I agreed to read 8 scripts on the Black List website, selected via their loglines. I already showed some love to H8RZ, so if you haven't already downloaded and rated it, please make some time to do that. I'm also excited to say that I'm about to add to your reading pile with a second submission, CHAMBERS.
CHAMBERS is a psychological thriller from writer Stan Himes. It's about "A wallflower college student, horrified at the discovery of a torture chamber hidden by his recently deceased father, struggles to save a young woman still trapped in it while his domineering brother wants to continue their father's work." I was drawn to this logline because it was a solid genre idea with a very marketable hook. I'm sure someday serial killer scripts will finally go out of style, but for now, it remains a popular genre.
Going into this, I had hopes that it truly was more a cerebral thriller than a torture pore gorefest like SAW. While I recognize that there was a period of time when the SAW-style films were on fire, I never warmed to that kind of film. As it turns out, I had little reason to worry.
The logline pretty well lays out the concept. A novelist who focuses on depraved killers is killed in a car crash. His will leaves specific - and unusual instructions to his college-aged sons - who are ordered to bury him in secret. Daniel is the more introverted son, and he has reason to think his father often favored his brother, Wally. As the two settle their father's affairs, they uncover a secret storage facility in their father's name. It's full of fake IDs, driver's licenses, passports and cash. With the sheriff already poking around after her curiousity is aroused by oddities in the author's death, Daniel wants to bring the cops into it. Wally cuts him off and insists they keep it between them.
This is what occupies the first act and I admit it would probably be a lot more suspenseful if the logline hadn't already clued us in to where this was going. Sometimes it can be a problem when the audience is this far ahead of the main characters, but to my thinking, it works. From the first few scenes, it's clear there is something amiss in the author's death and so the screenplay earn our curiosity about these various loose ends all while laying some character groundwork. There's also some tension brought in by the female sheriff's efforts to uncover everything. Even though we know the first big point that the script is building to, enough is going on that we trust the story has legs beyond that reveal.
As the script enters Act Two, the boys discover a hidden chamber on their father's property. It's an underground one-room apartment that functions like a prison... and inside... is a 19 year-old woman. It doesn't take the young men long to figure out that their father regularly kidnapped women and used his methods of murdering them as research for his books. Daniel immediately wants to free her, but Wally is concerned that doing so impulsively could lead to her implicating their father, thus ruining his reputation. He suggests they figure out a way to get her out of there without giving her any reason to suspect who took her.
And this is where I start playing coy with plot twists. Suffice to say that an attempt to release her without exposing their identities goes very, very badly. Things get so much worse than they could have imagined as the full extent of their father's depravity is revealed. There are a number of twists I didn't see coming and most of them hold up pretty well to scrutiny. I'll admit that the motivations of one or two characters is occasionally tricky to parse out. Still, it's nothing that can't be solved by a rewrite focused on fleshing out those specific characters.
Virtues: Strong plot twists, solid concept, could easily be produced on a low budget, marketable genre.
Could be improved: Character motivations. The climax could also stand to be amped up.
In any event, the writer shows a lot of promise and this writing sample definitely deserves a look from potential reps. If you have Black List access and want to read CHAMBERS, go here. I give it an 8/10.
If you get a chance, please read and rate both it and H8RZ. Two ratings make the script eligible for the Top Lists, where the scripts in question garner even more exposure.
Later this week, I'll publish my third review from the Black List loglines.