Writing for film

I have always wanted to write and produce a film. A short film, ideally. I have no shortage of ideas but I am not in the slightest bit movie minded in terms of crafting such a thing.

My chosen style or genre would lean toward the supernatural. Something that might be lazily interpreted as horror but is in actual fact rather more psychological than gore. I avoid blood and gore in films. To me they are just pantomime.

Recently I watched The Human Centipede. It was billed as ‘truly terrifying’ and ‘the stuff of nightmares’. I think I spent more time laughing to myself than being truly terrified. I certainly didn’t suffer nightmares. A genuinely chilling concept let down, in my opinion, by bad staging and truly awful acting. So much more could have been done to increase the hit on the senses with that story. I don’t know, perhaps the version I watched was heavily censored. It’s entirely possible. The BBFC aren’t known for their respect of adults actually being adults.

Transformation is something that chills me. It always has done.
The werewolf scene in the front room from American Werewolf in London is a masterclass in cinema. The hideous transformation of Jan Francis’ Mina character in 1979’s Dracula is truly disturbing. The wonderfully tense blood test scene in The Thing that led to the transformation of one of the characters is, for me, unrivaled to this day.

Many modern films target immediate shocks as their route to un-nerving the audience. It’s not uncommon for us to witness somebody turning a corner and seeing some hideous demon flash up on screen momentarily. In Drag me to hell the lead character turns over in bed to see the nightmarish vision of her demon lying alongside her. It’s pretty chilling and immediately effective but a short lived horror. When the film is finished you’re left with little to process and very little to unsettle you. At least I was.

For my own project I’d like to conduct a little research into how the human mind works and processes such things as grief and lonliness. Fear of loss and isolation are amongst our greatest fears. Fear of the unknown, fear of failure, fear of change. These are all legitimate fears.

Religion has a major place in the lives of many people. It acts as a support, a crutch, to those who have a strong faith. What if that was tested? What if all that is deemed good and right, is shown to be anything but. What if you’re trust in Christ, for example, was shown to be misplaced.

These are things that intrigue me.

Piper Laurie’s character in Carrie was perfect. Recently ressurected by (the gorgeous) Julianne Moore to great effect, Carrie’s mother is the original religious nutcase. Self-harming is just one of her means of punishing herself for her perceived failings. It’s brutal viewing and very effective. There are no monsters and no ‘flashed up’ demons. It feels very real. As if the people living next door to you could be going through the same thing.

Julianne Moore photo from Carrie

I like this more than anything else in cinema. I like truth in film. To horribly paraphrase Hemingway; all writing is good if it is true. It’s this truth that I seek in a story.

M.R.James is a huge influence on my ideas for a story. As is Lovecraft. James’ fireside style of writing as if it were to be read aloud is extremely seductive. Lovecraft’s detail and elaborate portrayal of a netherworld containing that which should not really be known is and always has been hugely inspirational to me.

Photo of MR James

[M R James]

So in short I want to place real people into a real scenario that could well happen to anybody. Ghosts are real in that any form of spiritual afterlife has never been proven or disproved. Monsters less so. Monsters are useful for upsetting children effectively. But not adults. For me adults need reality or the perception of an alternate reality. We as adults need something to get our teeth into that could very well happen to us. And this is my starting point.

First I will write, then I will refine and ultimately I will plan a short film. 30 minutes or so. And then I will figure out how to shoot it!