Use Me Up

Use Me Up

A vulnerable woman is drawn into the orbit of a charming but much younger man. She thinks she can cope with his lover who lives in his spare room, but what about the body he’s hiding in his basement?

Following his award-winning debut feature Passing Through, Use Me Up is a feature-length relationship-driven thriller set in Hackney, east London, by writer/director David Walter Hall, currently in development.

Comparisons

Use Me Up will have echoes of Michaela Coel’s I May Destroy You, Emerald Fennell‘s Saltburn and Rose Glass’s Love Lies Bleeding.

Music

Original music composed for the film will draw influences from British and Scandinavian guitar-driven jazz, math rock, electronica and dubstep. The playlist below points towards Use Me Up‘s planned jagged eclectic soundscape.

Composer Jonny Phillips, who worked with the director on his previous feature Passing Through, is on board to record the score.

The script also contains a cover version of Elvis Costello’s “I Want You”, performed in dark cabaret style and used to underscore a montage of the rapid development of the film’s central love story. Diegetic cues include Count Basie and the Eagles of Death Metal.

Synopsis

After she has refused his advances, 21-year old Christopher, high on cocaine, drugs and sexually assaults his housemate Mandy. Panicked when she remains conscious and tries to call the police, he forces her to consume what turns out to be a lethal further quantity of drugs.

Unsettled by what he has done, he goes out clubbing and ends up lying in a gutter 24 hours later, which is where Lucy finds him. Lucy is in her early thirties, somewhat shy and insecure. She recognises him as her dad’s neighbour and offers to take him home. To thank her for her kindness Christopher invites her for dinner. Dinner leads to sex and tentatively, the two begin an unconventional relationship.

Meanwhile Christopher begins another kind of relationship, with Mandy’s corpse, which he stores, vacuum-sealed, in his basement, and converses with, trying to make sense of what he’s done and what his apparent lack of guilt says about who he is.

Christopher also meets Tubs, a musician in his late twenties, via a gay hook-up app. Tubs needs a place to stay and it seems convenient for Christopher to offer him Mandy’s old room. When Lucy finds out, she has to decide whether this is a compromise she is prepared to make.

Her friends advise against it, but she can’t help herself. She is drawn to be with Christopher, however imperfect he may be, and she cuts off her friends. Christopher’s influence inspires a return to the drug taking of her youth, and she soon leaves her job as well.

During a riotous night in, Christopher leaves the basement open and Tubs discovers the body. Christopher wants Tubs, who has suffered from psychosis in the past, to believe he has hallucinated the experience. Lucy isn’t sure who to believe. In the dead of night, Christopher moves the body into Lucy’s dad’s flat, while her dad is away in rehab for alcoholism.

Sure of what he has seen, Tubs confronts Christopher, who will not back down or admit he has lied. Tubs runs away, but Christopher tracks him down on a motorbike with Lucy’s help. After a scuffle, Christopher stabs Tubs, who dies on the spot. Lucy unwittingly assists in the murder by barricading a doorway.

Christopher and Lucy escape to his uncle’s country cottage. Despite his efforts to frame Lucy, they appear to have got away with it. Lucy has other ideas though. She secretly records their conversations, and manipulates Christopher into both exonerating her and confessing to the murder of Mandy. With the confessions on tape, she handcuffs him to the bed during sex, then abruptly departs, heading straight to the nearest police station.

The film’s title comes from a Bill Withers lyric:

I wanna spread the news that if it feels this good getting used,
You just keep on using me… until you use me up.

Director’s vision

With this film, I hope to apply the same approach to the thriller genre that directors such as Ari Aster have applied to horror – to use the techniques of naturalistic indie filmmaking to set these scenarios in a world much more like our own than we are usually comfortable with or accustomed to seeing. The film deals with topics such as sexual assault, mental illness, gaslighting and coercive control. This film will aim, through its writing as well as its direction, to treat these subjects with due sensitivity and  gravitas. It is important that, in Lucy, this film has a multi-layered female protagonist, and that she prevails in the end while Christopher is brought to justice. Use Me Up paints a bleak picture of the world, but the story’s outcome offers solace. By empathising with the victims and survivors throughout, achieved through everything from lighting to shot selection, editing and music, its core morality should never be in doubt.

Characters

Lucy

Always feeling like her time to shine is yet to come, Lucy is something of a sad optimist. She has dabbled in singing and acting, but with no family around her except her battle-scarred alcoholic father, life has been slow to bear fruit. She is fearful of intimacy with anyone, but craves the reassurance of a relationship.

Christopher

Perpetually thrilled by his own specialness and ability to break moral and societal rules, Christopher’s sense of personal liberation can be infectious. For much of the film, only the audience are aware that this deviant tendency has a terrible dark side, and that he is as likely to harm as to flatter those he brings close to him.

Tubs

Tubs has had a tough life, having been rejected by his family for his sexuality, and suffering from psychosis, but it has left him good-humoured and resilient. Occasionally supporting himself by selling drugs, he has carved out a satisfying life for himself as a musician.

“He will choose you, disarm you with his words, and control you with his presence. He will delight you with his wit and his plans. He will show you a good time but you will always get the bill. He will smile and deceive you, and he will scare you with his eyes. And when he is through with you, and he will be through with you, he will desert you and take with him your innocence and your pride.”

-Dr. Robert D. Hare
Psychiatrist and expert on psychopaths

Casting

With its emphasis on dialogue and character, Use Me Up would provide a vehicle for a heavyweight cast. The central characters’ ethnicities are intentionally not specified by the script; a balanced ensemble will be chosen that reflects Hackney’s culturally diverse population.

Actors to play the role of Lucy might include Ayo Edebri, Louisa Harland or Jessie Buckley.

One possiblility for the role of Tubs would be actor and comedian Mawaan Rizwan.

Production

Use Me Up has been written to be filmed on an estimated below-the-line budget between $200,000-$400,000. There are a few crowded set-pieces, such as at a night club, a street-food market and a cabaret venue, but most of the action is contained, with the three main characters in two locations. The action sequences involve chases on foot and on motorbike, and could be shot with a small crew.

Contact

For more information about the film, to read the screenplay or to set up a meeting, please email dave@davidwalterhall.com.

Photos on this page are intended as illustrations of the film’s look and feel. They are taken from Instagram accounts including @geoffreyyahyavargas, @elouisefleur, @anojon and @cinesomnia, and are used on a basis of fair use. All other material relating to the script and the story is copyright © 2021 David Walter Hall.