Picture me sat at my desk, typing this blog, when suddenly… the phone rings.
I answer, a little breathless.
(I’ve just been using the home rower.)
“Dick?” asks the husky voice at the other end of the line.
“That’s me,” I say, sounding a little disappointed.
(I was hoping it might be a certain development exec who needs to get their arse in gear and return my calls.)
The mystery voice tells me there’s a bomb under my chair, rigged to go off if I stand up.
Sweating (this time from fear, not my workout), I reach down.
Sure enough, there’s a package taped down there.
“Better take care, Dick,” the voice chides, “It’d be a crying shame if your entrails got sprayed all over your nice yellow Kallax.”
My blood runs cold. The bastard can see me.
“All right,” I snarl, “Just what is it you want?”
Okay, you got me – this isn’t a real script of mine.
(Though it absolutely could be if there’s any interested producers reading this.)
But it does highlight the rich possibilities of the situational nightmare, or ‘sitmare’, mini-genre in the hands of a skilled screenwriter.
Just think of other classic ‘sitmare’ movies and the nerve-shredding suspense they conjure from similarly everyday scenarios
Answering a call in a phone booth.
Waking up buried alive in the Iraqi desert.
What those movies and my story do brilliantly is pose questions the audience is instantly gagging to know the answers to.
For example, who is this would-be killer and what is their beef with me?
(Maybe it really IS the development exec, who plans to rub me out and take credit for my script.)
How will I escape this pant-soiling puzzle box in which I find myself trapped?
(Maybe I use the goldfish bowl of Maltesers on my desk to attract my cat, Snyder, who carries a message for help.)
Has the villain underestimated who they’re dealing with?
(Undoubtedly – they’ve already made one error by identifying my space-saving unit as a Kallax meaning I know they shop at IKEA.)
So, next time you’re catching a tram or queueing for the self-service tills or having your feet measured for new shoes (if you’re a child), ask yourself:
“Is this a potential ‘sitmare’?”
For all true screenwriters among you… the answer is “YES!”