Storylines In Review

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The 'Between Life & Death' Storyline 2018
Storyline - The protagonist (or sometimes, their loved one) is caught somewhere between the two states of being alive on Earth and being a spirit in the Otherworld.

Daniel Radcliffe as an angel and Steve Buscemi as God in Miracle Workers, a 'heavenly workplace comedy.'
This can be a tricky storyline to pinpoint upcoming examples of, as advance publicity is often coy.
For example, in Bad Times At The El Royale, written by director Drew Goddard, “Seven strangers, each with a secret to bury, meet at Lake Tahoe's El Royale, a rundown hotel with a dark past. Over the course of one fateful night, everyone will have a last shot at redemption - before everything goes to hell.” So are they already dead, or about to die - or is the description purely a metaphor?
And since the zone between life and death is mainly a setting, the works often have another storyline, such as a faustian pact. (Crossover works in more senses than one?)
For instance, how should we categorise the just-released The Little Stranger, adapted by Lucinda Coxon [The Danish Girl etc] from the novel by Sarah Waters? The title refers to the ghost of a dead child who may haunting the house which is the main setting … but it has been described as not so much a horror film as ‘a story about class, envy and self-loathing’. The author’s Wiki says: ‘Waters stated that she did not set out to write a ghost story, but began her writing with an exploration of the rise of socialism in the United Kingdom and how the fading gentry dealt with losing their legacies.
… In Body Cam, scripted by Nic McCarthy and John Ridley, from a spec script by Richmond Riedel, ‘several LAPD police officers … are haunted by a malevolent spirit that is tied to the murder of a black youth at the hands of two white cops.
… In Boss Level from writer-director Joe Carnahan, “a retired Special Forces veteran … is trapped in a never-ending loop resulting in his death. To end his suffering, he must figure out who is responsible and stop them.”
Between Worlds, written by director Maria Pulera, has “a down-on-his-luck truck driver haunted by the memory of his deceased wife and child.”
Castaway, in development from an unproduced Sam Peckinpah screenplay adapted from James Gould Cozzens's 1934 novella, tells of “an every-man who survives an unnamed catastrophe by hiding in a department store that has escaped destruction. While he is surrounded by everything that he might seem to need, he is haunted by his own paranoia and demons….a modern parable of Robinson Crusoe with philosophical, psychological and mystical implications.”
… In the tv series pilot Cupid’s Match, written by Lauren Palphreyman from an online [Wattpad] book that went viral, “a high school student … finds herself in a supernatural world of romance, adventure and betrayal when … she’s … matched with … the original Cupid … legend has it that very bad things will happen if Lila falls for Cupid … enemies assemble, mythical arrows fly and an evil goddess is awakened.”
… In Dead Inside, from writer Katie Lovejoy, a ‘supernatural cop drama pilot’, ‘after surviving an explosion that killed her hotshot detective big brother … an underachieving beat cop starts seeing his ghost, flipping their sibling dynamic on its head and allowing her to truly live her life for the first time, as they work together to help crime victims both living and dead, and figure out the unfinished business keeping his spirit on Earth.’
… Netflix’s ‘dark comedy’ series Dead To Me from writer Liz Feldman, is another possible candidate here. It ‘is about a powerful friendship that blossoms between ... a tightly wound widow, and ... a free spirit with a shocking secret.’
… In Far Rockaway, being adapted by David Wilcox (CBS’ Bull) from a Spanish format titled “Estoy Vivo”, ‘a workaholic NYPD detective killed in the line of duty is granted a second chance to return to earth in the body of another cop in order to bring his killer to justice and heal the fractured family he left behind.’
Ferryman is being developed as a feature from the 2013-19 trilogy of YA young-adult novels by Scots high school English teacher-turned-author Claire McFall, which became an ebook bestseller in China. It ‘is a modern retelling of the ancient Greek myth of Charon, the ferryman of Hades who transports souls to the underworld. It tells the story of Dylan, a young girl who emerges from the debris of a train crash on an empty Scottish hillside. Believing herself to be the only survivor, she learns instead that she is the only fatality – and is trapped in a dangerous limbo. Dylan eventually meets a mysterious boy named Tristan, her “ferryman,” sent to guide her through the wasteland and into the afterlife. They fall in love, with perilous consequences.’
… In the New Orleans-set ABC drama pilot For Love from writer Michael Cooney, a woman gets a phone call from her fiancé 5 years after he was killed...
… The BBC One sitcom Ghosts from Simon Farnaby (Paddington 2, Rogue One etc) et al is a six-part horror comedy that ‘follows a group of restless spirits squabbling in a crumbling country house.’
… Season 2 of the Netflix comedy The Good Place (which originally began with the protagonist waking up dead) could be listed as a new development since its S1 otherworld setting turned out not as advertised – in other words, the ‘situation’ part of sitcom changed with a big reveal at the end of S1.
… Netflix’s Hallowe’en tiein drama is to be another version (it was previously filmed in 1963 and 1999) of Shirley Jackson’s 1959 The Haunting Of Hill House, where a sibling group return to their haunted childhood home to investigate the reality of its ghostly presence and "discover scientific proof of the existence of the spirit world. Instead, they find the house seems to feed off their own psyches and secrets." This will be at least a 10-ep serial, with a mainly teen cast, adapted by director Mike Flanagan.
… In the faustian horror thriller High Voltage (formerly titled Hollow Body), a band’s lead singer is struck by lightning and killed; she is “brought back to life, but now lightning courses through her veins and she uses her new powers to drain the life from men and turn it into electrifying stage performances. Her bandmates discover her secret and must decide how far are they are willing to let her go to help them succeed.” Its creator, writer-producer-director Alex Keledjian [Project Greenlight etc], scarily says “The script and the score are based on my experiences of living and working in Hollywood.”
… NBC's drama pilot from writer Moira Kirland The InBetween Lives (formerly known as The Between ) ‘centers on a mysterious young woman who reluctantly uses her gift of clairvoyance to help a veteran LAPD detective and a damaged ex-FBI outsider solve the most unnerving and challenging cases the city encounters. This eerie ability also opens the door for her to see and talk to the dead, who are seeking help for unresolved problems, whether she likes it or not.’
The In Between, written by Marc Klein, is described as “a supernatural romance in the vein of Ghost. After surviving a car accident that took the life of her boyfriend, a teenage girl believes he's attempting to reconnect with her from the after world.”
Infinite, written by Jacob Chase [Larry] for him to direct, is described as “a potential tent pole about a crew of scientists who explore the afterlife”. (Details not yet available; presumably “tent pole” means a wide summer-holidays release in a year or two.)
… The long-awaited remake of Jacob's Ladder, adapted by Jeff Buhler, Sarah Thorpe, and Jake Wade Wall from the 1990 film written by Bruce Joel Rubin [Ghost], finally has a release date (1 February 2019). The Hollywood Reporter: "the producers are looking to make something more akin to an homage and not mimic the original. The plan is to contemporize the story with new situations and characters but still maintain a story that examines issues and poses existential questions."
The Lodgers, written by David Turpin, is described as a ghost story with a background in Irish political history. Director Brian O’Malley: ‘The “big houses,” estates granted to gentry by the British were often rumored to be haunted — something encouraged by owners in order to scare away locals.’ The plot “centers on a family curse, which confines orphaned twins Rachel and Edward to their home as punishment for their ancestors’ sins. Bound to the rules of a haunting childhood lullaby, the twins must never let any outsiders inside the house, must be in their rooms by the chime of midnight, and must never be separated from one another. Breaking any of these three rules will incur the wrath of a sinister presence that inhabits the house after midnight. While Edward is committed to this ill-fated life, he’s becoming more unhinged due to the fact that Rachel is not. Smitten by a local soldier, Rachel grows skeptical and begins to rebel, desperate to escape the oppression and misery of their captivity.”
… NBC drama serial Manifest, written by Jeff Rake and Matthew Fernandez, has the plot setup where airliner passengers disembark to discover they have been missing for years, away in some twilight zone, and were thought dead by friends and family. ‘At the end of the [pilot] episode, all of the passengers and crew of flight 828 are summoned to the airplane they were on by some sort of psychic force. When they arrive, the plane explodes and [he protagonist] says “This is just the beginning.”’
Miracle Workers, adapted by Simon Rich from his book What In God’s Name, is described as a 7-episode anthology series ‘heaven-set workplace comedy’. “When God plans to destroy the Earth, two low-level angels must convince their boss to save humanity. They bet him they can pull off their most impossible miracle yet: help two humans fall in love.”
The New World, being developed from a screenplay by Sarah Ruhl based on Chris Adrian & Eli Horowitz’s 2015 satiric novel, is a feature perhaps best described via a synopsis: “Jane’s husband Jim has just died — or, not quite as he had assigned his head to be frozen with a shadowy organization that promises to do away with mortality forever. Awake in a bucolic retreat – an afterlife of sorts – Jim learns that the cost of eternal life is higher than he ever could have imagined. Meanwhile, stranded in the realm of the living and reeling from the loss of her husband, Jane sets out to get back his head.” (As the title The New World was used not long ago, chances are it will be retitled, presumably using some pun involving the word 'head'.)
… Season 2 of Netflix original The OA, written by Brit Marling & Zal Batmanglij, follows up the story of a blind teen who claims she was imprisoned for 7 years ‘in an underground bunker by scientists obsessed with near-death experiences.’ With her sight now mysteriously restored, she calls herself the OA [which may mean Original Angel], and has now organised an angelic group she claims can rescue missing people ‘by opening a portal to another dimension’.
… Milton’s verse epic about fallen angels Paradise Lost, regarded as unfilmable (in the pre CGI era anyway), may finally get a screen version, backed by actor Martin Freeman and billed as a “biblical Game of Thrones”. (A previous planned live-action version (with Bradley Cooper as Lucifer), by The Crow director Alex Proyas, was abandoned back in 2012 as too costly.
… A sequel to the 2004 Mel Gibson / Randall Wallace film The Passion Of The Christ is in production, focussing on the so-called Harrowing of Hell. Titled The Resurrection or simply Resurrection, it has been written by Gibson’s associate Randall Wallace [Braveheart etc]. The plot is officially under wraps but can be inferred from Christian theology regarding Christ’s 3-day descent into the underworld to rescue souls.
Reincarnation Type, from a Robert Specland script, may be another candidate (the logline is under wraps), described as a ‘character-based thriller in the vein of The Sixth Sense’.
The Second Coming, the 2011 cult satirical novel by Scots author John Niven [Kill Your Friends], is being adapted by Italian filmmaker Paolo Genovese. Here, “God takes a much needed holiday, which in Heaven-lapsed time is a leisurely week of celestial relaxation. But on Earth, several hundred years have passed. When God returns from his break, he discovers a modern day world gone awry and littered with contemporary societal issues from war and genocides to racism, violence, terrorism and an unhealthy obsession with celebrity culture. So who best to fix today’s problems of the here and now? God sends his dope smoking son to straighten things out.”
… In Spawn, being adapted by Todd McFarlane from his graphic novel, the title character is a CIA black ops agent who is not only betrayed and murdered but is ‘then double crossed in Hell. He is convinced to become a Hellspawn warrior in exchange for being able to be reunited with his wife, only to find himself stuck in his demonic creature shell, and that his wife moved on and married his best friend. Spawn turns his rage on street scum and revenge. He realized long ago that he can’t battle the constant evil permeating the globe alone, and must enlist the aid of humans to help him fight the war.’

Stranger Things 3 is the 8-ep third season of Netflix’s award-winning supernatural mystery series written and directed by the Duffer Brothers [Shawn Levy, Dan Cohen] set around a US research lab that has created a portal to an alternate dimension called "the Upside Down” which affects the lives of local youths.
… The anthology series The Twilight Zone is undergoing another reboot, this time with Get Out writer-director Jordan Peele as host, details not yet known.
Silent Life, the Russian indie biopic of Rudolph Valentino (out May 2019), written by Natalia Dar, Ksenia Jarova and director Vladislav Kozlov (who will also play Valentino), about the silent star’s laast few days in a NY hospital in 1926, has his life flashing before him as a film being shown at a 1920s movie palace, ‘the magical portal between life and eternity, between reality and illusion. ’
Wander Darkly, written by star and director Tara Miele, is described as ‘a romantic thriller which she wrote based on a real life experience … a magical realism love story about a couple who must navigate the aftermath of a devastating car crash.’
The Way Between, a script by Oscar-winning Frozen writer and Disney exec Jennifer Lee, is also said to be inspired by personal experience with a car accident. “After losing his girlfriend Franny in a tragic car accident, Sam finds a way to reconnect with his beloved by bending the laws of reality. His unwillingness to let her go soon blurs Sam’s waking life and his intersecting world of dreams … the world we all hope exists … where connection and love can transcend conventional boundaries.”

 
… Finally, it looks like the long-awaited Gladiator 2 is not going to happen, due to the inherent difficulties of a plot setup whereby the protagonist must be either brought back from the dead or fight battles in the Roman otherworld, Elysium. (Writer and musician Nick Cave delivered an elaborate script commissioned by Russell Crowe in 2009 but he has now rejected it with a simple “Didn’t like it, mate.” Synopsis and background here.)

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[c] Storylines In Review 2018