Movie Art and HeArt

I’ve been on the hunt lately, a quest for comparables, a movie that most closely resembles my screenplay. For screenwriters, homing in on comparables inspires creativity and can be used to pitch your project to possible buyers. Recently, I found a movie that could be a great comparison to my latest project, “Where Wolves Are.”

I was searching for a story about a woman raising a child who turns out to be something else with a hair trigger… I sought a mixture of Horror and drama, emphasizing the relationship between mother and child. What’s more horrifying than putting so much love and effort into a kid who turns out to be a monster?

I’ve struggled for months trying to find a film twin. Yesterday, I found “Brightburn” (2019), starring Elizabeth Banks, David Denman, and Jackson Dunn, about a kid in a UFO who falls from the sky. The couple living on a nearby farm find and raise him as their own.

The plot feels very similar to a certain man of steel series, only this kid isn’t altruistic. Learning he is far superior to earthlings, the kid is pissed off. He takes it out on everyone, including his long-suffering mother (kind of—the movie doesn’t show that kind of emotional connection) and his father, who also tried to connect—sort of.

Still, until finding “Brightburn,” my only movie comparisons were “The Sixth Sense” meets “Disney’s Tarzan.” It never occurred to me to check out the Marvel or DC Comics franchise, but why would it?

Very few Superhero movies tell a story from a strong female’s perspective in which she’s trying to love a child who turns out to be dangerous to her health.

Most are about a villain trying to take over the world. His ambition accidentally spills over onto an unsuspecting person who becomes his biggest foe—in Nature vs. Nurture, it’s pure nurture, as all revenge stories seem to be.

However, what if the story was built on the foundations of nature? What if, no matter how much love, attention, and care the child gets, he is still a monster? Enter the Horror franchise. 

Horror story after horror story has the theme of Nature vs. Nurture, from the movie “Orphan” to “Halloween.”

We all know Mike Meyers is a total nightmare, making me think about his mother. What did Mrs. Meyers think of her baby after he bludgeoned her daughter?

Did she blame herself? Did Mike’s mom worry she had punished him too much, grounded him from watching Saturday morning cartoons too many times? Maybe she should have enforced a curfew? Should she have said, “No, Mikey, you cannot wear that hideous mask to the dinner table, drop the butcher knife, and please pass the salt!”

What if Mommy Meyers had read more bedtime stories with a moral compass about being nice to people? Would that have turned Mike around?

Oh, what would have gone through her mind? The guilt! The shame! The self-blame! Isn’t that what we all would’ve felt if we were in her blood-filled shoes? See, a mixture of an emotional impediment with our axe welding thrill! Is that too much to ask?

That’s what I was trying to do in my story and what I was looking for in comparables. I was enthusiastic when I finally discovered the Horror/Drama “Brightburn,” where the logline centers around a mother’s love of her super scary son.

“Where Wolves Are” and “Brightburn” are similar. Both women find a baby in the woods, but no matter how much she tries, the kid turns out to be a monster. Only in my story, the kid is a monster, he’s a werewolf—it’s his nature…but in “Brightburn?” Was it his nature? I have no idea! Who knows what kind of alien bedtime stories the kid was told in utero!

There is a strange voice that haunts the boy’s dreams and beckons him to discover his origin (just like mine). Unlike mine, the voice leads the child to his original mode of transport (the spaceship), hidden in the family barn, and then commands him to kill. But why? What’s the point? Why does the kid listen? Why does he do it? Because he can?

So, why has my search for comparables been so difficult? Because there is no combination of thrill and heart—anywhere. There’s little relatable backstory, no developed character arc, and no reasonable explanation of what makes people tick. Where’s the humanity? Where’s the adventure plot sprinkled with perspective change? Is that why we go to the movies for a cheap thrill? Aren’t we bored yet?

It seems that instead of character development, the emphasis is on murder with unusual weaponry or plot twists that trip us up. The movies closest to sincerity or humanity are packaged in tongue-in-cheek dialogue. Is that all? Why can’t we get both complication and resolution?

Don’t we want to have an experience made up of more than chase scenes, spilled blood, and boo tactics?

What’s wrong with having both Heart and Art, because every story is better when the audience connects and has a profound stake in what happens on the big screen.

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