Ben Winfield isn’t afraid of monsters. They help him weave a good yarn. He made the 13 Horror winners’ list for his screenplay, Graham Lodge. The story takes place in a world where monsters are a daily reality.
“Vampires, werewolves, zombies — they’re commonplace but they’re no less feared,” he said.
The story begins when a mother is attacked and made a vampire on Christmas Eve.
“In this world, vampires are wired to be horrible. They’re very evil creatures. As a result she separates from the family and this has a very traumatic effect on the son,” Mr Winfield explained.
He entered the online competition to get his material noticed.
“I have a very strong visual imagination,” he said. “I can see entire pictures and films play out in my mind’s eye.”
The 35-year-old has been writing since he was a child. He considers his screenplays a form of exorcism.
“I don’t think I could ever write a straight story about a sordid divorce, something real and grounded, I need the colour,” he said.
“It’s like drawing with crayon instead of pencil, it helps me create better. They’ve evolved as I’ve grown older but I don’t think I’ll ever grow out of monsters or fantastical settings. It’s the trappings of childhood that help me write.”
He had an early appreciation of “the old school” horror masters — George Romero, Tony Hooper and John Carpenter.
“John Carpenter’s movies were a big deal for me — Prince of Darkness, Assault on Precinct 13, The Thing — they’re exciting, viscerally thrilling. I think a lot of horror movies these days lack breathless excitement.”
The Exorcist was the first movie that scared him.
“It’s a movie that went out of its way to get under your skin and terrify you in ways that most monster films don’t. You have your average jump scares in horrors, but in The Exorcist you have the jolt but then they reverberate, they echo. You’re unsettled even after the initial shock is gone.”
That is the mood he hopes to create with his take on the “versatile” genre. “You can have horror action, horror comedy, horror drama. You can get subversive in horror in ways that you can’t in other genres.”
The bulk of Graham Lodge takes place 18 years later.
“The son is now an adult. The trauma of his mother becoming a monster has left him a broken man,” he said.
“He’s become increasingly self-destructive. Because she is what she is, they create a legal document that allows him to spend the last couple of weeks with her in a secluded cabin where she’s legally permitted to kill him on Christmas.”
The prolific writer pays the bills as a security officer. One of his stories was published in the Bermuda Anthology of Speculative Fiction, now for sale in the Bermuda Bookstore; dozens are unfinished.
“The mantra people repeat over and over is ‘know your ending’. I have ideas; I have characters; I have settings. Finding a way to conclude things has always proved difficult to me,” he said.
Graham Lodge is the exception.
“That did benefit me greatly that it would ultimately end with the son’s death,” he said.
“It’s ultimately a tragedy but also a bit of inspiration because the son does manage to reactivate a bit of the mother’s humanity.
“It’s about pure love in the face of pure evil.
“If I was to cite one specific inspiration — there’s a scene from Invasion of the Body Snatchers where Kevin McCarthy, the protagonist, discovers his girlfriend has become a pod person.
“I haven’t seen any story, movie, book, whatever that’s really dealt with the trauma of that moment — what it would be like seeing a loved one become a monster. That’s a lot of what this script is about.”
The story is not all grim. Comic relief comes in the form of a neighbouring couple — a werewolf and hybrid half-cat man.
“There’s a lot of pessimism in pop culture these days. I didn’t want to contribute to that. On one level the ending could be read as bleak because everything ultimately ends, but that’s not necessarily true if you have faith in anything beyond the material confines of what we are.
“Horror is peculiar because it deals with monsters and horrible things, but it’s also a genre that breaks the death barrier; you have creatures that exist beyond the grave.
“That’s the ultimate hope — that there’s something beyond the finite.”
Learn more at 13horror.com.