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FINAL DRAFT, 2007
Movie Reviews!

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FINAL DRAFTFINAL DRAFT, 2007
Movie Reviews

Directed by Jonathan Dueck

Starring: James Van Der Beek, Darryn Lucio, Tara Spencer-Nairn, Jeff Roop, Melanie Marden, Adam McDonald,
Review by Benjamin Lupinetti


SYNOPSIS:

A screenwriter locks himself inside his home in order to meet a deadline. In absolute isolation, he ends up grappling with the memories of everyone who wronged him in the past, and takes his own kind of revenge on every one of them.

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REVIEW:

Even a truly dedicated shut-in should be able to see the value of getting out every once in a while after viewing Final Draft. Itís a story about obsession and revenge, presented in the realm of oneís own mind. James Van Der Beek plays a writer struggling to finish a screenplay before his deadline only to find himself haunted by his painful past. Essentially, itís psychological horror film pitting one man against his own over-active imagination. But more than that, itís a study of what happens to a person forced to confront anger and sadness thatís been buried deep and left to ferment for years like so much homemade wine brewing in my closet.

The story centers on Paul Twist, a screenwriter living alone in an enormous loft apartment, and evidently doing very little writing. Heís struck suddenly with inspiration one day after having a terrifying dream in which a clown murders him. Apparently unconcerned with how clich» his dreams are, he relates the idea to a friend of his, David (Daryn Lucio), the lead actor in his only big script sale to date. Paulís idea? A clown who goes around stalking people, then knocks them unconscious and kills them in ways that look like suicide. Paul doesnít know it, but David is desperate for a role (weíre talking ďkiller clown movieĒ desperate), and before Paul can even piece together a treatment, David pitches the creepy concept to a director, and suddenly Paul has eighteen days to complete his first script since God knows when.

Now, viewers will remember from high school how this dance goes. A teacher could give you months to write a paper, but you would never sit down to start typing until mere days before the due date. Itís not that you want to fail, but come on! Class isnít for another twelve hours. And itís only ten pages on the origins of the Civil War, youíll be fine! Well, apparently professional screenwriters are no strangers to this mindset. After a few days of trying to write Paul is ready to throw in the towel, until David bullies him into trying again. Here, David imparts a helpful hint: when he had to write papers in college, he would just bar himself in his room until it was done. Paul determines to take this to a literal extreme.

David swings by the next day to find Paulís door now bearing more padlocks than Oscar Wildeís jail cell (Zing!). He has decided to have David actually lock him inside his apartment, so that heíll have no choice but to stay inside and complete his script. David hesitates at first, but Paul is adamant; itís the only way he can possibly get the job done. With that, David locks him in with only his computer, and in an irritating twist that would make Rod Serling smirk, Paulís computer promptly dies.

Paul takes the opportunity to get some sulking done in his enormous, ill-lit place which abounds with eerie shadows and frequently plays host to Paulís nerve-rattling daydreams. One can really understand what Paul is doing writing a horror movie. He has the imagination to concoct sufficiently frightening scenarios, as well as a past that has left him resolutely depressed and angry. We first glimpse his history when, shortly after his computer dies he sits down to watch an old home movie of his brother, who we learn was on track to play major league baseball before he committed suicide. After further delving into other heartbreaking experiences with those who had hurt himóhis bitchy ex-wife, the bully who tormented him mercilessly in high school, his two-faced former best friendóPaulís demeanor turns cheery; now he has some inspiration for his story. Now he has a plan to take revenge on every person who ever hurt them, by turning the killer clown heís concocted on them.

The next thirty minutes or so witness Paul dreaming up fantasy revenge scenarios in which he controls the clown who is enacting everyoneís suicides. He delights in taking his revenge on the ones who hurt him and finally exorcises some pain through his writing, but itís not long before his confrontations with his past become more and more real in his head. Slowly Paul senses that heís losing grip with reality, and finds himself suffering some very real psychological damage from the events being played out in his mind. And this is where the film will either become entrancing or utterly boring for the viewer. Because on one hand, Paulís ďmurdersĒ are anxiety inducing, torturous events, each one of them inflicting as many mental wounds as physical ones. And the clown is definitely creepy, and even the idea that peopleís murders are being disguised as suicides adds a delightfully nauseating twist to what would otherwise be humdrum carnage. But on the other hand, none of itís real; those who have no sympathy for the emotionally victimized might not know what to make of this scruffy, poorly dressed man who seems to be yelling at himself an awful lot.

Ultimately itís a compelling illustration of one man who has been hurt so badly by his past, and by himself just as much as by other people, his only way of coping with it is to utterly destroy it, and with vivid detail only a skilled writer could provide. James Van Der Beek succeeds in illiciting our sympathy, an underappreciated artist in a shallow world, as well as showing a bitter, monstrous side. The scenes in which Paul and David bicker, the power position shifting as each of them lands a blow, are tightly written and well acted. The scares get a little repetitive at points (there is more than one scene in which Paul must hurl himself through a door to save somebody), and one does have to question where heís finding the time to write for all his battles with ghosts from the past. But itís nonetheless effective as a tragedy. Ultimately itís a warning about what happens when we let guilt, shame and anger fester. One who lives in his head may one day find himself a prisoner there. With a killer clown.

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