Author: Eric Vespe
Writer’s Potential: 5
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Gary does rounds, introducing the other relevant patients: ERNEST, an angry, foul-mouthed man; and GERTIE, a frail, dementia-suffering woman obsessed with creepy ceramic dolls. That night, Ben notices a violent tugging at the edge of his bed. It’s a clawed, blackened arm that seems to be coming from the floor. Gus, who seems to know what’s happening, orders Ben to look at him. He says calm, kind words to distract Ben from the arm, which goes away. Ben demands to know what it is, but Gus won’t discuss it until the morning. The next day, Gus and HOWARD (70s, kindly) discuss things with Ben. Gus and Howard have decided that the rest home is creating different tormenters for each the patients, because it wants them either scared or crazy. None of the staff wants to believe this is true. They rule the “home“‘s attacks as suicides. They almost convinced Chaplin, which is why the home killed him. Ben thinks someone might listen to him, but Gus isn’t so sure he’ll make it out of the home alive.
Navit brings her son, OTIS, to the hospital while she has to run things. He has muscular dystrophy and is aware that something’s wrong at the home, but nobody believes him. That night, the creature attacks Ben and Gus’s room again. It kills Gus. Ben is still too weak and pained to stop it, but he gives it a good try. Unfortunately, it results in him lying comatose for two weeks. However, his actions have endeared him to the other elders, who come and sit with him while he’s unconscious. When he wakes, Navit subtly accuses Ben of killing Gus. Ben tries to convince her there’s something haunting the home, but she refuses to believe it, thinking he’s too drugged and delirious to know what he’s talking about. Still, Ben is so sincere, it causes her to question Gertie, the craziest of the patients. Gertie cryptically and creepily explains that the home wasn’t good to Gus because he didn’t like it, but she likes it, so it treats her fine. In the recovery room, Ben stares out at a cemetery. Howard chuckles about the view. Howard explains that the home used to be a tuberculosis hospital for children, and that if children died, they set up tubes to dump the children into, which led straight into an incinerator. If the family had money, they’d bury the children in the cemetery.
When Ben is well enough to leave the recovery room, Howard wheels him to the common room, where several other residents are ready and willing to take action. They explain that they’ve tried to burn down the home, but they can’t. The others say you can’t kill ghosts, but Ben doesn’t think they are ghosts — whatever is attacking them is real. The discussion breaks down, with everyone sniping at each other, until Howard reminds them that the home wants them divided. Their best option is to stick together. Howard forces Ben to start walking, using the handrails on the walls to pull himself along. Navit sees this and warns him that he could be seriously hurt. Ben tries to reason with Navit about what’s happening in the home. Even Otis sees it, but Navit remains obstinate. That night, Ernest witnesses Gertie’s ceramic dolls come to life and feast on her. He and the other elders decide that they really do need to do something to stop it. The moment they make that decision, the creature comes after them. They all push their call buttons, and the nurses scatter, frantically trying to help the elders. A few die.
Navit starts to believe Ben. Together, they confront Gary, who doesn’t really care. Ben demands that they move the residents out of the home. Gary shows them a contract. Ben goes to Howard, Ernest, and the others to tell them that Gary is selling the home. They’ll all be moved to a new facility, and the building will be torn to the ground. They all agree it’s good news, but Howard points out that if the home knows it’s going to “die,” it won’t have any reason to take caution and keep from getting caught. This unsettles them. That night, a horrible storm kills the power. All the mobile residents are told to gather in the common room while the nurses go to move all the invalids. Toilets start backing up, so Gary sends Roberts to investigate the pipes in the basement. Down there, he finds that it’s flooding. A pipe explodes, killing him. Moments later, the generator kicks on. Down the halls, the nurses can hear loud screams. With each scream, the dim lights grow stronger. Navit takes notice. She races to help the invalid residents, but the doors all suddenly slam shut as she approaches. The only door that remains open is the recovery room, where Alma is mutating into some sort of tentacled zombie.
Navit returns to the common room just as Ben is about to lead the mobile residents to leave. Gary rushes in, panic-stricken, insisting they all leave. Despite his fear, he still refuses to admit anything supernatural is happening. Ernest confronts Gary violently, forcing him to admit it. Gary runs toward the front entrance, but he starts to see skeletons floating in the rising water. The cemetery has been flooded, so the skeletons are floating into the home. The water is too high for them to get out through the main entrance without a boat. Ben tells them the only other option is the rear entrance. Since the home is built on a hill, the rear entrance is higher ground — but it means they have to walk through the length of the home. They struggle through the knee-high water. They stop at a utility closet, each getting weapons like a fire axe and heavy wrench — including Otis, but not Gary. As they walk through the home, they see surreal sights: crazed, seemingly possessed residents eating diseased meat in the cafeteria, eerie splashing in the water, disturbing paintings lining the walls.
One of the patients, LUTHER, has a hard time with all the walking. He forces them to stop and rest, but Gary doesn’t want to stop. He runs off, so Ben follows him, forcing him to stop. One of the other nurses, strange and zombie-like, attacks Luther, Howard, and Navit, who have sent the other residents ahead. Navit tries to help the nurse, but she attacks. Luther sacrifices himself to save Navit from whatever it is that has infected the nurse. Meanwhile, the other residents are attacked by some sort of black, snake-like creature floating in the water. Ben hears all the screams. Ernest shouts for Ben to go on without them. All the residents have to beat on the snake with their tools in order to kill it. Ben doesn’t leave. He returns to Navit and Howard in time to find some sort of fungus-like growth feeding on Luther. Gary tries to stop the growth with the axe, but Ben won’t let him kill Luther. They fight over the axe, and Gary accidentally kills Howard with it. They’re both shocked. The rest of the group returns, distracting Ben long enough for Gary to run away. Ben decides he’s going to kill Gary, but he doesn’t have to: Gary hides in a supply closet, where the home promptly kills him. Ben is pleased to hear his screams.
When Otis sees the creature, Ben recites the same words that Gus said to him on his first night there — distracting Otis from the creature, causing it to leave. It’s a short-lived victory, however. A possessed resident leaps up from the water, grabbing Otis and pulling him under. Navit dives after it. Ben tries to, as well, but a corpse emerges from a floating coffin and attacks him. One of the other elderly residents sacrifices herself to decapitate the corpse, freeing Ben to help Navit and Otis. By the time they reach the south entrance, they’re the only three left — Ernest has mysteriously disappeared. Ben tries to open the door, but it won’t budge. The home is keeping them in as it collapses around them. Suddenly, the glass doors shatter. Ernest is the culprit. He pulls them all out of the house, and they narrowly escape as the building falls around them. Police boats scan the flooded area for survivors. They find Gertie, still alive, cackling like a madwoman, clutching her favorite doll.
The first act introduces one of the script’s biggest problems: a leaden pace. It rigidly adheres to the formula of this type of movie, starting with a confusing “scare” moment, moving on to introduce protagonist Ben (as always, a new resident in the haunted house), and then delving in to the theatrics of dull shock moments and discussion of convoluted mythology. One of the more interesting ideas here is that Ben is little more than an invalid. Naturally, this development is hastily abandoned in the second act, as he regains his power to walk and the chronic pain from his burns is only used as a crutch to temporarily stun him later on.
The second act spends a lot of time on scary death moments, the home’s muddled mythology, and desperate attempts to convince the staff of what’s happening. It’s a tad repetitive, thanks partly to the lack of engaging characters, but the main problem is that what’s happening with the home is never entirely clear. This seems to be intentional, but the fact that the writer raises a number of options (ghosts of tubercular children, an ancient curse, or merely a house that is somehow alive and wants these people gone) without ever committing to one inadvertently causes an unsatisfying resolution. Without knowing what they’re fighting it’s hard to really get engaged in their struggle to defeat it — or, more accurately, run away from it.
The third act piles on the weird imagery to pad out an escape from the house that would have been slightly more satisfying if it were significantly shorter. As mentioned, there’s always the problem of them not knowing what they’re fighting or how to kill it. However, as with the second act, the third act gets repetitive in a hurry. The writer tries multiple variations on two basic attacks: strange creatures and possessed residents, who either drag people into the water or try to eat them. It works the first couple of times, but by the fifth and sixth times, it’s just tiresome.
A big problem here is the lack of compelling characters. Putting different, interesting characters into these repetitive situations would go a long way toward making them seem less redundant. However, the writer opts to give each character one basic trait (Ben is young, Howard is nice, Ernest is cranky, etc.) without ever going the extra mile to make the audience care about who they are and whether or not they survive. The lack of empathy hinders the script because, as the body count rises, there’s no mounting suspense. It doesn’t really matter who dies — even when it’s nice-guy Howard — because none of the characters are interesting enough and none of the relationships are strong enough to make the audiences feel anything beyond boredom.
If the home is supposed to be the antagonist, then it, as a character, is pretty muddled and poorly developed. As mentioned, it’s never entirely clear what’s causing the supernatural phenomena they witness. The writer never establishes rules to establish what it can and can’t do, so there’s no real mystery or intrigue there, except that it raises the question of why a seemingly omnipotent force can’t manage to kill a group of old people and a severely wounded young man. Wisely, the writer allows Gary to be a human antagonist, but his slippery weasel routine has been seen so many times in so many other movies — and not just horror movies — that he barely registers as a villain, and as with the good guys’ deaths, his murder means nothing.
The only thing that can come close to saving this script is good casting, to help it rise above its character problems, and good directing, to help it surmount is sluggish pacing.
Posted by D. B. Bates on May 9, 2010 1:12 PM