Monday, July 12, 2010

Werewolves of Reseda

Hey hey hey! I don't know what it is, but "Teen Wolf meets The Hangover" actually sounds pretty damn cool. That's saying a lot for someone who only likes one werewolf film (An American Werewolf in London). As for my reviews, this should be a fun week. On Friday I bust out our first Top 25 entry in a loooooong time. It's a script that debuted in 2007 and almost made it into production then fell apart because the director has like 80 projects on his slate. Can't imagine someone won't make it at some point because it's awesome. Read a heartfelt road trip comedy that was good, and Tuesday I'll be reviewing a recently sold sci-fi spec that was...well, it was out there. Anyway, here's Roger the man with his review of Werewolves of Reseda. Enjoy!

Genre: Supernatural Comedy
Premise: Teen Wolf meets The Hangover. A trio of guys turn into werewolves and their suburban family lives benefit from it. Or do they?
About: Brian Charles Frank has story credit on Spencer Susser’s Hesher, which is pretty cool because it seems like he’s associated with the Australian filmmaker collective, Blue-Tongue Films (Animal Kingdom, The Square, I Love Sarah Jane). Hesher debuted at last year's Sundance Film Festival and stars Natalie Portman and Joseph Gordon-Levitt. Supposedly, Werewolves of Reseda is Steve Pinks’ directorial follow-up to Hot Tub Time Machine.
Writer: Brian Charles Frank

Teen Wolf!

I’m always hesitant about reading scripts that have one of three things in them: 1) Vampires, 2) Zombies and 3) Werewolves. It’s not that I don’t love all these creatures, it’s just that most screenplays (amateur scripts aside) that feature them are way too familiar or clichéd without bringing anything new to the genres. Also, I had just finished reading a book by Stephenie Meyer and my head was tired of processing her version of the vampire. To her credit, she was going for something fresh, but I felt like I was eating stale popcorn. I couldn’t get excited about vampires that spend most of their time running fast through meadows of flowers and playing baseball instead of murdering and feeding off human beings.

I needed a palette cleanser and I saw the title of this script poking out of the stack, “Werewolves of Reseda”. Who has the balls to put werewolf in their title? And Reseda? Isn’t that where Daniel LaRusso moved to in The Karate Kid? I was intrigued. I opened it with the small hope that I would at least find a scene where a werewolf mauls someone, and that I did find, but I also found a scene where a stoner, experiencing a Last-Night-I-Was-Bitten-By-A-Werewolf Hangover, attempts to pee but discovers that he can’t control the ropy, firehose spray that’s knocking him backwards and shooting everywhere but the toilet.

I was just delighted to find something that reminded me of Office Space, but with werewolves.

And pee jokes.

What’s the story?

Ben Kavanaugh used to wear a cockring. He also used to DJ and make his own beer. Now he spends his days inside of a cubicle at an ad agency, slaving over spreadsheets for his douchey boss, Rod Sloane, a man who is eager to use Ben as his stat jock and numbers guy, but refuses to be his Facebook friend. At his home in the suburbs of the San Fernando Valley, Ben lives with his yoga-instructor fiancé Sophie (this is probably an early draft, because sometimes she’s referred to as his wife, and other times as his fiancé), her mother Margaret, and Margaret’s Pomeranian, Crackers.

There’s trouble in paradise when Sophie tells Ben, “That advertising job was supposed to be a temporary transition. But it’s taken the spark out of you.” Seems like this isn’t the life neither of them imagined, and the blame seems to fall on Ben because he’s not happy with himself. He’s in a rut, so far past the point of suburban contentment that he might even be apathetic. She tells him that if they’re going to be together forever, things are gonna have to change.

And change they do.

Ben takes Crackers out for a walk, partially to get out of the house but mostly because Margaret is shrieking at him, and he runs into his stoner “neigh-bro”, Warren Klingenmeier. Kling’s out smoking weed in the bougainvillea because his female roommate, Bai, is on her period. Ben is reluctant to blaze with Kling, because weed makes him paranoid, but Kling tells him to chill, “Don’t be a pussy, dude. I have Altoids.”

They decide to take a walk near the concrete flood channel of the La River when they run into their African-American neighbor Moran Norris, and his German Shepherd, Michelle Obama. He seems stressed out about his family life with his wife Juanita and their two children, Venus and Serena. Moran’s wife forces him to wear wool sweaters, which becomes a gag that reminds us that Liam Neeson wears similar sweaters.

When Crackers runs off and they have to chase her into the wooded flood channel, they all get attacked and bitten by a werewolf, all set to the tune of Cornershop’s Brim Full of Asha. They’re saved by Rudy, an Animal Control Officer armed with a tranquilizer gun. As Rudy and an E.M.T. treat their wounds, Moran quips, “That thing almost gave me my second vasectomy.”

Rudy takes off his shades to reveal that he’s missing an eyeball, and in full comical raconteur mentor-mode, he explains that it was probably just a feral dog, but that they should continue treating their wounds with ointment until the next full moon. He assures them that this is just an expression. As he’s dropping them off at their houses, he jokes, “And if you experience any...unwanted side effects, especially at night, chain yourselves to the basement until it passes.”
If they were bitten by a werewolf, doesn’t that mean they’re gonna become werewolves?


The next morning Ben wakes up with bad-ass mutton chops, long nails, a crotch bush and super-hearing. And he also wakes up ambitious. He confronts Rod in his office and tells him that he wants to be on the lead sales team. Rod scoffs. Undeterred, Ben follows Rod and his number one closer, Vance, to a steakhouse where he crashes a client meeting. He manages to impress Jo Childs, the Filipino owner of a beer distribution business and Rod is forced to promote him to the lead salesman on the account. Ben’s aggressiveness captures the ire of Vance, the de facto alpha dog of the agency, but Ben, with his newfound confidence, references Road House when confronted by him, “I fucked guys like you at boarding school.”

Meanwhile, Kling and Moran experience similar changes and outlooks on life, and there’s comical stuff that made me giggle like Kling chasing down a taco truck and Moran wolfing down raw bacon in front of his children. Things get out of hand when the guys decide to go party at Chili’s and they get a little too drunk, upsetting some cops at another table, “You’re coming downtown with us.”

“For what?”

“Public intoxication and disturbing my fucking onion rings.”

“That is bullshit, your honor.”

Our trio consider battling the cops, but Vance defuses the situation, revealing that his family owns the building. Vance takes them into his office, a master man-cave that even has a statue of Lee Marvin. He eventually pulls a rifle off the wall, “A Mannlicher Schoenaur two-five-six. Austrian. The exact same rifle Ernest Hemingway used to hunt elephants in Africa.”
Things get even more interesting when he pulls out some silver-tipped cartridges, and confronts them about being werewolves.

Vance is a werewolf hunter?

It seems that way. At first. He threatens them, but right as things get really tense, he reveals that, he, too, is a werewolf. You see, he was just fucking with them. He welcomes them to The Pack.

He informs them he’s here to help them keep their werewolf cravings, temper and boners under control. Can’t have the public learning that werewolves are running around in Reseda. He kicks open another door and reveals The Lair.

What’s The Lair?

It’s basically the ultimate guy hang-out. It has leather booths, flatscreens, the works. It’s where all the werewolves of Reseda come to relax. There are even topless women giving werewolves massages. Moran is flabbergasted. “This place has been behind Chili’s all this time? Fuck.”
Vance introduces them to Science, a cool were-nerd who is going to show them ropes of keeping their true nature incognito. He gives them all werewolf kits, “Portable razor. Use it often. Condoms. You will be getting Australian rock band pussy. Breath mints –- it’s worse than you think.”

Our three guys are going through initiation, and we learn that they must obey three rules. Don’t Ask. Don’t Tell. Don’t Bite. We also learn that there’s going to be a killer Halloween party, and that a very special moon is coming up. The Native Americans called it The Wolf Moon and it happens only once every hundred years. The Pack seems pretty pumped about the Wolf Moon, which I guess is supposed to be another reason to party.

OK. This all sounds pretty funny. But, where’s the villain?

Of course, it does seem strange that Vance is buddy-buddy with our guys all of a sudden, and it’s true that he has a scheme to destroy Ben’s relationship with Sophie because he’s miffed at Ben challenging his alpha status at the ad agency.

As our guys get drunk on their newfound powers and abilities, their private lives begin to spiral out of control. If Sophie is impressed with Ben’s newfound spark at first, I guess you could say she’s unprepared for the ridiculous acts of manhood that eventually push her away. He gets territorial when her star yoga student, Alan, wants to finance her dream of starting a new yoga studio, “I will beat you at yoga.”

“It’s not a competition, bro.”

“I will fucking kill you at yoga.”

“Fine, you’re on.”

“Loser has to get a bowl cut.”

In another scene, he challenges Alan to a beer chugging match with his fabled family Kavanaugh Horn. Alan’s response is pretty funny. “I was Captain of the Boat Race team at Sigma Nu at Yale. We pounded beers from Martin Van Buren’s skull. I think I can handle a rusty goat horn.”
Kling, the stoner of the trio, manages to bang Bai, the roommate he’s been in love with. But he becomes intoxicated with his newfound ability to bed women, and he throws her to the side as his animal nature takes over, completely debauching himself. Moran is also in dire straits when his reckless behavior threatens his family unit.

There downward spiral is part of Vance’s plan, and we discover that he has something even more nefarious planned for our heroes during the legendary Wolf Moon. And it’s in this last third of the script that Rudy comes to the rescue and the mythology of Reseda and its werewolf history is brought to light. And of course, the resolution involves some pretty bitching werewolf fights.

Cool. But is it moving?

If silly is what you want, silly is what you get. We get that in spades here. Like a lot of these frathouse comedies, perhaps the most satisfying conflict is whether the hero is going to win the girl. It’s not like we see go to see these movies for emotional depth, so I’m not going to try and reduce the script to a pithy sentence about theme.

I do think the structure can be tightened up. As far as character goals go, nothing really feels immediate and the laughs take center stage and what story there is feels tangential. For example, we learn Ben’s dream late in the script, which is to run his own brewery. Sure, there are some hints early on, but I feel like it could be fleshed out more early on. The mid-point to the third act feels so cluttered with important information that it all feels bottom heavy.

The Wolf Moon and its mythology comes so late in the game, and it’s a bit confusing in that convoluted info dump type of way, so much so that I wish bits and pieces were peppered throughout the script so it didn’t feel so cluttered. Vance’s master plan depends on this mythology, after all. It needs to feel simple.

Regardless, I liked “Werewolves of Reseda” because it reminded me of a Todd Phillips comedy (and I think it can be just as successful).

But with werewolves.

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

What I learned: Villain bait and switch. Want to make those Act 3 confrontations more surprising? More rich? More fun? Do a villain bait and switch. Don’t know what I’m talking about? Remember in The Lost Boys when the heroes kills Kiefer Sutherland? The whole movie we’re pretty focused on him being the main threat. He gets a lot of screen time as the villain, and even though we like to watch him, we want to see our guys beat him. But when they do, it’s revealed he’s not the Master Vampire. The true threat is revealed and we discover that the heroes haven’t won yet. They have to defeat this new guy, who we’ve seen before, but have sort of forgotten about. Well, this happens in “The Werewolves of Reseda”. And it’s just as exciting. It gives those final confrontations that extra edge and it makes us think of these otherwise nebbish characters in a different light. Especially when we go back to see how it was done.