The Hamlet Horror Movie
Our group received the challenge of adapting the first scene of Hamlet with a horror movie angle.
We initially went with a stage production (later filmed by Emma and I) and started flinging ideas at the wall to see what stuck. The play began to take shape: Our setting would be a dorm room, with modern language and updated names. We chose this setting because horror movies are usually set in modern times, and some at a college. Since there are only three male characters in this scene and our group had five people (with only one guy), Marcellus and Horatio were split into two people each: Heather and Haley, Marcy and Mary. Bernardo became Bernard. The ghost was kept invisible since the anticipation of seeing a ghost is scarier than actually seeing one.
I suggested that a fictional college dean could be King Hamlet, but the King later became a student named Kane, the unfortunate murder victim of a shocking campus crime last Halloween. Bernard would begin the scene by telling the story of Kane as a parallel of Bernardo telling the guys about the ghost of the king that he’s been seeing.
I wrote about half of the script in modern language. The dorm room where Kane was found killed is the same one Bernardo is now living in (creepy!), and where his friends are hanging out for Halloween, chosen because the holiday has obvious associations with horror. Bernardo starts telling his ghost story and is interrupted by Haley’s attempt to speak to the ghost of Kane, if he’s there. Meanwhile, Heather does not like the ghost talk. They are both from the character of Horatio and their opposite reactions reflect Horatio’s lines: “It fills me with fear and wonder” and “I charge thee, speak!”
As the Ghost exits in Hamlet, the talk turns to what happened the night Kane died. I created an argument between Kane and his Norwegian roommate to reflect the section of Hamlet that talks about the conflict between King Hamlet and Fortinbras of Norway, who forfeited his lands by pact after he was defeated. People suspect that the roommate killed Kane because he was angry about losing money in a bet to Kane.
The ghost enters the scene in Hamlet again, and so in parallel, the party begins to speak to a possible ghost of Kane, to see if he’s there. My group members ended it with Bernard possibly seeing Kane. Then the door slams. End scene.
Given more time, I would have delved deeper into what happened in the conflict between the Norwegian roommate and Kane since the play also does this. I would also have kept Marcellus as one character.
A fidelity critic would not like the adaptation we created simply because it does not readily resemble Hamlet in setting, dialogue, or story. But adaptation is not merely a reproduction, but a recreation. Closeness to the text is not of primary importance when adapting a story. Overall, it was difficult to adapt the play, and I think that I better appreciate the challenges that writers face when developing adaptations–especially high-profile ones.