So I was going to write something about online communities, why they may or may not be important to me and about Ship of Fools specifically. But… that’s a long involved subject and I wanted to do this instead.
I’m a fan of a US TV program called Project Greenlight – basically it’s a script-writing and directing contest – the winners get to make an actual movie. The process of making the movie is filmed for a documentary show. Well the contest for the 3rd season is nearing the end stages. They’ve whittled the scripts down to the top 6. Since they’re available for download I intend to review them on here.
The first, which I picked more or less at random is FEAST.
Feast is a monster-movie. A group of people are besieged in a bar by a ‘family’ of ravenous flying beasts. As the night wears on they make various attempts to escape whilst their numbers are depleted by these killing and eating machines. I won’t be giving anything away if I tell you that not all the group survive – firstly because Feast follows the usual conventions for these kinds of movies and secondly because we get a freeze-frame caption introduction to all the main characters at the start of the movie – including the information Name, Age, Occupation and Life Expectancy. However the fact is that they are still able to surprise us since some of the captions are ambiguous (and in at least one case sarcastically incorrect). I liked the captions they helped create a certain attitude for the tone of the movie.
There are a lot of characters – I counted 18 speaking roles in the movie itself (there’s a pre-titles teaser introduction of the monsters) – but then they tend to get killed off in ones and twos at regular intervals – leaving us with a small band of survivors – like I said before about par for the course for this type of movie. All the characters except two waitresses and two kids – have roles instead of names – bartender, hero, good guy, bossman etc. A sly recognition of the fact that with so many characters and so much action they’re never gonna be much more than types anyway. Actually there is as much characterisation as can be expected under these conditions and it’s done well. The dialog has a breezy, always on the edge of being tongue-in-cheek style – it reminds me of From Dusk Til Dawn or Tremors. So you end up rooting for the group – which as it should be – but not too gutted when the characters are, well, gutted – which is also for the good.
I’m still not sure about the monsters. They are huge, white, furry, winged jackals – or at least that’s as near as I could visualise it. They move very fast and they rip, tear and eat their victims. They show intelligence – laying traps, searching for weaknesses. They also act as a family and have individual personalities. We even get monster-sex and monster-reproduction – the gestation period is in an order of seconds! The script never really tries to explain where they’ve come from or why they’re here – but I don’t see that as a huge weakness – it would be nice to know, but the main point of the movie is the human-monster battles not the back-story. They also are unable to come out in the open during the day – giving the movie it’s natural direction – the group must survive until morning when they can escape.
As you’d expect the pace rattles along fairly briskly – building to a climax at the end. Although the actual ending – which I won’t spoil – I think needs work. I think the ending to a movie like this is like the punchline to a joke – so you need to get to it quickly and deliver it confidently- I think in this case they take too long and then ‘fluff it’ slightly.
I also wondered whether some of the action being described was plausible on-screen as opposed to on the page. Monsters flying in enclosed spaces, people throwing bodies around as a weapon.
Having said that it was entertaining and though there’s nothing here we haven’t really seen before – it still has the potential to be a lot of fun.
I do have to wonder if it’ll disqualify itself by being too expensive though. Most of the action takes place in 2 or 3 rooms of the bar but there are 20 characters – i.e. 20 actors to pay. Making the monsters fly is going to be expensive, as could be the effects/make-up they’d require in any case. PGL has a minimum budget of $1M and Miramax who fund the movie haven’t in the past wanted to push it too much higher than that. If this script wins then I think they’ll need some creative people capable of doing effects on a budget. I’d also expect there to be pressure to re-write with less characters, less monsters, and possibly monsters which are more conducive to stuntman-in-a-suit rather than stuntman-in-a-suit-and-a-harness-and-possible-CGI (which they won’t get money or time for).
Purely on the merits of the script itself I’d give it a 7.5/10. Whether it should be or not – practical concerns of whether they can make it for the budget or not will hamper it’s chances of getting picked – for that reason I’d say chances of winning are lowish.
But I intend to re-visit the “who should win?” and “who will win questions?” when I’ve read all 6 scripts.
Next up is MANEATER