Genre: Violent Drama
Synopsis: Two men relentlessly terrorize a group of partiers.
About: Honestly, I was tired of reading recommended scripts so I opened this one up on a whim. Knew nothing about it. Found out later it was on the 2006 Black List and is being made into a movie that’s coming out this year (edit: The movie was on the Blacklist but not on any production slate)
Writer: Scott Milam

Chalk another one up to the dreadful title but awesome script collection. Wow, I don’t even know where to start with this script. I have never read anything as relentless and crazy and sadistic and exploitative as this screenplay. It’s like Helter Skelter mixed with Funny Games mixed with…….someone who really needs to be placed in a mental institution! Wichita falls somewhere between real life and total absurdity. Despite its relentless and tasteless violence, it succeeds because even though it comes from the imagination of a writer, you know that there are actually people out there like this. As awful as it is, this feels like something that could really happen.

Look, I’m no Indian hater. I grew up in Illinois. We were the birthplace of some 25 different Indian tribes. I’m reasonably sure that I’m at least 13% Ojibiwe. But I have to admit, when a Native American is the first character I meet in a screenplay, I don’t jump up and scream, “This is going to be awesome!” So when DAN, a Navajo Indian, walks into a convenience store on a cold deserted winter night in Wichita and starts chatting up the checker about how much life sucks, let’s just say I was eying my Quantum Of Solace DVD.

But as soon as Dan gets in his car, two men make a surprise attack. They have guns and they want money. Dan explains that his step-father has a lot of money and he’ll take them to his house. A quick check of his wallet and they realize they already know where the house is. Which means Daniel, a man we thought was our hero, is disposable. They take him into the forest and shoot him in cold blood. Welcome to Wichita.

We cut in on what we realize is the house Daniel was heading to. It’s a huge estate out in the middle of nowhere and a bunch of well-off friends are having a Christmas party. Everyone’s waiting for Dan so they can start their gift exchange. With a couple of exceptions, this happy giggly group has been living their lives blissfully unaware of the hardships going on in the rest of the world. They don’t even know what the dark side looks like. That’s about to change.

The bad guys show up and within seconds tell everyone to strip. They want money and they want jewelry. Scared and a bit ignorant, a couple of the guys try to act tough. They learn quickly that these are the wrong people to act tough with. The bad guys grab Brooke (Dan’s girlfriend) and tell her she’s making a choice. One of these people is going to die. And she has to choose which one. She begs and pleads not to make her do it but they explain it’s either one of them or all of them. She chooses the guy who’s the most well off – with his girlfriend sitting right there. The bad guys instantly shoot him in the head. This is on page 20 folks. And it only gets worse from there. Way. Way. Way worse.

How Wichita keeps up this relentless pace for 120 pages is one of the things that makes it such a good script. You’re gripped by how horrible these two men are. There are a few times where their actions venture into absurdity, but for the most part, it feels like two very angry demented men getting their “revenge” on the world. This is not for the weak. And if any sort of violence offends you, I’d probably skip this read and wait until tomorrow’s review. But this was such a page-scroller, it broke my top 25. Everyone say goodbye to Pictures of You. :(

[ ] trash
[ ] barely readable
[ ] worth the read
[x] impressive
[ ] genius

What I learned from Wichita: The power of a great villain. The thing that kept me invested in this film was how bad the bad guys were. And when the bad guys are this bad, you’re dying to see them go down. I would’ve given my left arm to see the protagonist, Brooke, kill these men in the most horrifying awful fashion possible. This may seem like obvious advice but it really isn’t. There are many genres where you the writer have a choice to add a villain or not (romantic comedies for example). My suggestion is, if it fits, always add one. And make him someone we want to see pay. Audiences love to see the villain go down.

  • Ryan (Biohazard)

    Sounds awesome, and the What I Learned… part is reminiscent of a recent thread on Two Adverbs where I brought up creating villain characters that you, the reader, do not like as a way of basically forcing you to root for the hero. I’ll have to give this a read. Thanks, Wilson.

  • http://www.yahoo.com SAM

    This sounds like a take off on a real event. Two men broke into a house looking for stuff to steal. There were a bunch of couples there.

    The night devolves into murder, torture, and rape. I can’t for the life of me remember what city it occured in but it generated a lot of race tension because the two men were African American.

  • Anonymous

    This isn’t the “Wichita” that’s being made. There’s a secret agent thing that Cruise and Diaz were supposed to do called Wichita. It keeps falling apart though.

  • http://hopefulwritertola.blogspot.com/ laci

    Wow – that was violent. Does it matter that the basic plot of this is true? You can read it here:
    http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/790192/posts

  • Anonymous

    I can tell you that a similar incident happened at a diner in my state back in the 80’s. Really sick and sadistic stuff.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/16278119665749864798 Hollie Nell

    I actually hated this script. Not the writing which was solid but the story was…gruesome. Of course I read the entire thing in 20 minutes becausee it was just so horrifying, and I couldn’t stop myself. But I would NEVER see this movie. Still, I can see why it cracked the top 25. If I don’t sleep tonight, it’s all your fauly, Carson!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/16278119665749864798 Hollie Nell

    and by fauly, I mean fault. No, I didn’t proofread.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/08439555051697115476 Carson Reeves

    Heh heh. I tried to warn you. :)

  • Ryan (Biohazard)

    “and by fauly, I mean fault. No, I didn’t proofread.”

    For a moment, I figured you had a much larger vocabulary than I. Kinda scared me for as minute. What the hell does that word mean?!

  • Anonymous

    Hated this. Lowbrow sadistic dreck that will get blasted by critics and do minimal biz if it ever gets made.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05968301889449998198 Ryan Jackson

    Isn’t this the script that Darren Lynn Bousman keeps talking about making?

  • Anonymous

    They shouldn’t make it… ever. No need to glorify these type of people. And what does it say about the people who would sit and watch this? To what end? What emotional need does this satisfy?

  • Anonymous

    Little late to the party, but I finally read this. And hated it. Not because of the violence. Because of the on the nose dialog, the mid-90s ‘hip’ speak. It’s like my aunt Nell trying to write hip urban speak. Couldn’t make it past that. Barely made it past the exposition dump in the convenience store at the beginning. And I’m willing to give a pass because a clerk and customer don’t have much to talk about. But it wasn’t stilted on purpose.

    Anyway, love the site and the insights. Don’t mean to sound like a snob- I’m not. Just my 2c.

  • Anonymous

    Come on, it certainly doesn’t “glorify” the villains.

  • Anonymous

    I know this is an older topic, but I have to weigh in because this script is a piece of crap, both in content and execution.

    It’s like a masturbatory fever dream for psychotic teens, complete with ridiculously on-the-nose dialogue just to DRIVE…the…POINTS…HOME…

    The characters are inconsistent in their behavior — almost every character does a 180 at some point in the story, and each time it happens so fast that it gives you whiplash. At one point, a character named Annette is trying to kill Brooke, one of the other “innocents” in the film. She actually has a reason to want to kill her, but doesn’t do so at that point. A few scenes later, Annette gets a knife, kills one of the antagonists and then has a complete meltdown and wants to kill everyone. When she’s disarmed, suddenly she ends up in the backseat nuzzling with Brooke, who’s comforting her. Completely implausible, and an unbelievable lack of consistency.

    The fact that it was inspired by true events actually makes this script worse, because he took a real-life horror show and made it a train wreck through faulty dialogue, inconsistent and underdeveloped characters, and a laughably bad ending.

    I think we need to start discerning between good Black List scripts and poor Black List scripts. This one got 3 votes. The best Black List script got 30 votes. If I run for President and get 300,000 votes, but the other guy gets 30 million, the race wasn’t even close…

  • Anonymous

    Frankly, Carson, the fact that you rated this so highly makes me wonder if you actually understand why you like the scripts you read because in this case, the writing is amateurish at best. For me, this rave has tarnished your credibility.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09125957745843280023 RC Hackett

    I agree that this is tasteless, nihilistic crap, but it’s got momentum to spare, is very tight, and has two incredibly sadistic bastards driving the story along.

    Ebert once said that James Bond films are only as good as their villains. I think this holds true for any type of exhilaration piece.

    Would I enjoy sitting through this? I don’t know. I doubt it. Did I read it the entire way through, practically holding my breath? I did. There’s a certain level of craft evident there…and the writing is hardly amateurish. Just because you find the content offensive doesn’t mean it’s not executed well.

    I think Carson has done well to acknowledge the storytelling here.

  • http://www.imdb.com/name/nm1887188/ Eric

    You’re right, the writing isn’t amateurish in the sense that he tends to put the words in the proper order, but the character development and storytelling is. As detailed above, the characters do not make credible decisions, and the Native American mysticism in the ending comes off as laughably absurd. It’s not that the content is offensive, it’s that it’s NOT executed well.

    As I said before:

    “…he took a real-life horror show and made it a train wreck through faulty dialogue, inconsistent and underdeveloped characters, and a laughably bad ending.”

    I like scripts and movies that are dark. I chose to read this script long before Carson ever posted it here and reviewed it. I read Joe Lansdale’s “The Girl Next Door” from cover to cover in a day, and it really doesn’t get darker than that. This one could have had that kind of darkness, but it fails because of everything I’ve detailed above.

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