I really liked the concept; it was fresh and fun. We have this lifeless loser allergic to any sort of work who’s presented with the job opportunity of a lifetime that unfortunately comes with some deadly consequences. I was really looking forward to this read to see how you approached it.
Overall, I liked it. It was an easy and enjoyable read that offered some good humor and some really clever death scenes, which I appreciated. I don’t believe I ever would’ve thought comedy and extreme carnage could coexist so well if I had never seen Shaun of the Dead. I also enjoyed the dialogue which I felt came across very realistic and had some good one-liners that actually had me laugh out loud a couple times.
I did have a hard time understanding a couple things though. For instance, why the Grim Reaper needed to pay someone to tell him who to kill? Normally in fantasy scenarios I’d never address this sort of thing because you don’t want to bog the story down with unnecessarily complicated explanations since the whole idea is to get the audience to suspend disbelief. Unfortunately, without an explanation in this case, I just couldn’t do that. With each new luxury rewarded and with each wad of cash forked over, I just couldn’t stop asking myself…why? I wouldn’t suggest anything over-complicated, but some sort of explanation I think would help the reader suspend disbelief.
And, despite reading it several times, I never caught on to exactly how things ended. Was Marshal killed? I got a little thrown off with the gunshots at the very end. Either way, the piece seemed a little anti-climactic. The screenplay opens with a bad-ass confrontation between Gerria and a previous “employee”, but when it comes time for Marshal’s confrontation…there’s nothing. It went from conflict to resolution without showing how. I’d love to see the “how” cause after all the sinister and evil things that happen to everyone else through the story, a showdown between Marshal and Gerria is heavily anticipated. And maybe I really missed something, but I didn’t understand how Marshal’s kids escaped Gerria’s wrath. I’d love some clarification on the ending.
For me, the weakest dimension of the screenplay was the character development. This especially hurt the story towards the end as Marshal’s family members began showing up as his “Game of Life” options. The first time I read through I actually had to go back to find out who some of the characters were.
Marshal was a great character through the first half of the piece. I really felt I understood him as a sarcastic, self-absorbed asshole whose heartless nature was at times hilarious and at other times despicable. His actions always seemed to remain true to the nature of the character you created. Sometimes I felt his character went too far, especially regarding his horrible relationship with his kids, though I appreciated that you balanced that with how he dealt with Betty. This relationship redeems Marshal enough for the reader to believe he has a glimpse of hope and an opportunity to turn himself around.
But in the second half of the piece, the problem is that Marshal doesn’t change at all (until the closing minutes). As the story progressed with him getting himself deeper and deeper into trouble with “The Game of Life”, I never felt that he really learned anything from his mistakes. He remained a self-centered, heartless jerk, seeking instant gratification in all aspects of his life. Granted he did have a breakdown where he tried to kill himself before selecting one of the people he knew (again, instant gratification), but even after that the only reason Marshal ultimately called Jenny to take his kids back was because Gerria was threatening to kill all four of them. I was hoping to see Marshal really learn his lesson and finally step up on his own terms to take some responsibility instead of being forced into responsibility by the Grim Reaper, of all people!
Gerria was a good take on a Grim Reaper who gets off on each one of his twisted slaughters. I liked that he’s sinister and intimidating, yet playful with his demented one-liners post killings. I wasn’t too sure what I thought of these little quips at the murder scene of each victim. At first they seemed really cheesy, but they kinda grew on me. And come to find out, Gerria’s also a bit of a life coach…in a “Fight Club” sort of way. He was the one character who could get Marshal to see the errors in his ways and change. The problem for me was, besides the sincere “Thank You” Marshal gives him at the end, I really had to wonder if Marshal took responsibility for his kids because he truly had changed or if because he had no other available option. My sentiment leans towards the latter.
Greig tried to serve the critical role as Marshal’s voice of reason. I wish a little more of his sense connected with Marshal through the story because without that impact, I felt Greig did little to support the advancement of the screenplay.
And as I mentioned before, Betty provided Marshal’s sole redeemable relationship through the whole story. She’s the only reason the audience would be able to find a single quality to like in him. She seemed like the perfect martyr with her heavily religious background, so, to me, it would’ve made sense for Marshal to begin recognizing his problems upon her death. If he then began actively seeking ways to improve himself, readers would be far more sympathetic to his character through the end of the story.
I enjoyed the basics of the story, and I really liked the concept. I thought the dialogue was sharp and true to the characters you created. My main concern was the depth of your characters which left the screenplay feeling a little shallow. I think it’d make a world of difference if Marshal truly saw “the light” on his own terms after realizing his mistakes upon Betty’s death. If the audience sees him making efforts to change before being faced with another “Game of Life” decision, they’ll really get behind him and become far more engrossed in the story and its outcome.
Thanks for the read and good luck!
Review of: Death Pops In
reviewed by Spurious2 on 01/10/2008
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