Monday, November 19, 2012

TODAY'S NUGGET: Southern Comfort (1981) - The Feeling of Dread

[Quick Summary:  A group of lost National Guardsmen antagonize a couple of Cajun trappers, and become prey in the swampy Louisiana bayou.]

I'm struggling to like these past few Walter Hill scripts. 

It could just be my tastes, but I've liked scripts that were far from my comfort zone. 

One thing I did like in this script was how it conveyed feelings of dread.

ex. "EXT. NARROW TRAIL

Along the edge of the bayou. Masterson moving cautiously along, then stops....

HIS POV

Eight dead rabbits hanging from a tree limb alongside the trail. Thin cord around each of their throats. Each animal has been gutted."


Why does this work? It's not over-the-top-gory or excessively bloody (which is an unpleasant trend today).

1) Because it's personal. 

The 8 men know they are the 8 doomed rabbits.

They also know that the Cajun trappers have superior knowledge and skills in this bayou.

2) Because the image provokes a reaction in the characters.

I often see writers try to replicate dread with a hamster wheel of blood-gore-blood-gore scenes.

I do not see often the characters react to the blood/gore in a way, which move the story forward.

Here, the Guardmen do not react well to the rabbit threat.  As a result, cracks start to appear in the group and they break rank in the next scene.

WHAT I'VE LEARNED: Dread can stem from a character's personal reaction to a scary sight.

Southern Comfort (1981)
Written and directed by Walter Hill

No comments: