ESCAPE FROM HELL!
ESCAPE FROM HELL!
(exclamation mark required)
The Pitch: ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK meets JACOB’S LADDER...
A hitman, a hooker, a homosexual kid and a hobo suicide make the ultimate prison break... escape from Hell itself!
Mister Seven, the hitman, a cold-hearted professional killer, seemingly lacking any shred of empathy. A chill motherfucker, determined to get out by whatever means. Sexual chemistry with Belle.
Belle, the hooker, a victim with no self-respect, still bound to her Catholic roots. Her stubborn will and street savvy means she becomes the core of the team, holds them together. Attracted to Seven for all the wrong reasons.
Matthew, the gay, lived the All American lie right up to the day he died, taking his secret to the grave rather than let his parents know that their clean cut sports hero son was queer. Latches on to Seven as a father figure.
Eli, the tramp, an academic who went crazy after he lost his family, killed himself because the signs in the trash told him he was in Hell and the only way out was death. All he wants is to be reunited with his family. Can navigate Hell by hobo signs.
OK, so lemme try and make it a bit more visible; lemme give you the opening...
We open on an aerial shot of a city at night, the camera panning down to Eli (Samuel R. Jackson*), a raving schizo prophet of a tramp, staggering out a fire escape door onto a rooftop, muttering scripture. The door swings shut behind him -- click. Cut to:
A bullet being chambered in an automatic, the hitman, Mister Seven (think: Lawrence Fishburne), a real bad-ass, handcuffed to a chair in a warehouse, about to be killed by mobster types for reneging on a contract, but still cool as ice. One of them pistol whips him. Cut to:
The hooker being hit. Belle (think: Anna-Lucille from Lost... or Juliette Lewis maybe?), white trash or hispanic, has been caught by her pimp in a hotel room, in the act of running out on him. A suitcase on the bed. The pimp closes the door behind him, and just as we should hear the click -- cut to:
Double-doors being knocked open. The kid, Matthew (UPDATE: I was trying to think of an actor with the right look and I was totally blanking (blanking on the Hollywood hunks... I dunno... they'll take away my gay card one of these days) but, hey, I just thought of Randy Harrison from the US Queer As Folk and, like, he's totally perfect, so... aha!), a boy-next-door type, wholesome with a hint of sensitive, is being wheeled into ER in critical condition, doctors rattling a litany of injuries. As the gurney bangs through another set of double doors we cut to:
The tramp again, standing on the edge of a rooftop, spouting scripture which carries on as voiceover as we -
Cut back to Seven, who picks the lock on the cuffs, breaks free, kills his captors and takes their guns.
Now with Eli in voiceover, we intercut Seven's escape attempt -- walking out through warehouse, slow and cool, a gun in each hand, blasting gang members -- with Belle being beaten to death by her pimp, Matthew in cardiac arrest, being jump-started, and Eli in full-on rant, arms outspread, camera circling him. The sequences intercut faster and faster, building up to Eli taking a swan-dive off the building, falling, falling, and...
Seven gets hit by a bullet in the forehead, crumples to his knees.
Belle falls, cracks her head against a radiator. A rosary falls from her hand.
Matthew flat-lines, the noise carrying on over the last shot:
Eli lies dead on the ground, an old photo of him with wife and kid fluttering down to land in a puddle.
Fade to black, then back up, as the noise of the flatline fades out.
We're on a ferry, the protagonists each alone in a crowd of passengers in all manner of clothes -- night gowns, pyjamas, evening wear, all sorts. Over the rail it looks like the Hudson in winter, New York in the background, but colder and darker. We see the Statue of Justice, just like Lady Liberty but blindfolded, with a set of scales. Belle, confused, asks an old lady where they're going, and she points ahead to...
The money-shot of Ellis Island, but with iron gates closing off the dock, the words "Abandon Hope" lettered above, like the "Arbeit Macht Frei" of Auschwitz. The gates open for the ferry and close behind it with a doom, as the camera pulls up and back to a reveal of the infernal city.
Titles: ESCAPE FROM HELL!
Over the opening credits we see a montage of the passengers being processed like immigrants, swept through the confusion of bureaucracy, a paranoid nightmare of Homeland Security gone crazy, loved ones being separated, people placed in shackles. Guards and cops wear replicas of real world uniforms, but all grey.
One by one, the four each reach the front of their line and are marked with a chalk sigil on their shoulder, dismissed towards this door or that by an official's sneer:
-- Adultery, this way.
-- Suicide, over there.
-- Murder -
Seven tries to break free but is overpowered by guards, dragged away. Switch to Matthew's POV; he's watching this, lost and scared, finds himself at the front of his line. As the official looks him up and down, he starts panicking -- screaming that he's done nothing wrong, nothing. He's still screaming his innocence as the guards grab him, drag him towards a grey door, which gets closer and closer until it fills the screen, then --
And the story begins...
The Story -- One Paragraph Synopsis:
Four sinners die and go to Hell, a twisted version of NYC, each to their own torment. Seven gets a brutal prison; Belle has endless johns to service in an maze of hotel corridors; doctors in a hospital try to "cure" Matthew; Eli is on the streets, avoiding roaming death squads, searching for his dead family. Matthew and Belle try to escape but fail. Then Seven shoots his way free, taking Matthew hostage, while Eli helps Belle escape. The four meet and Eli leads them down into the depths, where they find Gabriel in charge, Lucifer a prisoner. Freeing Lucifer, they try for the Bridge to Limbo but find it wrecked. The only other way out is the Tunnel, where Gabriel is waiting for them. But news of the break-out turns Hell's captives into a rioting mob, and Gabriel and his minions are overpowered. Matthew is killed by Gabriel but revived by Seven, and ends up being the one to waste the angel. The end shot is the heroes on a vast plain with a city in the distance. They lock-and-load, ready to storm Heaven, with Hell an army at their back.
The Story -- Four Act Synopsis
1. Seven, a hitman killed by his bosses, Belle, a hooker murdered by her pimp, Matthew, a gay college-kid stabbed by bigots, and Eli, a tramp who's committed suicide, all find themselves in the city of Hell, a twisted version of NYC. Each is sent to their own personal damnation: Matthew is sent to the "Institute" a hospital-cum-asylum-cum-prison, where the doctors try to cure him of his "sickness"; Seven finds himself in a coffin-like cell, dark with only a sliding panel at eye-level; Belle goes to a hotel of endless corridors of clients; Eli ends up on the streets, fleeing death squads, hunting for his dead family. We hear "demons" on phones or radios -- police, doctors, media (trustees, we learn, prisoners who've been given power) -- all taking "orders from below".
2. Seven breaks free and finds Matthew, the Institute a higher level of his prison, takes him as hostage (it's established here that even in Hell you can die). Meanwhile Eli helps Belle escape, having found hobo signs by which to navigate the city. The four meet up in the subway system, hiding from the authorities and the media frenzy whipped up by the hitman's escape.
3. Eli claims that the signs tell of a "key", held right down at the lowest level. So they battle their way into the depths of the horror, where they find Lucifer himself a prisoner, the angel Gabriel his warder... taking his "orders from above". The whole place is the work of an unjust God, built on his lies, people trapped by their own despair, by the belief that they belong there,. The "key" is hope and, with Seven's determination, Belle's desparation, Matthew's yearning and Eli's insane faith, together they are that hope.
4. With Lucifer as guide, they fight their way back up towards the gates of the Bridge that leads from Hell to Limbo -- but find it a blasted wreck. Lucifer tells them that there is one other way, the Tunnel. In a car chase through the city, media vultures covering the pursuit; they make it, but the authorities are waiting for them. Word is out though -- if Lucifer is free then maybe now there is a hope in Hell -- and as the heroes make their stand against Gabriel a mob gathers from every corner of the city, rallying to the hope of escape. Eli is killed by the angel but, led by Seven and Belle, the mob overpowers the authorities in a bloody riot. Gabriel asphyxiates Matthew. Lucifer kicks Gabriels' ass, blinds him. Seven refuses to accept Matthew's death, revives him with CPR, so when Gabriel has his "not quite dead" moment, it's Matthew who finally wastes the angel. Walking through the Tunnel, escaped from Hell at last, the survivors find themselves walking up a rise...
Picture Lucifer in front, turning.
-- Where are we going? says the hooker.
He stops, a smile on his face. We see shock on the others' as they step up behind him.
He turns to look over his shoulder at them, pointing onward. Far off in the distance, across a great empty plain, great glittering towers rise on the horizon -- a city.
-- Don't know about you, says Lucifer, but I'm going home.
One by one, the others nod and lock-and-load. As they move forward through the gates, a news helicopter rises up behind them, the shot pulling up to reveal a vast rebel army at their back, the whole of Hell behind them.
Cut to black. Then huge block letters slam onto the screen:
ASSAULT ON HEAVEN!
Dudes, you know that could rock. OK, so it might get the odd Westboro Baptist a tad upset, but fuck 'em. Actually, they'll probably be more upset by the sequel. Oh, and there's a third one, of course, cause, yanno, once Heaven is trashed, where d'ya think God and his holy minions are gonna flee to? Where do our heroes and their army of Hell all want to get back to? That's right. The title for the final installment came to me in the pub on Saturday night (which is what brought this post to mind)...
BATTLE FOR THE PLANET OF THE DEAD!
Armies of zombie saints! Angels with flamethowers! The whole fuckin apocalypse seen from the Antichrist's POV! Man, if only...
Any Hollywood directors out there with balls the size of a supernova and the requisite level of sheer insanity? No? No? Ah, well. Worth a try.
* UPDATE: *ahem*, that should, of course be Samuel L. Jackson. So where did the "R" come from? Probably from typing "Samuel R. Delany" one too many times in response to "Who are your influences?". Course I now can't stop imagining a crazy hybrid of Delany and Jackson and thinking, yes, that's who I want for the role.