Wednesday, December 8, 2010


Genre: Horror
Premise: A paranoid delusional man is left on house arrest out in the middle of the woods.
About: Adam Alleca first started writing feature scripts at the age of 13. His father was in the Air Force so he lived all over the world growing up. He got an internship with Eli Roth’s company right after college and realized that would be his best shot to get into the business and had seven scripts ready to go when he arrived (talk about a writer with a plan!). He optioned this script to Wes Craven’s production company back in 2005, when he was 22 years old, and soon had six other options set up around town. As a testament to how bright this guy is, go ahead and read this interview and tell me you don’t think you’re reading the interview of a 42 year old and not a 22 year old. I’m a little shocked that his only produced credit up to this point is 2009’s “Last House On The Left” but I guess he has a lot of projects set up around town.
Writer: Adam Alleca
Details: 115 pages (This is an early draft of the script. The situations, characters, and plot may change significantly by the time the film is released. 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).

I don’t want to alarm any of you young writers out there. But it’s rare when I see a young writer churn out a great script. Young writers tend to be full of ideas, but don’t yet know how to form those ideas into a compelling narrative (it takes time!). I think they’re capable of doing this, of course, but when you’re a young writer, you’re not really interested in narrative. You care about the eye candy, the great scenes, the flashy dialogue, the big concepts, the shit people will be talking about when they leave the theater. This is why you’ll read a great scene in a young writer’s script, then the next five scenes are complete disasters.

So color me shocked when I came across this script from a 22 year old that showed more command than any script I’d read all year. I was so skeptical of his age after reading this, in fact, that I was convinced he’d either pulled a fast one or the script I had read had gone through 5 years of development. It wasn’t until I learned about his backstory that it made sense. Alleca had been writing features since he was 13! This meant Home was written 9 years into his screenwriting career. For whatever reason, that settled an oncoming bout of anxiety. Cause if any 22 year old can bang out a script this good, I might as well give up now.

Home has a simple compelling “contained” horror setup. 30 year old Ellis has just been released from jail to start a 30-day stint on house arrest. The house he’ll be staying at is his eccentric uncle’s, who died last month. The souped up cabin (with an entertainment system to die for) is in the middle of the forest, sheltered from the outside world.

Ellis is under the watchful eye of Brode, his parole officer. Brode is thick, brash, and enjoys the power her job brings her. She lays out the rules for Ellis in straightforward fashion. She’ll be coming by once a day. He better be here. He’ll be getting three calls a day from an automated machine to confirm he’s in the house. He better answer them. He’s got an electric ankle bracelet. He better not try to leave the house.

And just to show that this will be a little different from the usual horror fare you read, Brode has one more rule. Ellis has to fuck her whenever she wants. He says no, she reports him to her boss and back to jail he goes.

Ellis himself is a bit of a mystery. He’s pale, gaunt, has long stringy hair, and he’s afraid. Not of being out here in the middle of nowhere, but being out here in the middle of nowhere with himself. Ellis suffers from paranoid delusions, which means as soon as Brode walks out that door, he doesn’t know if what he’s seeing is real or imagined.

So how did Ellis get stuck here in the first place? His best friend Alex, as evil as they come, used to kill people and make Ellis watch. Alex was thrown away lock and key, while Ellis served some minor jail time for not turning him in.

So it’s no surprise that Ellis soon starts seeing Alex around the house. Alex is convincing, telling him he escaped from jail and needs to stay here for a few weeks while he figures out what to do. As proof, he mentions that he rode his motorcycle here and stashed it out back. Since Ellis can’t go outside however (because of the ankle bracelet) he keeps checking out the back window to see if the motorcycle’s there (thus confirming that Alex is real), but can never get the right angle to see it.

The lodging of Alex becomes an issue because a young woman, the gothy/alternative Lynn, comes by every day to deliver groceries. This girl clearly likes to walk on the wild side, and is curious about Ellis, always quizzing him on why he’s on house arrest. Ellis is terrified that if Alex was ever around her, he might do something to her. He might start the killing again. That is, of course, if Alex is real.

If all this isn’t enough to worry about, Ellis discovers that his “cool” uncle has a much more complicated life than he knew about. He finds a hidden sex dungeon in the house, as well as a huge covered up hole in the basement, that the mailman informs him probably connects to the old town mines. Ellis swears he can hear something down there, but the black bottomless pit makes it impossible to tell what, if anything, the sound is.

I *really* liked this. I mean really really liked this. Here’s the thing. When I read any of these contained horror scripts, I’m mentally counting down the pages until the writer runs out of ideas. I know that’s not the most positive way to read a script but it’s happened the last 30 times I’ve read contained horror scripts. You get a bunch of gimmicky scares and spooky situations that play well as individual scenes, but 20 pages later you’re bored out of your mind because there’s no story holding it together. The recently reviewed “Open Grave” is a perfect example.

Alleca – surprisingly (and I say that only because I’m not used to it – especially from such a young writer) – is more interested in telling a horror *story* here, instead of just a collection of horror *moments.*

It starts with the multitude of threads he weaves around Ellis’ predicament, all of which are interesting. I love the reversal in the Brode character. How many millions of times have we seen a male character using their power for sex in a movie? It was so refreshing to see that flipped around. The female was using *her* power to get what *she* wanted. That may seem like a small thing, but it told me that this writer was aware of what had come before him, and was interested in pushing himself to come up with something different, something other writers never push themselves to consider.

The mystery behind Alex is also well crafted. I loved how we had no idea if Alex was real or not. We’re set up to believe that he’s an appartition, and yet there are little clues here and there which indicate he might be telling the truth and is really here.

Then you have Lynn, who’s really the female love interest in the script. There’s something off about her but we’re not quite sure what it is. And we’re on the edge of our seats whenever she comes by because we know Alex is jonesing to kill again. Will Lynn be his next victim? Will his actions force Ellis back into that prison?

Then you have the Uncle, who’s revealed to have this sick sexual fetish. But you don’t know how deep his fetish goes. And when some of the people who visit his house reveal themselves to possibly know the answer to that secret, maybe even be involved in it, the storyline really becomes compelling.

And I haven’t mentioned what’s going on with that hole downstairs. Or who the person is who keeps calling and threatening Ellis.  Each one of these threads provides so much mystery, you're forced to flip through the pages faster than you can read them.

And I’d be remiss not to mention the dialogue, which I thought was great. Brode in particular has her own speech patterns and slang and idiosyncrasies that really made her character pop off the page. This was the case with all the characters, who each had speech patterns that fit their particular character.

Another reason why the writing surprised me so much was that I’d never seen someone this young use so much restraint and be this disciplined. Each scene is only there to move the story forward. Each scare is layered into the movie via a setup and payoff. And on top of that, he’s an incredibly lean writer. I dare you to find a 4 line paragraph in this script. Every action paragraph only tells us exactly what we need to know and nothing more.

I see so many bad horror films that I can’t fathom why they’re not putting this into production. It’s so good. I don’t know if Craven still has this or if it’s back in Alleca’s possession, but someone please make this now. An extremely cheap movie to shoot that will be better than 99% of the shit out there. Alleca is easily the best screenwriter at age 22 that I’ve ever seen.

[ ] What the hell did I just read?
[ ] wasn’t for me
[ ] worth the read
[x] impressive (Top 25!)
[ ] genius

What I learned: Here’s some advice from Alleca himself: “I guess that would be my one piece of advice to Emerson students if anyone's interested: Your internship is GOLD. Your entire college career has been leading up to it. You need to be ready to blow people's socks off. You (or your parents, if you're lucky) aren't spending 35k a year so you can learn to use a 16mm Bolex and analyze film clips. What you're buying is access to free equipment to shoot your own films (not to mention hundreds of willing actors) and an easy way to score a tasty internship in LA. If you graduate from college with nothing but straight As on your report card and a framed degree, then you got fleeced, my friend. Especially if you're a writer or director, it's a fantastic opportunity to show as many important people your material as possible and get a leg-up. Be ready for it with as many quality samples of your work as you can (either short films or a few completed, polished feature scripts) and choose it carefully. Don't go for high profile places just for the sake of name value. Go somewhere that it seems like people would be open to looking at your stuff and treating you like an equal rather than purely as an underling.”