of Hammer Horror staples and EC-comic shenanigans.
So, nope. Of course Elvis didn’t die.
In fact, Bubba Nosferatu starts off right as Ho-tep ends. Cut to Nurse Ella in her bed, awakened by the death rattle of a four-thousand year old Mummy. She runs out of the Shady Rest retirement home, down an embankment and into the creek where Sebastian Haff, aka Elvis, lies in his soiled white jumpsuit, unconscious.
Nope. Ella ain’t gonna let him leave the building just yet. She straddles his chest and performs CPR, resuscitating the King back to life.
But during his near-death experience, instead of seeing a white light, he sees a horrible montage of suppressed memories…
A gold-plated revolver.
A flash of a demon vampire’s sharp teeth.
A spray of blood as faces twitch and contort in agony.
And the center-piece to this sequential Boschian tableau, the diabolical countenance of Colonel Tom Parker. Who will now be referred to as “The Colonel” from here on out.
Seventy-three year old Elvis wakes up in the back of Nurse Ella’s car. We learn that Elvis has been kicked out of Shady Rest. After all, he did give an actual sworn statement to the authorities stating that he battled a supernatural creature, and the resulting clash of iconic characters left behind a corpse. That of his only friend, eighty-three year old Jack “JFK” McLaughlin. Ella has been fired. We never find out why, exactly, but what the hell, the Devil’s in the details, right?
They’re on their way to The Big Easy. Ol’ Tiger has been transferred, and Nurse Ella has been tasked to deliver Big E to The Grand Dauphin Retirement Home in New Orleans, right on the waterfront, in exchange for a week’s worth of room and board while she looks for a new job. For her, the barter’s just fine.
But thing’s ain’t so fine for The Pelvis. There’s some real bad mojo, you see. It has to do with a movie picture Elvis got bamboozled into by The Colonel back in ’73. A picture that shot on location in The Crescent City. And Elvis has good reason to be suspicious because, according to his fragmented memories, some really weird vampiric shit went down on this movie shoot.
But hold on, we’re getting ahead of ourselves.
I want to talk about The Memphis Mafia. Now here’s a sequence, 8 pages into the script, that had me crying in front of the computer screen. It’s so great I wanted the movie to de-rail and turn into a story about these goofy fuckers. We get the vital stats of Otis Flanger, Cooter Mayhew, Shelby Jenson, and Marshal “Stack” Malone via glorious slow-motion, majestic freeze-frames, and multiple-split screens showcasing these curious characters in various out-fits and poses like we’re watching the titles to a 1970’s-era Cop Show.
They face off against Young Elvis, who sports his stylish, red-trimmed Martial Arts Gi. Of course, his T.C.B. insignia (Taking Care of Fucking Business to the ignorant) is emblazoned on the uniform. They get their asses handed to them. But you know, if you’re elite enough to be in the Memphis Mafia, you know that the unspoken rule is never let Elvis lose. And the sequence segues into what Elvis likes to call the Three-up Cover Formation. Which is a dazzling whirling-dervish of Young Elvis and his team attacking all flanks with punches and kicks and really intense 70’s soundtrack theme music. It’s classic martial arts stuff that comes into play later…when Young Elvis and the Memphis Mafia have to fight their way out of a she-vampire bloodbath slash orgy.
Yep, that part’s pretty awesome.
What about the rest of the story?
Rehash the plot of the first movie. Septuagenarian Elvis arrives at his new rest home. He’s frustrated about the boil he mistakes for cancer on his penis. He smears it with yellow dick goop. He exchanges witty banter with Nurse Ella about said dick and goop. Old people die mysteriously. Instead of flying scarab beetles elderly Elvis does battle with flying vampire bats. Instead of a tragicomical black dude who claims to be JFK, we have a tragicomical Native American dude who claims to be Chief Sitting Bull, leader of the Sioux Nation and slayer of General Custer.
Sure, he’s a neat character. After his role at Little Bighorn, The Chief joins Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show. When a Paiute medicine man has a heart attack, Mr. Bull attempts to help him. The shaman is at death’s door, and he calls on The Great Spirit to bless him with eternal life. There’s a mix-up and Sitting Bull, instead of the medicine man, is struck by lightning. The Great Spirit has infused him with immortality. That’s right, The Chief can’t die.
Which comes in pretty handy for Elvis, because, let’s face it, he’s an old dude with a walker who will later engage in fisticuffs with she-vampires from an ancient Clan. He’s gonna need muscle like Sitting Bull.
But unfortunately for Sitting Bull, his blessing has become a curse as he’s spent the past 97 years being shuffled across old-folks homes all across the continent.
Anyways, it turns out that The Colonel employed some of his manipulative mojo to have Elvis transferred to The Grand Dauphin.
What the hell? The Colonel’s still alive?
Alive isn’t really the right word. Now, “undead”, that’s about right. Just like we’ve always known, Elvis’ manager is a vampire.
Here, have some of The Chief’s peyote buttons and let’s talk to the spirits. See who the real bad guy is.
You see, back in the 1940’s, while The Colonel was just a man, he fled Amsterdam under the suspicion of murder. He ingratiates himself into a family of rogue gypsies to learn his trade as a swindler. Except, one night, he attempts to dip the pockets of the wrong man. Prince Franz Black is his name, and being a vampire is his game. The Colonel is eventually turned and made a slave to Prince Black, under whom he sets up shop. He’s kept on a short leash by The Prince. His job is that of plunderer. He helps finance the Clan’s western expansion. He makes a killing investing in retirement communities, which also serve as way-stations for Black and his entourage where they can visit and feed on the livestock as needed.
But The Colonel’s first love is the music business.
And Elvis is his work-horse. But when his work-horse partially falls out of the limelight, it becomes time to insert some much-needed juice into his top earner’s career. He gets the fancy to orchestrate the King’s comeback into the movie business. Only problem is, it turns into a bloodbath.
What’s the new Elvis movie?
It’s called “The Curse of the She-Vampires”. And Elvis is gonna play a freelance demon hunter who moonlights as a nightclub singer to rid the world of vampires. His co-star is Claude Killgore, a third of the Unholy Triumvirate that included Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi.
The production goes to hell as Prince Black’s wives crash the party, unable to contain their bloodlust. Young Elvis dons his black leather jumpsuit designed by the meet-cute art-department girl, Jill. It’s a real beauty. Taken from the template of his ’68 comeback suit, it’s crafted into a vamp-proof, reinforced leather outfit. It’s actually fang-proof, kiddies. Armed with a gold-plated revolver, brass knuckles, throwing stars, and blades, and with the Memphis Mafia as back-up, they fight their way out of the blood orgy.
But during the blood riot Elvis is attacked by one of the wives. She attempts to bite him and she actually breaks a fang on the suit, but the other fang scrapes his flesh. He’s inflicted with a curse when he’s in proximity to the clan, so when Old Elvis gets to New Orleans, he starts to regress in age. He gets a little younger, kinda like Benjamin Button, but not that full-throttle. The curse seems to be a minor detail in the story, as it’s not really played to full-effect.
So Young Elvis, The Memphis Mafia, and Jill escape the she-vampires. Prince Black tightens the leash on The Colonel and somewhere along the way, Elvis hurts himself throwing his hip out during a performance and he loses part of his memory. He trades places with Sebastian Haff, who is then metaphorically sucked dry by The Colonel and Prince Black as they work him to death.
In present day, The Colonel’s grand scheme is to get back in business with Elvis. So all of this is precursor to the ultimate business meeting: An aged Elvis, a vampiric Colonel, and the shark Prince Black.
But the Prince could care less. The Clan Matriarch, Momma Nosferatu, an abomination in a wheelchair, who is so old she no longer needs blood, decides she’ll break her fast for Elvis. Another blood-bath ensues and Sitting Bull’s curse is broken as he sacrifices his life to save Elvis and Nurse Ella. Yeah, I don’t know how it’s broken. It has something to do with Prince Black’s supernatural power and Sitting Bull’s exposure to it. Don’t ask me, I only read the thing.
Does it deliver?
There’s the rub. This baby is a strange beast. The writers manage to capture that elusive Nacogdoches-flavor of Joe R. Lansdale quirk (is that a “Late Night” Doritos flavor? You be the judge.) Stylistically, anyways. But the problem here is the decision to tell two stories.
So it’s kinda like reading a sequel AND a prequel at the same time.
They try to braid the story lines together, but it just doesn’t work.
One story is way more entertaining than the other.
I dunno, I think the novelty of a geriatric Elvis wears thin two movies in. And when you just rehash the gags from the first film, it grows boring. Like Old Elvis, it just made me feel tired.
I kept gravitating to the story about Young Elvis. It kicks ass. The characters are more interesting, the dialogue is zippier, and it’s a faster world. There’s also some hilarious commentary about the movie business, and The Colonel is a fantastic character.
That’s so fuckin’ Giamatti.
I mean, you can taste the guy sinking his teeth into this role.
But again, it’s a frustrating read. I can’t help but wonder what Joe R. Lansdale could have come up with. I mean, if he were to write another novella called Bubba Nosferatu, what would his take on things be? And I wonder if Bruce wondered the same thing. Is that why he dropped out of the project? Alas, speculation.
But yeah, this sucker ends with Old Elvis and Nurse Ella stranded on the side of the road. Their car has died as they driving out of New Orleans. The last shot is of Ella pushing Elvis down the road in his wheel-chair before they cue the title card for the return of Elvis in:
“Bubba Sasquatch, Killer Apes of the Northern Woods”.
[ ] What the hell did I just read?
[ ] barely kept my interest
[x] worth the read
[ ] impressive
[ ] genius
What I learned: If you have funny yellow dick goop commentary in your first movie, it might not be that funny in your second movie. Seriously though, this script made me think of creating great gags. Those scenic exclamation points that sequences revolve around. Here, The Memphis Mafia is a great concept, and their Three-up Cover Formation is a great gag. So great it pretty much steals the movie. The Fang-Proof Jumpsuit is a cool concept, and the gag is that we get to see an awesome shot of a vampire’s fang breaking off on it. These are clever, entertaining moments that get the blood flowing. Gags make the story pop, unfortunately, they can’t save the story alone. But a good gag is the punch-line to your action scenes, and it’s always nice to experience the pure invention of a successful gag.
Ever since I saw Neill Blomkamp’s short masterpiece, “Alive In Joburg,” I became obsessed with him. I googled the shit out of everything that even remotely sounded like “Blomkamp” and when I found out he was doing the Halo movie, it was a bit like I imagine heroin must feel like. Or your first Krispy Kreme donut. Well we all know how that fell apart and Bloomkamp seemed to disappear off the planet. I was so bummed because I felt like we were missing out on a unique new voice who was totally going to change the way Hollywood made movies. Then the announcement came that he was turning “Alive In Joburg” into a feature film called “District 9″ and it was a little bit like I imagine crack must feel like. Or your first animal style double-double. Because these days trailers tell us the entire movie and since this was so low on the summer radar, I knew the marketing team would be forced to show every great shot in the film, I avoided it all. And today, I went into District 9 knowing absolutely nothing about what I was going to see other than that giant ship in the sky and a lot of South Africans.
Even after all that hype, I still walked away amazed. We’re looking at the next James Cameron here folks. Sci-fi like this has never been done before. Within two minutes I actually believed this was happening. That aliens had landed on our planet. — I’m not even going to get into all the unique choices Blomkamp and co-writer Terri Tatchell made. I’d just like to highlight a clever screenwriting move of theirs and how it affected the entire movie. Without it, the movie wouldn’t have been the same.
In the film, the very first shot we get of the aliens is in their ship, all huddled up, cowering away from the light, malnourished, sick, and terrified. It’s 3 seconds of screentime and yet it sets the tone for how you’ll perceive them for the entirety of the film. You feel sorry for them. In other words, you sympathize with these creatures. Without us sympathizing with the aliens, without us wanting their life to be better or wanting them to get back home, the movie doesn’t work. So that single shot has a huge impact on us.
This can be applied to any character in any screenplay. Introduce them in a terrible situation and we’ll want to root for them. Human nature is that we don’t want bad things to happen to people who don’t deserve it.
And oh yeah. If you’re even remotely interested in sci-fi, go see this movie!
A lot of people have asked me what screenwriting books I recommend. I’ve read about 30 of them and these are the five I like the most (all books are linked):
For the beginner:
Advanced (written 5 or 6 screenplays):
As for other popular books, I’m not the biggest fan of Robert McKee and therefore don’t recommend “Story”. It’s very dense and too scientific. You can drive yourself nuts trying to write a screenplay under his rules. Although I don’t discourage people from buying “Screenplay” from Syd Field, I think it’s a bit outdated. A lot of people love “Making A Good Script Great” by Linda Seger but I just didn’t connect with her approach for some reason. There are a lot of middle-of-the-road books that I’d rather not take the time to mention, however, if there’s a book you really love and think people should know about, please leave it in the comments section.
Although nobody called for my head, there were definitely some heads being scratched after my extremely favorable review of Law-Abiding Citizen. I thought the script was one rip-roaring thriller that never slowed down and always kept you guessing. I loved it enough to put it in my Top 25. Well the trailer has finally hit over at Apple and I have to say, it looks just as good on-screen as it did on the page. My only beef with the script was the ending. If they took care of that, we could be looking at a great thriller this fall.
Premise: Recent college grads are forced to lower their expectations as they enter the job market.
About: CBS Films picked up Get a Job last month. Writing duo Pennekamp and Turpel recently penned the drama “Crowley,” (Harrison Ford, Keri Russell) which is shooting right now, as well as having numerous projects in development. The two are repped at CAA.
Writers: Kyle Pennekamp and Scott Turpel.
Man, it’s been a tough week here at Scriptshadow. Four reviews and I haven’t read anything I liked. Although it’s easy to forget amongst the challenge of getting up five reviews a week, I really love reading screenplays. Every script is like a Christmas present to me. I can’t wait to open it up and see what’s inside. Getting a lot of shitty presents this week made for a pretty awful Christmas though. Luckily I had one gift left. The one all the way at the back. I wanted something that was going to make me forget every script before it. “Get A Job” seemed like just that present. A couple people already told me it was hilarious. And the premise is one of those premises you know is comedy gold. Recent college grads trying to find jobs in this economy?? That’s got Hangover potential. So no more machetes. No more Twihard fans. No more Gordon Gekko or scripts to remind me that one of my heroes passed away. All I wanted was a good solid funny screenplay.
Did I get it?
What a weird screenplay “Get a Job” is. The script plays out like a documentary you might see on one of those obscure cable channels you didn’t know you had until you accidentally flipped onto it at three in the morning. As I just mentioned, we follow the lives of four recent college grads entering the big scary job world, and they quickly learn that nothing is as easy as they thought it would be. But it’s not really a story. It’s more like we have four subjects and we follow them into their new lives. Miles works as a “Genius” at the Apple Store. Charlie works as a 6th grade teacher in the inner city. Luke works on the trading floor. And our protagonist, Will, is supposed to have a job at a magazine company. Except on his very first day…he gets let go.
The script falls squarely into the observational category, as we witness the four endure the challenging and sometimes embarrassing world of working your first job. There’s no real centerpiece driving the story other than Will’s pursuit of employment which is why the documentary comparison kept popping up in my head. Once we get settled (which takes a good 60 pages) a subplot emerges where Will and his girlfriend, Jillian, try and figure out where they want their relationship to go. See Jillian dumped Will after college because Will didn’t take life seriously enough. He’s not prepared for the real world and his inability to find anyone to hire him pretty much validates Jillian’s decision to move on. When Will realizes that the real world (unlike college) actually requires you to *try*, he becomes a whole nother person, not only finding a job, but quickly working his way up the ladder. It’s through this dedication that Jillian allows Will back into her life, and then in the irony of all ironies, she loses her job. Everything is turned on its head as the two are now in the exact opposite positions from where they started.
There are some other things going on. Will runs a blog called “WhiteGuyBlackCock.com” which is his little social commentary on the world. The script occasionally drops in on Luke, Charlie, and Miles, but it feels more like a necessity than a choice, as the characters are never given that much to do (although Luke having a meltdown after losing a bunch of money at work is kinda funny). I also liked the subtle commentary on our generation being a bunch of entitled douchebags. Will feels that things should just fall into place for him when he leaves college, but of course that’s not the way it works. Looking back at my first job, I remember feeling the same way. I *deserved* to be there. I shouldn’t have to feel thankful for it.
I guess I’m disappointed in “Get A Job” because it didn’t take enough advantage of its premise. I wanted to feel the pain of these characters, feel their fear. But in the end I never bought that they were in any real danger – that if they lost their jobs, anything real terrible was going to happen to them. I guess I just wanted more to *happen*. But the seminal question with every comedy is simple: Was it funny? Well…to me it wasn’t. But to be honest I think that had more to do with my sense of humor than these guys not being funny. However there is one line I loved. When Luke has gone from the top trader in the office to the lowest rung on the ladder, he dejectedly laments about his bedroom: “Now the Bone Zone will become the Alone Zone.” That gave me a good chuckle.
There’s a chance this was an early draft because the script is a whopping 125 pages and I didn’t think it needed to be a line over 105. There’s a lot of unnecessary fluff in here. Anyway, this wasn’t for me. But it was purchased and I know two other people loved it so hopefully you can find it and form your own opinion.
[ ] What the hell did I just read?
[x] barely kept my interest
[ ] worth the read
[ ] impressive
[ ] genius
What I learned: Observational comedies light on story need to be SHORT. If we have a clear, strong goal for our protagonist, the audience is going to give you some leeway. But if we’re just watching people live their lives, nobody wants that to be a two hour experience.