This blog contains material I wrote and posted on between the years 2005 and 2011 only. It does not contain any new material. For newer writing, please check my main blog (Bill the Butcher).

Friday, 12 October 2012

Hunted: A Screenplay

Fade in to a scene of snowbound woods. Snow drizzles lightly from a low, overcast sky. It’s impossible to tell the time of day, but it’s most likely late afternoon. The camera pans up tree trunks and between rows of trees. The scene is of stark contrasts, blacks and whites.

Movement is seen in the middle distance. It resolves itself into a deer, with a magnificent set of antlers, walking through the woods, having a fairly difficult time making its way through the snow. The deer stops to paw at the ground in order to dig up snow so as to find something to eat.

Camera draws back to the perspective of a hunter looking through rifle sights at the deer. Close up shot of a finger pressing on the trigger. Brief visual of the butt recoiling against the shoulder as we hear the shot. Camera jumps to deer, which convulses and drops, kicking weakly for a moment. Blood is dark red, almost black, on the snow. Fade out…

…Fade in to the forest at night. There is no sound, no illumination but faint starlight. The snow has stopped. As the opening credits come on, we see a yellow glimmer in the distance. The camera slowly zooms in on the light, taking its time, moving between trees, circling slowly but coming closer. The glimmer becomes yellow firelight seen through the window (sans curtain) of a log cabin. The camera circles the cabin, slowly, and then pans up top the roof. Under the eave hangs, securely tied, the body of the deer. Snow has collected on the fur.

The camera now comes round to the window and into the cabin. Before a cheerful log fire sit four hunters. Their names may be Peter, Dick, Willy Roy and Johnny (don’t miss the phallic overtones – it’s my belief that most hunters have hang-ups about their masculinity). One (Willy Roy) is a typical redneck, big, tough-looking, with a slight stubble and squinting eyes. Dick is an immigrant of some sort (probably an Indian) who has changed his name to try and become as American as possible. This is also the reason why he came on the hunting trip at all – because hunting is an American thing to do. Johnny, the “protagonist”, is a stockbroker type from the city, who comes out hunting in order to prove himself, to whom or for what purpose he doesn’t really know. Peter is the oldest of the lot, black, obviously affluent, and should look as much like Colin Powell as possible (I really do not like Colin Powell. One of my favourite quotes is by Harry Belafonte: “A house slave is an insult to our race, Colin Powell.”)  

As the camera enters the room, sound begins. We hear voices, the hunters talking among themselves. It becomes obvious that they are near-strangers to each other, having arrived at the cabin together by coincidence. They are talking about the day’s hunt, which is the first and has gone reasonably well since they just arrived in the middle of the day after leaving their vehicles at the parking lot outside the forest. They have just the one deer, but are confident of getting several more tomorrow.

Willy Roy begins to talk of how he will bring his son the next time – the boy is eleven years old, he says, and turning into a milksop. His mom didn’t want to let him go this time but the next time, he swears, he will bring the boy along and make him shoot, skin, and gut a deer – if necessary he will “knock the old woman up the side of the head to show who the boss is.”

As he talks we may go into a flashback, showing the son, a good-looking boy who prefers music and reading to guns and shooting. The boy ignores Willy Roy, who is cleaning a gun. Willy Roy’s wife, faded and thin, stands hipshot in the doorway of the room and remonstrates about something – obviously the son and whether he should go on the hunt at all. Finally Willy Roy gets up, disgusted, and leaves the room. The camera focuses on a gun rack on the wall, loaded with weapons. Fade back to the cabin.

Dick says something, disjointedly, about what an honour it is to become an American and to try and immerse himself in American culture, and Willy Roy snickers audibly. Dick flushes. Willy Roy asks whether Dick had to change his name to become an American as well. Is he perhaps willing to change his sex as well, if required? Willy Roy says immigrants should be sent back where they came, he’d had enough of them. Dick looks as if he wants to say something but instead closes his mouth, looking furious.

Peter breaks the awkward silence by inveigling against poor blacks, whom he classifies as “black trash” – who, he says, are all lazy and shiftless and prone to crime. He has worked to get where he is and he has earned his success. He pays his taxes and employs people and he’s the living proof that there is no racial discrimination and he has the right to bear a gun. Not the black trash, who only know crime. Cut to shots of a poor all-black neighbourhood of Queens, say, while Peter talks. Sound of Willy Roy snorting audibly. Peter talks of how blacks in New Orleans were looting instead of acting honourably and decently during Hurricane Katrina (cut to shot of New Orleans and close off with shot of black hip-hoppers).

Johnny, feeling he must justify himself now, begins talking of the life of a stockbroker – figures and forecasts, and how greed makes the world go round (cut to shot of stock market building, crowds hurrying in, and stockbrokers on the floor). Willy Roy stretches and yawns, not attempting to conceal it. So Johnny talks about his girlfriend and how she hated hunting and had broken up with him (cut to shot of pretty young woman crying and punching a pillow, shouting at Johnny, something like “How would you feel if someone shot at you?”) because she hadn’t wanted him to come. Willy Roy says something like “So you were a big tough man and came all the same, huh? So you like killing, do you? Gives you a hard-on?” Johnny gets up and pushes Willy Roy, and looks terrified at his own temerity. Willy Roy slams Johnny to the wall, the other two break up the fight by physically drawing the two of them apart, and the camera leaves the cabin to the silent woods again. A wolf howls somewhere.

Fade out.

Fade in to the cabin in early dawn. The hunters are about to leave. They hold cups of steaming coffee and talk as they get their weapons and equipment ready. Each wears a brightly coloured jacket, red or orange, for identification. They are going off alone, since they aren’t really partners. The camera will follow as they leave. Cut to long shots of the forest. Hunters are seen, individually, in the distance and then are lost to view. They fan out from the cabin, but – this is important – all go roughly in the same direction.

Camera focuses on Johnny, walking along to his “hide”. He carries his rifle in the crook of his arm, the muzzle pointing downwards, and looks slightly furious even now. But it is very cold, and snow flurries lightly along, and camera closes on his face as he sniffs and wipes his nose with a handkerchief. His breath is condensing on his nose. He mutters inaudibly.

Long shot of Johnny in his hide. He settles into position behind a rough shelter of snow-covered brush, lays his gun down before him, and adjusts his clothing. Flashback, in blurred focus, of girlfriend talking to him, close up of her face smiling, then frowning, and then back to extreme close up of Johnny’s eyes in the hide which suddenly are alert and screwed up to see something. Some movement in the falling snow. He reaches for the rifle; close up of his hands slipping the safety off, working the bolt, and laying it along the line of his shoulder, fitting the butt into his shoulder and sighting down the barrel. Camera draws back to image of the woods, seen from a distance. There is the noise of a gunshot, echoing faintly. An instant later, there is the noise of another shot, and then another.

Camera close-up of blood on the snow. The blood is trickling from an unseen source, and spreads out in the snow, capillary action giving it a spidery quality. Camera follows the line of blood up to a rifle lying on its side, a gloved hand, then a sleeve and finally a shoulder in a red jacket, and then pans up to the overcast sky. Head and shoulders appear in the picture frame, looking down at the camera lens. It’s Johnny. He stands looking down and an instant later is joined by Willy Roy in the frame. They stand side by side, looking down. Camera angle changes to vantage point from behind their shoulders, and they are looking down at the body on the ground, which is Dick’s. He is dead, his eyes and mouth open and a bullet entry wound in his forehead. There is a lot of blood in the snow.

Willy Roy and Johnny look at each other, and then down again. “Who killed him?” asks one. “I didn’t,” says the other, and “Me neither, I heard the shot and came to see,” says the first. There is the sound of another shot in the distance and both of them start. Camera cuts back to long shot of the two of them standing before the body. Cuts further back till one can see them only vaguely through trees and snow. Fade out.

Fade in to the image of a deer’s head being dragged through the snow, leaving droplets of blood. Head catches on an obstruction and bounces slightly. Camera cuts back to the image of the hunter, Peter, gun over his shoulder, walking along dragging the deer behind him. He suddenly comes to where the other two are still standing over the body. Apparently they have been arguing over what to do. The camera catches them looking at each other and the microphone gets some words about there being no communication in this part of the woods, no radio or mobile network. There has to be some way of getting through to the police. One of them says that the body can’t be moved in any way. Peter drops the deer and comes and stands beside them, looking at the body. They tell him there has been an accident. He agrees, but asks which of them had done this. He denies having fired more than one shot, the one which killed the deer. Johnny also says he fired just the one shot, at a deer, and missed. Willy Roy says nothing, but the camera shows a close-up of him adjusting the sling of his rifle and a momentary contemptuous smirk on his face. They talk about any other hunters who might have accidentally shot Dick – but then they say this is the only hunting cabin around and it’s very late in the season for there to be other hunters. In any case they haven’t seen any.

Willy Roy kneels on one knee, supporting himself with his rifle. He examines the bullet wound and says as far as he can see this is from a (whatever the appropriate calibre is) rifle. They all have the same calibre rifle, used for deer hunting, as the other two point out, so it’s not helpful. The only one with a different calibre rifle was Dick, and he is dead.

“I’ll drive out and get help,” says Peter. The other two look at each other and at him. Willy Roy says he will stay with the body for the time being so as to see it’s not disturbed. Johnny says that he will go to see if he can locate any other hunter’s camp and come back to relieve Willy Roy in a while. Peter exits – dragging the deer carcass behind him. “Do you have to take that?” one of them calls. Peter waits for an instant, doesn’t say anything – just throws a look back at them over his shoulder – and then walks on. Johnny exits in a slightly different direction. Willy Roy stands where he is, looking thoughtfully at them. Camera fades out as he is seen from a middle distance, rubbing one hand up and down the stock of his rifle.

Fade in to the wall of the cabin. Snow has collected between the logs, on the upper surfaces of the bulge of the logs. The camera pans up to the frozen corpse of the first deer, and then slowly round to the door. A brief image of a gloved hand (is it Johnny’s hand, or someone else’s?) fumbling at the door handle. Then, from fairly close by, a shot, and another just afterwards. Camera tracks round very quickly, like someone looking around, at the forest. It tracks into the forest with the jerky motion of someone running as fast as he can through fairly deep snow. There is a noise of panting, and steaming breath seen in the camera frame.

Camera focuses on dead deer’s head, and then, lying across the deer’s neck, Peter’s head. He lies dead across the body of the deer he was towing. Virtually simultaneously, running, Johnny and Willy Roy appear on the scene and look wildly, accusingly, at each other. “It was you,” says Johnny. “You killed them both.” Willy Roy wastes no time on words, just chambers a round and begins to raise his rifle. Johnny manages to knock the barrel aside with his own gun butt just as Willy Roy presses the trigger, the bullet misses and the echoes mix with the panting as they fight, using their guns as clubs. Willy Roy knocks Johnny flat on his back with Johnny unconscious, his head against the roots of a big tree. Johnny’s eyes are closed. Willy Roy aims at his head (camera shot from middle distance, Willy Roy standing over Johnny and aiming) and tries to press his trigger, but something has gone wrong with his gun and it doesn’t fire. He raises the gun by the barrel to smash Johnny’s head (camera angle from underneath), but Johnny’s eyes flicker and he presses his trigger by reflex action (close-up of Johnny’s finger on the trigger). A spot of blood appears on Willy Roy’s face and slowly he topples over backward, dead. Johnny sits up and gasps for breath, looking around him at the three corpses. He gets up awkwardly, stumbles briefly, and then almost staggers as he goes on through the forest. Camera draws back to see him in middle and then in long focus, walking slowly through the woods.

Cut to a parking lot not too far from the highway, but still inside the forest, with a track leading to it. Four cars are parked there, all much covered in snow, two (obviously Peter’s and Willy Roy’s) will be SUVs and the other two normal small cars. Johnny emerges from the forest, and – by now walking straight and confidently – goes to his vehicle. He stretches his hand towards the door of his car, the key in his hand. Close up of his hand.

The sound of a gunshot comes simultaneously with the image of a bullet smashing into the door near his hand. He jumps back and tries to run. There is another shot, snow spurts up near his boot, and as he turns to run there is a third shot and he screams and falls on his face, hit in the spine, dropping his gun. Camera angle from above him, showing him crawling on the parking lot, leaving a wide blood trail. Close up of his face, distorted, gasping. He tries to reach the cover of the trees. He is almost there when there is another shot and he screams again, rolling over, his hands clutching his lower belly.

Cut to the background of forest. A figure emerges from the forest, dressed in thick white clothing as camouflage, with face and head covered, carrying a gun with a telescopic sight. It walks slowly over to Johnny and stands looking down at him. Close up of a gloved hand reaching up, removing scarf covering the face, and stripping off the thick woollen cap. Dark hair drops loose. It’s Johnny’s girlfriend, the one whom he had dumped because she had opposed his hunting. Close up of Johnny’s face, mouth falling open in shock as he recognises her. The image of his mouth and of her gun barrel being shoved into his mouth.

Camera angle now from Johnny’s viewpoint, looking up the barrel of the gun towards his girlfriend’s face at the end of the barrel, sighting down the barrel at him. “How do you like being hunted, Johnny?” she says, and pulls the trigger.

The screen goes black at the sound of the shot and end credits roll.    

Copyright B Purkayastha 2007


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