Let's Make a Horror Movie podcast
Episode 12: Down the Mountain
Host Dave's notes on his Global Pandemic Horror movie pitch - written in October 2019... a few months prior to our current pandemic issues. Enjoy!
Listen to the Pitch on Podbean, Apple, Spotify, Castbox and more...
Couple A: Daisy & Marcel (sometimes referred to as Marcus)
Couple B: Eva / Ava & Sam (muel/mantha)
Caveat: its a bit loose.. i knew what i wanted to do, not sure i got anywhere near. I think it probably succeeds or fails on the strength of the characters and their evolving relationship between themselves and the circumstances, but as this is just a pitch, they're very loosely covered.
I've been mulling this idea around for about 6 weeks, and then just as i was starting to write it, a doc dropped on Netflix all about this exact topic. I purposefully didn't watch it as a consequence. Probably an error.But timely.
Laslty, i've deviated from my usual format of opening scene, summary, summary and instead approached it with some key bits of narrative in a slightly more rambly word salad. There will need to be some fleshing out. Lmahmians, we need you... tweet us or write us a letter to
Act one - we start up a mountain (series a large hills), at dusk, with a couple in the encroaching darkness sitting enjoying the view. Rolling hills & such towards the horizon.. then in the distance, in the blurry darkness, we see a series of explosions.. after a pause we being to hear the low, thrumming booms that presumably match the explosions. clearly they are someway off. Visually its flashes of light and a remaining glow from that area, which is all but indistinct.
The faces of the couple drop & they look at each other..
[[ flashback: ...we meet Eva & her boyfriend Sam. Eva's on the phone to her mother, who's not well. In fact she's got the flu and there's a conversation about whether its 'the flu' (a horrific, fatal virus) or not. Eva is concerned but her mum is laughing it off. We also get a bit of exposition around 'the flu' which, according to the most reliable theory, appeared in patches across the globe in different places at roughly the same time, and has been spreading, they say, like a pandemic.. People in 'less developed' nations have started dying en masse and there have been military interventions etc, but also blackouts in terms of internet & comms lines & thus any news from areas affected. There's been suggestions that it could spread here, but the Govt has said thats basically impossible at this point (due to extra things they've implemented etc), in spite of numerous incidents in western democracies. There's also been multiple terrorist incidencts recently, domestically and in surrounding counries, which appear to have no rhyme or reason. The remainder of the call & subsequent conversation with Sam confirm the two them are going on a hiking holiday.]]
...Eva & Sam are still looking at each other, now with the occasional pulse of light against their profile (from the distant explosions). Sam checks his phone & there's no signal. He's pretty sure he had signal before but now he doesn't. Eva checks hers, same. They head back to the tent for the night with the intent of checking for signal & update in the morning, possibly even heading home a day or so early just in case something has happened re: terrorism, or even 'the flu' or something. They're a bit rattled.
Cut to morning & two guys also on the mountain, in the sunlight. One is posing against a beatiful backdrop and the other is fiddling with his phone, whilst holding it up to take a photo. There's a discussion where we discover one is 'Influencer' Nathaniel, and the other is one of his keenest followers, Zeke. We also discover that their carefully planned social media outing is now all ballsed up because there doesn't appear to be any signal anymore. Resolving to just post the remaining things when they get back online, they head off to some scenic spot to get some more shots. Nathaniel however, is seriously pissed. A real brat with a temper as soon as they data stopped flowing..
At the scenic spot Nathaniel and Zeke run into Daisy and Marcel, a couple who had come up the mountain only last night ..they had been delayed because of an argument over what looked like a mass outbreak of the flu throughout X and beyond, and whether or not to believe the Govt & continue as normal, or whether to get out of the city. They were planning to come camping anyway and had brought enough for a few days, but then they stopped getting signal last night after those bangs and they think something awful has happened. At this point, these two have been the most up to date with the goings on compared to nathanial & Zeke, who even at the best of times only have a vague awareness of current affairs.
Back to Eva and Sam in their tent. Still no signal this morning, but probably nothing to worry about so Sam encourages Eva to take her morning jog up to the scenic spot whilst he readies the camp for departure.
After some time on her jog Eva reaches the scenic spot where Daisy, Marcel, Nathaniel and Zeke are all starting to freak out about something. Just strangers to Eva but she goes over to ask if they've got any signal as thye're the first people she's seen since last night.
This meeting culminates in some intermittent signal suddenly coming back through & the news since the blackout isn't good. The Flu has come to X and its gotten worse, more virulent - people have started actually dropping dead in the streets & the govt has told everyone to stay in their homes. It's nightmarish stuff. No explanation as to the explosions, they're not mentioned, but there are clips of chaos & violence on the streets before the video just freezes on buffering..signal cuts out.
Everyone is shocked.
In the ensuing discussion Daisy & Marcel get to the point of suggesting they pool their resources & try and sit it out in the hills for another few days, to which, after some arguing from Nathaniel & Zeke, everyone agrees.
They all head to Eva & Sam's campsite, all the while checking for more signal, possibly a little time for some charachter development & exposition. Zeke is filming away for his social accounts for when they eventually get back online.
Act 1 culminates with the group arriving at Eva & Sam's camp. However what they discover is the horrible remnants of a fight & murder. Sam's dead body is found bludgeoned to death & all their gear taken, there's blood everywhere & another stranger's dead body, ill-looking, and a little oddly adorned. As if they'd dressed for the outdoors in a hurry, things like water bottles, kinves and bits of kit hanging off him from some ropes and ties.
Daisy suspects it might have been people fleeing the city, Nathaniel & Zeke rubbish that idea as extreme paranoia. It concludes with an argument about whether or not they should head back down the mountain, and its eventually won by Eva & her dead husband. They don't know what its like down there & she can't just sit here with a rotting corpse, they need to get help, and hopefully go through the usual things like funerals and such.. its obvsiously an emotionally charged scene.
Deciding they can't set up camp & sleep here, after all the game has changed and there is a killer or killers still around (we all presume, as its unlikely that it was 1vs.1 and they killed each other + the missing gear), they set off towards the main route back down to civilisation.
During this act Nathaniel starts getting increasingly morbid and petulant, he's not enjoying the lack of attention though of course Zeke is still his attentive lapdog. Daisy & Marcel are keen to get news of Daisy's parents whilst Eva is running on adrenaline and shock at this point..
In the darkness of that night, as they pick they're way carefully through the forest trail they hear something.. a bit of panic sets in as the group split and then try and regroup, and just as they're pulling back together someone comes flying out of the darkness and lands on Daisy.. There's screaming & chaos and as they pull the person off Daisy we see it wasn't voilent intent but its an emaciated man, tall but gaunt and so exhausted he can't even speak or stand.. We can see he's ill, really ill. Stuff streaming from orifices and the occasional gurgling cough.
Another person stumbles out of the darkness screaming for them to leave this man alone.. in their stunned disbelief they step aside as the stranger gathers up the knackered gentleman, warns them to stay away from the city - to stay away from people, to run if they see them & to stay off the paths - and stumbles off into the darkness
Nathaniel backs away from Daisy.
The next day the group rest in a spot with a wide view of the continuing path down.. Marcel is concerned about Daisy, the group is tense. Zeke is particularly rattled, and Eva is still just barely keeping it together. They all try and get some rest.
When the group start to wake they witness a barbaric scene, at a distance, of what appears to be a group of people essentially butchering other people that they suspect of being ill. Dressed in rudimentary 'protective gear', like lots of different kind of face masks and things tocover their mouths and in some cases eyes.
The group flee into more forest cover and Daisy has a moment where she struggles, Nathaniel is on it & an argument breaks out as they run through the trees.. Nathaniel accusing her of being infected and Marcel getting angry in his responses. Daisy just isn't taking part..
Act 2 culminats in a nighttime scene. The group come across a fire in the woods and as they get closer they see its some sort of survivalist vigilantes or similar.. they're burning bodies on a big pyre whilst drinking around a jeep..3 of them. We suspect they're killers of the infected.
Theres a long and tense scene where perhaps Nathaniel or Eva (latter accidentally) alerts them to their presence and there's a standoff when the 3 guys accuse Daisy of being ill and look to kill her (start putting on their masks etc). You could play it a number of ways but it culminates in Marcus killing one of them, Eva doing the same just out of pure self defence, and marcus and Daisy fighting the last one. Its a really nasty business and no one comes out of it well, and it ends with Marcus killing the final guy but being fatally wounded in the doing..
Daisy is injured and ill and really struggling. Zeke took a nasty hit with a machete but is managing, Marcus is exhausted. This scene is exciting, tense and shockingly gory.
At least now they have a jeep.
Eva helps wounded Marcus to the jeep whilst the others see to Daisy. We get a bit of an emotional scene with them, they both know Marcus isn't going to make it.. He asks Eva to keep an eye out for & on Daisy..
Nahaniel is rooting around the camp whilst Zeke is just aimlessly wandering & taking video with one of his few remaining phones.. Daisy is moaning from the corner. Nathaniel heads over and kneels down next to her, Zeke wanders over filming. With a smile to Daisy, and a look towards the camera, Nathaniel pulls a knife he'd just found in the camp and dispassionately stabs it into a pre-existing gash on Daisy's neck (from the fight) as she looks on in horror at both of them before drowning in her own blood..
Turning with a grin he removes the knife and cleans it on her trousers.. ifyou're not helping stop the problem, you're the problem he says..
Eva's lifting Marcus' now dead body into a position under a tree and gets the jeep running.. Seeing the approaching members of the group she's told that Daisy didn't make it either before Nathaniel jumps into the drivers seat
We probably get some rising tension here as Eva, who's still struggling with losing her other half, and just now Marcus pretty much in her arms, is struggling to decide what to do next but ends up getting in the jeep next to Zeke.
Zeke's starting to look a little pale, and Nathaniel is constantly pushing at them both as to how thye're feeling.. with a sort of gleeful vindictiveness.
We get scenes of them driving down the mountain and another interaction with some sort of vigilante group & normal refugees.
This all culminates in a whisker escape and Nathaniel having turned a bit gleefull-murdery in his narcisism. As they finally get within disant eyeshot of a highway & are burningdown a particularly steep bit of road, we start to see the full extent of the exodus from the city. People are streaming into the hills in small groups, families, individuals, carrying what they can.. clearly people are bringing ill people with them too & you can see fights breaking out etc.
Nathaniel at the wheel starts to indiscrimately run people down with the jeep whilst Zeke films it on his phone. After some horrific scenes and an eventual struggle, Eva ends up bludgeoning Nathaniel relentlessly in the head with one of Zeke's larger cameras, as she wrestles control from him and the car veers offroad to jittery, bloody halt..
Hauling nathaniel's body out of the jeep, before giving Zeke a hard stare - he just stays sat where he is, Eva gets back in & reverses the car... as they're about to drive away, nathaniel moves, and so Eva swings the car to run right over him as they turn off onto a paved highway (an area largely littered with recently & in-progress abandoned cars).
Final scenes of the movie are of Eva reaching the city, which is pretty much a deserted mess. Scenes of panic, strewn litter & junk verywhere, burning cars etc. One scene we get is of a long view within the city, all the air suddenly sucked out of the place, a jet and then a huge series of explosions, like carpet bombing, about a mile infrontof them.. the jeep is rocked by the blast as Eva turns down towards a residential area - a renewed sense of panic - and as they turn into one street they see a huge line of armed, heavily suited soldiers walking in a line up the street towards them. Coming in & out of each house as they pass, occasionally with a sceam and a few gunshots.
They're clearly just cleansing anything and everything in their path.
Looking back towards the flaming, scarred horizon behind them, then a pan towards some indisctinct figures escaping out of some back gardens from the houses to the side of them, to Zeke's illness-ridden face, she looks back at the military line and starts driving towards them. The movie closes out on the sound of an immense amount of gunfire and screaming.
- terrorist incidents were ideally to have been off the books government led initiatives, testing the waters of removing virus threat quickly. Not sure how or if we could touch on this in the movie, but that was my thinking. It wouldn't necessarily set a precedent, were something like that to happen.