Wednesday, November 25, 2009


Genre: Sorror (sorta horror)
Premise: When a group of people get holed up in a remote lodge during a blizzard, they must figure out a way to survive after they begin spontaneously bursting.
About: Neil Marshall, the director of sharp horror gem, “The Descent” is going back to his roots after his disappointing post-apocalyptic reimagining of Mad Max, “Doomsday.” Sam Raimi’s Ghost House Pictures will produce. And if there was any doubt at all, “Burst” will be shot in 3-D.
Writer: Gary Dauberman
Details: Early draft (edit: later drafts do address the ending issue I bring up at the end of the review)

What better way to celebrate Thanksgiving than with…….people bursting! When you think about it, people bursting is the only way to enjoy a social occasion. Need a little entertainment? No problem. Rick over there’s about to blow up. After my disappointment with Shelter, I’d all but given up on “people trapped in a room” scripts. But a friend passed me “Burst” and said, “You have to read this.” I’m very susceptible to that phrase. You *have to*. Just that word “have” convinces me that if I don’t read “this” I’m probably missing out on the best screenplay ever.

Well Burst definitely isn’t the best screenplay ever. It’s also not the worst. But where it falls in the middle, to be honest, I’m not sure. It certainly starts out awesome. Everywoman Clare gets stranded in a blizzard in the middle of nowhere. Luckily, the strange but charming Jason happens to be driving by in his truck and picks her up. The two start making observations about the blizzard of the century, which somehow is getting worse by the minute. Clare is also, like any smart woman would do, making discreet queries into Jason’s life to make sure he’s not some psycho axe-murderer. I’m not sure what she planned to do with this information if he was, but I guess I'd want to know too.

Eventually the storm reaches Weather Channel orgasm proportions, the kind where news stations send out their lesser paid staff to stand in four feet of snow and announce the end of the world. But there are no news stations out here. Only the last lodge within 40 miles. Knowing they have no other options, they decide to head in and wait it out.

Only they’re not the first ones with the idea. Six other varied guests have stumbled off the road. A man with a hunting gun known as “Hunter,” Tonya, a really hot chick who’s scared shitless of everything, Fred, a chubby white guy, Peter, a 7-11 worker, a “tall man,” an overweight sex-crazed 40 year old woman named Mama, and, oh yeah, let’s not forget the large pulpy mess in the middle of the floor which used to be someone named “Beth.” The only way they know this is because of her name tag.

Immediately Jason wants to know who’s responsible for Dead Beth. When no one fesses up, a game of deduction takes place, as Jason tries to determine who got here first. Naturally, the first person here had to be the one who turned Beth into a melting glob of goo. No sooner than the wise-cracking Tall Man tells Jason to shut the hell up, than he bursts into a million different pieces! Ho. Ly. Shit.

The group books upstairs where, they assume, it’s safer, only to find a room full of previously bursted people. Whatever this mini-phenomenon is, it’s been going on for awhile, and it’s probably not stopping anytime soon. So the group tries to formulate a plan of escape. The only problem is, they don’t know what they’re escaping from. This leads some to start suspecting each other. Faster than a group of Santa Monica homeless men can blame the CIA for 9/11, Hunter becomes convinced that it’s some sort of government project, and that maybe, just maybe, one of the people in this lodge is involved.

As more people continue to burst like over-microwaved hot pockets, the remaining members must figure out what’s happening so they can stop it, or get the hell out of this lodge.

Laying out the premise like that, the movie actually sounds kinda ridiculous. My brother walked in while I was reading the script and he said, “What are you reviewing tomorrow?” I said, “A script about people who spontaneously burst.” He paused, then calmly replied, “That’s stupid.” And you know, when you say it out loud, it does sound stupid.

But Burst is pretty good. One of my big problems with Shelter was that it was such a reaction-oriented script. There was a nuclear war, and everyone’s attitude was sort of, “Wait it out and see what happens.” It was the kind of premise that breeds passive (reactive) characters. But with Burst, you had a bloody pulpy mass of a person in the middle of a room and eight suspects. This led to a more active storyline, as each character tried to figure out who was responsible for killing her. On top of that, they had to figure out *how* they managed to kill her *like this*. So it was a double mystery. And it gave the characters something to do.

The whole problem with Burst - the reason it doesn’t get the super-supreme rating (that’s the unofficial secret rating right above “genius” by the way) – is…well, unfortunately I can’t tell you what it is. Because by me telling you, I’d give everything away. But I’ll give you a hint. My reading experience with Burst was much like my reading experience with Umbra. And anyone who remembers that review will know what I’m talking about. My plea to the makers of this movie, is: don’t do it. And by *it* you know what I’m talking about. And because you know what I’m talking about without me having to talk about it, then you probably have already thought about changing it. Which you should.

Anyway, slather this script with turkey, pour some of that Thanksgiving gravy on it, chow down, and tell me what you think. And don't leave any room for pumpkin pie. Cause as we all know, pumpkin pie sucks.

[ ] What the hell did I just read?
[ ] barely kept my interest
[x] worth the read
[ ] impressive
[ ] genius

What I learned: Dauberman is one of those writers who wants to let you know he’s writing. He comments on everything, almost like a third party who’s reading the script with you. For example, here’s how he describes the tall man exploding:

One of the BACK WINDOWS SHATTERS., I mean, yeah, but also THE TALL MAN EXPLODES. Literally. In a THOUSAND PIECES. Every inch of him tearing out in all directions. BODY MEAT, all soft and wet, SPLAT onto the group. Onto the wall. Everyone reacts in a similar way: holding their hands out, shielding their face, spitting skin from their lips. And SCREAMING. Lots of that.

I mean sure, I admit it’s fun, but it’s hard for me to condone anything that takes you out of the story. It’s a stylistic call so ultimately it’s up to you. But I’ll remind you that seasoned readers, they’ve seen this kind of stuff a hundred times before. So they’re going to be less receptive to it. Having said that, I couldn’t help but laugh after what Dauberman wrote when Clare initially found herself stranded

She picks up her CELL PHONE laying in the passenger seat. Looks at the display: NO SERVICE. No shit. That’s what you get for ordering Cingular.