Rejected Movie Pitches #4 Vertical Limit 2: Horizontal Limit – Side by Side

Patagonia.jpg

The following work currently stands incomplete due to a lack of funding, or interest from the studios. One Sony Executive described it as “The most heinous piece of garbage I’ve seen since Schindler’s List 2: He Know’s Who Has Been Naughty, He Knows Who Has Been Reich”. Then there’s the general apathy of the writer, who seems unable to knock out more than one scene of a screenplay’s first draft without it descending into an extended farcical abstraction, but without the humanity or the charm of the likes of Kaufman, Shane Black, or Martin McDonagh’s. Please enjoy and, if you can spare it, please give me some money.

Title(s):

  •  Horizontal Limit – Side by Side (working title)
  • Vertical Limit II – Left and Right is the New Up
  •  Sidle by Me
  • Event Horizontal (too easily confused with Event Horizon (1997) starred by Laurence Burnfish)
  • Vertical Limit 2: 3-Foot Vert (obscure reference to Hot Rod (2007) not suitable)
  • Sideways (already taken, by Sideways (2004) staring Paul G. Amaretto)
  • Vertical Limit 2: Rock Bottom (takes place at the bottom of a rock; good, but discarded because of director Tom Cruise’s own hitting bottom through his Flight Simulator addiction)
  • Limit 2: Operation Traverse
  • Walk the Circumference Line… of a Mountain (the associate producer’s suggestion)
  • Untitled Vertical Limit (2000) Reboot/Sequel/Project

The Pitch:  In this long awaited sequel to the BAFTA-nominated Extreme Sports Action Adventure Disaster film Vertical Limit (2000), professional rock climber and mountaineer Peter Garrett finds himself stuck at the base of a mountain having been struck down by a severe case of ennui, and is thus unable to begin his ascent.

Abandoned by his unfaithful sherpas, and incapable of finding the will to move or live, Peter’s philosophical imprisonment is compounded by the very real threat of  recurring volcanic eruptions, which surround the entire mountain in molten lava and smoke, making his base camp inaccessible by land. A series of awesomely destructive out of season cyclones, occurring in the wrong hemisphere, also make the mountain impenetrable to air rescue. Only a small portion of the mountain can be reached, but it’s on the opposite side of the gigantically wide mountain to Peter’s whereabouts.

Peter’s estranged sister, Annie, assembles a team of crack traversers (sideways climbers), led by world famous mountain circumnavigator Sir Edney Hill-Shack, to save her brother, in doing so returning the favour of his saving her sorry life back in the year 2000, in the film Vertical Limit (2000). But this is Horizontal Limit. And this time, they’re going all the way. All the ways. Sideways.

In an all out non-stop hold-your-breath nail-biting edge-of-your-seat adventure romance thriller about the dangers of horizontal mountaineering, familial bonds, and forbidden love, our heroes come face to face with Mother Nature’s most ferocious weapons: bad weather, opiate addiction, and hunger.

They also encounter the most prominent of the surviving members of the Mountain Rescue Team from the triple Oscar-nominated Extreme Sports Action Adventure Crime Thriller film Cliffhanger (1993), Gabe Walker (Sylvester Stallone), Jesse Deighan (Janine Turner), and Hal Tucker (Michael Rooker of The Walking Dead), who have been stranded and left for dead* by the infamous maverick helicopter pilot ‘Maniac’ Frank (Ralph Waite), who as it turns out orchestrated the entire Machiavellian plot in Cliffhanger (1993) – villain John Lithgow was only the muscle, while Frank was the  brains of the operation this whole time!

These beloved characters will appear because the films Vertical Limit (2000) and Cliffhanger (1993) took place within the same cinematic universe, and crossover pictures are very popular these days, and we really need a big hard hitting** name like Stallone to grab the public’s attention. As Roger Ebert was wont to say, “When you’ve got movies like Sylvester Stallone in them, you can’t lose!”.

*Not to be confused with Left 4 Dead, a popular FPS Zombie video game series, and very different from The Walking Dead starring Michael Rooker – although one of the characters in said game was very obviously based on the Walking Dead comic book, or ‘graphic novel’ version of his character. Tangentially, The Walking Dead has been adapted into a number of video game genres, including RTS, Point-and-Click-Puzzle, RPS, as well as a lucrative Mobile Phone Gambling App.

**Hard hitting because Sylvester Stallone starred in the Rocky motion pictures, which were written about hitting stuff – professional boxers, slaughtered carcasses, women*** – hard.

***Correction: The domestic abuse was in the boxing movie Raging Bull, and certainly did not feature in the family-friendly Rocky franchise.

Script Length: 214 pages (tbc)

Estimated Budget: $100,000,000 (NB: Assuming all cast agree to work for scale pay, which they ought to given the exciting and artistic appeal of this commercially viable long-in-the-making passion project) (Budget estimate does not cover probable lengthy rehab stay expenses for director Tom Cruise nor the concurrent filming breaks)

Director: Tom Cruise

Cast: Robin Tunney, Chris O’Donnell, Steve LeMarquand, Christopher Walken, Well Known Character Actor, Ben Mendehlson (cameo flashback), Up and Coming Action Film Actor, Bill Paxton (cameo flashback) (Rest in Peace Bill Paxton, 1955-2017), Up and Coming Starlet Who is a Model, Sylvester Stallone, Michael Rooker, Janine Turner, Ralph Waite, Can We Get Scarlett Johansson? She’s in Everything These Days, And What About Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson He’s Good Isn’t He?

VerticalLimitRetroCrew

The LIMIT crew circa 1999.

Sample Scene: Act 2 – Scene 7 – Take 4 – Action!

EXT. Day – A Sprawling Patagonian Mountain Range

The scene opens on the rescue mission team as they traverse along the wall at the base of a gigantic mountain that couldn’t possibly exist in reality. They are linked together with ropes, which are attached to the wall using multi-pitch trad gear so that they do not accidentally stray from the mountain or, worse, begin to climb it.

 Leading the haggard group of adventurers is mountain circumnavigation legend Sir Edney Hill-Shack, the first man to walk around Everest and the discoverer the world’s smallest mountain in Antarctica, which was formerly thought to just be a landlocked iceberg.

CLOSE UP on Hill-Shack

Sir Edney Hill-Shack: Day six. Supplies running low. Setting aside a few doses of morphine in case I need to end myself using… artificial means. Keeping the rest for personal morale purposes. The farther we shuffle sideways, the wider the mountain seems to become. Not slept in two nights now, and it’s all the same. Ground. Wall. Earth. Snow. Not that much snow though- this whole expedition takes place at the very the base of the mountain. How long before we find Master Garrett? How long is a piece of string? Ours is long enough, I hope, to run the length from  basecamp to the other side of the mountain, where we shall find Peter, our lost mountaineer. Otherwise there’s no going back, and we may lose track by accidentally climbing up the mountain, to our inevitable deaths.

Ruefully placing trad climbing protection into the wall which they are sideways climbing, Hill-Shack strokes his pain killers pouch with his free hand.

Malcolm: You DO know you’re supposed to say that diary monologue stuff into a voice recorder machine, right?

Mountain Climber #2: Haha! Too right, mate!

Mountain climbers #2 and #4 slap Malcolm on the back.

Sir Edney Hill-Shack: How dare you, you upstarts! You pipe puffing ingrates! This is a private journal!

Malcolm: Then maybe you should write it down, not say it out loud for the whole rescue party to hear. Way to raise our spirits, sir. 

Sir Edney Hill-Shack: Do not spit my title so derisively. That proud, lone syllable contains more meaning than your whole worthless life. Do you even know how many mountain circumferences I have conquered? How many flags I have planted at the bottom of summits after walking all the way around them, right back again to where I started from?

Malcolm: I mean, in films they sometimes write down the journal and we see the words transposed on screen in a handwritten scrawl accompanied with the author’s voice narrating the journal’s contents. In modern times though, mate, the times which we’re in, people use Dictaphones. When no one else can hear them talk about their rampant morphine addiction.

Annie Garrett, the heroine of Vertical Limit, chimes in, as she securely fastens herself to the wall by placing a large metal lump (called a hex) into a crack in the rock face.

Annie: Hey, come on, that’s going too far.

Malcolm: I think someone needs to put Sir Shit Shack in his place. Give him a slice of reality. Maybe we should hold an intervention right now.

Malcolm nonchalantly continues removing cams and nuts from the wall as he progresses along the rock face. 

Annie: Sir Edney has battled with opiate dependence ever since he had his feet amputated because of gangrenous blisters following the world’s first successful circumnavigation of Everest in 1943, ten years before anyone had even climbed it. You really want him going into withdrawal right at this moment?

Malcolm: Not my problem. He should have brought more morphine, in that case. Could you at least tell him to stop verbally predicting our impending and painful demise?

Annie: Relax, it’s probably just an old habit from his heydays. That was the done thing. Prepare for the worst, kinda thing. Right, Hilly?

Sir Edney Hill-Shack: Quite right.

Annie: Helps calm him down, see.

Malcolm: Right. I guess we’d all be a lot calmer if we dosed ourselves with medicinal morphine like he does every four waking hours.

Mountain Climber #7: Haha!

Annie: How about you shut up and let him alone, huh? He’s our guide, and the world’s foremost expert on walking around the bases of mountains.

Malcolm: No. No! You shut up, Annie! You shut up! You were only in the first Limit film so that it could pass the Bechdel Test. Which it barely does, by the way!

Mountain Climber #9: Amen!

Annie: Malcolm, you fucking died in the first Limit movie. Consider yourself lucky to be written into the sequel. Now go smoke another bowl or something.

Malcolm: I’m not Malcolm, Malcolm’s in Nirvana now. His joint puffs litter the sky as clouds.

In solemn remembrance, Not Malcolm takes a swift toke from a glass pipe which has been handed to him by Mountain Climber #9.

Not Malcolm: I’m Cyril, his twin brother. Remember, the one with the marijuana leaf bandana? Cheech and Chong save me, I’m surrounded by crazy people. Fuck you, Annie, and your incompetent brother!

Annie: Oops…that’s my bad, Cyril. How did I forget that? We’ve been with each other all day for a week solid, now. Maybe I’m too high. Not literally, because we’re at ground level, occasionally dipping below sea level when we need to navigate gulches. So I can’t blame it on the altitude…

As if to pause for dramatic effect, she rips open a delicious and energy-giving White Chocolate and Macadamia Clif Bar [Horizontal Limit may or may not be sponsored by Clif Bar], and chomps right into its dense, chewy centre. 

Annie cont.: but I am blaming it on your incessant bong ripping. Probably got a damn contact buzz from scrambling behind you all day. Your brother was worse though, that’s probably why he let that nitroglycerine canister leak out into sunlight and blow him and his partner to shreds. Rest in pieces! Ha!

Malcolm Cyril: You have NO right to talk about my brother that way. NO RIGHT, y’hear! And as for mocking our family saying, “Rest in (Reeces) Pieces”, which we coined in honour of late Malcolm’s love of the pocket sized peanut butter cup treat [Horizontal Limit may or may not be sponsored by Reeces Pieces], that’s going too far, lady.

Annie: Lady? Who’s failing the Bechdel Test now? I have a name, you know. Goddam stoner.

Cyril: My dialogue’s written for me. Just like everyone else. That sick fuck typing away while drinking his fifth hot chocolate of the day controls everything. You can’t stop him. As for your comments RE: My smoking – it’s a harmless past time. I’m not the one whose lifelong opiate addiction has left us without any painkillers to treat your dumb shit brother. If we find him, that is.

Annie: Oh, so he’s dumb now. Why? Is it because he dared try what you never had the courage to do? He was making history while you were making a trip to the gas station for more potato chips.

Mountain Climber #5: Haha, oh shit, mate!

Mountain Climber #5 takes a long drag from a shiny Sprite [Horizontal Limit may or may not be sponsored by Sprite] can he has fashioned into a makeshift bong.

Mountain Climber #5: [mumbles very quietly to self] Shit me, even after downing its delicious, bubbly contents, this Sprite stuff just keeps on giving. I sure am glad I brought a whole crate of delicious Sprite pop with me on this mountain journey. Ahhh, Sprite. I wonder if they sponsor athletes. I hope they give me a sponsorship. I can do all the tricks all the climbers do. Sprite.

Cyril: Right, that’s it, that’s enough Annie. First you go in on my dead brother, then you go after my own shortcomings as a mountaineer. Not everyone can change history, Annie! Some people, believe it or not, just want to live their lives. And yes, that  means weed and potato chips sometimes.

Mountain Climber #420: I’m already there, dude.

Coughing and spluttering, Mountain Climber #420 unleashes a dragon’s breath of haze smoke, before munching on Larry the Cable Guy ‘Boy, That’s Good Eatin’!’ Cheeseburger Flavoured Tater Chips [Horizontal Limit is contractually obliged to feature a different flavoured bag of Larry the Cable Guy Tater Chips ‘Boy, That’s Good Eatin’!’ potato chips range per scene] grinning with pleasure as the tantalising crumbs spill out and onto his mountaineering gear.

CableGuy

Larry the Cable Guy’s Tater Salad Tater Chips are also Good Eatin’, Boy.

Annie: Stop masking your lack of courage with these pathetic excuses. You have no ambition, Mr Bench. Never had, never will.

Cyril: Well maybe if your brother died too then you’d start to appreciate life a little, instead of just jumping from one country  and one drama to the next in some never ending search for inner peace. Maybe it’d be for the best if your brother copped it. By his own account he doesn’t want to live, anyway.

Annie: Now you listen here –

Cyril: Nah. Let’s listen to your brother Pete instead. Johhno, get Peter Garrett on the satellite telephone again.

Johnno: Righto!

Johnno whips out the sat tel and dials Pete.

Annie: That’s really not necessary, Johnno. Peter is probably resting, saving his energy, he won’t want to t-

Johnno: S’ringin’!

Cyril: Punch it on loudspeaker, mate.

Johnno turns on the sat tel’s loudspeaker function.

Peter: This is Peter.

Annie: Petey, honey, how ya doing?

Cyril: Ayyy, Petey, my boy, how’s basecamp life? Lonely, I bet!

Annie: Ignore Cyril, Pete, he’s just high again. How are you?

Peter: I am how… I am. Here, but… gone.

Annie: Ummm…

Mountain Climber #1: He’s really lost the plot now. Like me, with this movie!

Peter: We are all how we are, are we not?

Cyril: Damn right we are Pete, damn right. Anyways we were all just wondering, are you still thinking of maybe dying?

Annie: Cyril!

Cyril: Because, if y’are, then maybe you could do us all a favour and let us know. That way we can all pack up and get home, maybe get out of this thing alive to climb again another day.

Annie: Don’t pay attention to that dopehead loser, Peter, he doesn’t know –

CUT TO…

EXT. DAY – The other side of the Patagonian mountain.

Peter sat alone on a crate in the full lotus position, his tent beside him, in the shade of the non-existent Patagonian mountain. 

Peter: It’s fine, Annie. He knows what it is to truly suffer, as do I. There is little to live for but that which is edible now. The crate I’m sitting atop has two hundred Clif energy bars that need eating before they expire – I aim to polish them off before I expire myself. This is what I am reduced to. He with his marijuana and his sodium-rich munchables, me with my chewy baked snackettes embedded with nuts, pieces of carrot cake, or chocolate chips.

SLOW ZOOM OUT

As the camera draws back we see the earth around Peter littered with a disturbing number of Clif Bar wrappers. 

CUT BACK TO…

EXT. Late Afternoon – Back on the other side of the Patagonian mountain

Cyril: See, Annie, he’s fine. Peter, I know we’ve asked you before, but could we persuade you to start walking towards us? It’d really cut down the journey for everyone involved. We’d be gone in half the time and we’d be really grateful to you for it.

Annie: We would, Pete. We’d be so so happy. Then we could all go home and plan our next trip together, just like in the old days when dad was alive.

Peter: Goodbye, Annie. Goodbye all. I go now to ponder the mighty summit. Do not try to disturb my meditation. You will not be able to reach me on this device again.

SPLIT-SCREEN – The image is split diagonally between the rescue team and Peter.

Sounds of repeated thudding and crackling, as we watch Peter smashing the satellite telephone against a rock until the casing breaks, the insides spill out, and the line goes dead. 

FULL SCREEN – Peter’s half closes out. Back with the rescue team now.

Cyril: Look what you’ve gone and done now!

Annie: That was my fault?! Are you for real?!

Cyril: Course it bloody was. I don’t see why you’d choose a time like this to bring up your father’s mountaineering related death, in which he plummeted thousands of feet to the earth while screaming, but hey, you know your own brother better than I do.

Annie: Don’t you talk about my father. He was a great man. You don’t know shit about what it takes to be a real –

As Annie and Cyril bicker, Sir Edney Hill-Shack leans against the side of a rock face and looks on despairingly.

Sir Edney Hill-Shack: Day six, continued. Morale has crumbled, like a mountainous log cabin beneath an avalanche. Not sure how long we can go on like this. Our goal is to save Peter Garrett, but even if we do achieve that, his sanity is beyond saving now. That much has become clear to me. At least he has a steady stock of Clifs – they make for good company when one’s without companions in the wilderness. On a personal note: No morphine doses since luncheon. It is time for a topping up. On such a trip proper nourishment of the body and the soul is essential. For morale purposes. The sun will be going down soon I expect, and as we press on around this accursed mountain’s circumference – the only which I have failed to vanquish in my decorated seventy year career – we step further beneath its foreboding shadow, the rays of our closest star kept at bay by this rocky monstrosity. Soon we will reach the point of no return. I have not told our pitiful party of this, but a third of the way around there is a small natural ramp which, once descended, cannot be ascended by any means other that vertical wall climbing, which of course requires vast amounts of impractical manoeuvring and energy wasting. I, for one, refuse to take part. My vertigo won’t allow for it. Upwards climbing is such a dirty pursuit anyway. Not like traversing. To go to the side is the purest form of climbing there is. To dance with the mountain – that is the very essence of life.

Mountain Climber #21: The fuck did he just say?

Sir Edney Hill-Shack: Once we make the leap, or rather the short slide, down the aforementioned ramp, there can be no turning back. From there we can only press on, all the way around, right around the mountain to the point at which we started. We are trapped on the very edge. Hanging on for all we hold dear, the base of the mountain our only lifeline against the uncaring elements that would destroy us all. Will we last out the week? Or will the week outlast us? This is a tale yet to be told, and indeed, I believe….

Mountain Climber 69: He’s off his rocker. Get it? His rock-er?

Mountain Climber X-Rated: You’re the worst, man.

Sir Edney Hill-Shack: … furthermore, that there can be no woman without man, nor man without woman. And then it follows, no upwards ascent without a horizontal ascent to precede it. Man owns the land, but not the sky. And gravity dictates all that we do. To defy the natural physical order of the world is to commit grave folly, and….

Neither Cyril or Annie are listening to this monologue, as their argument has escalated into a physical fight which is serving as an outlet for the sexual desires they secretly hold for one another but will not reveal until the final act.

With an effort and profundity no one else in the film could be capable of, Hill-Shack squints upwards to observe a darkening sky. He announces himself in a booming voice which manages to put a hold to the fistfight between our two juxtaposed heroes.

Sir Edney Hill-Shack: The sun, she sets, and we are forced to camp! Retreat to the safety of your tents, men. And woman. Night is a cruel mistress, dear fellows, something which I learned at the expense of both my feet. I could not see that they were slowly turning to blackened, bloodied stumps, leaving me as you see me now – a decrepit shell of my former self, hobbling away on flip flops that have been permanently glued to the base of my splintered shin bones. To no one else shall this fate befall. To camp! To camp! Tooooo caaaaaaaamp!

Mountain Climber XXX: Hey, guys, you ever notice how there’s no stationary basecamp in mountain circumnavigation? Because you’re always at the base, so it moves each time you camp! Ha!

In swift procession, all forty seven of the small tight-knit elite rescue team slap the jokester across his youthful face for making such a half-baked play on words; all except Sir Edney Hill-Shack, that is, for he is already swimming in an opiate induced reverie the like of which he has never experienced, having accidentally taken the undiluted morphine he was saving as an emergency suicide measure. The team will find him in  in his seal skin tent the next morning, lying on a polar bear rug, mouth full of bilious vomit and holding his crotch. 

End of Scene.

Clif

Can You Taste the Adventure?

Here’s a video of Vertical Limit. Watch it and imagine how good another one might be, starring by with The A Rock, Scarjo Lethandsome, and Upcoming Golden Globe Nominee Actor and Fashion Model and Musician Insert Name.

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2 comments

  1. This is the best thing that has ever been written!!! EVER!

    1. Ever? You are too kind, friend.
      Do you think Clif Bar sponsors writers who pen fake climbing movie screenplays? If you think I’ve got what it takes, maybe I’ll try and go all the way with this thing. I’m gonna be a pro!

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