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Thursday, October 15, 2015

Strawberry Spring

I chose Strawberry Spring as my first casting project because it's one of the first professionally-published short stories Stephen King wrote that I think lends itself perfectly to being adapted into a 90-or-so-minute Halloween release. In fact, by the time this was released, King only had five short stories that were published, and to be honest, none of the others struck me like this one did.

It's a pretty straightforward slasher story, narrated by an unnamed college student, detailing a series of women being murdered on his campus during the false spring of 1967. The title refers to said false spring, which causes thaws and melts throughout the day and billowing fog by night. It's in this fog that the murderer, dubbed "Springheel Jack" by the press, takes his victims.

The narrator describes each murder and the campus's reaction to it, and though all the victims are female, it never specifies that the killer won't go after men as well. In a scene that could actually be pretty funny if handled right, a panicky cop comes across the body of a boy who is very much alive, but hadn't been feeling well and passed out in the parking lot. In his state of panic, not thinking to check for a pulse, or, you know, a wound, he bundles the kid into his car and is halfway to the station when the kid wakes up and scares the shit out of him by asking where he is.

As for the narrator himself, he describes how he'll get headaches that are helped by walking through the fog at night, and how the others in the fog start to look like faceless phantoms to him. He talks about how he starts analyzing faces he passes in the hallway, studying them to see if a killer is hiding beneath their facade, and knowing that others are doing the same to him. His roommate comments that he now suspects everyone but "me and thee" and then adding "and I'm not entirely sure about thee". He talks about driving a car load of other students home for early spring break but it's a tense ride because as far as everyone is concerned, Springheel Jack might be in the car with them, and...I'm sure you see where this is going. M. Night Shyamalan, eat your heart out.

So, this won't be a terribly great film, but it could be a cool one, especially because it will be heavy on atmosphere. King lovingly describes the thick fogs and how they erase the modernity of the campus and turn it into something out of time, almost causing one to expect Frodo, Sam and Gollum to walk by. In the right hands, that could look really cool, especially since that's when the bad stuff happens.

James Watkins (The Woman in Black) or Tomas Alfredson (Let the Right One In) would both be great choices to direct this. That's the easy part. But now for the hard part: expanding this bitch to feature-length and casting it.

The expansion will likely be easier than you think. Each murder in the story is just talked about. Here it can be shown. Also shown can be the aftermath; twice someone is arrested who didn't do it and once a couple is caught "necking" after curfew. But mainly, we can expand this by expanding on the characters.

There really aren't any in the story, beyond the narrator, who get fleshed out. His roommate has one scene with him, which I liked, and feel the roommate character could be examined a little more. Maybe make him a theorist on who's committing the murders, which could lead to some semi-serious comic relief. Also, the narrator gets married shortly after he graduates, and that's an opportunity to flesh out the wife, who's a non-entity in the books, into a real character as well, present for the murders and causing the lead character to be worried for her safety. Finally, while a police presence is very real in the story, the film has an opportunity to have a police sergeant or lieutenant in charge of the patrols and the man responsible for catching the killer. I see him getting somewhat close to the three young leads and there being a sad scene where he's ordered to pull the patrols and clear out so that plainclothes can come in, and him apologizing to the lead that they never caught the killer.

Now, for casting. For our unnamed narrator, we'll need a guy who can pass for college-age, but also pass for being a young married. He'll need to look a bit vulnerable and somewhat nerdy, but capable of going dark. I had initially thought of Eddie Redmayne, but I don't think this is the sort of project Redmayne would go for. Instead, I'm chosing Andrew Garfield.

For the police lieutenant, I'd like a dependable character actor that everyone who's seen him likes. As this isn't going to be Shakespeare, we don't need to worry if he seems stereotypical. To me, I could see John Goodman making a pretty good impression.

For the girlfriend/wife, we need another performer who can pass for both a college student and a young wife. Alison Brie is over 30, but could pass for 20, and she's a cutie who would naturally capture the audience's sympathy.

Finally, the roommate. Like I said, this is an opportunity for a role that's a little bit funny without being distractingly so. Since the character doesn't appear in the post-college sections, he can be a bit younger. For whatever reason, I think this might give Jay Pharoah an opportunity to grow beyond his SNL persona.

There are other minor roles; the murder victims, the initial suspect(s), the couple caught necking, the jittery cop and the passed-out-mistaken-for-dead guy. But these are all minor roles that I'm not going to bother casting.

The time period probably shouldn't be focused on. While the story is set in 1967, I'm not sure the movie would need to really make clear what year it is. Maybe outfit the actors in clothes that look like they could belong to a number of eras, leave out cell phones and just let the audience decide when it's supposed to be taking place.

All in all, I think it could be a really neat, atmospheric Halloween slasher flick. What do you think? Let me know in the comments section.

Next up: Night Surf!


  1. Garfield is a solid pick for that role, although he's getting close to being too old to convincingly play a college student.

    I like the Jay Pharoah idea, too.

  2. Yeah, he'll require a bit of a suspension of disbelief, but he's got a babyface, so it won't be too bad. In a couple of years I'll probably have to change this, but this is a minor film in the canon anyway.

  3. This one may actually be my favorite Stephen King short. John Goodman is never a bad idea. I actually think Paul Dano might work here. He's not what most would probably consider good-looking, but he does have that slightly unhinged look that has worked well for him before, and could easily pass for a young family man.

    1. Hadn't thought about Dano. He'd work, too. In fact, I might change this as I might want Garfield for another role down the line.