COMBUSTION

by Laurent Boulanger

Short Film
Email: [email protected]r.com

(15-20 min)-- supernatural thriller A young man, Jamie, still an 1961 FB Holden from a driveway. He is later on found burnt to a crisp in the car, but car is intact.

COMBUSTION

By
Laurent Boulanger


EXT. DRIVEWAY. EARLY MORNING

A 1961 ¬FB HOLDEN is parked in a driveway of a suburban house.  A young man, JAMIE, walks up to the car.  He has a straightened metallic coat hanger in his right hand.  He looks right and left, and it's obvious that he's up to no good.

Jamie picks the lock on the driver's side of the Holden and opens the door.  He looks around once more and gets into the car.  He releases the handbrake. ¬Half in and half out of the car, he pushes the Holden out of the driveway.  He maneuvers the car into the suburban street for a few meters, and when he feels safe enough, he jumps into the car and starts the engine.

The car vanishes down the street and turns a corner.

INT. HOLDEN. EARLY MORNING

JAMIE is driving, looking rather pleased with himself.  He opens the driver's side window and lets his arm hang out.  He turns the radio on.  An old song from the fifties plays.

He continues driving and checks himself in the rear view mirror.

He passes one hand over his forehead.

JAMIE
Bloody hot in here.

He continues driving.

Even though the driver's window is open, Jamie begins to sweat.  He passes another hand over his forehead.  The back of his hand is covered in perspiration.

He checks the heater in the car.  It's switched off and the setting is set on 'cold'.

EXT. INTERSECTION. EARLY MORNING

The Holden with JAMIE driving approaches a red light and stops.  There's a work van that comes from the opposite side of the intersection and stops as well.

No traffic is crossing at the intersection.

INT. HOLDEN. EARLY MORNING

JAMIE is now sweating profusely.  His face is covered in sweat.  He rubs his face with the palms of both hands.  He looks at his hands.  They're covered is perspiration.

He looks to the side and sees a switch that reads AC.  He turns on the air conditioning and the fan on max speed.  Air comes out through the vents.

Instead of looking relieved, he looks surprised.

JAMIE
I don't want the bloody heater on!

He plays with the switches, but nothing happens.

The traffic light goes GREEN.

Jamie places both hands on the steering wheel and there's the SOUND OF FRYING flesh.

He yelps.

JAMIE (CONT'D)
What the hell?!

The VAN DRIVER coming from the opposite direction meets his gaze as he drives past.  The VAN DRIVER notices the look of sheer panic on Jamie's face.

Jamie looks at his hands.

There are covered in blisters.

JAMIE (CONT'D)
Shit!

He turns his attention to the door, but as soon as he grabs the door handle, his skin sizzles and he removes his hand.  He leans over to the other side to reach the passenger door, but he burns the left side of his body against the car seat.

He jumps up in panic and in pain.

INT. VAN. EARLY MORNING

The VAN DRIVER, mid-thirties, looks in the rear mirror and sees that the Holden is still stopped at the green traffic light.  He also notices smoke coming through the openings of the car, including the top of the windows, the boot, and the exhaust.  There's even smoke/vapour coming out of the car's body.  There is no visible fire at any stage.

The VAN DRIVER breaks heavily and pulls to the side of the road.

He gets out of the van.

INT. HOLDEN. EARLY MORNING

JAMIE is blistered all over.  His face is red and his eyes filled with pain.  Every surface he touches sizzles his skin further.

He screams in agony.

EXT. INTERSECTION. EARLY MORNING

The VAN DRIVER is walking towards the Holden.  His view of the Holden is from the back.  There is a lot of smoke/vapour coming out of the Holden.

VAN DRIVER
Oh, my God!

The Van Driver walks faster towards the Holden.

But as he gets close, the heat generated from the Holden is overwhelming, as he has to keep his distance.

There is a VERY BRIGHT WHITE LIGHT engulfing the inside of the car.

The Van Driver is almost blinded by the light.  He has to place his place his right hand close to his face to protect himself against he brightness and the heat.

There a PIERCING SCREAM coming out of the Holden.

INT. HOLDEN. EARLY MORNING

PIERCING SCREAM continues from previous scene.

Close in an the screaming face of JAMIE.  His face is red and totally blistered.  His eyes look as if they're going to pop out of his head.

EXT. INTERSECTION. MORNING

The Holden is still stopped at the traffic light.  The windows are fogged up, but the car is in good condition.

There's one marked police car parked close to it, its emergency lights beaming.  The VAN DRIVER is talking to UNIFORMED OFFICER.

ONLOOKERS are watching.

A unmarked police sedan arrives at the scene.

Detective TONY Raymond steps out of the Sedan.  He's dressed in the customary suit, tie and shirt.  He's tall with a strong air of authority.  He approaches the Uniformed Officer and the Van Driver.

He flashes his badge.

TONY
Detective Raymond.  The body's still in the car?

UNIFORMED OFFICER
Yes, sir.

TONY
Anyone touched anything?

UNIFORMED OFFICER
No one's touched anything as per your instruction, sir.

TONY
(to Van Driver)
You're the one who called the police?

Tony removes pen and notebook from his jacket pocket.

VAN DRIVER
I was crossing the intersection from the other side, and I saw all this smoke coming from the car.

TONY
From the inside of the car?

VAN DRIVER
From everywhere.  It was really weird -- it was not like really smoke, but more like some type of vapour.

Tony takes down some notes.

TONY
Did you try to help the driver?

VAN DRIVER
Couldn't get to the car -- the heat was too strong.

Tony looks towards the Holden.  The car is in perfect condition, not a scrap of damage or burn on it.  The only strange thing is that the windows are fogged up, and it's impossible to see what's inside the car.

Tony places his notebook back into his pocket.

TONY
(to Van Driver)
Okay, wait here.  I might need to ask you more questions.
(to uniformed officer)
Make sure he doesn't go anywhere.

The Uniformed Officer nods.

Tony walks towards the Holden.  He removes a pair of white crime-scene gloves from the side pocket of his jacket and puts them on.

Tony circles the car slowly, looking for anything suspicious on the body of the car.

There is nothing wrong with the car, other than the condensation/smoke that stops anyone from seeing on the inside.

Tony turns to the Uniformed Officer and makes a hand signal for the Uniformed Officer to come over.

The Uniformed Officer obliges.

TONY (CONT'D)
I'm going to open the car door.  I'd like you to stand by my side.

UNIFORMED OFFICER
Yes, sir.

The Uniformed Officer places his hand on his handgun.

TONY
I don't think you're going to need that.

The Uniformed Officer shrugs.

TONY (CONT'D)
As anyone called an ambulance?

UNIFORMED OFFICER
Ten minutes ago.

TONY
(shakes his head)
And it's a pay-as-you-go service -- go figure.

Tony gets closer to the driver's side window.  He places both hands to the side of his face and tries to peer inside the car.  There's too much condensation/smoke in there, and he can't see a thing.

UNIFORMED OFFICER
That's the strangest thing I've ever seen -- and I've been working this area for twenty years.

TONY
(without turning around)
Please be quiet.

The Uniformed Officer shakes his head.

Tony pulls back and places his right hand on the door handle.

TONY (CONT'D)
(to himself)
Still warm to the touch.

Slowly he turns the handle clockwise.

The Uniformed Officer has a look of worry on his face.

The Van Driver also has a look of worry on his face.

Tony locks his jaw and turns the door handle.

Swiftly, he pulls the door open.

From the driver's seat, JAMIE falls sideways towards TONY.  Jamie is burnt to a crisp -- he's just a black mass in the shape of a human being.

Tony grabs the body, which is half hanging out of the car, but he has trouble leveling it.

VAN DRIVER
Holly shit!

TONY
(to Uniformed Officer)
Could you please give me a hand?

The Uniformed Officer moves to where Tony is and helps him remove the burnt body from the car.

Tony and the Uniformed Officer place the body on the ground, next to the Holden.

TONY (CONT'D)
I think you might want to give the ambulance service a call and tell them not to bother.  Call the mortuary instead.

CLOSE IN on the burnt body.

INT. MORTUARY. DAY

TONY and a FORENSIC TECHNICIAN are standing around a galvanised dissecting table.  The burnt body of JAMIE is lying there.

FORENSIC TECHNICIAN
Someone's used an accelerant on him.

Tony shakes his head, like someone who doesn't understand what he's been told.

TONY
Come again?

FORENSIC TECHNICIAN
Petrol.  The upper layer of skin burned too quickly.

The Forensic Technician inserts a scalpel in the skin of JAMIE.  The wound on the inside is bright red.

FORENSIC TECHNICIAN (CONT'D)
Still raw on the inside.

TONY
That's impossible -- he was found inside an unburt car.

FORENSIC TECHNICIAN
Smell him.

TONY
Excuse me?

FORENSIC TECHNICIAN
Smell him -- you'll see what I'm talking about.

Tony moves close to the body and bends over a little.  Reluctantly he takes a sniff.

He stands up again.

TONY
Petrol -- you're right.

FORENSIC TECHNICIAN
And you say he was found inside an unburnt car?

TONY
Correct.

FORENSIC TECHNICIAN
Impossible -- this man was burnt somewhere else and tossed in the car at a later stage.

TONY
A witness saw him with his own eyes.

FORENSIC TECHNICIAN
Then I'm afraid you got yourself a mystery that even science can't explain.

INT. MORTUARY - CONFERENCE ROOM. DAY

TONY is sitting with the VAN DRIVER.  He has photos of the crime scene spread in front of him.

TONY
You sure you saw the man in the car before he was burnt?

VAN DRIVER
I saw him as clearly as I'm looking at you now.

TONY
For the victim to sustain burns of that extent, the temperature would have had to be close to 2000 degrees.

VAN DRIVER
It sure felt like it when I got close to the car.

TONY
But the lack of damage on the car doesn't support your version of events.

Van Driver shakes his head.

VAN DRIVER
What do you want me to tell you?  He pulled at the traffic lights at the same time as I did. I was right looking at him, and the next thing you know, woosh! -- he goes up in smoke, so to speak.

TONY
Was anyone else on the road when it happened?

VAN DRIVER
Nope, just me.

TONY
I might need to talk to you at a later stage.

VAN DRIVER
Anytime -- I've got nothing to hide.

The door of the  room opens.

Detective HALLIDAY walks in.

Tony looks up to him.

HALLIDAY
Got that info you wanted on the FB Holden.

TONY
And?

HALLIDAY
Doesn't make any sense -- car was totalled twelve months ago.

TONY
Totalled as?

HALLIDAY
Don't know.  Hasn't been registered since then.  Used to belong to a Joe Morris.

TONY
Joe Morris still around?

HALLIDAY
Haven't looked into it.

TONY
Well, do that and get back to me.

HALLIDAY
Okay.

The Detective is about to walk away.

HALLIDAY (CONT'D)
Oh, and another thing...

TONY
What?

HALLIDAY
Car wasn't from around here -- last place it was registered was in Tollowoon, small country town sixty kilometers west of the city.

TONY
Okay, I'll take a drive up there this afternoon.  In the meantime, take the Holden to the police compound.  Forensic's finished with it.

HALLIDAY
Sure thing.

EXT. JOE'S HOME GARAGE. DAY

We can see a garage is in the country with not a single neighbour around.  The garage door is wide open.  There's a house next to the garage.  The windows have been boarded up with planks It's a hot day and everything looks dry and lonely.

TONY pulls into the driveway in his umarked police sedan.

He steps out of the car.

He looks around.  The place looks totally deserted, as if no one has lived in it for years.

Tony walks up to the garage.  He steps to the floor and sees that it's stained black -- he steps back and sees that the stain is large, roughly the size of a car.

He goes down and passes one finger over the stain and smells it.

We now see him from behind, crouched down.  We're approaching him, as if we are someone walking towards him from behind.  We stop just at the back of his head.

JOE (O.S.)
Can I help you?

Tony turns around, but he's partly blinded by the sunlight.  In front and above him stands a man wearing a cap.  This is JOE Morris.

Tony stands up and nearly falls over.

TONY
Joe Morris?

JOE
Who wants to know?

Tony pulls his ID out of his breast pocket and shows it to Joe.

TONY
Detective Raymond -- I believe you used to own an old FB Holden?

Joe just stares at him for a few seconds.  We can clearly see that the cap he is wearing is a red one.  He also has a scar running on top of his right eye.

JOE
Sorry, what's this about?

TONY
Car you used to own was involved in an accident.

JOE
Car I used to own?  Well, I don't own it anymore, now, do I?

TONY
No, but I'm trying to work out what happened to your car.

JOE
Sold it.  Is that a crime?

TONY
It's not a crime, but there are no records of anyone owning the car after you owned it.  If you sold it, it would have been on record.

Joe makes a popping sound with his lips.

JOE
You're going a long way back here, detective.  Surely's not my problem if someone hasn't bothered registering the car.

TONY
You're probably right.

Tony looks towards the house.

TONY (CONT'D)
You live here?

JOE
Yep.

TONY
Moving out?

JOE
Nope.

TONY
You've got something against sunlight?

JOE
Is that part of your investigation?

Tony shuffles on the spot and turns to the garage.

TONY
No, but I'd be interested to know what that stain is on the floor is.

Joe looks at the stain in the garage and then at Tony.

JOE
Oil, grease, whatever you normally find in a garage.

TONY
Smells like burning and petrol.

Joe shakes his head.  He lift his cap and passes one hand over his cranium.  We can see a nasty burn mark covering the whole back of his head where the cap was resting. But Tony doesn't see that.

JOE
Got no idea what you're talking about -- been here since I was born and never seen anything burning.

Joe puts his cap back on, covering the large burn mark.

Tony looks towards the house.

TONY
Mind if I take a look inside your house?

JOE
Yeah, I do mind, but if you've got nothing else to do, go ahead.

Tony walks towards the front porch.

Joe walks to the side.

JOE (CONT'D)
Front's locked.  You'll have to come through the back.

Joe goes first and Tony follows.

They walk the side of the house.  All the windows are boarded up.

Without Joe noticing, Tony checks that his gun is in place.

When they reach the back of the house, the grass in the yard is overgrown.  There are empty beer cartoons on the porch.  The back door is wide open, with flies coming in and out.

Joe steps onto the back porch.

Tony follows.

JOE (CONT'D)
Watch your--

Before Joe has time to finish his sentence, Tony's right foot goes right through a rotting plank.

JOE (CONT'D)
-- step.

TONY
Shit!

He looks up to Joe.

TONY (CONT'D)
You ever think about fixing up this place?

Joe offers Tony his hand.

Tony takes it.

Joe pulls Tony up.

JOE
No need to -- I'm the only left around here.

They enter the house through the back door.

INT. JOE'S HOUSE. DAY

KITCHEN --

The inside of the house is very dark.

Little light comes through the kitchen window as JOE, followed by TONY, enter through the back door.  There are piles of dirty dishes on the sink with flies hovering around.

JOE
Mind telling me exactly what you're looking for?

TONY
Nothing in particular.

Tony sniffs the air and his brow creases.

TONY (CONT'D)
You should really clean up around here -- you're going to catch a disease one of these days.

JOE
I don't think I need to worry about that.

Joe leaves the kitchen through another door.

Tony looks confused by Joe's reply.  He follows Joe out of the kitchen.

TO LOUNGEROOM --

The inside of the room is very dark.

JOE is standing by the side of the door.

TONY looks around.  We can see the outline of a table with chair, a couch, a television set, a low coffee table, a mantelpiece.

There is very little light coming through the curtains of a window that's boarded up.

Tony reaches for the light switch and flicks it.

Nothing happens.

JOE (CONT'D)
Power got cut off.

TONY
Forgot to pay the bill?

JOE
I've no need for electricity.

Tony walks up to the window.

TONY
Mind if I open the curtains a little?

JOE
Suit yourself.

Tony pulls the drapes, but only a tiny bit more light comes through.  He unlocks the window, which opens to the outside, and in the process he knocks out a plank that boarded the window.

Light come flooding into the room like in an Egyptian's tomb.

Tony turns around.

Everything is covered in dust and cobwebs.  The sofa is covered with a white sheet.  The room looks as if no one has lived in the place for years.

TONY
You sure you live here?

JOE
Like I've said, I've been living in this place since I was a child.

Tony turns to the mentelpiece.  There is a photo with a group of people standing next to an FB Holden.  The photo is black-and-white and looks very old.

Tony is intrigued by the car on the photo.

TONY
Is that the FB Holden you used to own?

Joe walks up to where Tony is.

JOE
Sure is.  Been in the family for two generations.

TONY
Two generations?

JOE
Used to be my father's, but eventually he stopped driving all together.

TONY
Why did he stop driving?

JOE
He died.

Joe's reply cuts through air like a knife.

Tony looks closer at the picture.  On it is an old man standing proudly next to the driver's door.  Next to him is a younger version of Joe.  On the opposite side are two women, a young one and an older one.  Next to them is a little boy wearing a cap--Nathan.

TONY
Is that your father?

Tony points to the old man in the picture.

JOE
That's the old man -- Joseph.  Died of liver cancer.

TONY
A heavy drinker?

JOE
Runs in the family.

Tony continues to look at the picture.

TONY
Who's the little boy?

JOE
A neighbour who used to live on the other side of the hill.

TONY
And he doesn't live there anymore?

JOE
Got killed in a car accident.

Tony's eyes meet Joe's.

TONY
In the Holden?

JOE
Not exactly - the car ran into him.  Happened a couple of miles up the road.

TONY
Your father was driving the car?

Joe holds Tony's stare for a moment.

Silence.

JOE
Why does everyone always want to talk about it? -- it was an accident.  The kid was walking in the middle of the road, for Christ's sake.

Tony takes a step back.

TONY
I'm sorry, I don't remember talking about this before.

JOE
Nevermind.

Joe looks around the room.

JOE (CONT'D)
Anything else you want to look at?

Tony looks around.

TONY
Nope.  I think I better get going.

JOE
I'll show you out.

EXT. JOE'S HOME GARAGE. DAY

JOE and TONY are standing next to the ummarked police car.

TONY
You wouldn't happen to remember who bought the car from you?

Tony looks as if he's thinking.

JOE
Couldn't say really -- so many people came to see it when I had it up for sale.  Don't remember who ended up buying it.

Tony nods, but from the expression on his face, it's obvious that he doesn't believe a word Joe has just told him.  Tony pulls a business card from his jacket pocket.

TONY
Well, if you do happen to remember, please give me a call.

Joe takes the card and keeps it in his hand.

JOE
Will do.

Tony turns his back on Joe as he prepares himself to open the door on the driver's side.

His mobile phone GOES OFF.

Tony answers the call.

TONY
Detective Raymond.

HALLIDAY (O.S.)
Did a check on this guy who used to own the FB Holden.

TONY
And?

HALLIDAY (O.S.)
Died twelve months ago -- a really weird case.

There's a shock expression on Tony's face.

FLASHBACK - SAME LOCATION

This is shot in BLACK AND WHITE.

We can see what the detective is describing.

HALLIDAY (O.S.) (CONT'D)
Dosed the car and himself in petrol, got into the car and tossed a lit cigarette over the roof top -- in his own garage, can you believe it?  That's how the car got totalled.  I have no idea who restored it, but whoever it is, he's a magician.

BACK TO PRESENT TIME --

Tony has a blank expression on his face.  He doesn't turn around, but just stays quiet.

HALLIDAY (O.S.) (CONT'D)
Tony?  You're still there?

TONY
Yeah, I'm listening... do you know why he killed himself?

HALLIDAY (O.S.)
Old newspaper said something about a hit and run, but it really doesn't make any sense.  It was his father who had the accident, and yet this Joe guy ends up killing himself.  I tell you what, I'm not making any sense out of that one.

Tony pressed the END button on his mobile without responding.

Slowy, he turns around.

Joe is no longer there.

Tony looks around him.

No sign of Joe.

Tony looks to the ground -- he sees the business card he'd just handed over to Joe a minute ago.  He bends over and picks up the card.

He retrieves the gun from his hostler and walks back towards the house.  Slowly he makes his way to the side of the house and to the back porch.  The hole he punched with his foot through the rotten plank on the patio is still there.  The back door is still open.

Tony steps carefully on the back porch and stands by the door.

TONY
Joe Morris?  Are you in there?

Tony enters the house.

EXT. CAR PARK. DAY

Detective HALLIDAY looks at his mobile, shrugs, and places it back in his pocket.

He walks up to where the FB Holden is parked.  He retrieves the keys from his pocket.  He opens the door to the car and gets it.

He drives the car off the parking lot.

INT. JOE'S HOUSE. DAY

TONY enters the kitchen.  Everything is the same as it was before.

TONY
Joe Morris?

Tony leaves the kitchen for the lounge room.

LOUNGE ROOM --

Tony enters the lounge room.  The plank that was attached to the window is still broken.  Nothing is different from when he visited the place a few minutes ago.

His gun in his hand, Tony circles the room with his eyes -- the photo is no longer on the mentlepiece.

He notices a folded newspaper on the coffee table that wasn't there before.  He walks up to the newspaper.  With one hand he grabs the newspaper and unfold it.  The headline reads 'A RIDE WITH DEATH - THREE VICTIMS'.  Underneath it is a picture of Joe Morris, Joseph Morris and the little boy, Nathan.

Tony has a look of sheer terror on his face.

TONY (CONT'D)
Shit!

INT. HOLDEN. DAY

HALLIDAY is driving the car.  He looks very sweaty.  He plays with the air conditioning switch.

HALLIDAY
Bloody thing!

When he returns his free hand back to the steering wheel, it sizzles like meat on a grill.

HALLIDAY shrieks.

THE HORN OF A TRUCK.

Halliday looks up.

A truck is coming straight for him.

CUT TO BLACK.

THE SOUND OF THE TRUCK SMASHING WITH THE HOLDEN.

INT. MORGUE. DAY

There's a body, HALLIDAY, lying on the dissecting table.  The body is charcoal black, just like the one of JAMIE.

We pull back and see the FORENSIC TECHNICIAN and TONY standing next to the body.

Tony looks tired and distressed.

FORENSIC TECHNICIAN
Didn't stand a chance -- truck when in head on.  The Holden bursted into flame instantaneously.

Tony shakes his head.

TONY
This isn't right.  He was a hell of a good driver.  Why was he driving on the oncoming lane?

The FORENSIC TECHNICIAN scraps flesh from the body with a scalpel.

FORENSIC TECHNICIAN
What gets me is that his injuries are similar to the other victim -- it's as if someone has dossed him in petrol before the crash.

TONY
That's impossible.

FORENSIC TECHNICIAN
Well, if it's any consolation, the car's totalled.  Saw it with my own eyes.  End of the road this time.

Tony has a confused/lost expression on his face.

EXT. CAR YARD. DAY

CLOSE UP - A SALESMAN shakes the hand of a female CUSTOMER.

He then retrives the FOR SALE sign from the windscreen of car, which we cannot yet define.

We pull back.

The car is the FB HOLDEN.

The salesman hands over the keys to the customer.

She gets in the car and drives out of the yard.

PULL BACK -- The Holden comes out of the car yard and merges in into the traffic.

END.

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