We caught up with screenwriter Jeff Buhler recently for a lengthy conversation pertaining to his myriad projects, and while his scripted remakes of Pet Sematary, The Grudge, and Jacob’s Ladder were indeed touched upon (coverage on those coming soon), Buhler revealed to us Lotus Entertainment and Vinson Films’ directorial aims for his feature script Descendant.
“Right now they’re in talks with Nicholas McCarthy to direct,” offered Buhler, who is known to genre audiences for scripting 2008’s Clive Barker-inspired Midnight Meat Train and for writing and directing that year’s feature Insanitarium. “Nicholas is someone that’s been on our radar since we started the project,” he continued, “and we are all huge fans of both [of his films] The Pact and At the Devil’s Door. I think our sensibilities mesh well together so I’m excited.”
Slated to be produced by Tripp Vinson of Vinson Films with Lisa Zambri and Tara Farney executive producing alongside Lotus Entertainment, who are also financing, Descendant‘s synopsis is as follows:
Sarah and John Turner are overjoyed by the birth of their beautiful son, Miles. But as Miles grows older, he begins to show signs of genius level intelligence, which changes him in chilling ways, leaving his parents and doctors wondering if his talents are natural or if there is some other force influencing him.
Buhler offered of the narrative’s inspiration, “I was meeting with Vinson, and they had mentioned a news report about reincarnation which they had seen and they wanted to explore that world. It was funny because at that time my son was around six years old, and he was just wild and out of control. I remember sitting back one night thinking, ‘What if he turns into Hannibal Lecter? Wouldn’t that be crazy?’ I mean, I love my son, but sometimes kids do things where you wonder, ‘Where did that idea even come from?’ And then I started thinking, ‘What if those ideas come from somewhere specific? What if the reincarnation thing is real?’”
“A third of the people on this planet believe in reincarnation without question,” he continued, “so I started researching some real-life stories of reincarnation, and they were mind-blowing. They all seemed to have similar through-lines, where the children talk about people they don’t know and specific places in detail which they’ve never visited. And when the families research it, there’s often evidence that corroborates the details their child has communicated. The idea for me was, ‘What if that person who is in your child’s body was really scary? What if that person had unfinished business in this world and had come back for a dangerous reason?’”
“Something that’s important in the [Descendant] script,” he expounded, “is that there’s this concept of a natural soul that a child is born with at conception, and in the case of reincarnation there’s also a soul or an entity that’s returning from somewhere else, and you see the child oscillating between those two personalities. It’s fascinating. There are even stories where the entity is sometimes of the opposite gender. And then often, by the time the child is seven or eight, this internal conflict gets resolved, and they no longer have any knowledge of it. A lot of what transpires in this script has to do with the mother identifying those personalities inside her so, and the resulting battle of dominance that takes place. Eventually she is faced with having to help her son in that battle, and it presents some very interesting choices for her.”
Given the terrible tyke conceit, we queried the writer as to what previous films within that sub-genre, if any, had possibly influenced his approach.
“I love the ‘bad seed’ genre,” Buhler effused. “I thought Orphan was fantastic. On the surface there were all of the [needed horror] tropes, but there was an amazing mythology to it. It felt very plausible and realistic. And, of course, there are a handful of films within the genre from the 1970’s that I love; Audrey Rose is one of them. It is dear to my heart, and it really fucked me up as kid.”
Descendant is slated for a fall 2015 start of principal photography. Stay tuned for more.