Despite putting in long hours down at the Dream Factory, Hollywood filmmaking is in a creative rut. This is especially true of the fright fringe. American horror is about to head into a "get off my lawn" senior moment, flooding the market with remakes of mediocre slashers, ensuring that horror fans born after 1968 will have about as much fun in theaters in 2009 as they would at their older sister's 40 year high school reunion.
Big Sister: “You didn’t know Harry Warden, but he’s in orthodontic technology marketing now and lives in Colorado Springs now! Isn’t that great!”
Horror Fan Born After 1968: “Um, hi. You’re, um, that Bloody Valentine guy?”
Harry Warden: “Hah, yeah. Back in another lifetime. Developed some knee problems. No more stalking. But you move on. I went to community college for a couple years. Got married, got a gig, got kids. What do you do? Ever considered orthodontic technology marketing? Growth field.”
What's desperately needed is a new approach.
Cue Wired columnist Scott Brown and his innovative new narrative model: Brown's Ziggurat (in 4-D!)™. The new narrative paradigm for the post-Story Death Era!
From Brown's column:
Brothers and sisters, we are gathered here today to mourn the death of Story. As you may have heard, it's kaput—or, at the very least, terminally ill, wracked by videogames, wikis, recaps, talkbacks, YouTube, ADD, and the rise of a multiplatform, multipolar, mashup-media culture. Hollywood, vendor of Story in its most denatured form, is most at risk: The film industry is slowly but steadily being forced to part with quaint artifacts like the "hero's journey," Joseph Campbell's so-called Monomyth. (Which is just so ... well ... mono.) Beginnings, middles, and ends are headed for the attic, next to the box marked VCR Rewinders/Beastmaster Franchise.
Brown goes on to describe, then dismiss, the ol' reliable Freytag’s Pyramid: the traditional arch of exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, and denouement.
Instead, he proposes Brown's Ziggurat which “accounts for all the time-shredding, symmetry-defying, viewer-inclusive wackiness of New Story.”
To beta the new structure, Brown compares the old and busted Freytag version of Die Hard with the new hotness of Die Hard 2.0.
In Freytag-ese, Die Hard unfolds thusly: NYC cop John McClane arrives in LA to reunite with his estranged wife, Holly (exposition), but terrorists raid her office tower, taking everyone hostage except McClane (inciting incident), who escapes unseen and starts picking off the goons (rising action). The terrorists finally realize they're holding McClane's wife and gain the upper hand (climax), but McClane frees the other hostages (falling action), goes toe-to-toe with the terrorist chieftain, and prevails (resolution). He celebrates by making out with his wife in the back of a limo. (Awww! And ... denouement!)
A little square, no? With the snazzy Brown Ziggurat, however, Die Hard will look like this: John McClane, NYC cop, arrives in LA to reconcile with his estranged wife—but we already know all about their failing marriage from the ARG we've been obsessed with for the six months leading up to the movie's release. (McClane's potemkin Tumblr blog was especially illuminating.) With exposition rendered obsolete, we open instead on a Sprite commercial, which transitions seamlessly into furious gunplay. We don't even see McClane in the flesh, but our handsets are buzzing with his real-time thumb-tweets: "in the air duct. smelz like dead trrist in here lol." The film then rewinds to McClane Googling "terrorists" to read up on his adversaries. We then flash-cut to the baddies' POV, which we're familiar with (and sympathetic to) thanks to the addictive Xbox hit Die Hard: Hard Out There for a Terrorist. This is all part of the Action-Happening Plateau, an intensifying mass of things and stuff leading up to the Mymax™.
The Mymax is not a lame old Freytag climax but a hot Escher mess of narrative possibilities suggested by you, the audience. With a mere click of your handset (and a charge of 99 cents), you furnish a Youclusion™ to your liking. This is how McClane somehow ends up defeating terrorists—and winning American Idol—with his ultrasonic melisma. McClane and Holly then celebrate by making a sex tape. (Awww!)