Author: Gary Dauberman
Writer’s Potential: 4
Logline:A disparate group of strangers find themselves stranded in a remote hotel during a bitter snowstorm — along with a dead body.
Synopsis:In the midst of a major snowstorm, CLARE’s car gets stuck in the snow. Her car is packed like she’s moving somewhere, and quickly. Clare tries repeatedly to get it out, but nothing works. Eventually, the car dies. Her cell phone has no service. She has to rely on a passing truck, driven by JASON. He’s ruggedly handsome, but Clare’s a little creeped out. He drives slowly, but the truck still manages to shudder. There’s something large and strange in the back. The glovebox pops open, dropping the usual papers and a picture of Jason’s ex-girlfriend. Embarrassed, he shoves it all back in the glovebox. Clare asks about what’s in the back of the truck. Jason says it’s a freezer he’s delivering for his father. Clare doesn’t believe him, but Jason insists it’s the truth, absurd as it sounds. They pass a sign advertising a hotel 10 miles up the road. Jason wants to stop there to wait out the storm, but Clare tells him she’d rather go to the town 30 miles up the road, where she can find a mechanic. Jason accidentally calls Clare “Beth,” confusing her. Jason argues that it’s taken them an hour to go 15 miles, but it’s a moot argument when the car simply dies. They make the arduous walk to the hotel, passing a sign along the way warning of a restricted government area. Jason hears a strange sound, but Clare doesn’t. It stops.
It’s a lodge-style hotel, all wood and hunting-themed. It looks empty, but Clare and Jason open the door to the great hall and find a dead woman — really more of a pile of blood and guts witrh an arm clutching a pack of cigarettes. Clare and Jason are too disgusted to notice the HUNTER training his rifle on them. They assume he did this, but Hunter points out he’d have made a cleaner kill. They’re joined by TONYA, who has just finished vomiting in the bathroom down the hall, and FRED, an anxious, chubby guy. Fred tells them all the phones are dead, just as Clare’s cell rings. She answers, but it’s dead air. Fred offers that it’s happened to all of them and they assume the tower’s on the fritz. A TALL MAN bends over the corpse and pulls out the waitress’s nametag: Beth. This makes Clare a little uncomfortable. She heads for the main door but can’t decide whether or not to go back in the storm. MAMA SUPERIOR, a quick-witted biker chick, appears, as the Tall Man blows out snot blood-drenched. He goes to the bathroom. Hunter mentions his brother’s out in the storm; they were hunting and got separated. Clare speculates that somebody in the lodge must have killed the girl, and if they’re the only people there, it must be one of them. Mama Superior thinks that makes sense, but Clare points out that two of the room keys are gone — and since none of them are staying at the hotel, there must be someone else here. Privately, Clare confronts Jason about “Beth.” He admits it’s a weird coincidence but nothing more. They hear a noise from the direction of the rooms. They go down the hall to the bathroom and find the Tall Man has spontaneously combusted all over the walls. Tonya vomits again. Clare bails, running into the woods. The snow has gotten heavier. She hears the sound Jason heard earlier. A branch snaps, nearly crushing her. She slinks back to the lodge.
She finds everyone in a group — all afraid to split up end suffer Tall Man’s fate. They decide to go upstairs and investigate all the rooms together. All the doors are unlocked and empty, except room 9. From behind the door, Jason thinks he hears a TV. They debate about whether or not to break the lock, but Hunter shoots it before any of them can decide. Inside is another exploded person — or possibly people. As they investigate, Jason notices one — a man — is still alive, despite the missing limbs and decaying state. Jason kicks him away, and Tonya notices movement in the shadows. Jason goes further and discovers — a little boy, maybe 9, named SAM. Unharmed for some unknown reason. Fred gets a nosebleed. They step into the hall as his bleeding worsens, and all of them watch as Fred bursts apart. Everyone scrambles, with most everyone heading into room 12. Hunter intentionally runs to room 10, where he barricades the door with furniture. Then he realizes Tonya is there. Both are unhappy about the situation. Hunter, showing increasing paranoia, speculates the government did this. Tonya realizes Hunter was actually staying at the hotel, which scares her even though Hunter insists he didn’t do anything and only lied because he knew what they’d think otherwise. She grabs his gun and shoots him in the foot, then runs away, gets to room 12.
The power goes out in room 12. Clare decides they need candles or a torch, but nobody has anything to make a flame — all of them, including Mama Superior, are non-smokers. Clare remembers Beth clutching cigarettes, considers the possibility that a working lighter is in the puddle of goo. Jason decides to go, but Clare insists on going herself. Downstairs, she finds the lighter, but just as she’s about to go upstairs — a husband and wife burst into the lodge, both wearing gas masks. The wife has been shot and dies quickly, bursting like the others. DWIGHT, the husband, tosses her gas mask to Clare. He mentions government testing and a chemical explosion, that somebody shot his wife to get their gas masks. Clare notices him pull a hand-drawn map from his wife’s pocket, which has directions on where they’re headed in case he died.
The “CRAZY SONUVABITCH” who shot his wife show up, aiming his shotgun at Dwight. Enraged, Dwight pulls off his own gas mask and smashes it with his foot. Clare remains out of sight as the Crazy Sonuvabitch kills Dwight, then searchesd the wife’s body for her mask. She tries to slink toward the stairs, while upstairs, Mama Superior’s nose begins to bleed. She knows she’s done for, so the others scramble as she explodes. The sound of it catches the Crazy Sonuvabitch’s attention. He sees Clare and the mask, comes after her. She shoots him dead, then rushes upstairs to tell the others what she learned from Dwight.
Hunter stalks them from the shadows, limping. Hearing about a government attack gives him pause. They go downstairs to check out the bodies — Hunter recognizes Crazy Sonuvabitch, snatches his gun. Jason and Tonya wonder who the third man is if it was just a husband and wife. Hunter steps out with the gun, stating it was his brother. Hunter demands the mask. Jason, with the gun, tries to hold off Hunter and give the others time to escape. It works, sort of. Jason shoots two of the three remaining rounds at Hunter, missing both times. Then Jason runs. He catches up to the others. They spot a water tower, a landmark indicated on Dwight’s map. Hunter tracks them as they head for it. They hear distant screaming, then the strange noise heard by Jason at the beginning. Tonya’s nose begins to bleed, and she explodes. Jason doubles back to catch up with Hunter, sees Hunter catching up with Clare and Sam. He tries to shoot him but, thanks to the storm and his inexperience, misses by a wide margin. Hunter catches up with the others and demands the mask. Just as he takes it, they hear that noise again, louder now. As Hunter puts it on, his head and body explode. They decide the mask might be useless.
Clare, Jason, and Sam continue walking until they reach a clearing where a big tent has been set up, a black SUV and military truck parked next to it. They try to start the SUV with no luck, so they go into the tent and find — KOLER, a scientist who’s packing up to get the hell out of Dodge. He doesn’t have much information, but what he does have telling him these frequency bursts are what’s killing people, and they’re getting bigger; most likely, 500,000 in the surrounding area will end up dead. The bursts are also what’s causing the power fluctuations. Koler was once accompanied by a full army unit, but they investigated the source and never came back. He shows them a big stack of dynamite they intended to blow the source, but nobody came back for it. They let Koler leave, then check out his maps, comparing it to their drawing. Dwight and his wife were heading for a farmhouse, taking them right through the frequency burst’s source.
Clare decides she’s going to blow the source herself, using a handgun to blow it. She orders Jason and Sam to try to get the SUV started and wait for her. If she doesn’t come back after blowing it, or she never gets the chance to blow it, they’re to leave without her. Before she goes, Clare gives Sam a heart-to-heart about dealing with parental death — not letting it make her angry, the way she did when he parents died at around the same age. She fills a duffle bag with dynamite and starts out across the field. She gets to a slope, where she finds the exploded bodies of the army unit spread out before her — and the dead body of an alien being. Clare’s baffled, but she keeps moving. She sees a live alien — and their ship, which is what’s been broadcasting the frequencies. She shoots at the alien, hitting but not killing it — but using up all her rounds.
Jason and Sam are in the SUV; Jason frantically tries to get the engine to turn over, but it just won’t. Meanwhile, Clare makes a run for the craft, the alien pursuing her. The ship concentrates on her, gearing up with that familiar — and now deafening — strange noise. Her nose and ears begin to bleed. The alien’s about to pounce, and then she realizes… Clare stands and waits for the ship to take her down, because it ignites the dynamite, taking the alien and ship (and Clare) with it. The SUV’s motor springs to life, and Jason drives like a bat out of hell. Electricity springs back to life on the road around them. After driving for awhile, Jason stops. He and Sam roll down their windows, finally able to catch their breaths.
Comments:The first and second acts work pretty well. With the exception of Tall Man and Sam, each of the characters stuck in the lodge have…well, “depth” isn’t the right word, but each clearly adheres to an archetype and the dialogue and actions of each characters illustrates these differences nicely. The writer does a good job with plotting, as well, tossing out clues about the overall mystery that make the story intriguing without spelling out too much — with the exception of the many references to government testing grounds nearby, which telegraphs the third act by page 13.
The writer also does interesting things with red herrings (e.g., the possibility that Jason knew “Beth”), which is why I sort of wished all the government testing stuff would turn out to be a red herring. It’s not that it’s so bad, and I’ll admit I didn’t exactly see an alien invasion being the culprit — it just puts the story on such an obvious narrative path, right from the beginning. Every time the government is mentioned, the writer tips his hand and sends us right down the path of least resistance. It would have been more of a surprise if the restricted area had nothing to do with the mystery at hand — that something creepier and more distinctive and is pulling the strings.
While the characters have distinct elements to their personalities, they, too, fall apart in the third act. Or, at least, the ones that are left do. Clare’s speech to Sam, which basically explains her motivation to make the suicide run at the end, came out of left field. Although the writer did mention (very briefly) that Clare’s parents died when she was young, nothing about her character suggested this path for her. It would have been nice to see a natural progression that perhaps showed that she still had to deal with these unresolved feelings about her parents, perhaps with the death and carnage surrounding her allowing her to realize that her parents may have gotten off easy. Similarly, Jason has a an arc so shallow, he might as well not have one at all. Like Clare’s parents, his girlfriend leaving is mentioned, and in the third act, his fear of another woman leaving him turns into Jason’s defining trait. Why?
There’s a lot of strong material here, so it’s too bad it all falls apart at the end. Also, the writer himself loses some points for cluttering the script with weird, wannabe-Shane Black meta-commentary on his own story. It works against the story, obliterating the grim atmosphere with its playful, cutesy air and making the characters’ actions much more difficult to follow.
The overall story does not include enough sci-fi elements to draw in the sci-fi crowd, and the relentless gore will turn away sensitive viewers, but horror fans will probably seek this out despite its third-act problems.