Cutting Board: Galaxy Quest, The Conjuring, and Heat

We open with an intergalactic bank robbery. Mask-wearing aliens are holding everyone hostage while they crack the safe.  It’s exactly like an Earth-based bank robbery. You’d think the writers would be more creative…

My character isn’t important enough for a last name

BUT WAIT! Suddenly, a spaceship swoops in to save the day! It’s the USS Protector! The crew uses their wits and their phasers to subdue the robbers, rescue the hostages, and teach the audience a valuable lesson about [insert timely political topic here]. And all under the fearless leadership of their dashing captain: Jean-Luc Pacino. Cue end credits – tune in next week for another episode of ‘Nebula Odyssey’.

Make it so for my little friend!

Cut to the actor, Allen Tim, who plays captain Pacino. He’s sitting on his couch, some twenty-years later, watching reruns of the show. He takes a sip of beer, then throws the bottle at the TV screen.

Title card: Nebula Odyssey – the Haunting

The next day, there’s a convention for Nebula Odyssey fans. The entire cast and crew is there giving out autographs, taking pictures, and selling merchandise. The only one absent is Allen. He’s working out at the gym, because he refuses to pander and absolutely hates these events.

Since he’s not there, he gets a heated call from his agent. His agent demands that he go to the convention for a few hours, especially since they just released the new spinoff series: Pacino. Allen says that his job stops when the cameras stop rolling, and he doesn’t care one bit about the fans. After some bribery, the agent convinces him to make a brief appearance.

This proves to be a mistake. Allen is rude to his former cast members – he specifically asked that none of them make a cameo in Pacino. And he’s downright cruel towards the fans. There’s a particularly nasty exchange where he completely demoralizes a teenage Odyssite, telling him to give up this childish obsession and do something valuable with his life.

The kid has hit rock bottom. He doesn’t have motivation.

That evening, the boy kills himself, and it makes national news. Allen is a pariah. Pacino gets cancelled after public backlash. He watches a rerun of the original show, and in a Christopher Nolan twist of editing, we realize that the opening scene is just now taking place chronologically. Like we saw earlier, he throws the beer bottle as the credits roll. The TV glitches out. He sits in the darkness – remorseful, jaded, contemplative, angsty, and above all, lost.

He’s interrupted by a sharp knock at the door. He grudgingly opens it, and is greeted by a husband and wife. They tell Allen that they live in a haunted house with their daughters. The hauntings are getting more extreme – they think it might be demons – and their daughters are suffering. They’re big fans of ‘Nebula Odyssey’, they believe that Allen really is Captain Pacino, and they’re insistent that only he can save their family. Oh, and they’re Thermians from a planet called Annabellum.

We NEED your assistance TO save our DAUUUUGH-ters

Allen is skeptical. Partly because of their odd speech pattern, partly because they claim to be aliens who have seen his show. But he’s remorseful over the suicide he caused, so he agrees to help them.

They immediately teleport him to their planet, which catches him completely off guard. After a mind-bending space trip (pun intended), they materialize in a field outside the mansion. There are no other buildings or signs of civilization, just a stereotypically decrepit haunted house.

The couple, Ed and Lorraine, help Allen get his bearings. They lead him to the house, introduce their daughters, and tell their full backstory. When did the hauntings start, what are the signs, how much have the girls suffered, etc.

Corpse? What corpse?

Truth be told, Allen isn’t paying attention. He’s still adjusting to being on a new planet. He concludes he must be either dreaming or high, so he decides to play along while waiting for the effects to wear off. Plus, the family seems so odd and pathetic that he feels pity for them.

Suddenly, the hauntings begin. Allen sees glimpses of demons that the family doesn’t notice, one of the daughters gets dragged up the wall, the lights flicker, an old piano plays on its own, a doll talks, screams echo in the basement… Turns out, the house really is haunted! Allen realizes that it’s all real, not in his mind, so he’s determined to rescue the family. The next 20 minutes are classic jump-scaranoia.

Meanwhile, back on Earth…

By the time evening comes, it seems like the demons are taking a break for some exposition. Over dinner, the family asks Allen about his time as Captain Pacino. He tries to explain that it’s all a fake TV show, but they don’t understand the concept of ‘fake’. At an impasse, he reluctantly embraces his character and tells exciting tales of adventure, much to the family’s delight.

That night, the demons strike again. Allen feels like he’s going crazy – seeing things the family can’t see, chasing demons who vanish into thin air, blindly wandering in the darkness following the sounds of screams. A waking nightmare, which he’s increasingly desperate to escape from.

I suspect there’s an impending plot twist, but I’m not sure what it is…

The next day, the family shows him their collection of Nebula Odyssey memorabilia. All of them, daughters included, are super fans. Every bedroom is decorated with posters of the crew, the ship, and especially Captain Pacino. Allen is understandably uncomfortable with their obsession, but they still can’t grasp that he’s just a character on a show, so he gives up trying to explain it to them.

Abrupt cut to a jump scare, more demon horror. Allen fights back admirably as Captain Pacino, and manages to exorcise one of the demons. It seemed incredibly easy though…

While Ed takes the daughters outside to play. Allen is alone in the house with Lorraine. She begins tormenting him, vanishing and reappearing like a specter, driving him mad with her maniacal laughter. He learns that she was the demon all along – the real Lorraine is trapped in the basement. The demon is masterminding the hauntings to keep Allen trapped like a pet. Saving the day as Captain Pacino ad infinitum.

I shoulda known! It was a commentary on toxic fan culture all along!

Allen is no match for her, so he waits until Ed and the girls come back inside. As they eat dinner, Allen says that the best way to fight the demons is with teamwork. He wonders if he could beam back to Earth, assemble his crew, and bring them all to the house. After all, they’re like family to him.

Quick cut to the cast members back on Earth, who are reacting to Allen’s unexplained disappearance.

“He’s gone”
“Oooh, yes, say it again”

Back on Annabellum, the family agrees to send him back to Earth. Except Lorraine, who can see through his facade. She insists that he stay, otherwise the demon might kill one of the girls. Allen goes full Captain Pacino, accuses her of treachery, and declares that she will pay for her deceit.

How adorable. The actor is going to play war with me

Begin the final battle. It’s a life or death struggle between Allen and Lorraine. Somehow, Allen manages to free the real Lorraine from the basement. The situation finally sinks in for the rest of the family, and they team up with Allen to defeat the demon once and for all.

End with them thanking Allen, saying goodbye, and sending him back to Earth. He’s reinvigorated by the experience, gives up acting (not that anybody will hire him after the scandal), and becomes a cop. He feels like it’s the best way to keep playing Captain Pacino without the rabid fanbase.

By Grabthar’s Hammer, what a GREAT ASS!!

The end.