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Thursday, October 22, 2015

Gray Matter

For some reason, I really like this story and was excited to get to it on this blog. I'm not 100% sure why but it's possibly because this is the first honest-to-god creature feature we've gotten to thus far. And the way this story was written has always given me the creeps (in a good way).

And before you say anything, no, I Am the Doorway is many things, but a creature feature it is not, since the creatures stay hidden. Neither is The Boogeyman, since a large portion of it is focused on its narrator Lester talking enough rope to hang himself, and there's still the possibility that the monster in that story is entirely imagined.

Here, that's definitely not the case.

Gray Matter is an old-fashioned spook-fest about a slobbish single dad with a drinking problem who starts mutating into a monster. That's the long and short of it. Most of the tale is related to us thanks to his son, who one night walks into Henry's Nite-Owl during a snow storm to beg owner Henry Parmalee to take his father the case of beer because he's too scared to go back into their house.

Richie Grenadine is the father in question; a notorious drunk who gets to sit at home and drink all day thanks to a workers-comp-for-life setup after a permanent back injury on his job site. Being able to sit at home and get paid for it has turned Richie's drinking into a real problem. He used to be a fun drunk who could hold it pretty darn well. Now he's a sad drunk and shut-in who never leaves his home.

One night, while Henry Parmalee, our unnamed narrator and some others sit around Henry's stove at the back of his store, keeping warm and telling stories, Richie's son Timmy comes in, scared out of his mind, and tells Henry a story that seems hard to believe, except the kid's shook up awful bad (oh, geez, now I'm talking like the geezers in the story), and the money he hands Henry is covered with grey goop.

So, they set out for Richie's house and what they find there...

You might even be able to guess.

Gray Matter is a pretty short tale, but there's ways to lengthen it. I'd like to see this become the tale of a lazy alcoholic and his kid, with the geezers at the store as supporting characters. We can start off with Timmy explaining to our narrator character about how he's on full time workman's comp, and most of the story would focus on Richie, sinking deeper into his alcoholic slump, becoming progressively shorter of temper until he's borderline abusive, having him drink the "bad beer" that changes him early in the film, and then begin literally turning into a monster.

Meanwhile, Timmy goes on, pretending everything is normal so that no one comes any closer to his house than they have to. We'll see his school performance start to slip, making his teacher want to talk to his dad, which of course is a fate worse than failing. We'll see Timmy start to push his friends away in order to protect them, try to warn off an over-interested cop, etc.

This will all be observed by our narrator, who will finally become an active character when Timmy can't stand it anymore and asks Henry to take the beer to his father instead.

Henry, the narrator and a third character named Bertie Connors, are the three who go to confront Richie, and I think those three should be the most developed. There are other geezers present; Bill Pellham and Carl Littlefield are their names, but they don't really have an active presence in this story. Maybe their roles will increase a bit in the film.

I think the film should probably include a lot of "after" as well as a lot of "before" concerning the story. It ends pretty abruptly, with the impression that things are going to get a lot worse. Would a good writer be able to show us what happens next? Or how about more of the "before"? Maybe even just a hint at where the "bad beer" came from? I'm not saying reveal it to be toxic waste or something like that, but perhaps imply that a horror that man was not meant to know of was involved and, seeking a host, invaded a brewery, realizing it would be ingested.

Whatever the case, time to cast this bitch.

First off, the central protagonist, Timmy, is a preteen and therefore I'm not casting him. There's not much to the character in the story. He seems to be an ordinary little boy who puts up with quite a bit before breaking, so it will require a good child actor.

So let's cast Richie, dear old dad. This almost seems like a good opportunity to take an actor known mostly for comedy and make him the lead in a monster movie. Comedy actors are usually more ordinary-looking people, and I wouldn't ever want Richie to look like a movie star. I'm gonna pick Will Ferrell, because he's proven he can play dark when he needs to, plus a majority of his characters are unlikable.
The rest of the cast is a bunch of interchangeable old guys, with the exception of Henry Parmalee, who is more of a man of action than the others and will probably be considered the second lead. We could make him an army vet, and have an older tough guy play him. I'm thinking Ving Rhames.
Our unnamed narrator, like I said, is kind of a non-character, more observer than action man. That should probably change in the movie, and I see him becoming more of a voice of reason, maybe even having him live near the Grenadines so that he says hi to Timmy on his way to school every morning, to establish that he cares about the kid and wants to know what's going on. I'm going to use this opportunity to give Dan Aykroyd a good role after years of fading from the limelight. He would narrate the film in voice-over (we wouldn't overuse it) and take an active role in the story.
For the two who stay behind, I'm gonna cast Dirk Blocker as Bill Pellham and Charlie Scalies as Carl Littlefield. These guys might end up food in the story, but I'd like a pair of dependable character actors in these roles.
Dirk Blocker

Charlie Scalies

And now for that previously mentioned break. I'm presently half-way through a first-time read of It Grows on You and to be honest, it isn't striking me as all that filmable. It could be, in the right hands, but I'm not sure it would be worth the effort. It's a pretty dry story even with the occasional snippet of horror. After that it's Sometimes They Come Back, which has already had an adaptation, though it's not well-regarded. Is it worth a better incarnation? We'll see.

Then I'm going to be reading Carrie, then The Lawnmower Man and then on to 'Salem's Lot. In other words, this blog is going to be pretty dead for a while. I apologize in advance.

Next up: Not sure.


  1. Will Ferrell is an interesting choice. I'm not sure the audience would be able to take him seriously, though; and if that happened, it's a big uh-oh.

    Kind of surprising this story has never been filmed, isn't it?

  2. Numerous comic actors have had their break-out serious role. Remember how we supposedly wouldn't be able to take Michael Keaton seriously as Batman? Now it's what he's primarily remembered for.

    I honestly think this story wasn't filmed yet because it's fairly short, as opposed to Trucks and The Mangler, both of which are practically novellas.

  3. Pretty ballsy to cast Will Ferrell. Personally, I think he could nail it. He is more than capable of toning it down when needed.

    1. I love it when an actor known for comedy does something firmly dramatic. It's even better when he can play frightening.

      Ferrell, I have felt since his SNL days, could play a serious role very well given the chance.