Accused of theft after a break in at the local university museum, an Egyptian brother and sister that run a convenience store in the Pacific Northwest must find the real culprits before suspicious townsfolk discover their dark secret.
How It Works
Email Rob the first ten pages of your feature length screenplay (in pdf. format) along with a logline and title. Every Friday one of us (or a guest reviewer) posts one writer's work along with notes and a:
Trash It (Start over.)
Take Another Pass (You're onto something, but it needs more work.)
More Please (I'm hooked. What happens next?)
Somebody Shoot This!
Readers then vote and comment on your work.
I promise you, when that man walked in our store, we had no intention of eating his brain.
Wow. Exciting, right? I sat up in my seat when I read that. Does this intriguing set-up live up to its promise? Let's find out...
First, before I delve into the pages themselves, I will just say that if I have one quip with Lizz-Ayn's logline, it's with the phrase "dark secret" - this is vague, when I feel it should be revealing. I know that the intention is to hook the reader, but a logline needs to give me an idea of what the story is about. "Dark secret" tells me nothing.
Okay, so getting back to our opening scene: as you might have guessed, our early morning customer Mr. Baseball Hat is up to no good. He slams a six-pack of beer on the counter at the register, but then also pulls a gun on the attendant, our male hero Amir (who has a "dangerous feline grace" about him - love that description!).
Amir is having none of this burglary. In fact, he's up to something himself, and we figure that out when he leaps over the counter, proceeds to snap Mr. Baseball Hat's neck, and then crack the man's skull open, feasting on dead would-be-robber's internal gray matter. Zahra, our female hero, joins in on the bloody man meal.
Say it with me, guys: ewwww......
However cool I think the gore at this point is, my first and probably one of my biggest issues with these pages also emerges in my mind: what kind of movie is this supposed to be? Is it a comedy? Horror? Is this scene supposed to be funny, or is it supposed to be shocking/intense? I don't get a good sense of the tone in the writer's voice. Personally, I really, really want it to be a silly comedy (because, well...brain-feeding reanimated mummies, right?), but I feel like maybe the writer is wanting us to take it more seriously. And I don't know if with this over-the-top concept that's possible. Others may disagree, but there you go.
So, yes - these two youngins are ancient mummies, walking amongst us: Zahra explains that her and Amir are "reanimated, and living with the, well, living". I thought that line was a nice way of satisfying our questions for now (specifically: "How are these mummies alive in present day?")...however, I think the writer makes a questionable choice at this point by introducing some quick flashbacks to try and give us a little more context on the world of the undead. To me they were unnecessary, confusing, and slowed down the story (when potentially, they could have at least provided with some humor). Others may disagree, but there you go.
After the quick historic detour, we are back in the convenience store where Zahra and Amir quickly clean up their bloody mess and dispose of robber man's body (another side point, not sure about anyone else but I assumed these two Egyptians were brother and sister - I'm not so positive that was clear).
The scene then kind of extends and fizzles out as we get not one, but two more customers (neither of which provide as much drama as the first guy): one, a racist hick who eyes down Amir and then leaves without event, and also a friendly deputy who shows up, and invites Amir and Zahra to an Egyptian exhibit at the nearby college. Of course, Amir and Zahra - being the hungry, healthy mummies that they are - see the deputy as potential brain food (is that a pun? I don't know, apologies either way).
So they accept.
At home that evening, as Amir and Zahra prepare for the exhibit, we get our first sense of who these people are at their core (well, one of them at least). Zahra makes a comment that she and Amir will never "rid themselves of the stench of death". So apparently, while Zahra enjoys how the man meal tastes going down, it maybe doesn't sit too well with her after the fact. I thought this was a nice internal conflict to show us, though I did feel it was a little forced and maybe didn't fit with the unbridled, ravenously feeding Zahra we had just seen at the convenience store.
Our last couple pages take place at the college museum exhibit, where we meet a couple professors who show off some Egyptian artifacts which have been recently unearthed - one particular artifact triggers another flashback, this one a memory of Zahra's - it details an attack on ancient Egypt, and we see Amir and Zahra (pre-mummification) fall victims to the mighty Roman sword. Sadly, I feel like this flashback was even more of a hindrance to the story than the last ones. We know Amir and Zahra were dead at one point, we don't need to reveal the circumstances now, or probably ever in the entire film.
It's pretty uncanny that you see so many flashbacks in amateur scripts (and I am just as guilty as the next guy concerning them) - nine times out of ten, they're unnecessary, they add nothing, they're cliche, and most importantly - they slow the narrative down so much. And yet, we still go to them...why is that? I don't know. Probably because they're easy...don't do the easy thing, guys!!! Dig deeper.
So, to recap: I think I love this concept - mummies living amongst 21st century modern America, feasting on our brains in secret...just...cool. The mummy attack was a great way to open, and I felt like it was the start of something potentially really exciting - but alas, for me it devolved a into something a little more mundane and unsure of itself in comparison. My other big issues with the execution were the similar lack of sense of tone or genre, the writer's need to give us too much information up front (and to overstay her welcome in a scene), and our female hero - whose character is a little unclear and vague (and maybe even mopey) at this point.
I will give this baby a "Take Another Pass!" and look forward to seeing where Lizz-Ayn takes this cool idea to in future drafts.
Dan's notes on the 1st 10 pages of BINDS THAT TIE
What did you think of Lizz-Ayn's 1st 10 pages?
Next week Amy gives feedback on the 1st 10 pages of Karl Larsson's DEEP LEVEL SHELTER.
Please comment below on the 1st 10 pages of Lizz-Ayn's TIES THAT BIND.