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.


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


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

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