Tribes of October
Author: Nick Vallelonga & Paul Sloan
Writer’s Potential: 5
Logline:Survivors of an Apocalyptic disaster attempt to police a ruined New York City.
Synopsis:In the not-too-distant future, New York City has become a blighted zone surrounded on all sides by an endless expanse of desert. A voiceover explains that solar flares caused this climatological change, along with shutting down all modern electronics and technology. EGAN, a police detective, is chased by anonymous criminals, who eventually catch up with him and kill him with a small sword. HILLBURN (40s), another detective, smokes opium and hallucinates the image of beautiful MAY KELLY (20s) in a white expanse. When Hillburn approaches and attempts to touch May, she crumbles like a dirt statue. Hillburn is snapped back to reality by the RED QUEEN, a gorgeous woman who makes a variety of lewd advances. She notices long scars running down either side of Hillburn’s back. Uncomfortable, Hillburn leaves the opium den. He meets his partner, CAVE, who explains to Hillburn, who’s new to the NYPD, that tonight’s Halloween celebration is a huge deal. On the way to headquarters, they pass a huge tower standing in the middle of Central Park, now known as “the Water District.” The tower is a water filtration plant. Crowds of people gather outside with buckets, waiting. A sign announces that they have no water and to come back tomorrow. Hillburn and Cave continue on to their precinct house.
Their captain, RAMSEY (60s), browbeats Hillburn for getting high, then takes them to the morgue. Along with the coroner, they examine Egan’s headless corpse. They notice he was killed with a small sword, which suggests a gang led by “Samhain.” Ramsey tells Hillburn and Cave not to pursue Samhain, especially not on Halloween. All hell would break loose. Hillburn notices an amulet among the evidence collected at Egan’s crime scene. He pockets it. Ramsey sends Hillburn and Cave to investigate the murder, urging them to keep a low profile. In their car, Hillburn and Cave get called in to a suicide attempt at an abandoned church. Detective WEST informs them that the man threatening suicide was Egan’s partner, SIMON. Inside the church, Detective TUCCI tries to talk some sense into Simon. Simon rambles incoherently about lies and God. He demands to see Hillburn. Hillburn snatches Simon’s gun away. Cave and Tucci cuff him, and they drag Simon out to the car. Hillburn asks Simon about the significance of the amulet. Simon says Egan was out to find the truth, and it got him killed. He overheard something from one of Samhain’s crew that would “change everything.” Egan’s last words were, “Tell Hillburn to keep digging.” Simon steals Cave’s revolver and shoots himself in the head.
Cave finds out Egan keeps going to a private club called The Havana Lounge. Hillburn is familiar with it. At the club, Hillburn sees May. Hillburn tells May he’s in love with her, but May accuses him of insanity. He changes the subject to Egan, whom May knew. She’s surprised and upset to learn he’s dead. Hillburn asks her about the amulet. May says she gave it to Egan for good luck. May points Hillburn to GAZZI, who most likely ratted out Egan. Hillburn and Cave go to Gazzi, demanding to see Samhain. When Gazzi laughs at them, Hillburn breaks Gazzi’s nose and threatens to kill him. From an upstairs office, MAXIMILLIAN WHITE (50s) watches them. White goes downstairs with his main bodyguard, DOYLE, to break up the fight. He smugly demands Hillburn and Cave leave. When Hillburn refuses to leave without Gazzi, White threatens to kill May. Hillburn relents, leaving Gazzi. Later, Hillburn and Cave are dragged into Ramsey’s office. He’s angry about receiving calls from “the most powerful man in the Water District.” Ramsey reminds them that White controls the water and the city and tells them to stay out of the Water District.
While driving, Hillburn and Cave are forced off the road by BRAZZO (40s) and “LUCKY” DONOVAN (50s), two of White’s goons. Cave introduces Hillburn to Donovan, who used to be a cop before going to work for Samhain. Donovan warns Hillburn to stay out of White’s turf, or else he’ll suffer the same fate as Egan. In White’s apartment in the water filtration tower, White yells at May for continuing to cry about his threatening to kill her. He then announces that she’s only alive because Samhain needs to use her as bait to lure Hillburn down the wrong path. Donovan calls White and asks if he and Brazzo should kill Hillburn. White tells him Samhain has other plans. Hillburn and Cave meet Tucci and West in an all-night diner. Tucci presents Hillburn with a piece of evidence uncovered from Egan’s car, which they swiped before evidence control could check it in. It’s an ancient skeleton key in the shape of a winged sword. None of them know what it opens, but they assume it’s important. The diner is ambushed by three hitmen. A wild gunfight ensues. West is killed. Hillburn chases one of the hitmen and beats him, demanding to know what the key opens. The hitman claims not to know, but Hillburn doesn’t believe him. He demands to know where Samhain is. The hitman commits suicide rather than tell Hillburn. Hillburn returns to the diner, where he and Cave find Egan’s head with his badge stuffed in the mouth. Donovan, Brazzo, and Gazzi meet White at a warehouse. Donovan apologizes for the hitmen failing to kill Hillburn and retrieve the key. White has Gazzi killed, then sends Donovan and Brazzo to get the key from Hillburn.
Tucci takes Hillburn and Cave to a man known as THE SEER, a blind prophet. They’ve brought Egan’s head to the Seer. He presses against it and is able to see Egan’s last few memories. The Seer sees Egan’s death but not who killed him. All he can tell them about the key is that Egan thought it would change things in New York. Cave asks who gave Egan the key. The Seer can’t quite see, but he knows it’s a woman — a “golden angel surrounded by evil.” Hillburn assumes it’s May. Cave thinks May would be conning them, but Hillburn believes she simply goes along with White and his cronies out of fear. Hillburn wants to crash White’s Halloween celebration in order to find Samhain. Hillburn leaves the key with the Seer. Hillburn, Cave, and Tucci drive into the Water District, which is crammed with people. Police stop and tell them they can’t pass through. Tucci threatens them with a shotgun until they’re let past. White forces May to give him a massage, then goes out to his balcony to address the masses. He tells them to give thanks to Lord Samhain, who brought them out of the darkness out of the Apocalypse. Then, he unleashes a torrent of water onto the grateful crowd. Ramsey comes to the Seer after receiving a call from officers about Tucci threatening them. He demands to know what the Seer told Hillburn.
As Doyle leads White and May through the crowd to his car, Hillburn tries to intercept her. He, Cave, and Tucci follow White’s car to Madison Square Garden, where White and May watch a boxing match. They get into a wild gunfight with White’s bodyguards. While Cave and Tucci cover Hillburn, he goes to May and demands to know if she gave Egan the key. She doesn’t know what he’s talking about. Tucci tries to cuff White. White gets away from Tucci and comes after him with his sword. Laughing hysterically, White whispers something into Tucci’s ear, causing the color to drain from Tucci’s face. Cave sees this and asks Tucci what happened. Tucci says he knows the truth, prompting Cave to shoot him in the head. Cave helps Hillburn and May escape in Cave’s Rolls Royce before Ramsey and other policemen arrive. Brazzo and Donovan follow, shooting at them. A bullet pierces the door and hits May in the side. Ramsey puts Cave in a holding cell. Cave insists that Hillburn is dirty, that they stole valuable evidence from Egan with the intention of ransoming it back to Samhain. Cave begs Ramsey to let him find Hillburn, so he can bring him back. Ramsey reluctantly agrees. Hillburn brings May to the Seer, who removes the bullet and stitches her up. The Seer notes Hillburn’s love for May. Hillburn tries to deny it, then asks the Seer to penetrate unconscious May’s thoughts, so he can see whether or not she gave Egan the key. She didn’t.
Cave and Donovan arrive at the Seer’s garage, along with bodyguards. They want May. Realizing Cave works for Samhain, Hillburn is shocked by the betrayal. Cave tells him it’s the only way to survive, then demands to know where the key is. When Hillburn refuses to say, Donovan begins beating the Seer. Ramsey arrives with some uniforms, who kill Donovan and Cave. Hillburn gives the key to Ramsey. Hillburn notices Cave has scars running along his back, just like his own. The Seer examines Cave’s memories and discovers he killed Egan and Tucci, and that he knows what Samhain is hiding and knows they took May to the filtration tower. Hillburn and the Seer go after her. They’re ready to come in guns blazing, but they’re met in the lobby by a blonde hostess who brings Hillburn directly up to a penthouse to see Samhain. Hillburn realizes the blonde hostess is the same as the Red Queen — and that she is Samhain. Hillburn tries shooting at her, but she can’t be killed. Samhain explains that she gave Egan the key, then seduced Cave into getting the key back. She enjoys watching them turn on each other like animals. She slowly reveals she’s a fallen angel — and so is Hillburn, and Cave, and Egan. They’ve all been banished to live with humanity. Samhain can’t understand why Hillburn would feel compassion for May, a lowly mortal. They fight. Hillburn wrestles Samhain’s sword away from her, then kills her. She is engulfed in flames, then vaporizes. Hillburn suddenly finds himself in a white void with the Seer and May. They’re in limbo, standing before the gates of heaven. Hillburn’s key will unlock it. May is allowed to pass beyond the gates, but Hillburn can’t — as punishment, he must remain on Earth. May leaves, telling Hillburn she loves him. Back on Earth, Hillburn asks the Seer why he was able to defeat Samhain. The Seer explains that Hillburn loved humans as God did. Ramsey is shocked as rain begins to pour down from the sky.
Comments:Tribes of October attempts a Matrix-style hybrid of science fiction, action, and mythology. Despite some interesting visual ideas, the mediocre detective story and laughable third act ruin the script’s chances for success. As written, it merits a pass.
In the first act, the writers introduce the strange, unsettling world of post-Apocalyptic New York City, whose citizens beg for water and only answer to the mysterious, possibly mythical Samhain. All of this is intriguing, so it’s disappointing that they choose to tell a tiresome detective story instead of creating a narrative as unique and compelling as its setting.
The second and third acts simply plod through the investigation into Egan’s death, piling on the film noir clichés as their search moves from Egan to White to Samhain. The story contains nothing that hasn’t been done better elsewhere, multiple times. This includes the action sequences, which contain little excitement and do nothing to raise the stakes. The writers don’t so much build to the ending as they do pad out the running time with predictable plot twists and repetitive gunfights.
The ending itself is absolutely ridiculous. The “fallen angels” reveal is telegraphed well in advance, thanks to elements like Hillburn’s occasional memory flashes (which serve no purposes other than to foreshadow the ending). Ignoring the hamfisted foreshadowing, the twist is still handled clumsily, making the script seem silly when it’s trying to be deadly serious. The writers downplay the desperation for water and the character of May to such a degree that, when they become essential to the story, audiences will have a hard time caring.
The storyline simply isn’t engaging, primarily because none of the characters have a vested interest in the outcome. Hillburn and Cave are simply on the case because Ramsey tells them to, and they approach it with all the energy and enthusiasm of two bored men who hate their job. Hillburn’s hot temper and memory flashes never give the impression that they motivate Hillburn to continue with the investigation. Other than these traits, Hillburn doesn’t have much in the way of characterization.
Cave and the other supporting characters are equally bland, substituting one or two distinguishing traits for real depth. The worst victims of this are May, White, and Samhain. The entire story hinges on Hillburn’s love for May and fear/dislike of White and Samhain. None of these characters get any real attention, which will makesit hard for audiences buy into the love story or the idea of White and Samhain as unstoppable villains.
The dialogue stands out as shockingly atrocious, splitting its time between laughable tough-guy one-liners and melodramatic soliloquies about love and religion. The world’s best actors could not make this material sound convincing. Even with well-choreographed, high-energy action sequences, this script has too many problems to find any success.