Savage Terror: A Screenplay

Barbara Steele, The Horrible Dr. Hichcock (L'orribile segreto del Dr. Hichcock), 1962
Barbara Steele in The Horrible Dr. Hichcock (original title: L’orribile segreto del Dr. Hichcock), 1962

In 2010, I wrote a short horror screenplay called Savage Terror. I tried a number of different avenues in my attempts to get the film made, but none worked out. Since the screenplay will not be produced, I decided to post it here.

I was reluctant to post it, because it contains a lot of detailed description of action, which seems to me a bit like explaining your jokes. On the other hand, horror fans may enjoy the screenplay, and it fits with the themes addressed in this blog.

If you are familiar with screenplay format, you’ll notice that when I created this post I tightened up the line breaks. I also left-aligned the dialogue (or, in this case, monologue) and rendered it in italics, due to formatting issues. I hope you won’t let that deter you. However, if you are deterred by all the savagery and terror, I’ll understand.

 

SAVAGE TERROR 

FADE IN

EXT. SIDEWALK IN FRONT OF AN APARTMENT BUILDING – EARLY EVENING, PRESENT

Camera faces down a sidewalk. SUSAN walks on the pavement toward the camera, carrying her purse. She is white and in her 20s. She turns on to the walkway leading to the front door of the apartment building.

The building is modern, and at least four stories tall. Susan walks to the front door and enters. PAN up to a fourth-story apartment. ZOOM on the apartment, then,

DISSOLVE TO:

INT. SUSAN’S APARTMENT LIVING ROOM – MOMENTS LATER

Long shot from across the living room, looking at the front door. (Let’s say the front door is on the east side of the room.) The apartment is comfortable, well-furnished, with a kitschy 1970s retro touch. The kitchen is on the side of the apartment near the front door, as is a hallway leading to the bedroom and bathroom.

In the living room, on the extreme opposite of the front door, is a sliding glass door that opens on to a balcony. There is a bookcase or similar piece of furniture with shelves against the west wall, south of the balcony doors. Books and curios are on the shelves, along with dolls and small sculptures of people, mainly modeled on adults. There is a white-hatted cowboy of the Gene Autry/Roy Rogers sort. Other dolls include:

An Indian woman, wearing a sari

A contemporary-looking, white, male U.S. soldier (enlisted man)

A British soldier in colonial field dress from the era of the Zulu War: red tunic, white helmet

Dolls and small sculptures also populate the top surface of a low chest on the north wall of the living room, not far from the balcony doors. The chest has legs and is not flush with the wall. There is space behind it and underneath it. The dolls/sculptures face outward toward the viewer (i.e. south). On the chest are the following dolls, among others:

A little green man from outer space

A white, male banker, holding a large, full money bag bearing a dollar sign and the words “FIRST BANK”

A male, faux-African doll like the one in Trilogy of Terror (1975), holding a long spear in his left hand. He stands on the right (east) portion of the chest. As Susan moves around the apartment, this doll is seen only in partial views, with the face obscured.

Now, back to the movie. Susan enters through the front door, carrying mail. She closes, locks, and chains the door behind her, switches on a light. She puts her purse on a table near the door and sits on the couch.

CUT TO:

Medium frontal shot of Susan, opening and reading her mail. The last of the envelopes she opens is her bank statement. When she is finished reading, she gets up and places the mail in a drawer on the table.

Susan takes her cell phone out of her purse, leaving the latter on the table. She pushes a couple buttons, walks to the balcony door, and pulls back the curtain partway with her free hand. The screen door remains closed. She looks outside while waiting for an answer on the phone.

SUSAN:  Hi, I got your message. (Pause.) No, she couldn’t make it. It was just me and  mom. (Pause.) We didn’t do much, just some shopping. (Pause, laugh) As  matter of fact, I did buy a few new dolls.

Susan walks back to the low chest and looks down at the dolls. She smiles.

SUSAN (CONT’D):  Wait ‘til you see them.

Susan picks up the faux-African doll, which is at her far right. The doll is visible briefly from the back, but not in full-length view.

CUT TO:

CU of Susan, walking slightly toward the balcony, doll in one hand but not fully visible.

SUSAN (CONT’D): She’s doing fine. She wants to meet you, but I told her I’m not even sure I like you yet. (Pause, laugh.) How did your game go? (Pause.) That’s too bad. (Hurried) OK. Thursday sounds great. (Pause.) All right, I’ll see you then. Bye.

Susan puts the doll back down on the chest. The shot centers on the row of dolls while Susan is placing the faux-African doll back on the shelf. Camera holds position as Susan walks right, her body still obscuring that particular doll at far right.

CUT TO:

Frontal shot of Susan from behind the chest. Dolls are not visible, except the top of the faux-African doll’s spear. She pokes the tip gently with a finger, making a slightly pained face. She puts the phone down on a piece of furniture near the chest. She turns, walks to, and opens the balcony door, leaving the screen door closed. The curtain billows in the nice breeze.

Susan turns and crosses the living room, goes down the hall, enters the bedroom. The door remains open, but the camera does not enter the room. Susan walks to a closet, grabs a dressing gown, walks across the frame, changes into the dress O.S. She then walks back into frame, through the bedroom door, down the hallway, across the corner of the living room, and into the kitchen.

INT. KITCHEN – CONTINUOUS

Susan enters the kitchen, puts some meat in the oven to cook.

INT. LIVING ROOM – CONTINUOUS

Susan walks into the living room. She moves toward the couch, notices a strong wind blowing through the screen door.

CUT TO:

Susan’s POV. All the dolls on the low chest are missing from the top surface. The curtain in front of the balcony door billows.

 CUT TO:

Medium frontal shot of Susan walking slowly toward the balcony door. She looks closely at the empty space atop the chest.

SUSAN (smiling): Did the wind knock you down, little fellows?

Susan proceeds to the balcony slowly. She pulls the curtain back a little and looks at the screen door, still closed. She looks out onto the balcony, sees nothing amiss, closes and locks the main door.

Susan turns and walks back to the chest. She stands in front of the chest and looks down at it. She then looks back to the balcony, then crouches down to look under the chest.

CUT TO:

Susan’s POV: Dolls lying in a cluster. It is only a short glimpse. Faux-African doll is visible at back, mostly obscured by other dolls.

CUT TO:

Susan, viewed from her left (west). She backs up a bit and raises her head from the floor. She’s still in a kneeling or crouching position. (O.S.) AGGRESSIVE GROWLING. Surprised, Susan quickly turns to her left.

CUT TO:

Susan’s POV: BANKER DOLL (BD), the money bag, empty, lying on the floor in the background. Three fast CUTS, each one closer, ending on a head-and-torso shot. Banker Doll is modeled on a white man in his 50s, with a pin-striped, three-piece, gray suit. He is also a stereotypical WASP; Allen Dulles would make an excellent model for BD. He growls, jumps up and down.

BD begins running toward Susan.

CUT TO:

Susan (not from BD’s POV) running away, east. She goes a few steps then takes a classic woman-in-a-horror-film fall, turns and rises a little from the floor, looking back.

CUT TO:

Frontal medium shot of BD approaching.

CUT TO:

Susan on the floor, looking back toward the monster. FAST ZOOM on her eyes as she screams.

CUT TO:

Susan’s POV, on the floor. BD comes running toward her head. Whoosh! At the last second, he turns hard right and runs out of frame left.

CUT TO:

Susan, monster not visible. She follows BD’s movements with her eyes, turning around quickly and crawling backward across the floor away from him. Her moves should indicate that he ran around her toward the (north) table. The sequence ends with a shot of Susan sitting on the floor, leaning back in fear. Her back is against the couch or some other furniture.

CUT TO:

Susan’s POV. BD is holding her purse upside down, shaking it. He tosses it aside, picks up her billfold off the floor. He opens it, takes out cash, and starts eating it. He is a fast and loud eater.

CUT TO:

Medium shot of Susan: shock and confusion on her face. She instinctively leans forward, trying to get a better look and make sure she isn’t seeing things.

SUSAN: How can this be happening?!

CUT TO:

Banker Doll, who scoops her change up in both (cupped) hands and then devours it. It takes several grabs, but only a few seconds. He then pulls one of her credit cards out of the billfold and eats it. Other credit cards are visible in billfold slots.

CUT TO:

Susan, same angle as before. Her expression shifts from shock to anger and she lunges at BD. He tucks the billfold under his arm and starts to run away. But Susan reaches out and snatches it from him shortly after he starts running.

BD turns and tries to get it back, initiating a short tug-of-war. Susan wins, momentarily, by smacking BD’s head with her left hand, causing him to fly to her right. He bounces off the wall, lands on the floor, and springs back up immediately. (He does that every time he is knocked down.) He jumps up, sees the cell phone sitting on a nearby piece of furniture. He grabs the phone and throws it at Susan with both hands. She ducks and it shatters against a wall behind her.

BD then runs back toward Susan to grab at the billfold again. Susan smacks him and he flies backward.

CUT TO:

BD jumping up. Susan charges the monster, smacking him a third time. He sails southward, past the couch, lands on his stomach, then jumps up again, turns and faces Susan.

CUT TO:

CU of Susan looking at BD, then turning left toward the kitchen.

 CUT TO:

Susan’s POV: the kitchen. A broom is visible on the near side of that room.

 CUT TO:

Susan, same angle as before. She puts the billfold in a pocket of her gown and moves toward the kitchen.

CUT TO:

Medium shot of BD. He has turned around to face Susan, sees her retreat. He starts to run in the direction of her retreat (east), then takes a right turn toward the southeast corner of the room.

CUT TO:

BD’s POV. He stops abruptly when he sees a print of a painting on the south wall: the Judgment of Paris. The painting is a contemporary, cheesecake interpretation — in keeping with the kitschy decor. Paris holds out a large, extremely shiny, gold apple.

The frame TUNNELS to show just the apple.

CUT TO:

Closer shot of the south wall, displaying print. BD jumps up into frame, landing on a small, round table. From there, he leaps at the painting, reaching for the apple. His body hits the print full on, bounces back down to the floor. He jumps up and immediately gets whacked westward by the handle of a broom wielded by Susan.

CUT TO:

BD getting up from the floor and starting to run away from Susan, rounding the couch. A chase ensues around the couch. Susan swings the broom and mostly misses: in addition to being fast, BD is elusive. At least once, he jumps over one of her low swings. He also grabs some curios and throws them back at her. She dodges them, but he destroys some (mid-20th century style) bric-a-brac that way. BD darts into Susan’s bedroom.

CUT TO:

INT. BEDROOM – CONTINUOUS

BD jumps atop Susan’s dresser and runs across it, stopping briefly to grab a pair of gold earrings. He eats them on the fly. Susan takes a bad angle while chasing BD and he eludes her, running back into the living room.

CUT TO:

INT. LIVING ROOM – CONTINUOUS

Susan lands another hit. It sends BD flying west, but doesn’t seem to weaken him.

CUT TO:

Medium shot of Susan, looking down toward the monster in frustration.

 CUT TO:

Susan’s POV. She sees BD standing a short distance from the sliding doors that open to the balcony.

CUT TO:

Same shot of Susan as before. With a look of determination, she throws the broom behind her and runs toward BD. She gets the monster in her hands and rushes toward the balcony. BD howls and flails. Susan lets go with her right hand to reach for the handle of the door.

CUT TO:

CU of BD in Susan’s left hand. He wriggles free, falls to the floor, and runs away again. Susan looks to her left (east) and starts running toward the kitchen.

CUT TO:

INT. KITCHEN – CONTINUOUS

Profile shot of Susan in the kitchen, going through drawers, finding a large knife. When she’s got it, she turns to face the camera, striding toward it and the living room, hell for leather.

CUT TO:

INT. LIVING ROOM – CONTINUOUS

Susan’s POV, just past the opening that connects the kitchen and living room. There’s no sign of BD. SLOW PAN around the living room, followed by INTERCUTS between CU of Susan and her POV, TRACKING slowly forward. The shots are relatively long in duration.

Susan, in profile, passes in front of the cabinet against the west wall. Camera TRACKS with her. A couple shelves of dolls are visible. BD’s head darts out from behind the cowboy. That action takes place behind Susan’s field of vision, so she does not notice at first. The camera STOPS TRACKING and lets Susan nearly walk out of frame.

Susan stops, turns around. She looks at the shelf, seeing the monster. He scurries behind the row of dolls, knocking four or five of them forward off the shelf. He then jumps down out of frame at bottom-right as Susan lunges toward him. She swipes at him with the knife, missing high. Susan turns and looks at the floor. (O.S.) Sound of BD scurrying away. Susan follows him with her eyes, turns full and starts running toward him.

CUT TO:

Floor-level shot of BD. He pushes hard against the leg of a small vintage chair. He tips the chair over, which lands in Susan’s way and trips her. She falls to the floor, holding the knife carefully to avoid cutting herself or losing her grip.

CUT TO:

Looking down on Susan lying on the floor, face down. A few dolls are scattered near her head and upper torso, also face down and looking dead. These include the Indian woman, the U.S. and British soldiers. Also on the floor is a broken model of the Parthenon. Susan is only down for a few seconds.

CUT TO:

Susan’s (floor-level) POV, looking right (east): BD running toward the table where Susan put her purse and mail. He opens a drawer, rifles through some papers, and grabs one.

CUT TO:

Susan getting up and starting to stumble toward BD. He runs a little farther away, but Susan can still see him. The monster stops, stands in medium profile. He extends his right arm above his head and holds the paper — Susan’s bank statement — over his mouth. The numbers of Susan’s bank balance are visible. As he holds the statement (without his mouth touching it), he begins making violent chewing sounds. The numbers indicating the balance start spinning and stop at a row of zeros.

CUT TO:

Susan, who screams angrily and resumes chasing BD, knife in hand.

 CUT TO:

INT. KITCHEN – CONTINUOUS

Susan chases BD into the kitchen. She stabs at him, mostly missing, but when she does hit, the blow doesn’t stop BD and he quickly wriggles loose from the knife. He yells a lot, sometimes in pain, sometimes in anger. Once, BD blocks one of Susan’s stabs by throwing open a cabinet door and causing her to stick her knife in it.

At one point in their sprawling kitchen-floor battle, BD ducks under one of Susan’s lunges and snatches the protruding billfold from her dressing-gown pocket. He flees, opening the billfold while running. He stops for a second, pulls out a credit card and gobbles it. Susan catches up with BD and grabs the billfold. BD extracts the last credit card and starts to back away. Susan smacks it out of his hand and they both grab at it on the floor, moving past the oven in their struggle.

BD grabs the card and is about to take a giant bite. Susan reaches forward with her left hand low. She slaps upward, knocking the card out of BD’s hands. The card sails upward, spinning sideways like a shuriken over the sink. It banks off the wall behind the sink and falls into the right side, where the disposal unit is housed. A small control switch is visible on the wall behind the sink.

Camera follows BD as he vaults up to a cabinet door handle, grabs it with both hands, and swings his body upward to the outer edge of the sink (right side). He then dives into the sink, snarling with excitement. BD executes this acrobatic display quickly and smoothly.

Susan rises into frame. She turns on the garbage disposal with her right hand and grabs BD’s legs with her left, pushing him down. He emits a champion scream-queen death shriek. Sawdust and pieces of BD’s fancy suit shoot up into the air. Change is heard rattling around in the disposal, which nonetheless keeps going until BD is no more.

Susan switches off the disposal, then turns right and walks out of the kitchen. When she gets to the living room, she leans up against the wall, breathing heavily, but relieved.

 CUT TO:

INT. LIVING ROOM – CONTINUOUS

Susan’s POV: the mess in the living room.

CUT TO:

The mess, seen from the opposite side of the room. Susan walks toward the camera and further into the living room. She starts cleaning up.

FADE OUT.

 THE END

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