Sweet Tooth

 

Sweet Tooth

by

Christopher Cho

(Based on the Graphic Novel SWEET TOOTH by Jeff Lemire)

Over darkness we hear the sound of wind rustling through trees. The clops of a single horse, trotting down a road.

FADE IN:

EXT. ABANDONED HIGHWAY - SUNSET

On the side of the road we see a deer spot something coming, get spooked, and run off.

GUS (V.O.)
My dad says so few kids was born after the accident, that God decided to make 'em special.

We see a small sign on the side of the road welcoming us to "NEBRASKA... The Good Life"

GUS (V.O.)
So we got fur, or tails, or antlers.

And finally, we see a MAN, 50's, greying, beaten, bruised, and bandaged, slumped on top of a horse with a rifle slung around his back.
The horse is being led by a boy, GUS, 14, weary but bright eyed, with a curious set of DEER ANTLERS protruding naturally from his forehead. He carries a slingshot in his back pocket and he's nibbling at a half-unwrapped CRUNCH chocolate bar.

GUS (V.O.)
My dad says I'm the last one left.

They continue at a slow pace down the road towards a small town in the distance.

CUT TO:

EXT. SMALL TOWN NEBRASKA - DUSK

The boy with the antlers and the man on the horse cautiously proceed through what is now a ghost town. The boy sees remnants of what used to be society, looted grocery stores, broke-down barber shops, derelict churches.

GUS (V.O.)
But my dad ain't here no more. Now it's just me...

The boy sees movement from the corner of his eye, something, someone, darting down an alley.

GUS (V.O.)
It's just me and The Big Man.

Gus halts and shushes the horse, half hiding behind it. He tries to rouse the unconscious man.

GUS
(Whispering)
M-Mr. Jeppard. Mr. Jeppard wake up.

The beaten man on the horse, MR. JEPPARD, grumbles deliriously in his sleep.

JEPPARD
Louise...

GUS
Louise? No, Mr. Jeppard, it's me, Gus. Mr. Jeppard, I think I saw something moving.

Jeppard is unresponsive, leaving Gus to his own terrified devices.

GUS
I-I'll be right back, Mr. Jeppard. Don't you go nowhere.

Gus places the half eaten chocolate bar in Jeppard's hand and leads the horse to a crooked stop sign where he secures the reigns. He slowly removes his slingshot.

EXT. SMALL TOWN NEBRASKA/ALLEY

Gus slowly rounds the corner, slingshot drawn and we see his eyes widen in horror. Finally we see what he sees, a pile of corpses, stacked 7 feet high, decayed, flies buzzing about.
Gus is frozen in fear, his breath caught in his throat, mouth agape.
Suddenly, a rough hand comes down on his shoulder and he snaps out of it. He spins around as he trips over himself and tumbles to the ground letting loose a pebble from his slingshot.
The source of his startle, Jeppard, casually dodges it. He puts his hands up showing he means no harm.

JEPPARD
Woah, woah, hey, hey kid. Just me. Nothing to be worried about.

Jeppard offers up the chocolate bar Gus left with him earlier and we see a small amount of comfort return to his face.

JEPPARD
I'm sorry, Sweet Tooth, I haven't been through this area in a long time. Didn't realize it got so bad. Let's get outta here.

Gus gets to his feet, dusting himself off when just then we see a light come from the top floor of a nearby building. A candle behind curtains, and a figure. Someone is watching them.

GUS
Wait! There! There's someone else here.

Jeppard stretches an arm out, like a parent protecting a child in a car crash, and removes the rifle from his back.

CUT TO:

INT. ABANDONED MOTEL - NIGHT

SMASH! Jeppard kicks in the door to the building, rifle drawn, the thin silhouette of the boy with the antlers cowering behind him.
They move swiftly through the lobby of the run-down motel, quickly clearing areas. They are silent except for the creaks of the old stairs they climb.

INT. ABANDONED MOTEL/TOP FLOOR HALLWAY

As they reach the top of the stairs, a small figure passes from one room to another. It's hard to make out, but we think we see the blurred shape of bunny ears.

JEPPARD
HEY!

The pair reach the door of the room they've seen the stranger hide in and they press themselves against the wall.

JEPPARD
Careful, Kid.

Jeppard spins around rifle drawn and we're inside...

INT. ABANDONED MOTEL/MOTEL ROOM

A single candle lights the room. The wallpaper has been peeling off, litter lines the floor, and the curtains blow slightly from the broken windows.
There's a single bed in the center of the room, stained and torn, with springs sticking out. And on top of the single bed, a YOUNG GIRL, blonde, with a pair of bunny ears, and draped in a thin pink night-gown, is sitting on her knees.

YOUNG GIRL
Hi, I'm Becky. What's your name?

Confusion spreads across Jeppard's face.

JEPPARD
What the fuck?

YOUNG GIRL
I'm- I'm Becky. What's your-

Jeppard strides across the room, rifle at his side.

JEPPARD
The fuck are you playing at?

He grabs the bunny ears of the young girl and removes them, revealing them to be fake. The girl screams.
Just behind him, we hear the CLICK of a pistol being cocked. Jeppard slowly turns around, arms at his side.
He's staring down the barrel of a gun. The gun is being held by a BALDING MAN, calm but serious.
An OLDER WOMAN stands at his side, arm wrapped around Gus, with a second gun pressed against his temple.
In the doorway, THREE MORE WOMEN of various ages and races stand watching in their nightgowns, expressionless.

BALDING MAN
Drop the rifle, Big Boy.

OLDER WOMAN
DO IT!

JEPPARD
What the fuck is this?

BALDING MAN
I said drop the gun!

OLDER WOMAN
DO IT!

Gus squirms in her grip, wide-eyed.

JEPPARD
'Fraid I can't do that.

OLDER WOMAN
DROP 'IM, HUN!

JEPPARD
We don't want no trouble. We was just passing through. We'll be on our way now.

BALDING MAN
With a little trophy like that... Could fetch a pretty penny at a Militia Camp, huh?

Jeppard shakes his head and takes a step forward.

BALDING MAN
'Course maybe we can work out a trade...

He motions to the three women standing in the doorway.

BALDING MAN
Lot's of different flavors. Changing times, changing tastes.

JEPPARD
Not interested in a trade. Just interested in getting on our way.

BALDING MAN
And just where do you think you're headed, huh?

GUS
We're going to The Preserve!

Jeppard winces and the Balding Man lets loose a laugh.

PROSTITUTE #1
The Preserve ain't real! Just a made up story!

The Older Woman shoots her a venomous stare and the prostitute shrinks back in to herself.

BALDING MAN
Looks like I ain't the only business man here.

OLDER WOMAN
WHAT'RE YOU WAITING FOR? WASTE 'EM!

BALDING MAN
You know, the old lady think's I'm wasting my time. What's to stop me from putting a bullet in your brain. Taking Bambi over there for myself?

JEPPARD
You think you can pull that trigger faster than I can smack that gun out of your hand and beat you to death with it. Be my guest.

BALDING MAN
You try that and my wife there'll put a bullet in Bambi faster 'en-

JEPPARD
Go ahead. I kill you first. I'll get to her.

The Balding Man lets out a small laugh. It slowly grows.

BALDING MAN
You're a crazy motherfucker.

BALDING MAN
Maybe we can make a deal after all, one business man to another. We let you go. We don't touch a point on old Bambi's head. And you never come back to this town again, y'ear?

Jeppard considers this.

JEPPARD
I hear.

Balding Man extends a hand and Jeppard ignores him, waves for Gus as they head to the door.

BALDING MAN
Let'em go.

The Older Woman shakes her head and stares daggers at the pair.

BALDING MAN
Woman.

Gus sprints to Jeppard, throws his arms around him.

GUS
Mr. Jeppard!

OLDER WOMAN
What if he's militia? What if he brings militia back here?

BALDING MAN
That man ain't no militia.

The Big Man and the boy with antlers walk towards to the door.

JEPPARD
Let's go, kid.

As they leave, the three women step aside. One of them makes reluctant eye contact as they pass.

PROSTITUTE #1
(whispering)
-please...

As they leave the room, Prostitute #1 is yanked back by her hair.

OLDER WOMAN
BITCH, YOU GOT SOMETHING TO SAY?

CUT TO:

INT. ABANDONED MOTEL/TOP FLOOR HALLWAY

Jeppard and Gus walk back down the stairs, Gus glancing back at the sound of slaps and crying.

OLDER WOMAN (O.S)
You better learn to keep yer mouth shut!

Jeppard ushers Gus down the stairs.

JEPPARD
C'mon, Sweet Tooth. Keep moving.

Gus is stopped now. Refusing to move.

GUS
Ain't right...

Jeppard turns to face Gus, big doe eyes pleading. Jeppard closes his eyes, brow furrowed as we hear the continued screams off screen.

Cut to:

INT. ABANDONED MOTEL/MOTEL ROOM

Prostitute #1 is thrown against the floor, curled up, cowering and helpless as the Older Woman puts the gun in her face.

OLDER WOMAN
You got something to say now?

The Balding Man stands behind her, turning his attention to the other women standing, watching and wincing with every abuse.

BALDING MAN
What about the rest of you? Y'all got something to say? Get the fuck outta here. EVERYBODY BACK TO THEIR ROOMS.

The Balding Man grabs PROSTITUTE #2 by her wrist, dragging her haphazardly to the door and throwing her out in to the hall. As she collects herself she begins to laugh.

BALDING MAN
Something funny to you?

She nods.

BALDING MAN
Oh good, I'm glad you find this funny 'cause I got another joke for you.

He steps out in to the hallway brandishing his gun briefly before something grabs his arm, spinning him around.

INT. ABANDONED MOTEL/HALLWAY

Jeppard has grabbed the man's arm with one hand, forcing a shot to be fired haphazardly in to the ceiling, and with the other hand Jeppard slams The Balding Man's skull through the dilapidated motel drywall.

INT. ABANDONED MOTEL/MOTEL ROOM

OLDER WOMAN
JACOB!

Her focus turns to the doorway.

INT. ABANDONED MOTEL/HALLWAY

The Balding Man crumples to the floor, eye socket caved in, jaw shifted. He spits up blood and loose teeth. Jeppard raises his rifle butt and brings it down hard. Repeatedly. Until the sharp cracks turn to wet thuds.

INT. ABANDONED MOTEL/MOTEL ROOM

OLDER WOMAN
JACOB?

The tears now well up in her eyes. She points her gun at door, hands shaking. Jeppard steps in to frame, hands and shirt sprayed with blood.

OLDER WOMAN
YOU BASTARD!

And she fires off a round that lands in the door frame next to Jeppard's head, sending splinters flying.

Jeppard charges like a bull. He wraps one massive hand around her throat and lifts. On instinct she drops the gun to wrestle away his hands, but she quickly realizes the futility of this action. In her last gasping moments, she has nothing to say, her eyes almost welcome death, challenging Jeppard to tighten his grip.
Jeppard raises his other hand in a fist, his eyes wide, seeing red.

PROSTITUTE #2
NO!

Jeppard is shaken out of his trance and glances to the woman behind him.

PROSTITUTE #2
No...

She moves to pick up the dropped weapon. Readies it.

PROSTITUTE #2
Let me.

Jeppard slowly lowers the Older Woman to the floor, loosening his grip, and the woman falls to her knees.
Prostitute #2 steadies the gun on the Older Woman and Jeppard takes a step back.

OLDER WOMAN
Lucy... No-

BANG!

In the muzzle flash we see the face of Gus briefly lit up, hiding in the doorway.
The Older Woman's body slumps to the floor.

Gus lets loose a squeak and Jeppard snaps to the sound.

JEPPARD
Thought I told you to wait outside!

GUS
I- You did! I'm- I'm sorry.

JEPPARD
Yeah, well me too.

Jeppard moves for the door.

PROSTITUTE #1
WAIT!

Jeppard stops briefly, without looking back.

PROSTITUTE #1
Stay. We could use somebody like you here. Somebody to protect us.

JEPPARD
Ain't nothing here to protect you from. You're all free to go.

PROSTITUTE #2
Ain't nowhere TO go. What are we supposed to do now?

Wordlessly, he and Gus leave the room.

CUT TO:

EXT. LONE HIGHWAY - SUNRISE

A horse trots down the road carrying Jeppard and the boy with antlers past tilted telephone poles. The sun is just beginning to peek up over the horizon, but there’s still more dark than light.

GUS (V.O.)
There was five golden rules. My Dad made me write 'em over and over until I knew them like I knew my own name.
Number five: Never have a fire in the daytime, 'cause people could see the smoke and come get us.
Number four: If I ever see anyone other than my Dad, I run. Keep on running.
Number three: Always say my prayers, so as God don't get mad at me and decide to come make me sick too.
Number two: Never foget to pray for momma, 'cause she was the best and prettiest lady God ever made.
And number one: Never, EVER leave the woods.
But my dad ain't here no more. Now it's just me...
It's just me and The Big Man.

As they move down the road, Jeppard is exhausted, the aches and pains catching up to him. Meanwhile, we see the gears turn in Gus' mind.

GUS
Mr. Jeppard?

JEPPARD
Yeah?

GUS
How come that lady kept saying The Preserve ain't real?

JEPPARD
Don't know, kid. She was probably just jealous 'cause she couldn't come along with us.

Gus thinks this over.

GUS
Yeah, probably.

GUS
Mr. Jeppard?

JEPPARD
Yeah, Sweet Tooth?

GUS
I know you had to hurt all them people so's them ladies could be okay.

Jeppard doesn't react.

GUS
And... Well, I don't think you're a bad man.

Jeppard hears his words but just stares off wordlessly in to the distance.

GUS
Mr. Jeppard?

CUT TO BLACK

END
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