I Agreed To Re-Write A College Director’s Movie Script And It Turned Out To Be One Of The Most Terrifying Experiences Of My Life

Flickr / Mark Sebastian
Flickr / Mark Sebastian

“Wanted: any horror writer who has proof of publication.”

I jumped all over that. I’ve been published on Creepy Catalog a few times in the past month to I emailed the Craigslist poster my author page link. This guy had posted that he wanted to make a “horror art film”. I wanted to adapt one of my biggest stories on here (about the roommate serial killer) and was so excited to tell everyone here if it went through.

I waited a few days before I finally was contacted by the poster by phone. He told me his name was Rob, an aspiring director attending Syracuse University. He had a very scratchy and nasally voice. He told me he liked my stories and agreed to let me on the project! I was so excited, I quickly — and stupidly — pitched the roommate story for the project. He shut that down pretty quickly because he already had a premise. I was pretty bummed, but I was excited about the whole thing, so I quickly pushed it aside. During the phone call, Rob told me he wanted to meet up the next day (which was Saturday) downtown at a pizza place called Varsity. I loved the pizza there so I agreed and asked him what the premise would be.

“No, not yet. I’ll tell you tomorrow,” he said, dismissively.

I wished he would’ve told me so I could start playing around with ideas in my head, but I resignedly said okay and hung up.

The next day, around noon, I arrived at the pizza place. Shit! I had completely forgotten to save the picture he had posted on the ad! I was looking around the restaurant when I heard someone behind me say my name.

“Dom?”

I swung my head around to see a man standing a few inches from me. He had a long red goatee, was decked out in SU gear, and had sunglasses on. Behind him were two women and one man. Rob introduced me to them. The two women, Laura and Felicia, were head of wardrobe and editor respectively. They were both shorter than Rob and me (it was funny to find another 5’6″ male college student) — you could describe Felicia as an “average girl,” while Laura had a gymnast-type figure (turns out she was actually one). Rob also introduced me to the tall and lanky guy behind him.

“My name is Tyqwan, I’m the cameraman, very nice to meet you.”

I felt pretty awkward because he stood easily at 6’6″ and his hands were massive. We all got slices of pizza and sat down at a table.

“Two out of our three main cast members are actually still in class so we told the third that he wouldn’t have to leave work for this meeting,” Rob said.

I realized I was still completely in the dark about the story, so I asked him to explain the premise of it.

“Well…it’s actually about a serial killer,” he said.

My face scrunched up. Goddamn it, I thought. I wanted to adapt my story.

As if he knew what I was thinking, he quickly added, “It’s about this 20-year-old guy who decided not to go to college, and picked up a job at a funeral home. He’s like, around all of these dead bodies all the time, so that brings up something inside him…like the need to kill. The whole film centers around him starting his killing spree. But there’s a twist. His father, who is a criminal investigator, is put onto the case. The son finds out about this halfway through the movie and it slowly becomes a cat and mouse story.”

“How much funding do we have?” I asked. “That doesn’t sound like the cheapest project.”

“We put up a kickstarter a few weeks ago,” Laura said. “We’re currently at $6,000.”

The rest of the time there was spent getting to know each other. At the end of the meeting, Rob told me to toss around some ideas and get back to him tomorrow with a “bare bones” plot.

That rest of the day, I sat at my computer writing down random situations that could be essential to the plot and some lines that would sound pretty cool within the movie. By midnight I had a solid beginning, middle, and end scenes that would be integral to the plot, along with some other additional scenes.

The next morning, I emailed Rob my draft and took off for work. Right now, I don’t go to college, but I have a solid job as an electronic filer for a large doctor’s office. I work for about three hours on Sundays, so I was just about finishing up my shift when my phone started buzzing, it was Rob.

“Hello?”

“Hey, it’s Rob. I just want to tell you that I absolutely love the stuff you sent! It’s really great, but…could you be a little more graphic?”

I was surprised! One of the scenes involved the main character breaking into a woman’s house and drowning her in a toilet — in complete detail! I was hoping he didn’t want the movie to be over the top, but I agreed to it and that I would get on re-writing it later.

“Great,” Rob said. “Remember, tomorrow is the first meeting with the whole cast. We’re all meeting up at the father’s house in Liverpool. I’ll text you the address.” The actor’s name was Connor, and hell, he was only 13 years older than our main character.

I said alright and hung up. That night between watching Netflix and browsing the internet, I tried to think up a really graphic scene. It took me an hour to come up with it:

“…Jerry is following the guy who was hitting on Hannah at the party. They are on a country road when the guy figures out that Jerry is following him. The man stops in the middle of the road, gets out of his car, and starts screaming at Jerry [Script section 3C-3F]. Jerry, silent, gets out of the car and ambushes the man with his signature straight razor. Cue a one minute long scene of Jerry carving the man up.”

I looked up at the clock once I finished writing — it was 11 and I felt completely exhausted. I fell asleep only a few minutes after I finished the scene.

I woke up at 7 that next morning. I opened my laptop to see that I had forgotten to send Rob the new scene. I quickly sent it off and for the next eight hours, I did some errands and went to the gym. Finally when 3 PM rolled around, I was freshly showered and headed out to the address that Rob had texted me.

When I arrived at the house, I saw that the house was a nice suburban ranch, and I was shocked at how many people were at the house. There was 20 cars that lined the street and even up to the driveway. I knocked on the front door and James, the guy that played Jerry opened it. He was a cookie-cutter pretty-boy type, but Rob had showed me his audition tape and the guy had serious acting chops. He let me in and I saw that the house was absolutely packed.

“How many people are working on the project?” I asked James.

“About…50,” he said.

“How the hell is the kickstarter paying all these people?”

James chuckled and put his hand on my shoulder.

“Do you really think that the Kickstarter is funding this?”

He walked off before I could ask him to clarify what he meant by that.

Inside, Rob and everyone else that I had met two days before, along with few members of the main cast sat on the couch in the living room.

“Hey Dom!” Rob yelled out, “I was just reading your new scene to everyone!”

“Those prosthetics are going to be a bitch to sculpt!” Felicia yelled to me.

It was weird that she was complaining as there was to be five people dong make-up, so a bunch of cuts couldn’t be that hard to sculpt. Vanessa, the girl playing Hannah, introduced herself to me, and we walked into the living room together. As soon as I stepped in, much to my embarrassment, Rob began to re-read the new scene.

“This is the scene we are going to film tomorrow!” Rob said excitedly.

“Wait, we’re already filming?” I asked. This was when things started to fall into place. They already had this huge established cast, and had only gotten their writer — me — a couple days ago. I leaned in close to Rob. “I’m not the first writer you had for this project am I?” I whispered.

Rob frowned and shook his head. Shit. That meant two things: The cast was hard to work with, or that the previous writer was terrible. For the rest of the party, I was quiet, thinking of ways to make the film better. Towards the end of the party, I had to use to bathroom. The bathroom was on the other side of the house next to the master bedroom. I was about to walk into the bathroom when I heard voices coming from inside the bedroom. I recognized the voices as Tyqwan and Craig (a creative type working on the film).

“I feel bad for Dom,” Craig said. “We’re a third writer in and I have no idea what happened to the last one.”

“Henry? He quit remember?” Tyqwan said.

“No, no, he was the first writer. I’m talking about Vick. He’s been all over the news and his family is begging for him back. Wait…you don’t think…?”

“Hell no!” Tyqwan said. “I mean, Rob has a shit temper and all, and he can fly off the handle a lot, but I can’t imagine him ever being violent.”

That’s when I rushed into the bathroom. Great. There were two writers before me, and one writer was missing. I left the party pretty shortly after that, but I didn’t quit the project yet; I wanted to write a movie my whole life and this was my chance.

The next night we shot my newest scene. The town allowed us to rope off a section of a country road in the area for five hours — 10 PM to 3 AM, to be specific. But JESUS Christ was it was a trainwreck. We had 25 people on the set when we truly only needed about 12. Our outside set lights were too dim for the first 20 minutes, so we had to wait for those to fully power up. Then, the two actors in the scene couldn’t even drive into frame right!

I was sitting next to Rob and I could see the anger inside of him rising. Around noon, we only had two scene completed: the drive into frame and both of the cars stopping in the road. Rob called for a lunch break. I sat down at a picnic table with Craig and Felicia.

“Have you guys shot any other scenes?” I asked.

Felicia looked at Craig, shrugged her arms, looked back at me. “Well yeah,” she said, “but every time we got a new writer, Rob would destroy all of the things we accomplished.”

“Why the hell hasn’t anyone quit?”

Crag shook his head. “You don’t think people have quit? We’re on our third Hannah! The first one died in a car accident and the other quit after Rob really grilled her one night.”

“So how the hell is all this being funded? I know it’s not the Kickstarter,” I said.

Felicia leaned in close. “I think it’s drugs. Rob’s brother moved to Mexico a few years ago and I think he’s been feeding Rob drug money,” she whispered.

Before I could respond, Rob called everyone back onto set. It was 1:45 AM and we were finally onto the scene where Jerry attacked the road rager. The first take was going perfectly, the dialogue went flawlessly, and we were about to film the attack scene when one of the camera men tripped over a rock and dropped the camera.

The whole set went dead silent. After 10 seconds of silence, Rob exploded. The cameraman was on the ground holding his elbow — blood was flowing from a giant gash — but Rob stomped over to him, literally picked the guy up off the ground by his arms, only to immediately push him back down.

“ARE YOU FUCKING STUPID!?” he screamed. “YOU JUST RUINED A PERFECT SCENE!”

The cameraman tried to apologize, but Rob basically dragged the guy into his truck and drove off. I stood there dumbfounded when Felicia came up to me and whispered, “That’s how people get fired here.”

She then stood on a chair and said to everyone on set that they knew the deal. She was going to finish the scene no matter what. Everyone behind the cameras was pretty silent. We finished the scene in 15 minutes, packed up and went home.

The next shoot was scheduled for 1 PM. It was the scene where Jerry finds out that his dad is the lead investigator on his case. It was 12:15 and I was about to leave my apartment when my phone buzzed. It was an email and I didn’t recognize the address. I opened it up and saw that there was an attachment at the bottom. I clicked it and nearly dropped my phone when it loaded. It was a short video of someone driving in a car screaming nonstop. The volume caught me by surprise and my jaw dropped when I realized that the person was on my street. The video ended just after the car passed my house.

I assumed it was someone from production screwing with me, so I headed to James’ house (the set we used for Jerry’s house). As soon as I opened the door, Darian, our head grip walked by me and said, “He’s in a bit of a mood…”

Almost like clockwork, I heard Rob yelling from the kitchen: “WILL SOMEONE FIX THE FUCKING LIGHT!?”

When I walked in I saw Tyqwan standing on the kitchen table trying to replace a bulb in the overhead light. Nobody greeted me when I walked in. I just sat in a chair and watched for three hours. We were almost done when Rob called for a break. He said that he needed to run home for something and told us to take an hour break. I watched Rob leave the house, before he walked out of the door he put on leather gloves, which seemed out-of-character for him.

Once lunch came out, I sat in James’ sunroom with James, Craig, Tyqwan, and Felicia.

“Did anyone else get a weird-ass email this morning?” I asked.

It seemed as soon as I said that, everyone in the room stopped eating.

“W-what was in the email?” James asked.

“It was some dude in a car screaming as he drove around my neighborhood.”

Tyqwan sat up in his chair quickly. He looked afraid.

“Dom, you need to quit now,” he said.

“Ty…” Felicia began to say.

“No, I’m not going to just sit around and let this happen again. Dom you need to quit now. Just tell Rob that you would like to leave the project.”

“But I really need this…” I said, almost pleadingly. My heart sank at the thought of this opportunity slipping out of my hands.

“Just please trust me when I tell you that it is a lot SAFER for you to quit.”

I slowly got up and mumbled that I needed time to think. I ran to my car and headed to Rob’s house, I needed to know what the hell was going on.

It was barely a five-minute drive to his house. Rob’s car was in the driveway and his front door wasn’t fully closed. I walked up to the door and poked my head in. When I did, a barrage of what sounded like muffled screams met my ears. Shocked, but curious, I quietly entered the house and walked towards the horrible sounds. Rob’s house was…weird. He had three mannequins dressed like brides in his living room, paired with some incredibly disturbing and gory paintings painted on the wall, and, to top it off, the house smelled like rotting meat.

I finally found the source of the sounds. It came from Rob’s sunroom, and getting a glimpse of the room made me want to throw up. Dead bodies littered the floor. The cameraman from last night was tied to a large table in the middle of the room, naked and gagged. Rob, wearing a “two-way mirror” mask was slicing the man’s legs with a straight razor in a manner that looked like a master artist painting his masterpiece. Rob stopped for a second to caress the sobbing man’s hair.

“This will all stop once your family sends us money for your worthless ass,” he said, his voice nasal and scratchy as ever.

To this day, I have no idea why I did it, but I screamed “HEY!”

Rob turned around and when he saw me, he took off in a sprint in my direction, still holding his razor, mind you, without saying a word. That’s also when I turned around and sprinted outside. Rob was only a few feet away from me when I was able to jump in my car and quickly lock the doors. As I started to pull away, Rob smashed my driver’s side window. He shoved the razor in, but I managed to peel away. As I drove as quickly as I could away from Rob’s house, I called the police.

It’s been nearly two weeks. Rob was able to evade police and they believe he is hiding somewhere in the woods. The police have been searching for him day and night since. And when the news broke out, the whole film was scrapped. Although my dream of writing for a movie was crushed, helping to solve four missing persons cases made me feel a lot better. But I have to ask: Is it wrong that this experience makes me want to get into the movie business even more? TC mark

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