Monday, April 27, 2015

Guest Post: The Movie that Made Me by William D. Prystauk

An award winning screenwriter, filmmaker, and educator, William D. Prystauk began writing stories when he still had hair. A former member of BDSM groups in New York and Philadelphia, he brings his knowledge of the subculture to BLOODLETTING, adapted from his script that won second place in the 2006 Screenwriter Showcase Screenwriting Contest and was the top mystery submission. He’s an assistant professor of English at Kutztown University of Pennsylvania. When not writing, he co-hosts The Last Knock horror podcast. Bill enjoys life with his wife, author and editor Ally Bishop, and their puppies. He’s proud of his alternative music and horror movie collections, and the fact that he never leaves any sushi behind. You can find more out about Bill at Here's the book description...
     Punk rocker and sadomasochist Denny Bowie, a “legwork guy” for a private investigation firm, is out to find the killer of five masochistic men and his childhood friend, fetish photographer Tommy Heat. He gets back with Penny Dallion, the Goth-girl of his dreams, and is enthralled by the hot and androgynous Erin Marr, his new boyfriend. While investigating Tommy’s murder, Denny discovers pictures missing from Tommy’s meticulous collection. These photos not only hold the key to the killer’s identity, but may also prove Penny’s involvement in the murders. Embroiled in New York’s vibrant S&M subculture, Denny revisits old haunts: fetish clubs in Greenwich Village. With the killer getting closer with each passing hour, Denny’s time is running out.
It was nighttime, and I was in Kearny, New Jersey’s Lincoln Theatre (better known as the Stinkin’ Lincoln) to watch a movie called Blade Runner.

I liked science fiction because it could take me anywhere, and that’s all I cared about. Sure, I loved Harrison Ford since Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back, and Rutger Hauer was cool, but before I became more of a lover of film, I hadn’t realized that it was directed by Alien’s Ridley Scott, my favorite movie of all time.
Right from the beginning, I was drawn into the dystopian atmosphere, and I didn’t mind what many had come to hate: Harrison Ford’s voiceover narration. But when I engaged Blade Runner, it was clear that this wasn’t a simple science fiction. Although some films in the genre had weight and merit, many lacked depth and seemed to be disposable when it came to value.

As I watched the film, the value grew. This wasn’t some silly story with freakish aliens and manly space captains, but something of intelligence that kept me mesmerized. And I became so absorbed in the story that when Roy Batty (Hauer) shoved his fingers deep into Dr. Tyrell’s (Joe Turkel’s) eyes as he crushed the man’s skull, I stood up and yelled, “He killed God!” It was safe to say that at sixteen, my mind had been blown.

Blade Runner asked one simple question: What is humanity? Sure, we all know what it is to be human, but what if you were a Replicant with an incep date and a four-year lifespan? Replicants looked human, but were emotionally under-developed, and although they could garner memories and engage in a human experience, they were slave labor to be discarded.

Granted, it sounds almost comical for a company to take the time to create something that doesn’t last as long as a cheap microwave, but the Tyrell Corporation did what they could simply because they could do it. Proving that their Replicants were “More human than human” filled the good doctor with pride. It was more about showing off what he could accomplish regardless of longevity. And it’s not that he hadn’t tried to extend their life spans, but that had failed.

Roy Batty was tough, and hostile, because he wanted “more time”, something many people wish for because we live with regret, guilt, and a sense of obligation that we may only realize is a waste of energy once we’re on our deathbeds. Roy also recognized at the end of his life, even though he appeared to be physically capable as well as good looking. On the surface, he had it all, including experiences “people wouldn’t believe”. But now that he had come back to our little blue ball after being off-world for nearly his entire existence, he wanted to embrace many more experiences.

In that scene with Dr. Tyrell where Roy murdered his maker, his “father”, I could imagine standing before whatever made me to demand the same extension of life.

The man sent to track down Roy and his compatriots, Blade Runner Deckard (Ford), seemed to be nothing more than a man on a mission, even though he had developed a disdain for killing Replicants or “skin jobs”. But if these Replicants weren’t human and ultimately didn’t count, why should Deckard feel anything for them? Deckard is human, and although the world is crumbling around him thanks to pollution and environmental destruction, he too is looking for some semblance of humanity among the garbage.

In this sense, protagonist and antagonist are the same: Deckard and Roy are two sides of the same coin. Though Deckard may think shooting down a Replicant female, in the back no less, is justifiable because she could harm the human population, Roy has no qualms about fighting for more time amongst the people who made him because he knows he’s disposable. If they don’t care about him, why should he care about any human who stands in his way? Deckard and Roy are kindred spirits separated by the slimmest of notions. And in Deckard’s case, killing off the escaped Replicants will allow him to retire (again) and become human (again) with whatever amount of time he has left in this world.

Although I did hate that voiceover after Roy passed on, where he too would fade like “tears in rain” as if he never existed at all, Deckard has a new lease on life. The stronger, more physically resilient Roy could have killed him, but since Roy knew his time was up, why not let something live? After all, Roy had lost everything. His lover, Pris (Darryl Hannah) had been killed by Deckard, and all his Replicant friends were gone. So were his only human connections to the world: Tyrell, his creator, as well as other minor deities who had developed his skin and eyes.

By letting Deckard live, Roy expressed the human trait of mercy, maybe the cornerstone of humanity. After all, as the premier species on the planet, to stop and not kill when other predators keep going says much about intelligence, decision-making, and control.

Deckard lived to fight – or just live – another day. He quickly learned that Roy and the others were human though they were artificial. And maybe that element of humanity could be found in other species of animal or straight-up robots. Humanity, therefore, isn’t for the human, but for the creature that wants to rise above the primordial essence of simply existing. To appreciate life, art, and culture without a cursory need to destroy or triumph.

Blade Runner and its theme cemented the fact that genre can have value and depth, and can certainly change us. As a writer, this helped me shape my stories in tone and theme. Not simply, “What am I trying to say?” but to try and write something people would want to talk about and reflect upon regardless of genre and perceived validity outside of academic circles.

When I left the Stinkin’ Lincoln that night, Blade Runner burned red hot in my mind and forced me to ask questions of life, commitment, desire – humanity – and how far one must go to make something happen for the better. Ultimately, this is what all great stories do: engage the audience to ask questions. Thanks to Blade Runner, I never looked at science fiction the same way again, and I only wish more films could have the humanity to help us embrace more questions about our existence.

 Here’s where you can find Bloodletting:
Book trailer on YouTube

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