About two months back, I offered up a combination column/ritual self-cleansing called “I Wrote That Crap,” a recap of my own less-than-successful adventures as a wannabe screenwriter. It seemed to go over pretty well, and since we’re still locked in the January doldrums where the only thing harder to find than interesting films is interesting film news, I figured it was as good a time as any for me to dive back into Les Archives Du Bob and see what other mild embarassments* I can purge from the old system.
This time around, I’ve opted to keep things on theme to a certain extent: The three would-be masterpieces I’ll be recounting this time are all A.) horror films and B.) were at various points “passion projects” that I was absolutely certain would help to launch me as an independent writer/director of note. The idea of that makes me cringe, to an extent, though not nearly as much as realizing that the last known revision date on at least one of these things was as recent as 2006.
So, once upon a time as a young kid, I happened upon the amusing factoid that – because of their ability to turn large areas into wetlands and even lakes by damming rivers – beavers are the second most ecologically-transformative/destructive creature on the planet other than humans. It struck me as the kind of thing that would be plastered on the poster for (or gravely intoned by a scientist character in) one of those “killer animal” movies. Seemed like a slam-dunk to me, so I spent several years on-and-off trying to find a storyline to plug the hook of a tiny-monsters-on-the-rampage flick a’la Critters but starring a population of man-eating beavers who built dams from the bones of their human victims.
Even the inevitable tagline seemed to write itself: “It’s DAM Scary!”
Since I went back to this one so often, there were a bunch of different drafts and outlines, the only constant being the killer beavers themselves, the bone dams and illegal toxic waste dumping as the culprit for turning the beavers evil. Most of the versions that got close enough to completion to have an ending would’ve climaxed with the surprise emergence of a grizzly-sized Queen Beaver, and would’ve included a subplot wherein one of the secondary good guys survives a beaver attack but finds himself slowly transforming into a Were-Beaver.
The most recent(ish) attempt was written to take place in rural Montana, and involved a hotshot big city lawyer being called back home to defend his stereotypical “wacky hillbilly” childhood pal from a murder charge that he swears was actually committed by killer beavers. Before departing, our hero establishes himself as a badass by defeating an angry ex-client rapper named Ice Blokk and his entourage by pulling the gold chains from Mr. Blokk’s neck and using them like nunchucks (presumably, my plan would’ve been to have Blokk’s posse turn up in Montana later on to provide more beaver fodder).
Hillbilly Sidekick would also be established as a proud master-craftsman of potato guns, the “weaponized-vegetable” aspect of which would end up endearing him to the genre-mandated Professor’s Daughter, a militant vegan. These weapons would, of course, be used to ultimately bring down the Queen Beaver.
Incidentally, also (re)discovered in the same place as “Beavers” was a mockup concept poster for a hypothetical “giant killer bumblebees” movie on similar lines, notably featuring the taglines: “Bee Afraid!” and “There’s No Place Left To Hive!”
*Unless, of course, you happen to be a movie producer who somehow considers any of this schlock to be worth optioning for real. MovieBob’s opinion may not be for sale, but I assure you his dignity very much is.
Much like “Beavers,” this was the result of my dual interests in arcane wildlife factoids and cheesy movies about killer animals colliding and then refusing to leave my head. In this case, the factoid was: Did you know dolphins are actually kind of pretty big assholes?
And I don’t just mean in the usual “hey this ostensibly-cute animal is actually dangerous” way, either. Dolphins are harsh. They violently beat each other up for show, commit infanticide, kill and maim other sea life for “play” (i.e. not for food, and they often go out of their way to target their cousin the porpoise) and are one of relatively few species observed to use sexual assault for purposes of injury (to the target) rather than forcible procreation. Granted, all of these behaviors exist in many other species, but to find them all in the persona of a creature that humanity regards as benign and even innately good seemingly based on the shape of their skulls looking like a permanent friendly smile to us struck me as somehow meaningful.
Yes, meaningful – looking back, “Bottlenose” was meant to be my socially conscious monster movie: A Jaws knockoff where the twist was that the residents of the besieged seaside village responded to the killings by staging mass hunts for local sharks, never realizing that the real killer was the visiting dolphin hanging around the harbor whom the locals had “adopted” as a summertime mascot. It would eventually have been revealed that the dolphin in question had gone full-on homicidal because it was suffering from PTSD (having been used as an experimental scout animal by the U.S. Navy) and had escaped from a secret Naval laboratory destroyed by Hurricane Katrina – believe it or not, some of that was based on a news story that was making the rounds back then.
In keeping with the “Think about it, won’t you?” tone of whole production, one of the good guys would’ve been an idealistic wannabe marine biologist who would keep insisting that a dolphin couldn’t be guilty because of high intelligence – “They’re just like us!” being his constant refrain. Later on, after the hard evidence had been gathered and the requisite nature slide-show/lecture on the actual viciousness of dolphins had left said idealist visibly shaken, another character would’ve ironically quipped: “Damn. Rape, murder, even racism. You were right, man … they really are just like us.”
Title pretty much says it all, right? This would’ve been a slasher/serial killer bloodbath set in geek culture (primarily in and around the convention circuit) whose antagonist was a deranged, murderous Star Trek fan. As written, he’d have worn a full Next Generation-style captain’s uniform at all times, narrated his “missions” to himself in captain’s log format (with accurate stardates) carried a sharpened bat’leth and a phaser that fired live ammo and cruised around on a motorcycle kitted out with “USS Enterprise”-style saucer and nacelle decorations.
The story? Pushed over the edge after being left by his girlfriend for a non-madman suitor who turns out to be a casual (at best) Star Wars fan, The Trekkie embarks on a symbolic killing spree through various sci fi conventions, “recruiting” victims from specific False Faiths (a comic book junkie, a Whovian, an Otaku, whatever the hell you call Babylon 5 fans, you get the picture) whose corpses he dresses in Starfleet uniforms and installs as the “crew” of his “ship” – a hand-made recreation of the Enterprise bridge hidden in the sewers that serves as his base of operations.
Most of the killings would’ve been visual puns of one kind or another: A vintage toy collector discovered with his throat slashed and filled with Pez candies, a Doctor Who fan strangled with their scarf (the reboot was over a decade away still), a gamer electrocuted by a booby-trapped controller, etc.
Ultimately, The Trekkie‘s ex and her friends would’ve discovered his guilt and conscripted the Knights of a local Jedi Temple (read: a bunch of Star Wars fans hanging out in robes on beanbag chairs in a warehouse, because I was writing this when Episode I was still new-ish) to take him down using lightsabers whose plastic blades popped off to reveal real swords underneath. The battle itself would take place in the midst of a full-on brawl at the San Diego Comic Con.
Bob Chipman is a film critic and independent filmmaker. If you’ve heard of him before, you have officially been spending way too much time on the internet.