Genre: Horror
Premise: After a botched delivery of fresh blood, a world weary vampire and a pregnant nurse team up to rob a hospital of their supply.
About: This script finished with 18 votes on last year’s Black List. The writer was one-third of a writing team that wrote the indie film, Samir, back in 2019, about an Arab man who was framed for the September 11th attacks. Otherwise, he has only written and directed short films. Conceivably, he would be directing Sang Froid as well.
Writer: Michael Basha
Details: 90 pages

Joey King for Camille?

Carson, why do you hate the Black List?

Au contraire, mon frère.

I don’t hate the Black List. I hate the practice of campaigning for Black List votes for scripts that don’t deserve them. By the way, these are not debatable selections. The scripts that were lobbied onto the list were clearly lobbied. They are objectively weak.

That’s one of the reasons I do this. I want to celebrate the scripts that truly deserve to be celebrated. And I want you guys to know which ones don’t belong there so that when you read them and you see that they’re terrible and you get super confused because you’ve been told scripts need to be good to make the Black List. Well, now you know that that script only got on the list because it was lobbied.

However, I have great news for you. Today’s script is not one of those scripts. Today’s script deserves its Black List accolades. Let’s check it out.

30-something Paul looks like a boxer who’s just emerged from a 15 round slug fest. Every step forward is difficult for this guy. This guy, by the way, buys drugs every day at the park . Except they’re not drugs. They’re blood. Paul is a vampire.

Paul brings the latest batch of blood back to his Boss Vampire, Samy. Samy acts and speaks like she’s hundreds, if not thousands, of years old. She needs blood every night for her and her minions to survive. Paul is just the assistant. He only gets to keep enough for himself to stay alive.

Paul runs into an unfortunate problem. His blood guy moves out of town. And he’s assigned a new girl. Paul is furious about this. His boss isn’t the kind of person who takes kindly to late deliveries. So anything that could cause a hiccup in Paul’s daily schedule is dangerous.

Paul meets the girl, a scared 18 year old named Camille, and immediately sees that she’s pregnant. This is not what he signed up for so he’ll replace Camille tomorrow. However, today, he has no choice. He has to buy from her. Except just when he’s about to, two cops approach Paul, suspicious of what he’s up to.

Camille freaks out and runs to the bathroom to flush away all the blood. After Paul ditches the cops and learns that Camille did this, he’s furious. He needs that blood TONIGHT. Or else. Or else what? We’re never told. But we get the sense that it’s bad.

Paul convinces Camille to go back to the blood bank she works at to steal more bags. But when they get there, they learn there was a giant 20 car pile up on the expressway and all available blood in the area was picked up and transferred to the hospital. When Paul is confronted by the blood bank security guard, he stabs him. Which means the two of them are now wanted.

Paul and Camille will now have to infiltrate the hospital and get several of those blood bags so that Paul can get them back to Samy on time. But when they run late, Samy sends the big dogs after Paul. Which means now they’re not just trying to get blood, they’re trying to keep the blood that’s already inside them circulating.

There’s a moment in this script that convinced me this material was a cut above what I usually get from a screenwriter.

It occurs about midway through the screenplay. Paul and Camille are getting ice from a convenience store so they can keep the blood cold.

Literally, as they open up the freezer door to grab the ice, the big heavy, Seth, marches down the aisle. This guy is gigantic. He’s strong. He’s terrifying. And there’s no way around him. Their only option is to go through him.

Paul squares up against the guy for a fight.

Now, 99 times out of 100, in a genre screenplay like this, when this happens, our hero (in this case, Paul) channels this amazing ability to beat ass. He turns into this super-fighter and easily disposes of the threat.

Writers do this because it’s easy. And they think it’s going to look cool on screen.

But the truth of the matter is that so many characters do this these days, the audience has become numb to it. They’re bored. Which is why making this choice is boring.

Instead, in this script, Paul is overmatched. He takes a few swings but Seth handles him easily. He’s not just kind of stronger than Paul. He’s a million times stronger than Paul. So Paul gets his ass handed to him.

As I read this, I was so happy. Because this is what you should be doing in screenwriting. You should be making things hard for your hero. Not easy. If it’s easy for them, where’s the tension? Where’s the suspense? Where’s our fear that the hero is in danger?

That’s why this scene was so captivating to me. Because I feared for Paul. I had no idea how he was going to get out of this. As it so happens, he does get out of it. But it’s sloppy. It’s ugly. Things don’t go his way. But he’s able to take advantage of a couple of small opportunities to barely defeat Seth.

That spirit of dealing with obstacles in this unflattering difficult manner is what separated this script from so many others.

But it wasn’t the only thing. Something this script reminded me of was the power of a desperate character. When characters are desperate, they’ll do anything to achieve their goal. And we got a double dose of desperation in Sang Froid.

Both Paul and Camille are soooooo desperate for tonight to work out. Which necessitated that they engage in things they’d normally never engage in. You don’t break into a hospital to steal blood after the city’s police department has been notified of a man and a woman who just tried to rob a blood bank.

It’s not a smart move. But when you’re desperate, you have no choice. And that’s where things get really exciting in movies – when characters have to do dumb things because their situation warrants it.

Another thing I liked about this script is that it was STORY FIRST, VAMPIRES SECOND.

A lot of times genre writers love their genre so much that they want to spend dozens of pages introducing you to that world and touting the rules and screaming to the rooftops that this is a vampire movie and these are the ways my vampires live and vampire this and vampire that. Then, almost as an afterthought, they try and shoehorn a story into that.

Whereas, with Sang Froid, this was always a story first. Two people desperately need something and they spend the night trying to get that something and, oh yeah, vampire stuff pops up every once in a while. There’s no vampire vanity here. It only comes up when it needs to.

For example, Paul gets stabbed by the blood bank security guard early on and he starts bleeding. But the blood is cold and clear and runny. But we don’t dwell on that. They’re too busy. We’re then off to the next part of the story.

I love that. I love when the story takes precedence. That was my issue with Pinkerton, the JJ Abrams produced script I just reviewed in the newsletter. There were times where the writer seemed to want to get some point across about the world rather than fix the fact that his second act moved like a sloth in molasses.

Still another interesting thing about this script was the implied stakes. I’m usually a “MAKE THE STAKES CLEAR” guy. But they didn’t do that here. We didn’t quite know why Paul needed this blood tonight OR ELSE. We kind of had an idea. But we never went deep into the why. It was the mere fact that Paul seemed so desperate that we understood the stakes were high. At one point, he says to Camille, “What do you need in order to help me? Name your price.” She facetiously says, “A million dollars.” “Fine,” he replies. “You’ll have it by the end of tonight.”

That’s how high the stakes must have been. That he doesn’t blink at that kind of request.

Sang Froid is like the unofficial “grown up” sequel to Let the Right One In. It has that same tone. But it definitely feels more adult. I thought it was great. And I think it’s a great example of how to write a spec screenplay. A few characters. Sparse description. Keep the plot moving quickly. This is what all of you should be doing!

[ ] What the hell did I just read?
[ ] wasn’t for me
[ ] worth the read
[x] impressive
[ ] genius

What I learned: This script taught me that sexual tension works better when it’s an unexpected pairing. If you take two highly attractive people and they’re around the same age and their lives are going well and you try to create sexual tension off of that, you certainly can. But it’s going to be boring sexual tension because it’s so obvious. If you create sexual tension between people who would normally never be together, that’s a lot more intriguing. This dates all the way back to movies like Harold and Maude. You can see it in sitcoms today as well, such as with Andy and April Ludgate in Parks and Rec. We get most excited as an audience when there’s a spark where there wouldn’t normally be one. Paul is older and broken down. Camille is 19 and pregnant. There shouldn’t be anything here. And yet there is. And that’s a big reason why we keep turning the pages. We want to see what’s going to happen there.