Thursday, October 30, 2014

Tales from the Script: Hospitality!

An excerpt from my scary screenplay Hospitality...

The story opens with a convenience store robbery perpetrated by a trio of ne'er-do-wells, Cory, Annie, and Vern. Things do not go as planned, and people die. This sequence is crosscut with the average morning of a man named Henry. Henry rises from bed, paints while the morning light is good, then gets breakfast for his aged father and himself. Everything sounds normal in Henry's house, doesn't it? Except it isn't. And in the early scenes it's nothing you can put your finger on. But something is "off."
The escape in the car is derailed by a flat tire, and the kids stop off in an empty field outside of town. Eventually, they decide to steal a car from a passing motorist. To accomplish this, Cory has Annie get all dolled up in a fairly trashy outfit, the better to lure middle aged men to a meeting with their insurance adjuster.
Of course, the person they stop is Henry, on his way back from town with some groceries. Annie plays her part well, and gets Henry to stop. But Vern is off sinking their car in the river, and Cory won't jump Henry alone.

Annie glances up at Henry as she continues to massage her ankle.

Are you all right?

Not really.

What seems to be the problem?

Out late. Party. Met a guy, seemed all right.
He brought me out here. You know. When I
said no, he kicked me out of the car
and left me out here in the middle of nowhere!

The last few words she directs to the departed “guy.”

I fell asleep over there by the river. I heard a car go
by a little while ago, as I was waking up, but I
couldn’t get out here in time.

I guess that must have been me.
Not many cars out this way.
Well, I’m glad you came back. My ankle
is really hurting. Can you help me?

I live close by, just got a few things in town.
Why don’t you get in? You could call someone
from my house?

Henry opens the side door. This is not going as planned. Annie looks off as though she is thinking this over. She is actually looking at Cory.
Cory mimes that he doesn’t know, looking around to indicate he has no idea where Vern is. Annie looks back at Henry.

How close by?
You can almost see it from here. Come on.
Let me offer you some hospitality.

You’re not one of those crazies? You’re not
going to turn out to be an axe murderer?
Absolutely not. I don’t even own an axe.
Scouts’ honor. I’m Henry.

Not knowing what else to do, Annie pretends to hobble to the car.

Uh, my name is An...gelina. I hope my
friends can find your place.

Won’t be a problem. Angelina.
Such a pretty name.

Annie climbs into the car. Henry smiles as she closes the door. He rolls the window up, closing Annie in with him. She watches the window slide into place almost nervously.

[As the car drives off, Vern returns. Cory berates him with much profanity and they start walking, hoping to find Annie quickly.]


Henry’s car pulls in along the driveway. The house is set back a good distance from the road. The car stops near the house, and Henry climbs out. Annie does the same, but slower, very on edge.

She looks back down the road.

See, I told you it was close.

Yeah, but my friends still might have
a tough time finding the place.

Henry waves this off and opens the back door of the car. He reaches in and pulls out the two brown paper bags of groceries. With keys in hand, he turns and walks to the house, expecting Annie to follow him.

She doesn’t. He turns back and sees her still looking down the driveway.

Aren’t you coming inside? You
still need to call your friends.

Annie casts one more look down the driveway, then turns and walks nervously to where Henry stands by the door. Henry maybe starts to realize something is hinky here. However, the curtain has risen, the play must go on. But Henry can’t resist one little prod.

Your ankle seems to be much better.

Annie realizes she forgot her limp.

Yeah, I guess it is better. Guess being off
it for a few minutes did the trick.

I guess so.

Henry unlocks the door and gestures for Annie to precede him inside. She smiles anxiously, and goes in. Henry follows, and the door closes with an ominous click. Once again, we stay on the door just long enough to expect something else to happen. Finally, it doesn’t.


Henry has taken the lead and walks in to the kitchen. He sets down the grocery bags. Annie looks the place over as she eases into the kitchen. There is a sign posted: “Enjoy our hospitality. We’re glad you came to see us!” There are also small paintings here, the lightest in tone of any we’ve seen so far.

This is a nice place. You have a lot
of paintings.

They’re mine.

Annie looks at him.

Well, sure they are. It’s your

Henry grins.

No, I mean I painted them.

Really? Wow. You’re really talented. I like
your sign too. Hospitality. You said that out
on the road.

Thank you, Angelina. Yes, my father always
encouraged having guests, and treating them well.

Do you live here alone?

No, my father lives here with me.

Annie starts slightly at the change in tense. This day started off bad, and just keeps adding more complications.

Uh, you can make that Annie, I guess.
Where is your father?
Annie it is then. I’m afraid Father is not well. He
sleeps most of the time. Actually, I need to check
on him, and put these groceries away. Do you
need to freshen up?

Uh, sure. Yeah, that would be good.

Bathroom’s first on the left down the hall.
But first, let me show you this.

Annie is not sure what he means as Henry steps over to a small fusebox looking box on the wall. He opens it and flips the switch inside.

We flash to the front door, the back door, and a shot of the windows. Each time, there is a soft CLUNK that sounds like a lock being thrown followed by a soft and steady electrical HUM.

None of this can be heard in the kitchen.

There. I just turned on the light over my mailbox.
Now your friends will have no problem finding this place.
And you can make your call as soon as I check on
Father. First door on the left in the meantime.

Annie smiles and walks down the hall. Henry smiles back, but the smile fades after Annie disappears and he starts to put away the groceries.


Cory and Vern walk along, scanning each side looking for some sign of Annie or Henry’s car. They come upon Henry’s driveway.

As they stop to look at it for a moment, the sharp eyed will see the mailbox, which is brightly painted to look like a rather strange fish, the first dimensional representation of Henry’s art that we’ve seen.

And no, there is no light over it at all.

Is this it?
Hell if I know. I don’t want to go to the
wrong place and get some nervous nellie
farmer calling the cops.

Vern calmly pulls out his pistol. Cory sighs and shakes his head.

And I don’t want to leave a string of bodies
across the county. Let’s go further down,
see if we see the car.

Vern reluctantly agrees, puts his gun away, and they walk on.


The door to the bathroom opens quietly. Annie peeks out, then slips out into the dimly lit hallway, trying not to let her heels clatter on the floor. The walls here are also covered with several framed pieces.

Down the hall, Henry putters and puts away groceries, humming to himself. Annie turns and walks down the hall the other way.

She comes to a closed door, and puts her hand on the knob. She watches back down the hall, but Henry continues to make noise in the kitchen. She debates opening this door, which could creak, or walking down to the last door, which is open.

She lets go of the doorknob and creeps on down the hall. She peeks carefully around the door frame.

Inside the room, there is a figure lying in the bed. It is very still, and does not show any signs of life. With another peek back to the kitchen, Annie slides into the room.


Surrounded by Henry’s art, Annie’s eyes adjust to the even more dim light here, and Annie can see that the figure appears to be a very old man, with gray hair and an ample gray beard. There is still no sign of obvious life.
Annie steps closer, and finally, unable to resist, reaches out a hand to the figure’s foot and gives it a gentle shake.
Instantly the figure’s eyes snap open, startling the hell out of Annie, who reels back. The figure flops and writhes, absolute stark terror in the eyes. No speech, but a muffled mumbling can be heard. Now it can be seen that the figure is restrained in the bed. Annie turns to run away...
...and finds Henry standing right behind her, rage in his eyes. He grabs Annie and hustles her out into the hallway.

What are you doing?
Why did you do that?

What’s wrong with him? Why is he
so scared? And why is he tied
up like that?

He is a very old, very sick man. He is terrified
of just about everything these days, especially strangers.
And in his confusion he cannot be left to fall out of
bed, or wander around the house and hurt himself.

This explanation calms Annie somewhat. Henry also relaxes a bit.

I’m sorry, Henry, I heard a noise...

It’s all right. I’m sorry I snapped. I need to
get him calmed down, and seeing you again
won’t help. Will you wait in the kitchen for me?

Yes, of course.

Annie walks back down the hall to the kitchen. Henry watches her until she disappears around the corner, then he walks into the bedroom. The figure reacts again, still terrified.

I’m sorry, Father.

He walks over to the dresser and picks up a small case. From inside he draws out a hypodermic needle, which is already filled. He squirts the air out as he approaches the bed. The figure on the bed mumbles incoherently again in the same muffled way.

But it’s for your own good.

The figure on the bed tries to jerk away, but cannot escape.


Annie waits nervously. She eyes a butcher block full of knives, even slides the largest partially out, then decides against it and lets it fall back.

After a moment, Henry walks back into the room. He seems to have regained his composure, though maybe it is now a bit brittle.

There, he’s settled down now.

God, I am so sorry, Henry.

It’s all right. So much upsets him these
days. Now, how about that phone call?

Annie has no desire to make a phone call, but still doesn’t what to do.

Uh, sure.

Phone’s right over here.

He gestures to an old cordless phone mounted on the wall. He takes the handset off and gives it to Annie.

It feels strange, and she hefts it as though the weight is off.

Henry, I don’t think there are
any batteries in this phone.

Henry slides closer as though to take a look.

No, there aren’t. Oh, and Annie?
I was never a scout.

Annie tries to move but she’s let Henry get too close as he pulls the same hypodermic up from where he’s been palming it and slams it into Annie’s upper arm.

Annie turns and grabs for the knives, but only manages to get the largest back out and turn before crumpling. The knife clatters harmlessly onto the floor beside her.

Not to spoil anything - but things go downhill from there. That's a few pages out of a 98 page screenplay - if you have six figures lying around that you're not using - this has an executive producer credit just waiting for you...

Until next post, you Can Poke Me With A Fork, Cause I Am Outta Here!


  1. Tremendous stuff Craig, the cheque's in the post... I felt the muscles in my stomach tighten as Annie and Henry took their positions in the dance of death. This has a nice Pinteresque touch, it's rather sinister. I hope it sees the light of day someday. Happy Halloween my friend !

    1. Thanks Wes! I really appreciate that! Happy Halloween back!