Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Screenplay Review - Carnivore

Genre: Dark Thriller
Premise: A wayward aspiring chef moves into a homeless shelter only to learn that the food they cook here is a little more...exotic than he's used to.
About: The Wachowski Brothers' first script sale was "Assassins."  But they'd actually written plenty of scripts before that, including this one, which, after The Matrix, landed at Trimark.  In fact, many moons ago, George Romero was rumored to be directing it.  Unfortunately it never went anywhere, which is too bad, cause it was certainly better than those Matrix sequels.
Writers: Andy and Larry Wachowski
Details: 113 pages


Where have you been all my life?  Or at least since The Matrix.

My Chicago brethren have been lost at cinema sea since that amazing classic, scuttlebutting out two Matrix sequels that didn't make any sense, something bright and shiny called Speed Racer, a gay military project called Jupiter Ascending, and adapting the most unadaptable book ever, Cloud Atlas, which just debuted its trailer a couple of weeks ago.

To say these two have been squandering their amazing talent is an understatement.  These Chicago hot dogs have all the talent fixings, including tomatoes, pickles, mustard, peppers, and celery salt. The problem is they've set up their hot dog stands in the wrong locations.  Hey, I'm all about taking chances, senor.  But if you travel too far away from the epicenter, you lose everybody, and I think that's what's happened to this duo.

Now the way I understand it, before the Wachowskis got their big break with Matrix, they were big name writers, hired to pen a lot of the hot jobs in town.  Carnivore was written before their Matrix success, which I'm hoping indicates a team still trying to prove their worth.  Let's check it out.

John Bunyan, who, no, does not carry an axe, stumbles into Chicago with nothing but the clothes on his back and a deep fried dream of becoming a chef.  Speaking of food, he stops at a dingy old diner to grab some grub, where he runs into the insanely beautiful but broken down Ophelia.  Ophelia is being escorted by her total asshole of a date, Roman Links, a weasel of a human being who's forcing her to eat a dinner she doesn't want to eat.

John steps in, sticking up for the damsel in distress, and the two get into a fight, with John barely registering a TKO.  Feeling terrible, Ophelia tells John she knows of a place where he can stay, and takes him to "The Mission," a homeless shelter run by a creepy dude named Rex Mundi and an older woman who likes to be called "Granny" even though she's nobody's grandma.

John enjoys the place about as much as someone can enjoy a homeless shelter but what he's really surprised about is the food.  It's DELICIOUS!  Granny makes some sort of Granny Stew that puts even the freshest In and Out cheeseburger to shame.  Mmmmmmm...

In the meantime, Ophelia and John start hanging out.  You get the feeling that this girl has reallllly low self-esteem because I don't know many hot women who date homeless dudes.  But I guess after you're with Roman Links, the elephant man would seem better.  Speaking of Roman, he's not taking their break-up too well.  In fact, he sneaks into Ophelia's apartment late at night wearing nothing but a flasher jacket and pees everywhere.  Yup, a real winner this guy is.

John wants to do something to this asshole but he's getting more and more preoccupied by Granny's cooking.  It's just so delicious.  Unfortunately, it has some troubling side effects, such as a hefty sexual appetite for biting human flesh.  I think we know where this one's going boys and girls.  Yup, it turns out that stew John's been eating (spoiler) has a certain special ingredient.  Human flesh!!!  And now John's making Ethan Hawke and those Andes plane crash victims look like they were dining on baked beans and cheerios.  Much like Twilight before the K-Stew betrayal, John NEEDS Ophelia's flesh.  He needs human meat to survive!

So what's going to happen here?  Is John going to be able to pull away from his newest craving?  Or is he going to make Ophelia a Taco Ten Pack?  Lucky for everyone here, you get to find out.  There's a link to the script at the bottom of the review!

Maybe it's because I've been reading sooooo many bad scripts lately, but I actually enjoyed this delicious mess.  It was kind of like eating a Chipotle burrito right after a few Sprinkles cupcakes.  Together, they make you feel sick.  But you liked each of them at the time of consumption.

First of all, the Wachowskis have a great style of writing.  They're flashy enough so that you're impressed by their writing, but they never let it get in the way of the story.  It's always about providing atmosphere and bringing you into their fucked up universe.  A lot of amateurs make the prose the star.  They try to wow you with their wordsmithing ways, to the point where you're wading through an ocean of syllables simply to figure out that a character has walked from his car to his house.

You can really see the power of the Wachoskis in their scene transitions, one of which I've highlighted here. In the scene, a nameless character is running for his life.  He's barely able to get to his car.  This is what happens next...

He jumps into the car, locking the door and jams the key into the ignition.  // Suddenly, a baseball bat arcs down so that the twisting of the key seems to shatter the windshield.  The explosion of glass becomes--


The crash and tinkle of dirty plates being thrown into a bin by a busboy clearing them from the table of an old diner.

The visuals here practically scream cinema.  You're not reading.  You're seeing the movie up on the screen.  That's one of the goals of screenwriting, placing your readers in the movie theater.  You have to admire how the Wachowskis are consistently able to pull that off.

From a geek standpoint, one of the more interesting things about the script is how obsessed the Wachowskis were with dreams even back then.  There are a ton of dream sequences and you can practically smell the inspiration for The Matrix.  I'm not sure they were entirely necessary for the film, but they were fun nonetheless, especially since the Wachowskis are so strong visually.  The nightmare where Ophelia (a vegetarian) eats meat for the first time and catches a rare disease where one's cellulite calcifies into thick gobs of bone underneath the flesh had me squirming in my seat.

But in the end, what set this script apart for me is something I always preach here on Scriptshadow.  It was different. I didn't know what was coming next.  It was a horror film without the cliche horror trappings.  The Roman Links character - when he sneaks into Ophelia's place and pisses all over it, then growls at her like an animal as he attacks her - I was like, WTF???  There were enough weird moments like this where I had to keep reading.

It goes to show that this medium truly celebrates writers with a unique voice.  If you're not blindly following the crowd or trying to ape your favorite movies, but rather writing something only YOU can write, then assuming you have some talent and skill as a writer, you're going to make it in this industry.  And if that doesn't come naturally to you, you have to work at it.  You have to push yourself away from your inspirations and focus on what you can bring to the table that nobody else can.  I felt like this was only a movie the Wachowskis could make.  I'd like to see that same individuality from more screenwriters!

You can find the script here in text form! - Carnivore

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

What I learned: One of the EASIEST ways to make us like your protagonist is to have them stick up for somebody.  When Ophelia is getting attacked by her date in the opening diner scene, John comes to her rescue, telling Roman Links to lay off.  We instantly like John from that point on.