KILLER JOE… a film for the whole family

Well, not really. It’s a film about a whole family, but whether it’s suitable for your kids… not so sure. I’ve only really adored two films this year. KILLER JOE and THE INTOUCHABLES. They are very very very very different. From everything else, which is a given (and Writing Tip #12!), but from each other.

KILLER JOE is very funny. Very dark. Very darkly funny. I found myself laughing a couple of times when I was the only one in the theater. “Sicko” is the vibe I was getting from those around me.

Made by a lot of folks, naturally, but especially Tracy Letts (who wrote the script based on his play), Caleb Deschanel who shot it, and William Friedkin, the director. Friedkin did the ill-named SORCERER, the movie that got me into the business. Deschanel shot THE BLACK STALLION, THE RIGHT STUFF, and THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST. Neither is terribly young. Deschanel is 68 and Friedkin is 77. He directed THE FRENCH CONNECTION, too. The cool thing about KILLER JOE, is that it looks like two guys not out of their twenties shot and directed it.

The story is dark. The acting is great. The story is simple, but twists in on itself as it goes along, so new stuff keeps getting found out.

One thing a screenwriter can take to heart is the opening five minutes. Plenty of action, conflict, and a guy with a PROBLEM. The opening is Chris pounding on a trailer home in the rain. (Rain makes it worse. The barking pit bull makes it worse) He needs someone to let him inside cause he has to pee, but the door is locked. Second draft! First draft, maybe he just walked in and the sun was shining. Make it worse for the character. Then his stepmother opens the door with her pants off. THAT adds some drama. And finally, Chris just wants to talk to his Dad. Wants to very badly. Wants his father to get dressed in the middle of the night and go someplace with him. Whew. I’m exhausted just typing it.

The energy level was high. Very.

And the writer wastes no time explaining anything. He just starts in medias res, as they say. At 95 mph with no brakes. A good way to begin.

Anyway, KILLER JOE’s not for the faint of heart, but I loved it.

Here’s a link to the script.



1 Comment

Filed under Good Writing

One response to “KILLER JOE… a film for the whole family

  1. Melody Lopez

    Um, on his first page…can you do what he did where he says “now we’re in the kitchen”… etc… I guess I thought You couldn’t do that…and I was gonna try and do something like that…but I wasn’t sure…till I read his… can you elaborate on that technique?

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