Another week, another story. I'm on vacation from my day job, and I've been spending it revising earlier stories one last time so I can send them out to some editors. I'm also starting to revise my novel, currently called The Dream Sutra. Haven't quite decided if I'm going to post it here yet.
This one is kind of a love letter to a youth spent watching cheesy movies, especially on Mystery Science Theater 3000. It was inspired by a certain independent movie I'd seen shortly before my trip to Boston. And if you've never seen a Rifftrax Live show, I highly recommend it.
You have no idea how much fun the screenplay portions were to write. Credit goes to J. Michael Straczynski's The Complete Book of Scriptwriting for help with the format. I'd also like to thank Morgan Hoo for his input.
THE END OF THE RAINBOW, STARRING...
For their first date, Derek took Mena to a very bad movie. The theater downtown hosted a midnight screening of Tommy Wiseau's cinematic turd, The Room. Derek had missed previous screenings, and Mena hadn't seen the movie at all. People came in costume, tossed footballs around, threw plastic spoons at the screen, and shouted along with the most notorious lines.
Mena kept laughing as they walked through the lobby after the movie. "That was awful." She brushed a red curl from her face. "But so awesome."
"I know, right?" Derek had his arm around her. "It's like, he's trying to make a good movie, but it turns out so bad. And it's bad because he's trying so hard to make it good. But then it gets so bad it's fun." He paused for breath. "And he compares it to Tennessee Williams!"
Mena laughed. "You've got to be kidding me."
Derek opened the door into the dark, misty night.
"It's true," he said. "And after people started making fun of it, he started saying it was a black comedy, that he meant for people to laugh at it."
"That is pretty bad. It's tearing me apart, Derek." Mena chuckled. "You know, he reminds me of an old boyfriend. Most pretentious guy I'd ever met." She sighed. "I forgot how much fun that could be. I went to a few Rocky Horror shows back in Sacramento. Now those were fun."
"You know, they're showing Rocky Horror next week."
"Oh yeah, I saw the poster." She grabbed his arm. "Derek, we should go. I've still got my old Magenta costume--we can dress up."
Derek could definitely see her as Magenta. Mena in a maid outfit...
"Sounds like fun," he said. "Although I'm not sure I wanna go out in my underwear."
"Don't worry, you can borrow some of mine."
Derek blushed. This was almost going too fast for him. "Maybe I'll go as Riff-Raff instead."
He unlocked the car. They got in, and he started. The car roared like a chainsaw, but at least it worked.
"It's just amazing, you know?" Derek said. "The Room. I mean, he talks like he's stoned out of his mind, and has cotton in his mouth. Every time I watch it, I wonder what the hell was going through his head when he made it. At some point, made a deliberate decision on what to do, what to say, what to cut out, and it was always, always wrong."
"I can believe it," Mena said. "I knew a few film majors back in school, and they could be so full of themselves. You could tell them everything wrong with their work, even give them useful criticism, and they'd just say, 'Oh, you're trying to stifle my artistic freedom.'"
"What was their stuff like?"
"Well, one of them..." She cringed, as if she had to unclog a toilet. "His name was Danny. Thought he was the next Scorsese. When we were in school, he made this big movie he said was going to take to Cannes, or Sundance. It was awful. He had no idea how to build a story or frame a shot. He'd give the actors these stupid lines and yell at them when they went off script. He'd contradict himself all the time--one take, your character would be comic relief, the next he'd be a gruff badass. It was so frustrating."
"Sounds pretty bad. Were you involved at all?"
She glared at Derek. "Involved with him or the movie?"
"Uh..." Derek felt a chill. He wasn't sure how to answer, so he gave the honest one. "Both, I guess."
She sighed again. "Okay. Yeah. The answer's both. I went out with him for a while, and I helped him make it."
"This isn't the old boyfriend you mentioned, is it?"
"That's him. The pretentious one."
Derek wanted to change the subject from old boyfriends. "What about the movie? Did you do camera work or something? You're a pretty good photographer, from what you showed me."
"No, not quite like that."
"So..." Derek could feel himself blowing it. She was grimacing, he was sweating, and all this lousy baggage was coming up.
She sighed one more time. "I was in it."
Derek gripped the steering wheel, stared straight ahead. All he knew before was that she liked bad movies. They'd even met while browsing Mystery Science Theater DVD's.
"You were, huh?"
"It was a small part," Mena said. "Danny offered me the main love interest, but it had too many nude scenes."
"But you were in it."
"It wasn't very important. Didn't even affect the plot--not that anything did."
Derek still couldn't believe it. "How bad was it?"
"Bad. Very bad. The Room bad. MST bad. So bad we never released it. You can't even find it on YouTube."
"You're kidding. What's it called?"
"The End of the Rainbow. It's a crime movie."
Derek burst out laughing. "'End of the--' No way. That is not real. I have to see that."
"That's not going to happen."
Derek rattled. "Do you have a copy?"
She pursed her lips and stayed silent. Derek could see her stomping out of his car, and refusing to speak to him again. Why did he have to dredge this up?
"Never mind," he said. "If you don't want me to see it, I don't have to. Lord knows I wouldn't want anybody to see the embarrassing stuff I did in college."
Mena looked away, out the window. "It's okay."
They arrived at Mena's apartment. Derek walked her up to the door, and she unlocked it. "Wait here." She darted in. Derek heard some rustling. Mena emerged and handed him a sticker-labeled DVD in an envelope. "This is it. The End of the Rainbow. Tell me what you think." She hung her head, and kept her eyes away.
Derek looked at the DVD. The label was a plain-white envelope sticker with the title scrawled in Sharpie. "If I like it, will you go get coffee with me?"
"Just tell me what you think." She sighed. "I had a good time, all things considered."
"Yeah, me too. Sorry."
Derek went home, and went to bed.
First thing in the morning, he put on the movie.
THE END OF THE RAINBOW
an original screenplay
by Danny Ellis
INT - GARTH'S APARTMENT BUILDING - EARLY MORNING
We open on an average apartment door in an average hallway. It opens, and GARTH PRECONN walks out with massive determination. He is a street-smart badass with a heart of gold. He surveys the hallway like it's his own kingdom.
Garth, remember to buy me some foot cream while you're out!
Close up on Garth as he looks over his shoulder, giving the camera a good look at his chiseled face and determined stare. It's a determination from years of living on the street, where life is hard, so hard you need a chainsaw to cut through it.
He walks to the elevator at the end of the hall. His determined stare is not hindered by his duties. He farts, really loud, like he's laying waste to the world behind him. He waves his hand in front of his nose.
The elevator door opens up and he walks in there.
INT - ELEVATOR - SAME TIME
In there with him is Betany, a smoking hot babe he's had eyes on for a while. Close up to Garth, then Betany, who smiles, then Garth, who longs to tell her how he really feels. Then back to the medium shot of both of them.
Hey, what's up, girl? You know, I've had my eye on you for a while.
You don't say. I'll bet that's not the only thing you want on you.
They make out. They get out of the elevator together and go outside. Betany points up.
EXT - OUTSIDE GARTH'S APARTMENT BUILDING - SAME TIME
Look, a rainbow.
There's a rainbow.
You know how they say a leprechaun keeps his gold at the end of a rainbow?
Of course, I've heard the legends.
Just you wait, baby. I'm gonna get to the end of the rainbow, and grab that gold.
Naw, bitch. I'm just using a metaphor. You'll see. I'm gonna make us rich.
It almost made The Room look competent. The camera tilted everything off-balance; the lighting cloaked everyone in shadow; scenes progressed with more intensity than they needed. And the acting! Danny Ellis butchered his character. He obviously intended Garth Preconn as a tough gangster, but instead he pouted like a Twilight reject. He recited his lines with such a dry monotone that Derek started pretending Garth was a Vulcan.
The story, if you could call it that, showed the rise and fall of a young gangster. After that stupid opening scene, he gets into drug dealing, makes thousands of dollars, blows it on more drugs, and finally dies in a police shootout. All with almost no conflict or tension at all. Everything just happened, because it was supposed to happen. It might as well have been on autopilot.
Even the shootout lacked a buildup. Cops show up, shots are fired, the end.
The random, misplaced fart jokes did not help.
And just as Mena said, there was an awful lot of nudity. Almost every female character in the movie appeared topless, slept with Garth, or made out with him. Or all of the above.
Then there was Mena.
EXT - PUSSY WHIP PARKING LOT - NIGHT
WIDE. Garth drives his pickup to the Pussy Whip, the most popular club on the West End.
INT - PUSSY WHIP - SAME TIME
Garth walks in, and there are some smoking hot babes dancing and jiggling their titties and everybody's having a good time. Garth is holding a duffel bag full of crack. A stripped greets him and leads him to the dressing room.
INT - PUSSY WHIP DRESSING ROOM - SAME TIME
Four hot strippers are waiting there. All of them are topless except for Dena. They're doing their hair or something. They stop whatever they're doing and go up to him perkily.
Hey, you got the stuff?
Right here, babe.
Garth lays the bag on the table and opens it and pulls out a smaller bag of coke. The bitches are all over him and stuff, but he holds them back.
Easy, ladies. One at a time.
He hands the first bag to Dena.
Here you go, girl.
Thanks, Garth. You're so hot when you bring me my blow.
He passes a bag to each stripper. Dena lines her stuff up and snorts it.
She goes up to Garth and starts tongue kissing him and licking his face. The other strippers join in. It's totally hot. He totally does all of them. Yeah.
Well, she got out of it without getting naked, at any rate. But that was definitely Mena, playing the stripper Dena. She didn't even get a clever name. Derek could see why she didn't want him to see it. He could also see why she might have broken up with Danny. Or moved out of California.
He thought, oddly enough, of Ed Wood, the Tim Burton movie. Ed--in real life, one of the worst directors of all time--shows his script for Glen or Glenda to his girlfriend Dolores. It is basically Ed's confession to the world--and her--that he is a transvestite. Their relationship only crumbles from there.
Mena's movie wasn't on the same level, but it probably meant something similar to her. Derek understood. Frankly, she stunk. She mumbled, and lacked any energy and enthusiasm. Lucky for her she didn't get a bigger part, because only Danny Ellis sucked worse than her. And the worst part was, Derek laughed. The movie was hilarious. Here was a girl he truly liked, and he was laughing at her.
But as he thought about it, he wondered, why let him see it at all? Why put him through this? Why put herself through this? If she was so worried, did that mean she thought this was going somewhere? That this might work out?
He called her. "I watched it."
Silence, for a moment. "What'd you think?" Mena said.
"Told you so. How was I?"
"You can say it."
"Tell you what, you still want to get coffee later? I'll pay. Will that make up for your suffering?"
"Sure." He definitely wanted to see her. "Five o'clock good for you?"
They said goodbye, and Derek hung up with so much more to say. He stored it up through the day. He visited his dad, bought some screws and nails, and went to the library for their internet. He looked up The End of the Rainbow. Just as Mena said, he couldn't find anything on it, even on imdb. The closest results on YouTube were either "double rainbow" parodies, Lucky Charms commercials, or Sesame Street songs.
He drove up to Mena's apartment at ten 'til five. When she answered the door, they stared at each other, each waiting for the other to speak first.
"Well, come in," Mena said.
Her apartment was cramped, but she kept it pretty neat. A worn-looking desk-lamp iMac sat on the desk, and a small flatscreen TV hung on the wall beside it, surrounded by black-and-white photos, obviously taken by Mena. Trees, parks, desert roads, LAN parties, beaches. He had only seen a little of her photography before, on her phone. She was good.
"Okay," Mena said. "What'd you think? Of me?"
"Honestly?" Derek said. "You weren't very good. I mean, the whole movie sucked, but you..." He looked into her eyes, on the same face that had to act like a stripper. "I guess acting just wasn't your strong suit. And it's not like you had the best part, or the best director. Hell, just look at what George Lucas did to his actors. It's not like I can judge, either. I've tried acting before, back in middle school, and I sucked, too." He rested his hands on his hips. "But look, I just want to say, I really like you, and I want to make this work. Okay, so you made this terrible, terrible movie. I actually had fun watching it."
Her head perked up. "You did?"
"Yeah, I mean, it was just hilarious watching this Danny Ellis guy screw up so bad. It was like he was trying to suck."
"What about my scene?"
"It was lousy. And funny." Derek scratched the back of his neck. "Actually, it was pretty riffable. If you ever felt like it, I wouldn't mind watching it with you, so we could riff it together."
"You mean, like, make fun of it?"
"Yeah. Tear Danny a new one. I mean, it's just a suggestion." He let out a chuckle. "Frankly, I think it's pretty cool that I'm going out with someone from a bad movie."
Mena brushed her hair out of her eye. "You sure about watching it? You might not live through my performance next time."
Derek shrugged. "We don't have to."
"I'm starting to like the idea. But my scene..."
"If you're embarrassed, we can skip it. Not like it affected the plot, right?"
"Not like anything affected the plot."
Derek laughed, and then Mena laughed. Mena turned and pondered over the TV. She opened up the DVD player and held out her hand. Derek handed her the DVD.
"Sit down," Mena said. "Want something to drink?"
They never went out for coffee. By the time either one remembered it, they were halfway through the movie. Mena ordered pizza instead. They riffed up a storm. Derek found fun places to say, "Damn pancakes." Mena said a vapid valley-girl phrase whenever Betany showed up. And they did watch Mena's scene. She was even first to crack jokes at it.
The credits rolled. Mena leaned back, her head on Derek's arm, and exhaled slowly. "Man, how long have I been holding that back?"
"You needed it," Derek said. "So what finally did it? What made you decided to dump him?"
"I caught him sleeping with whatshername--that girl who played Betany. Funny thing is, a little while after that, I found out he was sleeping with someone else behind her back."
"He triple timed you."
"Yep. Last I heard he was working tech support for some video game company. I think that's a much better use of his talents, don't you?"
"Definitely," Derek said. "I mean, that was--it was like he tried to remake Scarface based only on what I know about Scarface, which is just that 'Say hello to my little friend' line. Can you believe that last scene? What'd he use for blood, house paint? And the dialogue! What was he--"
Mena rolled over and kissed him. "Thanks for coming over, Derek. I had a good time."
"Me too, Mena. Still wanna do Rocky Horror next week?"
"You know it."
They left the TV on, and that was the last they said of The End of the Rainbow the rest of the night.
INT - GARTH'S HIDEOUT - NIGHT
Garth's hiding away from the cops. He's got stubble and some Jack Daniel's and some last few ounces of drugs. He's almost lost everything. He's drunk. Piss drunk. I mean, really drunk. Totally hammered. Someone knocks at the door.
Betany comes in.
It's time, Garth.
I think you know.
Maybe I don't.
And I think you do, Garth. The cops are on the way.
Wha? Shit, girl, I'm glad you told me.
No, you see, I'm the one who told them. I told them everything.
You did what?
I squealed. I tattled. I played canary. I gave 'em the whole story. They're gonna put you away, away for a long time.
How could you do this?
You played me. You cheated on me, made out with all those chicks, left me high and dry. You remember what you promised, don't you?
Refresh my memory.
The end of the rainbow. I'm still looking, Garth. Where is it?
You want the end of the rainbow? Here it is, skank!
He gets up and shoots her five, maybe six times. She staggers back and slides down the wall. There's another knock at the door.
It's the police. We're here to arrest you for the drugs.
You'll never take me alive, coppers.
Don't resist arrest, Garth.
You want me, come and get me.
All right, you asked for it. This is the end of the rainbow, and I'm your pot of gold.
Show me what you got!
He pulls out his gun as the door opens. Fade to black as we hear gunshots in the background.
POLICE (still offscreen)
We told you not to resist, Garth. Now you're dead.
Credits roll, and the audience pauses to take in how awesome that was. Right?