Harry Potter in Space

I’m intrigued by high concepts. Especially in film. I don’t understand the film industry but in my mind there’s corridors of suited execs at Warner Bros, Fox etc babbling away in an extremely clipped vocabulary all of their own.

I also want to imagine that they are similar to the waxy haired execs in American Psycho. All chisel-featured and clad neck to toe in Armani. Referring to one another by their surname and proudly brandishing their latest business cards.

Tossers, in any other language.

Thoroughly uncreative, bean-counting tossers who can only process their corporate life by way of their adopted language rich with its buzzwords and bullshit.

A typical executive corridor at Warner Bros

“Hey, Jenson. Did you hear the latest?”
“Hey, Bradowski. Which latest is that?”
“They took a new concept in late last night.”
“I heard, what was it again? Had a late one at Brown’s last night. My head’s a little west right now.”
“Harry Potter…. in SPACE!”
“Jesus, that rocks. Who’ve they got earmarked for that one?”
“Well, funny you should mention it but they put my name forward…”

It’s as sickening to read as it is to write.

So after watching the short but highly satisfying Lights Out the other evening, I thought about high concepts that are purely in video form.

Lights Out was originally conceived as a short film. A concept piece. Just a few minutes long and pretty creepy. Everything you’d want to see in the full length film was portrayed right there.

And here it is.

http://villains.wikia.com/wiki/File:Lights_Out_2013

Easily the creepiest 3 minutes I’ve seen in a long time.

If you were to present this to a studio I’m pretty sure you’d be met by a couple of distinct reactions.

  1. That’s pretty awesome
  2. How in hell am I gonna stand in the corridor and talk to other suits about this?

I like the concept a lot. It inspires me to think differently about a story. It also encourages me to go back and look at stories that I’ve enjoyed to see if I can condense them into 3 minutes of film.

There’s more to the Lights Out movie than just flicking the light on and off. But not much more. It’s wrapped up in backstory of mental health and experimentation-gone-wrong. But essentially it’s all about keeping the lights on at all costs. I find that very attractive as a writer.

Lights Out Movie

So I relaxed with a glass of red and a movie last night. My intention was to switch off but instead I found myself making notes as the film unfolded. The film in question was last year’s Lights Out.

It’s a short film at just over 80 minutes. I don’t think it needed to be much longer than that. Everything that needed saying was said well enough in that time.

What’s more there’s really only a handful of characters to cling to. This I liked.

Maria Bello

Sophie (played by the always lovely Maria Bello, whom I recently saw and enjoyed in The Private Lives of Pippa Lee) is the central character. Her troubled childhood and constant struggles with her mental health form the backstory and provide us with our antagonist, Diana.

Diana, only visible in the darkness

So it’s Diana that gives us all the scares and provides us with an intriguing hook. What I liked here was that the initial events in the film gave me something to immediately care about. Albeit in the form of ‘what the fuck is going on?’

Diana is a malevolent spirit that has latched onto Sophie. Sophie is very much alive, Diana isn’t.

The backstory explains how Diana came to be the dark spirit and involves experiments and rare skin disorders. Since this was 80 minutes of research I found myself noting down rather a lot of backstory. Perhaps the whole kid-with-a-skin-condition thing could have been implied somehow. I don’t know. It seemed to occupy a fair bit of screen time evaluating how Diana came to be.

Regardless, it was effective and we are left with a suitably shifty and sinister ‘bad guy’.

So Diana can only be seen and can only be active in the darkness. If confronted by said spirit, simply flick a light on.

All too easy, right? Wrong. Diana appears to have some sway over the power situation and can disable the lights. Even lighting a fire doesn’t appear to work for too long.

Whatever, the point of the scare dynamics is that dark = bad, light = good. It makes the film uncomplicated and easy to watch.

Because the cast was pretty light I found myself actually caring about them all. Rebecca, Sophie’s daughter, and her brother Martin seem to be always in the thick of it. Naturally looking out for one another whilst trying to ‘fix’ their mother.

Rebecca’s boyfriend Bret plays his role, also.

But Sophie has problems. She has serious mental health issues. Always has, by the looks of it. When she’s taking her meds Diana doesn’t trouble anyone. When she’s off the meds, Diana causes havoc.

A simple dynamic. Stay on yer meds, Mother!

But of course Sophie doesn’t want to be the nutcase. She wants to be clean and free of the meds so occasionally lapses. She’s weak. Ultimately that weakness tells as she sacrifices herself for the sake of her children. With Sophie gone, Diana is gone. Apparently.

So after 80 minutes I was left feeling reasonably satisfied by the story and suitably buoyed into adding a little more to my own creepy ghost story.

The dynamic of weird shit existing in the darkness only to vanish with the lights on isn’t terribly original. But it was quite satisfyingly executed.

It felt a lot like a college film. An independent kid’s project that had received some Hollywood funding. It also echoed the creepy turn of the century Japanese horror that gave us Ring and Dark Water. No bad thing.

I think the point (if there needs to be one) that I’m trying to arrive at here is that you don’t need buckets of dollars to make an effective movie. You just need a captivating story and the ability to communicate it while the camera’s rolling.