Wicked Wednesday: Screamplay (1985)

Troma has a reputation for being, as some would think, “a bit much.” It’s literally in their slogan as a badge of pride (“40 years of Disrupting Media”).

But beyond their shock tactics, the distributor has released some of the oddest independent films and sniffed out promising talents like Trey Parker and James Gunn. One of the most daring films is 1985’s Screamplay, a horror story set in Hollywood if Hollywood had been thrown up on by Robert Wiene.

Aspiring screenwriter Edgar Allan is fresh off the boat bus in Hollywood. All the naive young man has on him is his typewriter. He finds his way to a diner and meets Al, an agent interested in Edgar’s work.

Shortly after, Edgar is assaulted in a bathroom, but is saved when another man kills the assailant. Edgar’s savour is Martin, a landlord who agrees to put Edgar up in a storage closet in exchange for some custodial work. But at the crime scene is a page of Edgar’s screenplay, which makes the police suspicious.

At the apartments is an eclectic selection of characters: a fading actress, a rocker. And Edgar dreams about killing all of them while writing his screenplay! When the deaths in his screenplay are seemingly coming true, Edgar becomes the police’s main target.

Director, star and writer Rufus Butler Seder only ever made this one feature film. You can’t help but wonder if Hollywood did the same thing as what happened to Edgar or if any attempts to “make it” inspired Screamplay. Thankfully, Seder has had a great career publishing children’s books, so the man got to put his excellent eye to use in other ways.

Seder created a film with some incredible-looking scenes. It’s clearly inspired by expressionists, using stark black and white images with very set-y-looking sets. (Someone – get me a job in writing!)

This story reminded me a lot of the film Fade to Black, but I had a lot more fun with Screamplay. And stylistically, it’s much more interesting to look at. But I don’t think you can ever have too many “crazy in Hollywood” stories, honestly.

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