Thursday, 18 February 2016

DARK PLACES - CRIME/HORROR

LOGLINE: Years after the murder of her family as a young girl, LIBBY DAY investigates the night it happened, discovering far more than she expected.

WRITER: Gilles Paquet-Brenner - Screenplay - Gillian Flynn - Novel.

SCRIPT/FILM BIO: Written in 2012. This was made into a film in 2015 currently holds 6.2 on IMDB, 25% on rotten tomatoes. Stars Charlize Theron, Chloe Moretz   

STORY:

In 1985 Libby Day and her older brother Ben survived the murder of their family. Ben was convicted of the murder on the basis of Libby's testimony. 

When Libby came of age, she received access to a bank account of $300k, but now she has spent it all and is in no shape for a regular job.

Enter Lyle from the Kill Club. A group of true life murder enthusiasts. They promise to pay Libby if she is willing to investigate the murder - to get testimony from those that were associated with her family and the night of the murder.

While reluctant to open that part of her life again, Libby ultimately accepts and starts on an investigation that will change her life for ever. 

INITIAL REACTION:

While the writing is a little dense, I really enjoyed this story. Mostly because of the source material, not so much from the  adaptation. 

Gillian Flynn really knows how to create characters. I believe this is one of the reasons Gone Girl was so successful. Those characters were incredible. They felt so real and three dimensional. 

The structure here is a little different to a normal film as well. There are two time lines. Present day, and the days leading up to the murder back in 1985. 

While I really enjoyed this, I kept thinking that this wouldn't make a successful film, simply because of the premise - it's a straight forward murder mystery.

Murder mysteries haven't fared well in the world of film for a loooooong time. 

Let's get into it...

CONCEPT:

While incredibly well executed, the concept here is - Survivor of a family murder investigates the night of the murder and discovers not all was as it seems.

That is a realllllly old concept. 

Don't get me wrong - Gillian Flynn executes this brilliantly - but when we're looking at this on a concept only basis - this is noting new at all.

Now sometimes the execution of a dull concept can lift it up enough to save it - but in this adaptation, there just isn't enough freshness to get it over the line.

CONCEPT RATING: 4/10

CONCEPT TIP: Don't write whodunits. Don't write murder mysteries. It's not 1960 any more. Unless you can come up with something as cool as SEVEN - it's not going to fly. 


FORM:

Aside from slightly dense writing, the form was almost perfect here.  A great script to read for formatting guidelines. 

FORM RATING 8/10

FORM TIP: Once you have written your script and you are 100% happy with the structure and dialogue - do a 'Thinning pass' where you go through and remove 10% of the words. 

Keep the same page count - just remove 10% of the words. Your script will read 10% faster! And it will tell the same story. 

STRUCTURE:

Structure here was okay. There was no real sense of urgency at any time. There is a clock hammed into the story at one point, something about needing to get this done within 3 weeks - but there was no real sense of any danger toward Libby at any stage.

Had she unearthed a conspiracy early on and she was the victim of death threats from say page 30 onward, it would have amped the tension but there was nothing like that until late in the 3 act. 

The dual time line kept the story moving forward, but the problem with flashing back in time is every time you're in the 1985 world, the present day world has stopped. Unless you can inject tension in the 1985 world it's going to slow the story down.

STRUCTURE RATING: 5/10

SRTUCTURE TIP: Beware flash backs. When used right they are awesome. When they don't hold any tension themselves they hold the story up. 

CHARACTERS:

Exceptional. This is where this script excels. Mostly because of Gillian Flynn's source material.

I highly recommend you read this script just to understand what good characters look, sound and feel like. 

CHARACTER RATING: 9/10

CHARACTER TIP: Writing your characters in novel form will help you get inside their heads. When you fully understand the psychology of your characters you can then start to write 3D characters in your script. You don't have to write a full novel - try writing a short story with each of your characters in prose form.

DIALOGUE:

Good, but not exceptional. There were no moments when I felt like the dialogue popped off the page. Libby's voice over was the best. It stayed with me far more than any other dialogue. This I believe is because of Gillian's unique style. The voice overs here reminded me of the Gone Girl voice overs. 

DIALOGUE RATING 6.5/10

DIALOGUE TIP: Don't just refine your main character's dialogue. Refine all your ancillary players dialogue as well. A lot of writers take the time to develop their hero and leave their other characters half developed.

VOICE:

This is an interesting one. The powerful voice here is of Gillian Flynn. The voice of the script writer isn't terribly pronounced. 

VOICE RATING 7/10

VOICE TIP: When adapting, it's important to take the base material and make it your own. Don't just write the previous writer's story into film form verbatim. 

Take a look at the adaptation of Q& A into the film SLUM DOG MILLIONAIRE.

HUGE difference between the two works, yet the premise is the same.

PRODUCTION:

Already made into a film with a stellar cast, but it didn't hit because of the dull concept - a straight forward murder mystery. 

SUMMARY:

I can see this working incredibly well as a novel. Gillian Flynn is without doubt an exceptional writer. 

But this story in the film form just doesn't work as it stands. 

OVERALL RATING 6/10