Wednesday, June 3, 2009

The Roommate

Genre: Thriller
Premise: A college Freshman's roommate becomes dangerously obsessed with her.
About: Mallhi is an executive vice president at Vertigo. He went out with the screenplay under a pseudonym so it would be given fair consideration in the marketplace. It wasn't until after Screen Gems made an offer on "Roommate" that Mallhi revealed that he wrote the spec. Mallhi exec produced "The Strangers" for Vertigo (Daily Variety). "Roommate" marks Mallhi's first screenplay sale. It is now in production. Gossip Girl cast member Leighton Meester is attached and an unknown director from Denmark, Christian Christensen, is directing.
Writer: Sonny Mallhi

Okay okay, so I kinda cheated. I promised you guys I'd review a horror script. I poured and poured over the choices but I just couldn't do it. I would open the script, read a few words, and think: 120 pages of this?? There's no way. So I decided on a compromise. The Roommate is sort of a horror script. Or, at least, it appeals to the same people who like horror. Doesn't it?

The idea for The Roommate is very "Single White Female" - a solid flick from the 90s that was just under the radar enough that no one remembers it. Which is good for Mallhi because that meant he had no competetion for the idea. He obviously figured, "All I have to do is take this great concept and transfer it to a college setting, where the girls are younger and hotter." Uhh, can anyone say genius??

I love a good psychological thriller and The Roommate psychologicalizes and thrills right from the beginning. When I finished it and researched to see what was going on with the project, it came as no surprise that it was already in production. 9 out of 10 purchased scripts never make it to the big screen. But as soon as I put this down I knew it was ready to be shot tomorrow (and it was - literally).

Sara is a college freshman who's a bit more self-assured than most college coeds. We catch her on the day she's moving in. She makes a few friends on the floor and meets a cute drummer in a local band, Stephen. After what can only be described as a perfect first day of college, Sara comes home to find...Rebecca. Just sitting there. Staring. You know what kind of stare I'm talking about too. The kind that says psych-ooooo. But naive Sara, eager to make friends, ignores the creepines, and introduces herself. Rebecca, even though she's a knockout, seems to be surprised by the attention, and rewards watching her sleep all night.

Friday Night Lights alum will play Sara

The next day, Sara introduces her obnoxious floor friends to Rebecca. One of the great things about Mallhi's script is his subtle dark humor, which is on full display in this scene...
Sara waves her over and only then, does Rebecca walk over.

Tracy. Kim. This is my roommate Rebecca.

(small wave)

RRRRRREBECCA. Your name’s sort of a mouthful. What can we call you?

I like Reba.

Tracy sticks her finger down her throat, makes gagging sounds.

I like Becca.

(shakes her head)
How about Becky?

Becky’s good.

They simultaneously turn to Rebecca for approval.

I like Rebecca.



(to Rebecca)
We better take these books back to the room.

Without saying goodbye. Rebecca leaves. Sara gives Tracy and Kim a look. Shrugs her shoulders.
To get a full idea of just how creepy Rebecca is, you have to read the script. But for another taste, here's a scene where Sara and Rebecca are getting ready for a party...

They both look in the mirror. Rebecca smiles.

Wait a sec. I also have some cool earrings that will go with this.

Sara grabs a pair of small, gold hoop earrings from her dresser. She places them in Rebecca’s hand.

Lemme go take a shower. I’ll be just a second.

She grabs her stuff and rushes out the door leaving Rebecca standing there. Earrings in her palm. She turns towards the full length mirror behind the door. As she leans into the mirror, we see her ears aren’t pierced.

Nevertheless, she takes one of the earrings and touches the pin against the skin of her right lobe. After a moment of hesitation. She pushes the pin in hard. A small pop. She flinches slightly.

Blood trickling down her ear, onto her neck. She wipes it off with her thumb and places the other hoop to her left ear.

Leighton Meester will play the creepy Rebecca

Although Rebecca continues to be introduced to Sara's friends, let's just say she's not that interested in them. And if any of them decide to cross Sara...well, then Rebecca pays them a visit. Sometimes the visits are innocent. Other times...well let's just say no one's safe in this film, not even house pets.

I think one of the reasons the script works so well is that it balances the real world with the movie world in away where you don't question the cinematic liberties taken (and there are a few taken). We all know that person in our life who creeps us the hell out. The guy at work who never laughs at the right moment. The girl at the gym who's definitely barbequeing bodies in her spare time. Usually you're able to weed these people out of your life, but because of mutual friends or work, you occasionally have to deal with them. "The Roommate" explores the more fantastical assumptions we make about what these people do when they're alone.

One thing I noticed while I was reading this was that there's a lot more action text than dialogue text, which is rare to see these days. Entire scenes occur without anybody saying anything. And even the scenes where people do talk, they're usually less than a page long. It's not easy to do this without your script feeling stunted but "Roommate" is all the better for it. It really is a solid script.

Before I go, here's one last juicy moment. Earlier, Sara was shocked to find out Rebecca didn't have a Facebook page, insisting she had to get one. In that same converation, they talked about Sara's favorite movie being Coyote Ugly.

Sara sits with Stephen. He’s trying to read but has the attention span of a gnat. Sara’s not studying either. She’s on her Facebook page. Gets a message for adding a new friend...from Rebecca. Sara clicks to add her.
Sara goes to Rebecca’s Facebook page. Sara’s her only friend. The picture of Sara and Rebecca in front of the graffiti is on the site. There are more of her drawings and a picture of a brunette haired girl with the caption 'Maria.'

Sara looks at her interests. Favorite Artist: Richard Prince. Favorite Passion: Drawing. Favorite movie: Coyote Ugly. Sara smiles. Best Friend: SARA. She loses the smile.

[ ] trash
[ ] barely kept my interest
[ ] worth the read
[x] impressive
[ ] genius

What I learned: Bombard your protag! Sara has to deal with Rebecca, with her friend Tracy no longer liking her, with the pressue of Stephen always wanting to hang out, with her ex-bf Jason wanting to get together, with her friend Irene who wants her to move in with her, with her mom always wanting to talk, with her professor hitting on her, with her cat disappearing…All this bombardament puts an insane amount of tension on your protagonist. And all that tension gets transferred directly onto us. We feel Sara's stress. It makes every scene with her that much more captivating, because we know what she's going through. Beginning writers almost always make things easy for their protagonist. And let's be honest. How interesting is that?