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The Road to Hell (1996)

An adaptation of "The Snow Child" by Angela Carter.

1.EXT.MOTORWAY.NIGHT.

A sleek new Mercedes is travelling down the almost-deserted motorway. It is beginning to snow.

2.INT.CAR.NIGHT.

The COUNT and COUNTESS, rich young suburban types, are sitting in the front seats of the car. The COUNT is behind the wheel.

COUNTESS

I wonder if Lord Russell will be there tonight. Do you think so? It must be years since I last saw him (Looking back out of window) Darling, you've just missed our turning.

COUNT

I don't care. We're not going there. I'm sick of that place and all those boring, snobbish bastards....there's just nothing to do in this shitty little town.

The COUNTESS looks at him reproachfully. They drive on. There is a sudden SQUEAL OF BRAKES as the COUNT swings the car round into a small lay-by, partially hidden by trees and other foliage which scrape against the car as it passes.

COUNTESS

Watch the car! What the hell do you think you're doing?

COUNT

Getting out of here. I know a place-

COUNTESS

What about the party? Daddy said-

COUNT

I don't care what Daddy said, I've had enough.

The COUNTESS sits back, defeated.

3.EXT.COUNTRY LANE.NIGHT.

The car is travelling down a dimly-lit narrow country lane, surrounded on one side by fields and on the other by dense woodland. OWL HOOTS and other NIGHT SOUNDS are heard. The snowfall has grown heavier.

4.INT.CAR.NIGHT.

COUNT (peering forward through windscreen)

Damn, I can't see anything through this wretched snow.

COUNTESS

Maybe we should go back.

COUNT

Forget it. I told you tonight was going to be different. I wanted to get you away from all that society crap so that we could have some fun for a change. Do you remember what that feels like? All the things we used to do before Daddy and Mummy and the Headmaster and the nice doctor came and took it all away?

COUNTESS (afraid)

No! No, not that, please.

COUNT

Ask yourself this: have you ever been satisfied since?

COUNTESS

I....I don't remember.

COUNT

You will.

They pass a YOUNG GIRL who is waiting by the side of the road, holding aloft a large cardboard sign with "HULL" written on it in black pen. A large suitcase is by her side. The COUNT slams on the brakes and the car SCREECHES to a halt.

COUNTESS

What are you doing?

COUNT

We can't leave her standing there in this weather, she'll freeze.

COUNTESS

Well, let someone else pick her up.

COUNT (laughing to himself)

Oh, honey. No-one ever comes down here.

He opens the car door.

5.EXT.COUNTRY LANE.NIGHT.

The GIRL moves towards the car, uncertain.

GIRL (laughing nervously)

Thanks for stopping. I've been standing here for hours.

COUNT

Honey, no-one ever comes down here.

The COUNT gets out of the car and opens the passenger door. He lifts the GIRL's luggage into the back. She gives him the sign which he places on top of the luggage. He opens the COUNTESS' door and leans down to speak to her.

COUNT

Would you like to sit in the back, darling?

GIRL

Really sir, I don't think-

COUNT

Nonsense! It's warmer in the front and we need to warm you up, don't we?

He takes the COUNTESS' arm and pulls her up out of the car.

COUNT

Come on darling, you sit in the back for a while so we can warm up Missy here.

She opens her mouth to protest. The COUNT pulls her close to him.

COUNT (low)

Just for a little while, darling. It will all be over soon, I promise.

The COUNTESS walks round the side of the car and sits in the back seat, slamming the back door hard.

GIRL

I think I've offended her. Maybe-

COUNT

Do stop apologising, my dear. Get in. It's been a long time since we've had your sort of company (to COUNTESS) Isn't it?

She frowns at him. The COUNT and the GIRL get into the car and the COUNT drives off.

6.INT.CAR.NIGHT.

COUNT

I can hardly remember myself....still, I daresay it will all come back to me (to GIRL) Don't you think?

GIRL

I don't know what you mean.

COUNT

Don't worry, you'll find out, I'm sure.

He opens the glove compartment and takes something out, concealing it in his hand. The GIRL sits back, afraid, as he brings his hand level with her face. The COUNTESS gives a quiet scream and sits forward abruptly.

COUNT (opening hand)

Jelly baby?

GIRL (relieved)

Oh! Thank you.

She takes a sweet. The COUNTESS leans back in her seat, angry. They drive on in silence.

7.EXT.COUNTRY LANE.NIGHT.

Some time later. The snow has stopped falling.

8.INT.CAR.NIGHT.

The GIRL and the COUNT are deep in conversation.

COUNT

....and so Lord Edgar ended up with a faceful of strawberry punch, which didn't exactly endear Her Ladyship's parents to me, but it worked out anyway, as you can see, and we've been happily married for some years now (turns to smile at COUNTESS)

GIRL (laughing)

What an interesting family you have!

COUNT

It gets a lot better, my dear. Would you like to hear some more? (to COUNTESS) Shall I tell her what happened on our honeymoon?

COUNTESS

No! (Calmer, to GIRL) Look, it's stopped snowing and you must have warmed up by now, so do you mind if I sit next to my husband?

GIRL

Of course not. (To COUNT) Can you pull over so that we can change places?

The COUNT nods and pulls the car over to the side of the road.

9.EXT.COUNTRY LANE.NIGHT.

The COUNT gets out of the car, then opens the passenger door and helps his wife out of the car.

COUNTESS (low)

I can't stand any more of this. Finish it. Now.

COUNT (loudly)

Alright love, whatever love wants.

The women change places. The COUNT gets back into the car and they drive off.

10.INT.CAR.NIGHT.

COUNT

Now, where was I? Oh yes (Turns to GIRL) It may interest, nay surprise you to know that we're not all harmless types.....why, I could tell you stories that would make your hair stand up on end and give you nightmares for weeks!

GIRL (laughing nervously)

I'm not sure that I want to hear-

COUNT

Why, there was this one young man, he wasn't born into the family but married into it, so he didn't suffer from inherited madness (Laughs) Anyway, he met his gal at finishing school-she was a pupil and he worked on the grounds, that sort of arrangement....and she was one of those jealous types, couldn't stand him even sneaking a peek at all the other nubile young virgins, so....

He has taken his eyes off the road. The women gasp as the car swerves, narrowly avoiding a large tree to the left of the road. The COUNT, unconcerned, straightens the car up.

GIRL (gasping in shock)

Uh....sir, if your wife is unhappy with this then maybe you shouldn't-

COUNT

So she gave him an ultimatum, you might say, and the girls began to disappear. They were found raped and murdered, though not necessarily in that order (Laughs)

The GIRL gasps and presses herself back into the seat.

COUNT

But people began to get suspicious, so eventually they were reduced to picking up young hitchhikers from the street-Oh, don't be scared yet, you haven't heard the best part!

GIRL (terrified)

What? What?

COUNT

Well, they were found out eventually, of course, as all good things have to come to an end, but what with her being from high nobility and all that, Daddy managed to pull some strings and hush it up, so they carried on as normal, going to society balls, driving nice cars, that sort of thing.....and not a soul suspected this time.

GIRL

No?

COUNT

Well...did you?

He begins to laugh and the COUNTESS joins him. The GIRL whimpers and presses her body against the car door. The COUNTESS reaches under her seat and takes out a weapon, but the COUNT stops her before she can use it.

COUNT

No, no. Tonight is going to be different. You haven't heard the rest of the story.

COUNTESS

Stop playing around. Finish it!

COUNT

Yes, my sweet. Anyway, eventually he got tired of his wife's interferings and sought out a new bride, actually a pretty little thing barely above the age of consent that he found, of all places, at a society ball! Don't you recognise her, darling? Of course not....you never paid much attention to the servants....

The COUNTESS screams and turns to face the GIRL, who laughs and removes her coat to reveal a chambermaid's outfit.

COUNT

She's a great little actress too!

COUNTESS

What are you going to do? Where are you taking me?

COUNT

Tut, tut, you really are unobservant aren't you? If only you'd read the sign (To GIRL) Show her, darling.

The GIRL picks up the cardboard sign and shows it to the COUNTESS. Instead of "HULL" it now reads "HELL".

COUNT (laughing maniacally)

That's why no-one ever comes down here, darling! This is the road to hell!

He accelerates rapidly. The COUNTESS' screams are mingled with the laughter of the COUNT and the GIRL as they drive off into the night. It begins to snow again.

 

THE END

Road to Hell


Robin Tamblyn (author)