Psychological thrillers frequently crossover into the horror territory. Misery, Shutter Island, and Silence of the Lambs are good examples. The humans in these stories go outside the boundaries of what the definition of human is. They represent a nameless danger and are trussed to our deepest fears.
With Resurrection, screenwriter/director/producer Andrew Semans has constructed a unique horror tale that’s quietly savage. It addresses the responsibility of motherhood, while turning a keen eye on the physical and psychological toll domestic abuse can take. The 2022 Sundance Film Festival darling is his sophomore effort and will be released by IFC Films in theaters on July 29. It’ll be available for on-demand on August 5 and will have an exclusive streaming home on the Shudder platform in November 2022. The dark tale stars acting savants Rebecca Hall and Tim Roth.
Reader Warning - Spoilers Ahead
Aspiring screenwriters often want to know how to get their material noticed. Andrew’s script was on The Black List in 2019. That launched his journey to getting the film made.
"It was a long road. It took about five or six years to get made. I got it to a production company in New York called Parts and Labor, which no longer exists. They took an interest in the project and I was developing it with them, but that company dissolved. I carried on with a few producers from that company. It was just a long, slow process to try to make it viable. When Rebecca Hall came on board, that was a key moment that allowed us to finally get it together. We were able to find financing and go into production. It's the typical process for independent films. It's a slow, incremental process."
Most writers draw from a well of experiences. Certain situations or observations in life can instigate a deluge of ideas. Writing often begets more writing. Those ideas can eventually form a story worth telling, as is the case with Andrew and the origins of Resurrection.
"I was interested in telling a story about elemental conflict or a situation that could be universally and viscerally understood. I became interested in this idea of parental fear, parental anxiety. Anxieties around your inability to keep your child safe or protect them from harm, abuse, exploitation. It seemed like a fruitful area to explore. These anxieties felt very real to me, even though I didn't have children at the time. I still don't. I'm about to, but I still don't. I got interested in the parental revenge or vigilante subgenre - like Taken and movies like that. I thought that might be an interesting arena to work in. I started trying to develop a story and a character. Around that time a close friend of mine was involved in a very unfortunate relationship with a very toxic individual. I became interested in the psychology behind that relationship in terms of victim and victimizer.
As I tried to understand it as best I could in an effort to help my friend, themes of coercion, manipulation, gaslighting, and trauma bonding started to find their way into this script and became a significant part of it."
The road to finishing a first draft can be short or long. Not every writer has a customary routine but the method to their madness works.
"I was writing it in bits and pieces. It took a long time even though the actual writing time was very short. I was writing other screenplays at the time. I was trying to write scripts that were more commercial in a failed effort to sell some material…! Resurrection was the script that I was writing in my spare time, a script that I was writing for me that I never thought anyone would take any interest in. I wasn't imitating other writers’ voices but was being very true to my own voice and own impulses. So, it was written in these tiny little chunks over a while. I don't remember how long it actually took.
It's very different from the first thing I got optioned, which was a rom-com. It was my first and only foray into that territory.
Often when I'm writing a female character, I will have moments where I'll encounter experiences that I don't have an intuitive understanding of or experience with. And then I'll have to do whatever I have to do to fill in the gaps in terms of research and talking to people.
The main character in Resurrection, Margaret, is independent to say the least. But we find out that wasn’t always the case. She has some chilling monologues in the movie that help create the tension in the story and enhance the horror. She’s a tormented woman who has a past to reckon with.
Margaret’s main flaw is a deep and profound sense of shame around what happened to her when she was younger. Shame and self-blame for something she was entirely a victim of. That's the thing that's motivating her throughout the script, as well as love for her child. It's what she's desperately trying to overcome and what ultimately prevents her from achieving what she wants to achieve.
I loved writing the monologue at the center of this movie. I like monologues and I don't know why. I think it's because I end up going to see stage plays a lot at theaters and those have a lot of monologues. A well-written monologue, if it can be sustained, can be mesmerizing and powerful. Also, I love them in movies because they're so rare. I think people might not use them a lot in film because they think people will get bored or think they're not cinematic. I think they're very cinematic. I think it's an underutilized technique in screenwriting.
I love to write dialogue. I love to try to create characters and situations that have a superficial sense of familiarity but are handled in ways that are somehow unexpected or dodge cliche' even if they flirt with cliche'. I like to engage with horror elements, particularly thriller and horror elements, but not necessarily embrace them fully and try to integrate them with other genres. I try hard to avoid expository dialogue. I'm allergic to it. I try to write scripts in a way that is enjoyable for the reader.
I wish I had more of a routine. It's kind of catch as catch can. It's not very ritualized. But eventually, somehow things get done...!"
Whether it’s a stage play, teleplay, or screenplay, writers usually have a favorite section of the script that they like to tackle. Instead of getting anxiety over it, they relish it. They consider it a seminal moment in their script.
"I enjoy writing the first act but after the inciting incident. Basically pages 12 to 25 in a standard-length script. It's a lot of fun because you've basically gotten by all the expository material and the world is set. You can build tension and develop what you've established in those first ten to twelve pages in a way that's often a lot of fun and feels rich. But you can still maintain the sense that you're withholding. You're not ready to dive into the story at the act break."
Resurrection will be released by IFC Films in theaters on July 29 and will be available On Demand on August 5, 2022.