As with any script that moves through development, Love in the Time of Monsters went through a few drafts over the years. The biggest discussion Mike and I had was that of tone. Early in the process he asked, "What kind of feel should the movie have? Do you have any examples?"
"Of course," I said, haughty with horror-comedy knowledge, "It should be like Evil Dead 2, Slither, or Shawn of the Dead. You know, funny, but still scary."
"Yeah, of course. But what else?"
Mike's simple response started me on a journey through the rare genre breed that is the horror-comedy. You'd be surprised at how hard it is to find quality in this subgenre. Well, maybe not.
As I dove in head first into the horror genre I discovered a few things: Torture porn isn't so much scary as it is uncomfortable to watch; J-Horror is slow and almost always becomes some commentary on life and death; And that the mechanics of Horror are almost exactly the same as they are for Comedy.
Let me pull out that last thing for emphasis: Horror and Comedy are structurally exactly the same.
Think about it: Setup, twist, reveal. A man in a bar meets a 12 inch pianist, who promptly tears out the man's throat with his tiny, callused hands. It's funny and horrific! Setup, twist, reveal.
I can tell you don't quite buy it. Let's use a practical example, like Jason Voorhees
Jason Voorhees is one scary motherfucker. Right? He's huge, unstoppable (containable, maybe), ironically stealthy, strong and determined. He's not one to laugh at unless you have a major death wish.
How could he be funny? Let's set the scene:
Two teenagers scandalously make out in a dark abandoned summer camp while being watched by an unknown presence.
The girl gets up to leave. She looks back, coyly, "I'll be right back."
The boy tosses his hands behind his head, "Don't be too long."
The girl walks out, barely brushing past the voyeur in the room; the presence remains hidden. It follows her.
The girl, distracted by thoughts of love while primping in the bathroom mirror. A shadowy figure darts past, just catching her eye. "Bobby? Is that you?"
She turns back to the mirror to reveal Jason Vohrees, his hockey mask a pristine white, brandishing a bloody Machete. Her scream is cut off by his quick slash.
Scary, right? The suspense, the mood, the general build up to this great, if cliched, reveal of the murderer in the mirror. With the right music sting, half your audience just jumped out of their seats in terror.
But what if the ending was more like this:
She turns back to the mirror to reveal Jason Vohrees, his hockey mask a pristine white, wearing a tuxedo and holding flowers, "Is time for the sex, yes?."
Funny, right? Funny enough, at least. Now with a different music cue, your audience should be rolling in the aisles. Setup, twist, reveal.
Now that I had a structural foundation for my thought process, we needed to decide if we were making a Horror-Comedy or a Comedy-Horror. A difference that seems slight, but actually led me to a a huge breakthrough about storytelling.
I'll tell you all about it next week.