Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The Nightmare Of Hugo Bearing

Okay, so Amateur Month is officially OV-AH. That was fun. And at times scary because some of you are terrifying. It's appropriate that today's script is about nightmares because I think I'll be having plenty due to Estrogen Deprived and Effscottfitz. If this is your first day back to Scriptshadow in awhile, you can go to Amateur Week here, Repped Week here, Favorites Week here, and of course, don't forget to sign up for a tracking board if you haven't already. I fixed the damn pricing thing I screwed up on, so it really is $44.25 now. I promise. -- Hope you guys enjoyed this month as much as I sometimes did. We'll have to do it again sometime. :)

Genre: Adventure/Children’s
Premise: A young boy teams up with a nightmare hunter to help him catch a monster that escaped from his dreams.
About: In 2002, Spielberg/Dreamworks picked up this very hot spec. The project unfortunately fell into a nightmare of its own (known as Development Hell) and unlike in the script, there was no one to save it. But Spielberg was a huge champion of the writers and tabbed them to write a couple of adaptations, including author Scott Lynch's fantasy epic "The Lies of Locke Lamora,” about a likable con artist and his band of followers, and an original idea of Spielberg’s, "Charlie Dills.” (Don’t know what this is about – maybe It's On The Grid knows???). But their adaptation with the best title by far, is the script they wrote for 1492 Pictures, titled: "Carpe Demon: Adventures of a Demon-Hunting Soccer Mom.”
Writers: The Brothers Hageman
Details: 99 pages (This is an early draft of the script. The situations, characters, and plot may change significantly by the time of the film's release. This is not a definitive statement about the project, but rather an analysis of this unique draft as it pertains to the craft of screenwriting).

Wow, I don’t review many children’s scripts on the site. But I love a good high concept idea and this is about as high concept as they come. So hey, why not change it up?

I mean we were all kids once. I remember as a young tyke, watching “Tales From The Crypt” and one of the tales was about a dead guy who came back to get his birthday cake. He kept repeating the phrase, “I waaaant my caaaaake,” as his deteriorated skeleton of a face oozed worms and slime. That night, I sat scrunched up in the corner of my room with a hockey mask, a baseball bat, and any sharp object I could find, staring at my door til the sun came up, convinced Mr. I-Want-My-Cake Man was going to burst through that door and take me to Deathville.

Which is the perfect segue into today’s script, which is all about nightmares. Hugo Bearing is an 11 year old orphan (that’s old in orphan years btw) who’s plagued with horrifying dreams every night he goes to sleep. In his nightmares is the sickly evil spider-ish monstrosity known as Mister It. Mister It doesn’t just scare Hugo, he psychologically burrows into him, reminding him that no parents will ever come to adopt him, and that he will always be alone...forever.

Hugo’s best friend is the pudgy tag-a-long known as Asmus Fudge (note – All of the names in this screenplay are absolutely brilliant). There’s also the twins, Eye-Patch Pete, and the eternally cranky Benny. As Hugo is the oldest, he’s the one they all look up to. And for that reason, he’s reluctant to tell them about his secret – that his nightmares still haunt him.

So what’s the only thing worse than a nightmare? A nightmare that comes to life of course! And unfortunately for Hugo, Mister It escapes from his dreams into the real world. After he slithers away, Hugo meets 70 year old Atticus Marvel, a green trench-coated Nightmare Hunter. A cross between “Sherlock Holmes and Don Quixote,” Atticus is quite the badass for someone who gets a senior discount. He informs Hugo that they have a problem. Nightmares aren’t allowed to exist in the real world, and it’s their job to capture his nightmare and put it back where it belongs.

As their journey unfolds, Atticus explains the rules of Nightmare Hunting. Nightmare Hunters are kind of like Jedi. They’re called in when a nightmare gets unruly. Old stories you hear about dragons and goblins? Those were simply nightmares who escaped from people’s dreams. Nightmares are identified by their class. The higher the class, the more dangerous they are. For example there’s a Class 2 Trundle Trotter, there’s a Class 3 Obesian Snackpacker, and so on and so forth. (did I tell you these names were great or what?)

The reason it’s so important to find Hugo’s nightmare is that he’s a class 10, and class 10’s are capable of spawning other nightmares, which is exactly what starts happening. If they don’t get Mister It back into the dreamworld soon, the entire planet will be invaded by a nightmare army.

The first thing that popped out at me here was the sheer breadth of imagination. It really feels like these guys thought this world through. The mythology, while occasionally silly, is easy to buy into. I mean the whole "monsters throughout history being escaped nightmares" thing was really clever. I also loved the whole class system and how it operated. For example, nightmare class is dependent on how extraordinary the subject’s fear is. Mister It is a Class 10 because Hugo is so terrified of him.

I think this leads to my only beef, which is that maybe the characters aren’t as deep as they could be. I mean, Hugo's situation is a perfect setup for a major character flaw. Hugo somehow needs to overcome his fear of Mister It in order to take him down. But I was never really sure what Hugo’s flaw was (what caused his fear), other than the very basic: he was scared of Mister It. Therefore, the character arc (Hugo overcoming his flaw) doesn’t resonate. Then again, this is a kid’s story. So maybe it doesn’t matter.

Another potential problem is the world the story takes place in. Even before the nightmares arrive, the town is described in a very fairy-tale like manner. I would imagine that throwing nightmares into that world wouldn’t provide enough of a contrast to take advantage of the concept. In other words, we may feel the impact more if the town were realistic. Throwing a dream into a world that’s already dreamy prevents them from sticking out, right? But again, this is a choice they went with and it’s not like it's a dealbreaker.

I’m not easily won over by children’s movies. Whenever Harry Potter pops up on my boob tube, I can’t help but wish I'd run into him one day in a dark alley so I could punch that little zig-zag mark off his noggin. But this was cute. It won me over.

[ ] What the hell did I just read?
[ ] wasn’t for me
[x] worth the read
[ ] impressive
[ ] genius

What I learned: So we’ve talked a few times about the mid-point and what a good mid-point achieves. Usually – not always, but usually – a midpoint is where you raise the stakes of the main goal. So if it’s a story about trying to get to the moon to save 3 astronauts who are trapped and running out of supplies, the midpoint might be the shuttle that’s going there blowing up a day before launch. Time’s running out. Their predicament is a thousand times worse than it was a day earlier. The stakes have been raised. The Nightmare Of Hugo Bearing has a nice midpoint. Initially the goal is to capture Mister It and put him back into the dreamworld. Difficult but still doable. Exactly halfway through the story (the midpoint) we learn that Mister It is a Class 10, which means he can spurn other nightmare creatures into existence. Talk about raising the stakes. Now, they not only have to capture THIS nightmare, they have to capture ALL of the nightmares he’s created. Go to the middle of your script right now. Do you dramatically raise the stakes of your story?