Premonitions, Written by Frank Mario Quaglia and David Evan Watson
Daniel Wall has a gift that he does not understand. He has terrible nightmares of murders — dreams which, as it turns out, correspond to actual crimes. He has helped police forces in Los Angeles before, and when the dreams return, he wants to help again — before the murderer can finish the job, he hopes. But in the haze of his nightmares, he cannot easily ascertain the necessary facts: the location and the identities of the murderer and his soon-to-be victims. And even if he were able to figure out the who and the where, how can he be sure that his night terrors aren’t just dreams? He knows that it sounds crazy, and even if he could convince himself, he still has to convince the police. Would they even believe him? Could his dreams help them solve a murder — or even prevent one?
In this particular dream, a tall man with his face obscured by a hood drags two bodies across the floor, one a man whom he pulls by the wrist and the other a woman by her ankle. All three wear yellow raincoats streaked with blood. Night after night, the dreams reveal more detail, progressing ever closer to what Dan fears he might be too late to stop. When the man finally heaves the two bodies into a coal furnace and sets it alight with the victims inside, they suddenly bolt upright to face the opening of the burning furnace, screaming Dan’s name as if pleading for his help. He awakens in his own bedroom, shaken.
Angela, his wife, is used to comforting him after his night scares. She knows all about his terrible dreams, but she sees them as a gift. ‘This really happening again?’ she says.
‘How it always starts’, Dan says.
‘Time to meet these cops’, she says. But Dan knows how crazy his psychic dreaming will sound to the police. He has ignored his dreams before, with disastrous results. He’s torn by the urge to help and the difficulty of actually being helpful by remembering the details of his dreams — and, of course, the difficulty of convincing police that his dreams are the real thing. ‘Remember how you felt last time, saying nothing?’, Angela says.
‘Not doing this anymore’, he says.
But Angela knows he doesn’t have a choice. ‘Can’t escape your premonitions’, she says.
Dan has just started working at Harrison Technology, where his manager is the apparently amicable Tom Fitch. Tom’s father-in-law owns the company, and Tom’s business successes earn him praise despite his laid-back demeanour. But when his wife Sarah catches him cheating with the secretary, the perfect façade of his life begins to crumble. Distraught, Sarah joins her parents on a sailing trip on their yacht to Bermuda. Before long, though, disaster strikes in a form already all-too-familiar to Dan.
The story is clever and creative, incorporating various paranormal elements — from Dan’s psychic abilities to a family of ghosts who help solve the mystery. The screenplay’s colloquial structure frequently omits words that might be skipped over naturally in conversation, making the dialogue more real. The characters and their problems are entertaining. The cinematic construction, meanwhile, is well-envisioned, including descriptors which contribute nicely to the story and choreograph all sorts of hallucinations and scary phenomena.
The construction of the story is messy, though. The plot becomes jumbled when so many different elements try to fit together. Characters appear late in the game, such as when the helpful ghosts emerge only toward the end, becoming at once essential and strangely unrelated to the plot. The frequent intrusions of Mr. Pitt, a bird-like detective from the police department, are mostly irrelevant. And when Dan finally solves the mystery without the detective’s help, it turns out not to be a mystery at all. The lack of surprise detracts from what could have been a more mysterious and engaging story. Dan and Angela, the film’s protagonist couple, manage to keep their cool in the face of recurring psychic nightmares, haunting ghosts, and a loose murderer. They hold the story together despite other forces which would otherwise rupture it. ■
Length: 101 pages
Genre: Science Fiction, Crime, Mystery
Country: United States
This screenplay was selected for the 2016 Atlas Awards Official Selection.
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Premonitions is co-written by Frank Mario Quaglia and David Evan Watson. Quaglia is an American screenwriter in Massachusetts whose other feature-length screenplays include Shangri-Loon, a comedy, and The Crematory, a horror film. Quaglia also co-wrote the narration for North Pole Promise, a documentary about two American explorers narrated by James Earl Jones which premiered on PBS in 2013. He is also the author of Last Rites for the Boston Marathon Bomber as well as two children’s stories, Nothing Really Matters and The Quiet Song of Life.
This critical review was commissioned and sponsored by the filmmaker.
Featured Image: iStock.com/LiliGraphie.