Premise: A young financial whiz tries to take down one of the world’s biggest hedge funds from the inside.
About: This is of course the follow-up to the 1987 Oliver Stone film, “Wall Street.” Michael Douglas will reprise his role as Gordon Gekko. Shia LaBamBam will continue his streak of starring in every hot movie that’s being made. Vietnam vet Oliver Stone is back at the reigns, helming his most noteworthy picture since the invention of the personal computer.
Writer: Allan Loeb
This script has been burning a hole in my hard drive for months and to be honest, I was never going to review it. I was never a fan of the first film. It always felt to me like a movie that wanted to be better than it actually was. Of course, I was pretty young when I saw it. All I knew about the stock market was people yelling and throwing pieces of paper at each other. But I figured with the way the economy is wreaking havoc on our lives, Wall Street 2 might have something timely to say.
So I have good news and I have bad news. The bad news is that Oliver Stone is directing the film. I have nothing against Mr. Stone. When he re-edited Alexander 18 times, I said ‘the more the merrier.’ Is Jared Leto gay? Is he not gay? There’s an app for that in the Alexander films. It’s just that the man hasn’t inspired confidence in awhile. The *good* news is that Alan Loeb is the writer. You may remember Alan from my review of The Only Living Boy In New York, a “Graduate”-like tale of a confused 20-something desperately trying to keep his life in order. I liked that script quite a bit, so I was intrigued to see what he would do with the Wall Street franchise (is it really a franchise now?)
Jacob Moore is pissed. Why is he pissed? Because someone just killed his boss. Well, that’s not entirely true. Someone started a rumor about his boss’ investment firm that eventually sank the company’s stock price, which led to the company going under, which led to the boss playing chicken with a subway train…and losing. Luckily, Jacob was given a 1.5 million dollar bonus just days earlier, enough to secure the most extravagant engagement ring money can buy for the woman he plans to spend the rest of his life with. “Take me to the Fuck You room,” he tells the jeweler.
You see Jacob’s stuck on the bubble. His boss was a bit of a father figure and after a few days away from Wall Street he’s beginning to think maybe it isn’t worth it. Why not dance off to a quaint little town in the middle of Americana and build a family? We’ll never know how close Jacob came to making that choice because Jacob’s fiance just happens to be the daughter of Gordon Gekko – yes, Michael Douglas’s character from the first film. Gekko got out of jail a few years back and spends his days broadcasting economic doom-and-gloom to anyone who will listen. He’s even got a new book explaining how the American economy is a time bomb waiting to explode. A little side note is that Gekko can ony talk about the economy. He can’t trade in it anymore. The SEC won’t let him within a hunred miles of a broker.
So when a still sore Jacob comes to Gekko for his blessing, Gekko calls him out. You don’t want my blessing, he tells Shia. You want advice on how to take down the man that “killed” your boss. Gekko makes a serious if contrived deal that only happens in Screenplay Land: He’ll help him take down the bad guys if Jacob helps him reestablish a relationship with his daughter. Jacob realizes this is a chance to learn from the best, get some revenge, and lose the audience.
The man who destroyed his boss’ fund is an eccentric billionaire hedge fund manager named Bretton Woods (gotta give it to Loeb – cool name). He’s the kind of guy that flies in the world’s biggest piano prodigy for some afternoon entertainment. He lives by the mantra: “The only thing worse than death is becoming irrelevant.” Gekko’s plan is for Jacob to get a job with Bretton, gain his trust, then make a whole bunch of bad trades that bankrupt his ass (my words, not his). Gekko will be advising him from the sidelines, telling him when and what to move.
Unfortunately this all plays out about as well as it sounds. The more contrived your story, the harder it is for the audience to buy into. Money Never Sleeps plays out like a dramatized version of today’s news headlines, giving us no new or behind-the-scenes information, and does so with a story that doesn’t have any bite. The face of the franchise, Michael Douglas, plays a neutered down role for 90% of the story, feeling more like an assistant coach than the power hungry face of the team.
It wasn’t lost on me that a movie all about money feels like a desperate attempt to make money. Just because you don’t have ninjas with a kung-fu grip on your poster doesn’t mean you’re cinematizing a story for a noble cause. I pose this question to you: Is this story worth telling? I don’t think I need to answer that question to answer it. Stone and Douglas clearly see this as a way to get back in the game. And that’s fine. Vin just did it with The Fast And The Furious franchise. But we all know what kind of movie results from a project without any passion behind it.
Luckily “Money Never Sleeps” has a saving grace. And that saving grace is its ending. Without giving too much away, a role that looked pretty thankless for Douglas comes roaring back up the charts like a hot stock. Loeb’s previous 105 pages were all a carefully constructed set-up to give us a shocker of a finale. And I have to admit, it worked. But the end result feels like a government bailout. Sure we feel okay now. But does it solve the underlying structural issues in the system? I’m afraid not. The best final 30 pages in history couldn’t have saved this sequel.
[ ] Bear Sterns
[ ] Hold
[ ] Buy
[ ] Gold
What I learned: You have to make the connections in your story as direct and personal as possible. Jacob’s doomed boss is not his *actual* father. He’s merely a father *figure*. Bretton didn’t kill Jacob’s boss. He started a rumor that led to the downfall of J’s boss’ company which led to his boss’ choice to commit suicide. The connections here are too loose. Imagine if the boss*was* Jacob’s father and that Bretton *actually* murdered him, but Jacob couldn’t prove it in court. So the only way to take him down was to work for Bretton and destroy him from the inside. Sure you’d have to figure out a reason why Bretton would hire him under those conditions, but it’s still doable. And because things were direct (murder) and personal (his father), we’d be so much more in to the Jacob revenge storyline.
I’ve been meaning to put a review of this up forever. Luckily, Roger has rescued me with this in-depth look at “Killing On Carnival Row.” As you can see, he absolutely loves the script. And I know another long-time reader who thinks it’s a masterpiece as well. I haven’t read it. But if you’re into this kind of world, chances are you’ll react the same way these guys did.
Genre: Dark, urban fantasy. Murder Mystery. Horror. Science Fiction. Crime noir. Adventure.
Premise: In the city of The Burgue, a police inspector pursues a serial killer who is targeting fairies.
About: Sold to New Line Cinema in late 2005. Immediately attracted the attention of Guillermo Del Toro and Hugh Jackman. Del Toro dropped out of the project and Neil Jordan is currently attached to direct. This is Beacham’s first spec script. Written in his early 20’s. Beacham was hired to write “The Clash of the Titans” remake and is also writing “The Tanglewood” for Arnold and Anne Kopelson.
Writer: Travis Beacham.
We’ve got Argyle Heights, otherwise known as the Academic District. There’s the Docklands, center of industrialization and shipping. Thirdly, Finistere Crossing. The human zone.
Then there’s Carnival Row.
The Fairie Quarter.
Home to the sordid fairie brothels.
Someone’s murdering fairies and leaving their broken and exsanguinated bodies on display, clipped of their wings. No. Scratch that. Their moth-like wings have been sawed from their torsos, leaving torn alabaster skin and the rawness underneath in their absence. And of course, there’s the twin tell-tale puncture wounds in their necks.
City of soot and sorcery. Humans and monsters. Fairie whores and drug peddlin’ dwarves.
An urban fantasist’s wet dream, told in Art Noveau-scope.
Guys, this script is amazing. It’s a mordant phantasmagoria. A Victorian penny dreadful, its hard-bond pulp pages soaked in absinthe and hallucinogenic fey blood and set ablaze with the fire from an exploding gas-lamp. It’s Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” theurgically amalgated (or twined) to Raymond Chandler’s “The Long Goodbye”.
It’s Marlowe trying to solve a murder mystery in Bas-Lag. (And if you get this reference dear, astute readers, I tip my hat to you.)
And guess what?
It fucking works.
So who’s our Philip Marlowe, Rog?
Inspector Rycroft Philostrate, of The Burgue Metropolitan Constabulary. Fairie sympathizer.
Yep. With a city census that reads like an AD&D Monster’s Compendium, the writer capitalizes on his setting and its inhabitants and deftly weaves in social criticism as part of his theme. With the focus on racism and sexism.
Magnify the thematic lens and you’ll find a character struggling with the difficulties that revolve around a compelling interracial romance in an unforgiving city such as The Burgue.
It’s like Spike Lee’s “Do The Right Thing” and “Jungle Fever” had inter-species babies with characters out of a China Mieville novel. The anti-human propaganda pamphlet, The Screaming Banshee, details the crimes and wrong-doings of the human government in Oberon Square against the fey race.
Most humans look down on the fairies. Completely happy to make sure they’re confined to their little Tirnanog ghetto. But to Mayor Montague Boniface III’s wife, Dame Whitley Boniface, the fair, winged race deserve equal rights. After all, the fey are painters, poets and musicians. They are a cultural treasure. The Dame is what you might call a fairie activist.
But in the mayor’s mind, their art is not so much the skilled performance artistry of the courtesan, but the wet and sloppy fellatio one can procure for five guilder from the down-on-her-luck pix street-walker inside of a black, horse-drawn carriage.
The tension in The Burgue is as palpable as the Gothic fog that covers its streets.
And our guy, Philo, is not only a detective for a homicide department that is mostly staffed with pix-hatin’ sergeants, but a human who is in lust and love with Tourmaline La Roux, a fairie courtesan employed at Le Chambre De Madame Mab.
He’s torn between rescuing her from her life as a fairie escort and the risk that comes with it: Being ridiculed and slandered by his mates and fellow inspectors and constables if he were to be seen hand-in-hand with a pixie. It could mar his reputation, his career.
But when Tourmaline is de-winged and turned into a husk by Unseelie Jack, the case becomes a quest for salvation. Philo charges recklessly into The Burgue’s underworld, consumed with vengeance and guilt, obsessed with finding his lover’s killer.
A ticking clock hovers over Philo as he becomes a suspect, and he not only must exonerate himself as the suspected killer, but he must do something he was never able to do while Tourmaline was alive…
Stand up in courage for her. Show the world that he loves her by finding her killer…whatever hesheit is…and bringing hesheit to justice.
What’s so great about this script?
The invention. The imagination. The elegant world-building. The social commentary. The murder mystery and how it plays out. The characters. The dialogue. The action. The monsters. The magic. The gore. The humor. The emotion.
All rendered through the pen of a screenwriter who has uncanny control of his craft. This is a seamless screenplay. And it’s that much more impressive when you think of the sheer spectacle of all the ingredients bubbling in this witch’s pot.
It requires a delicate balance on precarious scales to tell a tale that is such an ambitious confluence of genres.
Especially when Fantasy is one of these genres.
If one setting on your control panel is slightly off, you can lose all sense of verisimilitude. You have to know your conventions in-and-out, and above all, you have to write your characters like they are real people.
This is exciting. Not only has someone turned to the genre of what China Mieville has dubbed Weird Fiction, the mash-up of science fiction, urban fantasy, sword-and sorcery, horror, gothic romance, et al., but they did so with such effective execution.
In screenplay format.
Screenplays are a whole other ball-game. These are the type of stories normally told in prose fiction, in sprawling novels and the odd collection of short stories put out by the independent press. In some YA fiction.
What Peter Straub calls The New Fabulists.
Go into the bookstore and look for authors like Neil Gaiman, Caitlin R. Kiernan, Jim Butcher, Alan Campbell, Charlie Huston, Richard K. Morgan, Kelly Link, Gene Wolfe and look at the stories. It’s smart genre fare that can’t always be easily shoved into categories because it attacks all genres from all sides.
“Killing on Carnival Row” is Dark Fantasy done well. Something we don’t see a lot of, but something we’re bound to see more of.
Tell us about some of the novelties, the flights of imagination you like.
1.) The Special Loupgarou Unit. In our world, the police have K-9 Units. Well, in The Burgue, the constables have young men manacled to control leashes. Syringes are inserted into IV tubes in their wrists, and suddenly eyes turn yellow and teeth sharpen as an induced metamorphosis transforms men into wolves. A Werewolf Unit. What’s not to love?
2.) The Drakes. In our world, the police have birds, or helicopters. In Philo’s world, the constabulary has Drakes. Giant mechanical dragonflies operated by a human pilot. On the back, a gunner mans a Gatling gun should they need firepower. Gatling guns and steampunk insects are always okay in my book.
3.) The Haruspex. A Macbethean soothsayer employed by The Burgue Metropolitan Constabulary. She can read minds. She sees the last memories of corpses. Her visions are just as valuable as an eye-witness testimony, and just as admissable.
4.) Mabsynthe. Iridescent green syrup distilled from the blood of fairies. Mabsynthe junkies are kinda like opium junkies. You pour the green treacle into a glass bottle affixed with a hose and pipe. A hookah. Then you light up and inhale the smoke through a pipe. Hallucinogenic. Most dealers combine the blood of several fairies to jumble up the visions. If you’re taking a hit from Mabsynthe that’s just from one fairie, you enter the present mind of the fairie. See what she sees. Feel what she feels. A really inventive plot device that comes into play later in the story.
5.) Twining. Theurgic Amalgamology. The manipulation of biology through advanced technology and ancient magics. One of the tools of twining is a magical black glove. Fueled by magic and science. The wearer wields it to manipulate biology. There’s some bodily havoc in the 3rd act when Philo’s side-kick, Vignette, dons the glove and proceeds to kick some villainous ass. With her fist. Fucking fantastic.
6.) Unseelie Jack. Okay, I’m not gonna spoil this. But I read this script before I went to bed. Mistake. I had nightmares about hesheit. Nightmares. The only thing I will say, this is a great creature feature villain. Like Maryann Forrester in True Blood, hesheit is something truly unique and new and cool. But it’s simple and old at the same time. And it’s a detail that probably helped the writer get a job on the “Clash of the Titans” remake.
Wow. This sounds insane. This insanity doesn’t drown out the story or characters?
Not at all. For the most part, when these novelties and oddities aren’t used as plot devices or as characters, this stuff is presented in snippets of detail to help create the atmosphere. It’s exquisite and balanced world building.
Philo and his journey is always in the foreground, always the center of the plot in this baroque world. And it’s a great journey. In Shane Black-fashion, Philo picks up a buddy at the beginning of the 2nd Act, and she’s a great character.
Vignette is a faerie Philo saves from Unseelie Jack. He finds her after her wings have been sawed off and right before she’s about to be drained. He nurses her back to health, and she helps him hide from the dragnet enforced by his former employers, The Metropolitan Constabulary.
After all, who knows the nooks and crannies, the secret places of this cobble-stone and gaslight city better than a fairie?
She’s also the anonymous star writer for The Screaming Banshee, and she uses the headquarters for its secret printing press, located in a mini-necropolis underneath The Old Fairie Cemetery, to hide Philo.
Together, their budding relationship is best described as a Murtagh-Riggs and Han-Leia amalgam. You’ve got the witty banter and the developing romance.
And it’s sexy as hell.
The character highlight for me was a surprising, revelatory character moment where Philostrate reveals the story of his past. What makes him who he is today. The stuff that’s forged his character. He’s a human refugee from Hy-Brasil, the city of flowers. His parents were officers in The Burguish Imperial Navy stationed in Tirnanog. They were part of the Human Concession in this foreign land. They perished in the Scourge that drove the fey from their lands, and Philo was saved by an old fairie opera singer.
It’s good stuff. It bonds to you.
What else was impressive?
Reading this script is like feasting on language. But it doesn’t feel over-written. There’s an economy to the lush prose, a restraint. I suppose what impressed me the most was what some of these passages evoked.
There were moments where I felt like I was reading something by Bradbury, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Byron and Mary Shelley. And I can’t think of any higher compliment than that.
Here’s a glimpse:
It climbs up onto a rock in the distance. Stretching, contorting, opening its mouth impossibly wide.
This bit still gives me the creeps.
A human face pushes through the open mouth. A whole head emerges. Curly red hair. A hand. An arm. A shoulder.
The girl underneath pulls off the dark sealskin as if she’s sliding out of a tight leather skirt.
MOIRA stands on the rock in her “human” form, completely nude. Slim fair-skinned body flecked in a blizzard of light pink freckles. Her ears pointed like a faerie’s.
Philostrate politely turns away. Bottom stares slack-jawed with a mix of morbid fascination and disgust.
EXT. BOULDER ON THE BEACH — MOMENTS LATER
Moira dresses herself from a heap of clothes strewn on the rock. Philostrate and Bottom approach.
Good morning Miss Moira. I’m Inspector Philostrate.
She meets him with sharp eyes, bright as emeralds. Inhuman.
You found the body, did you?
Moira nods. She picks up the shed sealskin, singing softly as she pets it. The soft pelt purrs back. Bottom grimaces.
A separate creature, is it?
Another curt, silent nod.
Let’s not waste the lady’s time.
You can feel free to talk. I’m not fluent in selkie-speak, but I can muddle through.
Finally, she speaks. Her language, a song, a dozen voices in one, flowing eerie harmonies.
Corpse caught in backwards currents/moth caught in the cobweb of creation/clipped wings plucked from silken firmaments/ sticky strands clinging/sinister spider spinning/ poor poor singless wingless pixie
You want me to write this bilge down?
The 3rd act is intense. Satisfying. A gory, noir-infused Hammer Horror extravaganza.
And most of all…our hero not only gets what he wants at the end of his journey, the writer gives him what he needs. Redemption.
Script link: No link
[ ] What the hell did I just read?
[ ] barely kept my interest
[ ] worth the read
[ ] impressive
What I learned: Um, what a unique and brilliant spec script looks like? Seriously, this script should be required reading for anyone who is interested in writing smart genre fare. The attention to detail, the focus on character, the rising action, the tight scenes and transitions, the seamlessly woven plot and sub-plot and how they orbit around each other like twin satellites, broadcasting the overarching story. Read this script. Get a feel for the foundation, the architecture. You’ll get suspense, horror, action, melodrama, dread, love, passion, guilt, and salvation. How to balance spectacle with quiet character moments. But most of all, enjoy its many wonders.
Wow! Genius. I actually wrote Roger back and told him, “You understand that I haven’t given a single ‘genius’ review on the site yet, right?” I explained that I’ll probably only give 1 or 2 geniuses a year. Was he positive he wanted to go with a perfect rating? He reaffirmed his stance. So there you have it. The first official genius rating on Scriptshadow. (although I haven’t reviewed them, the top 3 in my Top 25 all carry ‘genius’ ratings). Enjoy the script!
Testing out a new comments section. Let’s see if it works.
So I’m trying to come up with observations about Repped Week, although the small sampling makes the findings far from conclusive. The most telling moment and probably the biggest thing to come out of the week is that the highest rated script (Emergency Contact) unknowingly came from a writing team that had already sold a script. The fact that I didn’t know they were sold writers (and therefore wasn’t biased) and still saw the writing to be at a high level says a lot. Then again, my second favorite script of the week, The Conquered, came from two writers who only recently secured representation. I honestly believe that with a wider net, that script is lower-half Black List material. However I do not think it’s an accident that they are repped by UTA (a big agency).
Someone in the comments section mentioned Project Greenlight – Damfleck’s attempt to prove that the Hollywood system was ignoring a huge talent pool that couldn’t get their foot in the door simply because they didn’t have connections. Sure there were a ton of variables involved, but the resulting three movies (ranging from bad to mediocre) proves that maybe, just maybe, Hollywood knows what it’s doing.
As for the whole “The Void” thread, which unfortunately turned personal, I believe – from an objective place – that Zach just isn’t ready yet. That’s not to say he won’t be. That’s not to say he can’t be. But The Void has too many flaws to sell in its current incarnation. Howevuh!
…there are some good things about the script, and that is why he’s getting these [heavily debated] meetings. Someone doesn’t have to want your script to want a meeting with you. They may simply be looking to establish a relationship so that if you do improve and do end up writing something great, they have you in their rolodex. It’s good business sense.
What I learned from Repped Week is that by and large, writers are successful because they deserve to be successful. Scripts get sold because they deserve to be sold. Sale scripts are rarely perfect, but the combination of concept and execution is usually better than whatever else is out there. That’s not to say wherever you are, you’re stuck there. Writers are constantly improving, and once your writing gets better, more people will take notice. Bigger agents, bigger directors, bigger actors will woo you. And let’s not forget the wild card: the brilliant concept. Come up with a great concept (A dinosaur park) and execution or not, you shoot to the top of Spielbeg’s speed dial. I believe that knowing what a great concept is is part of what makes a great writer. So all of that has to be factored into the equation.
So my final very unscientific analysis is that the hierarchy, while fallible, is for the most part accurate:
Unrepped < Repped by Manager < Repped by Agent < Sold Writer
For those who have forgotten, this is number five in a series of five scripts I’ll be reviewing this week from represented writers who have not sold a script. The exercise is meant to explore the level of quality it takes to obtain agency representation. Enjoy!
Premise: The underachieving son of a coal miner struggles to expose a covered-up mining accident that sparked a raging subterranean fire, but is unaware that the fire has kept ominous creatures at bay for the past twenty years.
About: Zach is repped by Brad Kushner at Creative Convergence.
Writer: Zach Nelson
When I was eight years old, my parents took me to The Chicago Museum of Science And Industry to do what every parent back in those days did with their children – trick them into learning something. And of course I responded like most kids do. I stumbled around wondering why everything was much less cooler than I wanted it to be. There were no video games at the museum. There were no televisions. When I was shown a 1000 year old mummy the only thing I could think was, “That poor man’s been stuck in this boring shithole for 1000 years?” After begging to go home, my parents promised me we’d leave after one last exhibit. I rolled my eyes and said whatever the equivalent of “whatever” was back at the time. This particular exhibit, I was informed, was an exhibit about mines. And it just so happened the museum was located on top of a very old mine cave. I perked up a little. Maybe this wouldn’t be so bad. So we got packed into a rather large elevator with a good 40 other people. Our “guide” closed the doors and we started going down. The elevator was one of those old fashioned “freight elevators” with see through walls. I watched as the outer walls passed by. We were going down pretty deep, I thought.
Gradually the outer walls turned to rock. As I had expected to go down about five stories, this was a little concerning to me. I know time is warped when you’re a kid, but I don’t think we were in that elevator less than five minutes. The walls became even darker and dingier. When the hell was this thing going to stop? I started getting worried. But everybody around me seemed to be keeping their cool so I put on a brave face. After this elevator ride to hell finally ended, we were let out into an old underground mine cave. In my estimation we were at least 100 miles below the earth and whatever mine we were in sure didn’t look safe. There were these old wooden beams holding things up. They were cracked and warped. If that breaks, I thought, would the ceiling fall on us? I was growing more concerned by the second. I wanted to get back up to the museum. Our “guide” then went into a lengthy spiel about the history of the mine and how coal was excavated and how if I would’ve been here in 1892 when they first opened the mine, I might have been working here and I couldn’t care less because DIDN’T ANYONE ELSE NOTICE HOW FRAGILE THOSE FUCKING BEAMS LOOKED??? Why didn’t anyone else notice this?? The guide droned on. We were lucky to even be down here, he explained, as the safety requirements for people were just barely met.
No shit Sherlock!
Then all of a sudden, there was a loud BUZZING ALARM accompanied by a flashing RED LIGHT! Jesus Christ! What the hell!?? We were going to be buried down here. Never to be heard from again. The guide started freaking out (finally), saying that the mine was unstable. There was shaking. I wanted to run but where?? There was nowhere to go! I desperately searched for a way out . For some reason none of the stupid adults were alarmed. Didn’t these idiots understand!!?? We were all going to die! “This way!” the guide said. “This way!” I hightailed it in the direction he was pointing, down the mine, around a corner and into…
I looked around. Not only was this a wide open cafeteria, 100 miles underneath the crust of the earth. But it was the lower level of what I coulda swore was the place where we entered the elevator. In fact, this entire room looked exactly like the museum. But how had they done it? How had they built a replica of the museum 100 miles beneath the earth? And weren’t we still in imminent danger from the mine collapsing?? Why were people eating hot dogs seconds before their death??
And then slowly my developing mind started putting the pieces together. We had never gone down 100 miles, had we? The elevator was a fake. The rocky exterior walls that passed by were stage props, wound around to make it *look* like were going 100 miles into the earth. I had been duped. I had been tricked. But I didn’t give a shit. I was just ecstatic to be alive. To this day, nothing has even come close to tricking me the way that mine exhibit did. And it’s the reason why, to this day, I am terrified of mines.
Which is why I decided to review The Void – a horror script about a coal mine. This would allow me to face my fears and give you, the reader, something you’re always asking for: a horror script.
Now I just want to make something clear before we go on. People think I hate horror. That’s not true. I just hate bad horror. Which there seems to be a lot of. Mindless plot-less excuses to have monsters slice up or munch up humans is not my idea of a good time. I like depth to my horror. I’m not talking Masterpiece Theatre. Just something that makes the characters real enough so that I care about whether they live or die. Give me a good horror film and I’ll show up opening day.
Is there depth to The Void? Yes, I’d say for the most part there is. Now whether that depth transferred into a good script is another question. After a two-decades old coal mining accident killed his father, Jacob finds himself in the same fucked up going-nowhere situation that his family was in. Except Jacob’s got it even worse. The accident that killed his father (and a bunch of other miners) started a coal fire underneath the town that hasn’t gone out in 20 years. The town is a mess. Pieces of road cave in unexpectedly. The ground is always warm to the touch. And worst of all, work is nonexistent. Jacob gets by on minimum wage – and with a wife and child on the way, he’s desperately looking for a way to salvage his life.
If all that wasn’t bad enough, Jake starts to see strange things in the shadows of the town. The holes that lead down to the burning mines reveal figures, strange lurching 9 foot humanoid creatures. In the woods by his house. On the outskirts near the caves. But are they real? Others believe they’re just hungry wolves. But Jacob witnesses these creatures tear his neighbors to pieces. These are no wolves, he tells the cops. But they don’t want to listen.
In the meantime, the underground fires continue to burn. When Jacob makes the uninformed decision to put out the fire using the local water tower, he’s approached by Eli, an ex-mine worker whose face was disfigured in the accident. He’s informed about a long-held secret about the town. Eli is being paid by the mine’s wealthy owner to keep the underground mines burning. Keep the mine’s burning?? By what would anyone want to do that? Well, apparently, the fire has been keeping a host of these shadowy figures at bay. Now that the fire’s been put out, these hellish monsters will be roaming the streets, killing at will. The only way to stop them is to blow closed all the entrances to the mine. And that’s exactly what Eli and Jacob set out to do.
The Void was entertaining in places and no so entertaining in others. Particularly in the first half of the second act, where there were a lot of scenes with people sitting around talking about their problems. In fact, the plan to actually do something about the burning underground and its hellish occupants isn’t hatched until page 75, which is just way too slow in my opinion. Nelson chooses to use those first 75 pages to focus on the mystery behind the underground mines and the conspiracy to cover it up. But I don’t think there’s enough there to warrant an entire 75 pages of screenplay. These creatures should be out and attacking by at least page 45, probably even 25. And our protags need to figure out what to do about it soonafter. Throw this story into overdrive. See, The Void falls victim to one of the unsolvable problems in the movie industry, which is that the hook is included in the logline, which eliminates every notable surprise the script has for us. Unfortunately there’s no way around this. People aren’t going to read your screenplay unless they know your hook. Even though your hook is the one thing you don’t want revealed until they read your screenplay. In this case, the logline gives away all the secrets in the first 75 pages.
There’s some bigtime irony going on here. I start out telling you to give me a smart character-driven horror story, and Nelson attempts to do exactly that. I just think he went a little too far. He spent too much time getting into these characters’ lives and not enough time getting to the story. To me, the lure here is the underground mines and their creatures. That’s what I wanted to see. And that’s what there’s not nearly enough of.
The other thing I was looking for was more out of the monsters. I like my monsters to be based in some sort of logic, even if it’s logic based off the rules you set up in your screenplay. What I don’t like is monsters that seemingly have nothing to do with the problem. For instance, in one of my favorite horror films of the last few years, The Descent, those creatures were explained as an evolution of man being stuck down in the caverns for thousands of years. I bought that. That made sense to me. Here, you have 9 foot wolf-like men with no eyes. When I try to connect that to a coal fire that’s been burning underground for years, I have a hard time making that leap. I guess you could pass them off as descendants of Hell, but that’s a little too generic for me. The more based in logic your creatures are, the closer – in my mind – they are to reality. And the closer something is to reality, to being outside your door or in your closet, the scarier it is.
So unfortunately I wasn’t the biggest fan of The Void. As with all of this weeks’ writers, Zach knows what he’s doing. It’s simply a case of me not getting into this particular story. But I thank Zack for allowing me to read his script. It was [not] fun revisiting my museum experience from hell :)
Script link: The Void
[ ] What the hell did I just read?
[x] barely kept my interest
[ ] worth the read
[ ] impressive
[ ] genius
What I learned: The Void actually had *too much* character development. Or, I should say, it went about its character development in the wrong way. In that early 2nd act portion, it felt like every scene we were sitting down with our characters, listening to their problems. Sure this gave me some backstory on who these people were, but it didn’t do so in an interesting way – within the context of a developing story. Anything you’re trying to reveal in your script – whether it be character development, exposition, or plot – you have to bleed it into the story seamlessly. If it feels like we’re stopping to get to know people, you’ve destroyed all that momentum you built up. Every scene should be pushing (and I mean *pushing* – not nudging) the story forward. Instead of having your characters sitting in a room, put them out there investigating the problem and having their discussion as they investigate. That way, you’re killing two birds with one stone. Always keep things moving!