Ooooh, let the spookiness begin. Halloween Week is upon us, along with its first entry, the horror-comedy, “Grabbers,” which Roger’s been very eager to review. But can I just say something about Halloween first? Because it’s something that’s really been bothering me. Can we all agree that pumpkins are disgusting? You don’t have to look at a pumpkin long to know that it wasn’t meant to be eaten. Yet when Halloween rolls around, all I see at the grocery store are pumpkin muffins, pumpkin bread, pumpkin spice cookies, pumpkin milk. I don’t mean to sound like a 13 year old girl but…Barf! If we weren’t interested in eating pumpkin-flavored food for the other 11 months of the year? We’re not interested in eating it now. Pumpkins weren’t meant to be eaten! There. Rant over. Take it away, Roger.
Genre: Horror, Comedy, Creature Feature
Premise: When an island off the coast of Ireland is invaded by blood-sucking aliens, the heroes discover that getting drunk is the only way to survive.
About: A 2009 Brit List script that ended up in a tug-of-war between many production companies. It’s now optioned by Tracy Brimm and Kate Myers of Forward Films with John Wright as director. They’re the same team responsible for the slasher-comedy, “Tormented”.
Writer: Kevin Lehane. According to his blog, he created a bunch of specs but had trouble getting them read. When they weren’t ignored, they were rejected. But thanks to Danny Stack, a writer for “EastEnders” (among others) and one of the founders of The Red Planet Prize, Lehane’s luck changed and the same scripts that were initially rejected or ignored were suddenly coming back with strong, positive responses. “Grabbers”, which had sat on his desk for a year, was suddenly in a tug-of-war.
“Tremors” is a movie that has one of my favorite lines of dialogue ever, spoken by mercenary homemaker, Heather Gummer (a fantastic name), played by Reba McEntire. “You didn’t get penetration even with the elephant gun!” Somehow, Reba delivers her line with the requisite mixture of incredulity, innuendo, and cornpone charm.
I’m not sure if there’s a line as good as that one in the Irish version of “Tremors”, called “Grabbers”, but that’s not to say that this Brit List script isn’t a fun ride with its own share of gleeful moments of horror-comedy. Proudly wearing its creature feature, B movie, drive-in pedigree on its Lovecraftian tentacles, “Grabbers” is a breezy, bloody read that had me grinning like a drunken horror aficionado all the way through.
I like the way this script opens. We’re at sea on a lonely fishing tug called The Merry Widow when an arc of light streaks across the sky and crashes into the ocean, catching the attention of the crew. It’s a simple, evocative image that establishes our mysterious alien menace, which, of course, proceeds to pull our trio of fisherman overboard. There’s something eerie about the image of an extraterrestrial threat dwelling in Earth’s own uncharted aquatic deep.
And we’re quickly introduced to our sullen hero, Ciaran O’Shea, a Garda gone to drink on the enchanting Erin Island. My scant knowledge of the Garda is limited to Ken Bruen novels, but in good grace to us readers on the other side of the Atlantic, Mr. Lehane explains that “An Garda Siochana” are the unarmed Irish police force. O’Shea is zombie-shuffling through life and duty in an alcoholic haze, and Erin Island, with all its non-existent crimes and vacationing families, is the perfect environment for a low-achieving, apathetic Garda.
Sergeant Kenifick is skeptical about leaving O’Shea to run administrative duties alone for two weeks, so he’s saddled him with Lisa Nolan, a by-the-books, overachieving workaholic from Dublin who will fill in and keep a watchful eye on O’Shea while the Sarge is on leave. Of course, there’s some friction between the two opposite personalities and, entertainingly, budding sexual tension.
The duo meet up with the resident physician, Dr. Gleeson, and Adam Smith, a marine ecologist, who have discovered a pod of beached whales that bare some distinctive wounds.
It looks like they’ve been whipped with a huge cat-o-nine tails.
O’Shea takes charge and cashes in a favor with a contractor, Declan Cooney, and soon Cooney and his construction crew are tasked with the disposal of the beached whales. In true creature feature fashion, we discover many dark grey eggs deposited in the sand nearby. At this point, something crawls out of the ocean and quite possibly does something horrible to Cooney and his crew.
Meanwhile, a fisherman named Paddy Barrett (quite possibly my favorite character) captures what might be a sea creature in a lobster trap, which he promptly takes home and deposits in his bathtub, with disastrous results. In a horrifying sequence that made me both squirm and laugh maniacally, Paddy fights the spidery, tentacled grabber whilst completely pissed on homemade potcheen (an Irish moonshine).
The little fucker is pancaked to the ceiling of his bathroom and it shoots its barbed tongue at him, and it reminded me of Ripley fighting off a face-hugger in one of the Alien movies. Except this is more Sam Raimi-ish, but maybe not so cartoonish and Three Stooges-like (although in the next scene, there’s a direct reference to the Evil Dead when a corpse is used like a marionette doll). There’s a wicked Irish wit to the humor that I really dig, which is laced throughout the story.
Lehane does a good job setting up Erin Island and introducing all of the important players that inhabit island. It’s an interesting community sketched well, and it’s balanced with some tautly structured scare sequences. In a way, very Stephen King-ish, and I like that.
By the end of the first act, there’s a pretty significant body count for O’Shea and Nolan to tend to and investigate, and when Paddy comes to O’Shea with proof of his ordeal (which he somehow survived), this monster movie is off and running.
I think the true grisly delight of this tale is when it injects a killer concept into the tried and true monster movie form (monster arrives, monster kills people, heroes dissect monster, heroes figure out how to beat monster, heroes prepare for final showdown with monster). It’s a fucking great idea, and maybe its genesis owes fealty to Jackie Chan and “Drunken Master”, but whatever. It’s fantastic and funny and really brings the story to life.
Through an experiment that’s reminiscent of John Carpenter’s “The Thing”, our heroes learn that Paddy only survived his alien encounter because of the blood alcohol level in his bloodstream, which poisoned the vampiric monstrosity.
Basically? If our heroes don’t want to be monster food, they have to maintain a blood alcohol level of Point Two.
Which doesn’t fare will for Miss Nolan, as she doesn’t drink, nor has she ever been drunk in her life. And her character is milked for comedic and dramatic effect, in both her drunken exclamations and actions. She’s really a great counterpoint to O’Shea, and this is somewhat of a redemption story for him. I don’t want to give away his back story, but it’s something that’s only mentioned in a line or two of dialogue and it’s very effective (a true economy of words). It reminded me of this quote, “Strong reasons make for strong actions.” It’s something dramatists learn early on, courtesy of Shakespeare.
Without telling you How or Why, the humungous male grabber sets its sights on O’Shea for wholly amorous and lustful intentions. There’s some nice monster mayhem in the 3rd act, when our heroes barricade themselves and their loved ones in a pub and endure a siege. It’s like something out of a George Grosz nightmare as our heroes drunkenly fight off all the egg hatchlings and the (in heat) Shoggoth-like Big Daddy grabber.
I don’t think “Grabbers” quite transcends its genre roots to gain an impressive rating, but then again, it doesn’t need to. It’ll be a great movie, anyways. For you horror hounds out there, this script just might be the crown jewel of this year’s Brit List.
In all honesty, this is a script I wish I’d written. Not only is the logline comedic horror gold, but I find the script is really growing on me. An inspired, tight, and clever spec that clocks in at under 100 pages. Not only can I wait to see the movie, I can’t wait to own it on Blu-ray right next to my copies of “Shaun of the Dead”, “Tremors”, “The Thing”, and “Evil Dead 2”.
[ ] What the hell did I just read?
[ ] barely kept my interest
[xx] worth the read
[ ] impressive
[ ] genius
What I learned: That the Irish spell tires “tyres”. And that when it comes to writing monsters, it’s more effective to gently offer the right details than go overboard with a painstaking description. Remember, it’s more powerful to simply suggest what a monster or creature or alien looks like with a few key words or phrases. Let the reader create their own image of what it looks like in their head, because that’s usually what’s going to be scarier, anyways. As Stephen King says, writing is telepathy. Lay down the general gist, let the reader do the heavy lifting.
Uh, I don’t think you’re ready. I don’t think anyone’s ready. This is basically going to be the greatest week of Scriptshadow ever. We have the opening of the Scriptshadow Logline Contest on Monday. We have five full days of horror-related script reviews for Halloween Week. And, oh yeah, Wednesday through Friday I’m going to reveal the Top 25 scripts voted on by you readers. Over 400 Top 10 lists were submitted. So it should be a great gauge of what you guys liked. Oh, and if that wasn’t amazing enough, On Saturday I’ll post the Top 10 scripts voted on by readers that haven’t been reviewed on the site. If you die at the end of this week, you will die a happy person.
Hello everyone. Just wanted to give you a heads up that writer/director Mike Million’s film “Tenure” is playing at the Austin Film Festival this week. There’s a Saturday showtime and a Wednesday showtime. I will be mucho jealous for those of you who get to see it since, as you know, it’s one of my favorite scripts.
If you’ve only recently become a fan of the site, check out my interview with Mike where we discuss the skills he used to make it onto the inaugural Black List. And if you’re as obsessed with the script as I am, make sure to become a fan on the film’s Facebook page.
If you do get to see the film in Austin, make sure to say hi to Mike and that you discovered the film through Scriptshadow, as he’s a fan of the site. Also, don’t forget to send me your review!
First there was The Black List. Then the British got in on the action with The Brit List. But let’s be honest here. The only list that matters is the one created by the people who write the screenplays themselves. You guys. The Shadow 25 represents the Top 25 reader chosen scripts. Over 400 of you wrote in with your Top 10 screenplays. The voting system was simple. I assigned a point number to each choice. The number one script on everyone’s list represented 10 points. Number two = 9 points. Number three = 8. All the way down to number ten, which represented 1 point. I then added up the numbers. The highest point total finished at the top of the pack.
Unfortunately you won’t get to see the number one script today. We’re going to start off with scripts 21-25. On Thursday we’ll do 11-20. And on Friday we’ll do the top 10. No doubt there will be some surprises. I was surprised on a number of occasions. The best thing about this process was no doubt learning about screenplays I hadn’t heard about. Or had heard about but just forgotten about. It’s nice to add some fan favorites to my “Read List.”
Tallying all these rankings for the Reader Top 25 (yes, it’s now going to be the Top 25) has been exhausting. Plus I gotta get ready for Halloween Week as well as prepare for the Logline Contest. That’s a long way of saying it’s time for another guest review. Today’s review is from author Erica Kennedy, whose novel, “Feminista” just recently hit bookstores. She’s a big fan of Scriptshadow and we recently got to discussing a script review. She likes romantic comedies and I’ve been meaning to check out Swingles for awhile so I thought it was the perfect fit. Another interesting tidbit is that Swingles will be Zach Braff’s directorial follow-up to Garden State. For some of you that will sound disastrous and for others it’s great news. I actually like Braff, so I’m interested to see how he’ll squeeze the big-budget high-octane sensibilities of Cameron Diaz into his more restrained view of the world. Here’s Erica with her review…
Premise: Two people whose best friends fall in love and leave them without their wingman and wingwoman join forces to help each other find mates.
About: This is a spec sale from 2006. Cameron Diaz has signed on to star. Zach Braff is set to direct which will be his first feature since 2004’s Garden State. He’s also doing a rewrite after Duncan Birmingham wrote the original spec, and Jeff Roda took a crack at a draft. And that’s not all. Braff might play a supporting role. They’re still searching for the male lead. This is the original draft by Birmingham that sold.
Writers: Duncan Birmingham
Okay, after reading the summary of this, I was totally down. Every time I’ve seen an article about wingmen/women, I think it’s a perfect movie premise. But I don’t ever start writing one because I knew someone else would and here it is. Even tho I don’t understand Cam’s choices sometimes (was the 2008 release “What Happens in Vegas” locked in a vault since ’03?), I like her as an independent, late 30’s and doesn’t need to be married, surfboarding, moneymaking babe so I could totally see her in the part of the sharp-tongued woman who the as-yet-unnamed male lead can’t stand…and since this is a rom-com, do I need to add “at first”?
We meet Diane, Cam’s character, a high-strung accountant who’s billed as the less glam of the two female friends, by page 4 but the whole first act belongs to Val Danko, an immature 29 year-old graphic designer at Quality Manuals, a company that makes direction manuals for assemble-at-home products. First of all, I love that professional assignation because we know he’s creative but working in a dull-ass job which is succinctly summed up in a brief exchange where his middle-aged boss (who becomes a funny secondary character) chides him about his use of “arial narrow”. Picturing Val in his cubicle in his old concert tees totally made me understand why his whole identity is wrapped up in bagging as many chicks as he can.
Problem is he can’t bag chicks without the help of his wingman, Nathan, a more genuine sort who has outgrown their post-collegiate hijinx and quickly jumps at the chance to move in with (and soon propose to) the smart and pretty Rachel, Diane’s bestie.
Now I have to say here that in the last few months, I feel like I’ve read four scripts that have some variation on this premise: lifelong, now thirty-something buds torn apart by the woman who actually wants to have a serious relationship with — or God forbid, marry — one of them. And this whole “dude, you took her to karaoke? that’s our thing!” schtick feels very, very gay to me. I immediately have a bias against these characters because then I feel like, Dude, what kind of loser/pussy are you?
This is exactly what goes on in Swingles for the entire first act but Val is so deep in denial and his dialogue is so snappy that, despite my admitted bias, I couldn’t help but laugh. But you know what really made this work for me? Once he and Diane, also wingless and floundering, join forces she says all the things I want to say to these guys and I fucking loved her for it!
At first, she either reacts to his childish antics by ignoring him (precisely) or basically saying, “That’s the dumbest shit I ever heard and why are you wearing that concert tee? Grow up!” But the great thing about her character, a successful accountant who put herself through Yale, is that she’s a desperate singleton too, no doubt about it (sometimes I was almost cringing). But I never felt like she was pathetic. I just felt for her. This is a tricky thing to pull off and I think now that a lot of the big female A-listers – Aniston, Zellwegger, Lopez, Bullock — are aged out of the rom-com ingenue category, it’s something screenwriters need to learn how to do. Because a woman like Diane who has accomplished so much professionally, a sister who’s out there doing it for herself, would probably feel like she shouldn’t care that she’s single but the fact that she does (a lot) would make her feel like a big fat loser. And then she needs a guy like Val to help her? Ouch. I think if you’re writing for an actress we all know is pushing (or beyond) 40, you need to be mindful of this. Because what’s endearing at 29 can easily become sad at 39.
Knowing C-Diaz is playing Diane, I’m really interested to see who they cast as Val because these are both great parts. Remember back in the day when you used to have two big stars in rom-coms like Julia Roberts and Richard Gere or Hugh Grant? (Or even further back, Hepburn and Tracy?) Now when it’s a vehicle for the female lead, the guy is just some random whose name you can’t remember. But Val is a plum comedic part which is another plus about this script. It actually made me LOL quite a bit when most rom-coms are neither rom nor com. (If they even let Dane Cook read this, I WILL lead the boycott.)
This premise is also milked for all its worth. Val forces Diane to hit on a guy at his grandma’s funeral (!) and then once she submits to being his partner-in-cruising, their routines are hilarious and I love that they have names like “Fighting First Date”, “The Gal Pal”… By the time Val drags her to a roller derby and forces her to skate in the amateur round (so HE can impress the chicks) and she busts out with, “I’ve never taken a fall for a man and I’m not about to start!” I swear I almost started cheering.
I hate when the leads in romantic comedies are cartoonishly opposite – she’s a vegan do-gooder and he’s a macho meat-loving corporate raider — but in Swingles, their tension arises from very realistic, relatable differences. He’s an immature poon hound and adult women don’t like immature poon hounds. ‘Nuff said. But we see Val growing because of Diane’s influence and we see her loosen up enough to realize that what she wants “on paper” might not be what she really wants at all.
When the hell is this going into production?
Script link: No link guys. But I’d look to MSP, who might have it.
[ ] What the hell did I just read?
[ ] barely kept my interest
[ ] worth the read
[ ] genius
What I learned: You can write a female lead that is desperate in some ways but not pathetic. I think with a lot of rom-coms she’s either too perfect/strong or too whiny/bitchy, just too something, but this script strikes a nice balance for Diane. I’m impressed that a guy wrote this! Also, if you have a great premise look at all the ways you can push it to the limit.