Sunday, June 21, 2009

The Fly Fisher

Genre: Horror/Thriller
Premise: A fly fisherman lures his victims in with bait and guts them like fish.
About: Nicholl Fellowship winner 2007.
Writer: Michael L. Hare

This is going to cause some of you to have an orgasm. Seriously. If I had to describe this script, it would be a cross between The Strangers and Donnie Darko, two movies I'm not very fond of, but am sure a lot of you are. For the record, I watched Donnie Darko a second time a few years ago at an obscure boring party. I sat down and watched the entire thing to the sounds of ambient music and party noise. I realized how taken I was with it just from a visual perspective. The photography in that film is freaking awesome. It's when people start talking or the odd musical choices kick in that it all falls apart (for me at least).

Anyway, The Fly Fisher is like the unofficial non-sci-fi sequel to Donnie Darko. It's a story about a seriously fucked up Fly Fisherman who lures his victims in, does God knows what to them in his stream-side abode, then guts them like a fish.

After he mutilates a sweet little skater chick in the opening scene, we're introduced to our hero, Jack. Jack is a bit of a high school nerd. He's into theater. Plays chess. Not exactly hanging in the VIP section. Jack's got a bit of a strained relationship with his father, Frank, who's been favoring work over family time lately, and is upset when his dad can't come to a chess tournament. His mom, Chris, takes him instead and after a 45 minute drive to the location, they find themselves lost in the middle of Swampland USA. How could this have happened, they ask? They followed the GPS.

Ooh, I might know. He LURED YOU HERE YOU IDIOTS! He used some sort of fish oil or something to hack your GPS. God you guys are stupid.

A grimy muddy old station wagon pulls up - always a positive and fruitful sign. But Jack and Chris shrug their shoulders and hop in when The Fly Fisherman (who likes to whistle) offers them a ride. When the Fly Fisherman tries to drive his catch back to the grill though, Chris and Jack fight back and escape, able to swim deep into the river to safety. Later, Frank laments the fact that he wasn't there for them, and mentally promises to spend more time with his son. But it ain't going to happen because that night The Fly Fisherman actually BREAKS INTO their house and kidnaps Jack!

Crying ensues.

Two years pass. Not a word. Not a peep. Frank and Chris assume the worst. Their son is dead. But then the cops get a call and the news comes back that they've found Jack! He's alive! Yaaaayyyy!

Or is it yay?


This time, Frank's going to make damn sure that he spends some time with his son. As the family tries to get back to a normal life, the secret of what happened to Jack over those two years hangs over them. His parents ask. But Jack doesn't talk much anymore. He doesn't do much of anything anymore. He seems detached. Tortured. Is there something else going on here?

You bet your ass there is! The Fly Fisher has programmed Jack to kill his father is what happened ! He even shows up at night in the yard calling to Jack: "Do it" he says. "Do it." The Fly Fisher has convinced poor Jack that his father is evil for ignoring him and that the only solution is to kill him. Will the Fly Fisher win? Will Jack kill his father? Or will Jack break free of the Fly Fisher's fish-like mind control over him? That's the question.

Hmmm, where do I begin? I'll give The Fly Fisher this. It keeps you guessing. Pretty much ignoring the 3-Act structure, the first 60 pages took so many detours, I had no idea if or when we were ever going to get back on the main road. I don't even know if there was a main road to begin with because the focus of this takes awhile to become clear. We experience an unrelated murder. We then experience Jack and his Mom seemingly getting kidnapped. But they escape. We then see Jack kidnapped out of his own house. And then we see a "Two years later" title, where Jack is found and rejoins his parents. After all this happens, we still don't know what the story is about. Needless to say, I was a little frustrated.

But the script is funky and different (like Darko and Strangers) and I have a feeling people will respond to that. It's just that I, personally, prefer a strong narrative over a string of weird occurrences, as is the nature of The Fly Fisher. It does eventually get to the story (Will Jack kill his father?) but I had a hard time hopping in the boat on that one. Jack's been brainwashed to think his father is a terrible person because of the way he's treated Jack. And the movie becomes this emotional journey where Jack is trying to come to terms with whether his father cares about him or not. The problem is, from everything we know, Frank has just been busy at work . In every other respect, he's a loving caring dad. So he hasn't shown up to a few chess tournaments recently? That's grounds for murder? I don't know. I had a hard time buying it.

I was also curious why the detectives, who knew that The Fly Fisher's previous victim attempted to kill his father under the same conditions, didn't warn Frank about it. They were in constant contact. It seems like a piece of information you would want to hear - "Oh, by the way Frank, your son might try to kill you in your sleep."

But the script has its admirers and the person who suggested it has solid taste so who knows? You might love it. If you do, please contribute your thoughts in the comments section. I'd like to know what I missed here.

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

What I learned: The Fly Fisher has an intense first 10 pages and that got me thinking about the ubiquitous screenwriting rule: "Make Your First 10 Pages Great". While I believe in the first ten pages rule in principle, it's kind of a crock of shit. On the one hand, you want to grab the reader's attention right away. And that's definitely important. But just in case you forgot, uh, THERE'S STILL ANOTHER 100 PAGES OF STORY LEFT TO TELL! It's kind of like talking to women who are obsessed with their wedding. Who have been dreaming their entire lives about this one moment that's going to be the most perfect day in their entire lives and if they can just have the perfect day then there's nothing else they want to say to them: "You know there's 50 years of marriage after this, right?" Same deal here folks. It doesn't matter if your first ten pages are bang-up awesome if the rest of the script sucks. I've actually seen a lot of this, where the writer clearly focuses only on the first ten pages - making them the best ten pages I've ever read..... and then page 11 sucks balls. So make your first ten pages great. But make the rest of them great as well. No one's giving you a 3-picture deal for ten pages.