It seems like many 21st century filmmakers are thoroughly enamoured with found-footage movies. The shooting style became popularized in the horror genre – first in Cannibal Holocaust (1980), later in The Blair Witch Project (1999) and most recently with the startlingly successful Paranormal Activity, which made almost $200m off its meagre $15,000 budget. Found-footage has also been done on a much bigger scale – literally – with monster movies like Cloverfield, superhero films like Chronicle and even a short-lived found-footage TV show called The River.
Love them or hate them, Hollywood isn’t done with these movies yet, as evidenced by Paramount’s pickup of the script for a “high-concept found-footage” movie called Supermax from Marc Haimes - not to be confused with a Green Arrow movie of similar name, which was proposed years ago. Mary Parent (Pacific Rim, Godzilla) is set to produce through her production company, Disruption Entertainment.
THR reports that Paramount is keeping the exact nature of the project tightly under wraps, but we can speculate a little based on Haimes’ short history as a screenwriter – as well as possibilities suggested by the title. “Supermax” is term used to describe super-maximum security prisons, or units within prisons, that are designed to hold the world’s most dangerous criminals – people whose escape could pose a threat not only to individual lives, but also to their home country’s national security. Think terrorist leaders, foreign spies or – if you prefer – The Joker.
There are currently over 50 supermax prisons in the USA (Alcatraz Island, before its closure, was one such facility), and the setting lends itself very well to the found-footage style. Since a supermax prison would most likely be rigged from foundations to rafters with security cameras, there’s little call to have cast members awkwardly carrying around laptops or heavy filming equipment in order to feasibly allow the audience to keep an eye on the action.
Haimes only recently took to screenwriting, coming from a career as a Dreamworks exec having worked on Men in Black II, Collateral and Transformers. His spec script, Jitters - a family adventure about genetically-altered bugs – was bought by Paramount in 2009 and is still in development, and he has also been tapped to write the script for the Hollywood remake of the excellent Norwegian found-footage monster movie, Troll Hunter.
With all that in mind, can we expect more monsters in Supermax? Certainly the location would make for quite a claustrophobic Aliens-style horror movie, but the description of the project as “high-concept” doesn’t seem to fit well with a basic monster movie plot. Perhaps Haimes is planning something more along the lines of Vincenzo Natali’s low-budget sci-fi Cube, which was also set in a prison of sorts – one made out of thousands of interlocking, booby-trapped, cube-shaped rooms, from which there was only one safe exit.
There was also a movie called Supermax that was pitched to Sony a few years back; it chronicled the tale of, “a Maximum Security Prison for the Supernatural as a skilled guard must join forces with a lethal inmate after a riot ensues in order to fight his way through various monsters and madmen in order to survive.” Could Haimes’ script be some sort of re-working of that idea?
Whatever they’ve got planned, Paramount are keeping the script for this one under “supermax” security. Let’s keep our fingers crossed for a prison-break.
We’ll let you know when more secrets about Supermax are revealed.