People clad in Halloween costumes pour over the bridge towards Hellaton Common, flocking around the gibbet. Some youngsters, anxious to impress, boo and hiss at the HANGMAN who is busy checking everything is in order.
CECILIA BERK appears, kneeling in a cart guarded by a group of soldiers, the noose already around her neck, the crowd very merry indeed.
Some who wanted to jeer find themselves praying, others drop their eyes but some allow their grubby children to throw rotten fruit and potatoes at her. The unlucky fellow pulling the cart is struck by one.
He looks at the boy who threw it, and then draws his thumb across his neck in a grisly way. The child backs off warily, leaving him to go about his business.
A young woman, concealing her features with a cloak, fights her way through the crowd. She is offered some rotten potatoes by a man standing beside a cart-load. She flatly refuses, pushing past to get to the front.
The crowds part to let CECILIA through as the drums roll.
An eye for an eye, Cecilia Berk!
Pillage in hell!
CECILIA raises her head, her eyes sweep across the crowd, searching for someone.
Please forgive me for what I am about to do.
A trumpet sounds. It is time. In front of CECILIA, the sinister disembowelling table sits waiting. The cloaked woman removes her hood; very pretty, late teens, her name is HARLA. She is too late. CECILIA catches sight of her.
I’m sorry. I love you.
I love you too.
A tear runs down CECILIA’S cheek, all her courage finally deserting her. The HANGMAN secures the rope and knocks the stool away.
HARLA can’t watch as her mother flails, her legs kicking to find some miraculous purchase in the air. The hanging is over in a moment.
The HANGMAN cuts CECILIA down with a swing and eagerness HARLA finds disturbing. She has seen enough. She turns back, pulls her cloak over her head and fights her way through the crowd.
You’re going to miss the best bit, lady.
HARLA ignores the child; in the background CECELIA is now on the disembowelling table. The HANGMAN raises his axe and it crashes down…
. EXT. HELLATON WOODS. PRESENT. HALLOWEEN
An axe falls, splitting the wood with drunken precision. The trees open into a clearing leading to a lake. A group of youths sit around a camp-fire in the middle of the glade.
One of the boys is carving a pumpkin with a large knife whilst the others laugh, smoke and drink alcohol, listening to pop-punk music from a mobile phone.
By the fire, a plump girl, VIXEN, leans forward, her arms stretched out as she tries to keep her hands warm. She is barely in her teens, watching footage shot from her mobile phone.
. ON MOBILE
VIXEN is acting up to the camera, in a corridor at school, somebody else is filming her.
. EXT. HELLATON WOODS. SAME TIME
Next to her, GREG, a hooded boy, swigs cider from a can.
Okay, I have one.
His eyes meet the oldest boy DAVID and they all wait for him to speak; another mobile phone points at him, recording…
They used to blame the old coffee factory for the awful stench on Elm Drive.
The recording is stopped to a chorus of sighs.
Mate, seriously, you did this last year.
No I didn’t.
Yeah, you did. The watchmaker who made more money supplying doctors with fresh corpses, only they come back to life and kill everyone in the village. It’s about as old as your mum, mate.
DAVID prods the fire, making sparks fly. He glances at VIXEN, her eyes still glued to the phone she is holding, and then he turns back to the others, leaning forward.
Okay kids, buckle up.
He wakes a slumbering fire with more wood. Everyone but VIXEN seems to want to listen to what he has to say.
There’s this girl - like Megan Fox only fitter. She’s searching these woods every night for a lover, singing a sad old song. No man can resist her. That’s when she kisses you. It’s cold, tasting of Earth.
The boys are extremely interested now.
(Motions to his groin)
Will she kiss this?
Your mum won’t even kiss that.
The others laugh like the deranged disciples they are.
She touches you, holds you, caresses you… pulling you down into the icy waters. You would happily lie with her forever, wrapped in her watery embrace, but she is gone.
The others boo and hiss in dissatisfaction.
She's returned to the dark, lonely banks and you are forgotten. She’ll search for another lover but you’re no more, left down in the water’s cold depths forever, eyes unseeing, nothing but a memory, with weeds in your mouth.
DAVID freezes, peering towards the lake behind the VIXEN as if he has caught movement in the shadows; as though the mysterious woman is looking right at them.
They turn to the lake. Even VIXEN is intrigued enough to switch her attention from her phone, albeit briefly.
. ON SCREEN
The prettiest girl in school, MICHELLE, smiles nervously at the camera. She doesn’t like the attention given to her.
. EXT. HELLATON WOODS. SAME TIME
GREG jumps to his feet, his eyes drawn to the ruins of a lonely farmhouse on the other side. He scrutinizes the lake; the fire crackles behind him as the others approach with some kind of caution. He waits for something to happen but nothing does.
Mate, even the dead don’t fancy you.
GREG spins around, about to retaliate, when…
A MASKED FIGURE RISES FROM THE WATER, WRAPPING ITS ARMS AROUND HIS LEGS, TRYING TO PULL HIM IN.
The masked figure thrashes about, refusing to let go. Too dark to fathom out what it is; GREG slips on the slippery surface, horrified, as the moment turns deadly serious.
He kicks out, catching the masked figure in the face, sending it backward, reeling. He breaks free; in his rush to escape he slips and falls head first into the mud.
Laughter erupts around him. He looks up to see their giddy faces; everyone but VIXEN laughing at him.
GREG turns back to the shadowy figure. DAVID shines a torch on the very thing he is looking at. Wearing cheap snorkelling gear, a young girl, her nose bloodied, has the widest grin of them all. Her name is DAWN.
Prick - you didn’t have to kick me.
GREG is embarrassed as he clambers to his feet, dusting himself down. DAVID puts his arms around the girl.
Meet Dawn – she’s one of us now.
GREG holds out his hand. DAWN shakes it, no hard feelings. VIXEN doesn’t like it. Doesn’t like her…
. ON SCREEN
The camera moves towards the PRETTY GIRL when… from behind, in a split instant, a hand grabs the back of the girl’s head and strikes down with force, slamming it against the desk as blood sprays the air.
The person holding the camera moves round and pulls back, revealing a menacing VIXEN behind the bloodied girl, trying to put up a fight but it’s useless. VIXEN is too strong for her.
Her head is slammed against the desk again.
. EXT. HELLATON WOODS. SAME TIME
VIXEN selects the ‘delete’ function but she is now distracted by what’s happening down by the lake.
That was sick, mate. You know I hate water.
DAVID smiles smugly. He turns to VIXEN. She has vanished. He’s not the only one to have noticed, flashing DAWN a sour glance as a hiss runs through the other boys; one makes the sign of the hand to ward off evil.
DAVID steps forward. The remaining youths stand in unison behind him. Every one of them seems to be excited by the prospect of something.
Then, together, they pull masks over their heads. GREG wears a gimp latex atrocity, DAWN a high quality ventriloquist dummy doll and DAVID a gas mask with adjustable straps and plastic buckles.
They follow VIXEN into the woods.
. EXT. HELLATON WOODS – MOMENTS LATER
Glancing up through the branches of the trees VIXEN can see the cold glint of stars. She shivers, speeding up, when a distant howl stops her in her tracks.
She ignores it, hurriedly walking the rugged path when she hears a branch snap behind her just as a large hand grabs her shoulder and yanks her off her feet.
She hits the ground hard. Looking up, she sees nothing. She climbs to her feet, staring into the darkness.
Good one, guys.
Nothing. It’s difficult to make anything out amongst the shadows. Behind her, unknown to her, three masked figures appear. She senses them and spins. From the gleam in DAVID’S eyes he’s clearly enjoying himself.
I have to go.
DAVID and DAWN exchange glances, and then the girl reveals a pocket knife, pulling it back, bringing it forward quickly, and slashing VIXEN across the arm. VIXEN screams, staggering backwards.
You bitch - what the…?
DAWN lunges forward again but DAVID steps between them, towering over an apprehensive VIXEN. The others watch for any reaction from him. He takes the knife.
You said you wanted out, V.
I’ve changed my mind.
He laughs at her lily-livered spirit.
You’re getting too fat to be crawling through windows.
VIXEN looks at DAWN, her replacement, then at the knife. She makes a run for it, thundering through the woodland like she just wandered onto Elm Street by mistake.
DAWN wants to give chase, to prove herself but DAVID holds her back, giving VIXEN some kind of head start.
Not esteemed for her speed and athleticism, hounded to the point of extinction by three masked figures giving chase, she keeps her head down, barely able to see where she is headed.
She is out of breath, exhausted, her legs somehow moving as fast as evolutionary law will permit. She trips and falls on a branch hidden in a heap of leaves. She can feel the blood on her leg through the fresh tear in her jeans.
The hunters accelerate further, their shift in gears taking them ever closer to their prey. VIXEN struggles to her feet, all but giving up. Then a dull, hollow sound beneath her draws her eyes to the earth.
Moving her feet to shift the leaves, the twigs and the mud she sees some planks of rotting wood covering a hole. Foolishly, she stamps her foot on them. The wood gives way and VIXEN plummets downwards into the pit.
. INT. PIT – CONTINUOUS
It is dark. The mouth of the pit is a couple of metres wide, its throat at least twenty metres deep. A hunk of mud falls from above as two silhouettes peer into the cave. They seem so far away.
Is she alive?
. EXT. HELLATON WOODS - CONTINUOUS
The hole could stretch for miles. It is impossible to tell now the sky is black and the rain is coming down by the bucketful.
I can’t see her. I can’t see anything.
DAVID appears. He stands between the others.
How are those maggots?
No reply. He smiles, looking less concerned than the others.
Another wedge of mud disappears inside the murkiness, convincing the three to turn back on their heels, deserting their helpless prey.
. INT. PIT
A foul stench sweeps over VIXEN’S bruised body as her eyes flicker into life. She can’t see a thing and it’s colder than Narnia. Clambering onto her knees she stumbles back, catching her balance in the sticky mire.
Her right arm hurts. She slumps against the wall of the cave, reaching into the pocket of her sodden jeans, pulling out her mobile phone with her left hand.
She illuminates her surroundings enough to see she is in big trouble. The hole she has fallen down is long and narrow, caked in gooey mud, barely wide enough for her to fall through, let alone climb back out of.
VIXEN emits a tiny scream of frustration when…
How are those maggots?
A long, maddening silence; the thought of something down there with her freaks her out. She lifts her phone again, her hand trembling as her eyes explore the bottom of the cave. It’s too dark. She can’t see anything.
She selects the camera function on her phone, pointing nervously at where she thinks the sound emanates. She clicks and waits. The camera flashes, lighting up the cave momentarily.
The photograph reveals how the cave stretches beyond the hole she has fallen down, its vastness unknown; just lots of dark places where something could hide. She takes another photograph. Click!
Her eyes comb the image, noticing what looks like a scaly hide, blurred and out of focus, in the bottom left hand corner. She takes a deep breath, aiming the camera more in that direction, taking the shot.
Click! She doesn’t want to look but she knows that she has to. Wide-eyed, she forces herself to glance at the image. All she can see is a wall of mud. Relieved but not convinced she takes another snap.
Click! Still nothing. She aims further right… Click! Nothing again. Click! Blackness. Lower down… Click…
BIG TEETH SNAPPING AT HER, RIGHT IN HER FACE!