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Wednesday, May 12, 2010

How To Write Movies (part 1, Horror)

I love the cinema. I love film, video, made for TV, 4x3, wide screen16x9, all of it. For me, there’s no better way to squander 2 hours, give or take. It’s the ultimate sign of saying, “Calgon, take me away.” If you should find yourself accompanying me to what comedian Dane Cook refers to as, “a cinematic adventure”, there are some things you should know. Please, take no offense to my idiosyncrasies, to reiterate, I love movies.

These slight quirks include arriving ten minutes early to catch the fantastically breathtaking previews that have me gaga over every crappy flick to ever grace (or disgrace) the theater and leaving AFTER the credits have rolled; I actually like to know who’s responsible for what I’ve just seen, I'm odd like that. There are other petty things like heckling the bonehead characters or outwardly vocalizing my theories as to.....the plot. I laugh obnoxiously in comedies, scream during horrors, and play detective throughout a suspense. I let it be known if the movie sucks and, conversely, I will forcast various award nominations. I apologize for these habits. but I DO enjoy motion pictures.

Now that I’ve proclaimed my commitment to these productions, I would like to be of service to those up and coming screenwriters. Those who share my passion for the art and even surpass it. This group of enthusiasts represent the future of the film industry and I feel an obligation to lend a hand.

With that, I’ve put together some guidelines, divided by movie genre, which I find essential to creating that blockbuster. Remember, I am no movie writer. I could not imagine myself completing such an arduous task. I can only report on what I see as a student of the silver screen. Today, I will give you the basic outline to create the idiotically frightening, Horror Film.

OK, you begin with an idea; I assume you at least have an idea. If you cannot conjour up a single figment of your comotose imagination, then perhaps screenwriting isn't your thing, in fact, as an avid admirer of the Hollywood cash crop, I beg you to seek an alternate profession. So, assuming this, you are ready to create your masterpiece. Now, since a true artist who breaks the mold is usually numb to the braindead masses and would never take such a piece by me seriously, my second assumption is that you want a hit! This means the zombie majority will love it( get it? Zombie,horror....forget it.). They're a fickle group and they expect certain things to be in place to stimulate the proper cursory reactions. Trust me, I've done the research.

Horror films. Many independent film-makers enjoy making Horror films, most likely because they lend themselves to the low budget(b-rate) look. Think of Friday the 13th, Halloween and Elm St.; all of these classics were b-rate movies that struck fear into the masses and look at them now....still as crappy as ever but there are hundreds of them.

The first thing on the checklist, obviously, is a killer, Freddy, Jason...etc. What would the movie be without an evil, ruthless murderer, but there are some other basic guidelines to consider while filming that box office smash.

For starters, your main character should be young, I mean high school or early college age. Yes, it is true that younger, freaky looking children, boy or girl, make for pretty good leading characters, but only if they are possessed by the devil, wanted by the devil, or just a plain f--kin crazy. If you are fine with further saturating the movie scene with these overused plots, see The Omen or Good Son, otherwise, go with the high school/college student played by a very attractive, relatively unknown actress/actor in their late 20's and give em a group of friends using the same model; bosomed babes and bristly boys.
These friends, which usually include but are not limited to: a boyfriend(or ex), or a love interest that kicks the story off as a total stranger and ends up nothing short of a soulmate, obnoxious pals, a best friend or couple, are vital the action. Even a hip teacher or school janitor may squeeze into the fray, although usually the adults tend to feel that the supernatural terroism the group is experiencing is all in their mind, due to stress or a trace of mental illness requiring a psychiatrist.
Parents are insensitive to missing children who aren't their own and cops need to be hit with a severed head to convince him to check things out, regardless of how many close friends swear that there is trouble. Then, apparently, the protocol is for one, out of shape, gumshoe to investigate. I wonder how many police deaths this will lead to before it is amended? For the most part, those over 30 are usually valiantly ignorant and end up dying gruesome, unsuspecting deaths; usually due to their own ignorance.

Now, you have your main character and her crew. It is a good idea to send them on a spring break road trip. This brings the victims together away from home, extremely engaging toward strangers who may do them harm, nightmarish harm. They will be extra cocky, just like any group of drunk, tough-as-nails frat-boys; perfect for slicing them open and wearing their face. As you move forward, this bunch will serve two major functions:

1. First, they will form a teenage investigation team with a knack for paranormal research and deduction that would turn Molder and Skully green with envy. Of course they are introduced as your average kids,(approaching 30)afraid of his their own shadow. It isn't until later that they morph into a fearless team of detectives. That is, those who make it that far, you see,
2. This group also serves as victims of the killer. One by one, starting with the most obscure, perhaps the boyfriend's cocky friend while having sex with another female student or the science teacher who meets his fate while "trying to help"; a casuality of his own intrigue. Minorities, sadly are also offed early. Hey, I can't explain that, all I know is I can't remember the last Spike Lee slasher film. What can I say? Hollywood is a rascist, f---ing place.....and that's another post.
Regardless of the sequence, this orderly extermination of adolescents is actually the magic of horror films. These poor souls must be killed in originally brutal ways. The measure of creativity and gore is your barometer of success. This is for you to create. This is only a guide.

So, you have a killer on the loose and your heroine’s disciples are being picked off, one by one. These bloody, hair-raising murders eat of a chunk of the picture, and horror fans, those demented souls, love it. Soon the cast will be widdled down to a few die-hards, maybe only two or even just the main character. I will assume the latter, a girl, who usually bears the grunt of the investigation anyway, and with great authority, I might add. Any survivor besides this one is simply a loyal soldier tinkering with death.
After the initial encounter with the slayer, a scene which portrays the lead as the screaming young girl you expect her to be, she progressively gains composure and analytical acumen with each kill. By utilizing trusty resources, mostly newspaper clippings found either on the library’s micro-film database or by otherwise snooping around where she shouldn’t be and, of course, more recently, the good old web, she uncovers a wealth of information on the attacker and the crazy s--t that's happening. Armed with this knowledge she stares down the evil which torments her. The squeamish young teen now has no fear. Retreat is not an option. She will push on to the darkest, creepiest corners of town; boiler rooms to basements, she is fearless.

Eventually, a showdown must take place between murderer and heroin(and friends). There are some near deaths, some actual deaths, and even resurrections until untimately good prevails, well,sort of, remember, every great scream-writer will grant the twisted killer a pardon, and one of the last scenes should indicate in some way that this teen-slicing villian has another murder spree in him. Eventually you'll finish with the champ huddled in a blanket, bloddy and disheveled, with her depleted clique, exhausted and relieved. Don't bother with trivial points like having her explain to the police what in God’s name just took place. That will be revealed in the following sequel, or ten.
The killer will return in part two, which usually opens with your protagonist in some sort of mental facility or, at least suffering from serious trauma. She will probably be a pill chugging insomniac, or an alcoholic. Whatever the extent of the post drama, it shouldn't stop her from jumping back into the action.
Some alternate endings might be to pull a last minute murder of the main character. It's gorey and sneaky. Horror fans love that because they don't play by normal Hollywood rules. It matters not what actors or characters are available for the next insert. Remember the criteria? Nowhere did it mention "star studded", actually, any prior success, by rule, disqualifies.

There you have my time tested template used to make a great horror flick. A couple of other points to remember:

1.Old men, sometimes homeless or otherwise eccentric and isolated from society, carry great knowledge.
2.The high school kids are quite proficient when you need them, like if being chased by a killer who can smash a windshield with a right cross; tried that lately?
3.Be sure to show character at the bathroom sink with a mirror above it. This is a perfect place for the killer to appear, or so she may think.
4. Don’t be afraid to push the envelope on bravery to the point of being oblivious.

There are many other guidelines for creating a good horror film, this is only a rudimentary outline. In the next insert we will discuss action movies and the ever popular romantic comedy, for which you will need to contact Drew Barrymore and Adam Sandler, or Jennifer Lopez, Cameron Diaz, or Vince Vaugn. Renee Zelweger and Hugh Grant are some other possibilities. Have Fun!

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Thanks for reading that. Please add some comments, give an opinion, ask questions, disagree. I would love a healthy discussion on this, not to find a winner in this debate, but to find the truth.

- Professor Plume

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