Cadaverine by Holly Jurbergs | Script Revolution




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Based On: 
Unpublished novel
A rookie crime scene investigator must connect a violent road rage case with two unsolved murders before a psychopath with an experimental drug kills again.

The story for Cadverine was inspired by a bizarre road rage case in San Jose, California. Sara McBurnett’s beloved Bichon Frisé, Leo, was hurled into traffic by an angry motorist who confronted her after a rear-end collision and then fled the scene. As a dog lover, I wondered what would cause someone to commit such a senseless act of violence. I wanted to explore how forensic science could be used to solve the case. My background as an analytical chemist allowed me to write the science with authenticity. Cadaverine is a character-driven thriller told from the multiple perspectives of a rookie CSI, Kate Vaughn, a serial killer, Dr. Carl Baldwin, and two hostages, Detective Matt Stevens and Amy Williams.

The film opens with the dramatic inciting incident. A carefree teenage girl is driving on the highway, singing along with the radio, and cuddling her cute powder puff Bichon Frisé in her lap. Her cell phone chimes with an incoming text message. As she digs in her handbag for her phone, she rear-ends the car in front of her. The driver, a hulking bodybuilder, approaches her open window with a scowl on his face. As the teenage girl tries to apologize, he berates her and the dog reacts with aggressive barking. He yanks the dog out of the car by its collar and throws it into oncoming traffic.

At the beginning of the film, Kate’s life is at a low point. She has just been dumped by her fiancé, she is unemployed, and her abusive father wants to reconcile with her. Kate is brainy and athletic, but she has a chip on her shoulder and a short temper. She is a recent graduate of Georgetown University with a degree in forensic science. She is training for a regatta with her rowing team. Because of childhood trauma and her difficult relationship with her father, she struggles with anxiety and does not trust men. Kate lands a job as a DNA analyst at the Austin crime lab and is paired with a veteran CSI, Warren Tyler, for training. As Kate and Warren work together on a violent road rage case, they grow closer and begin a secret romantic relationship.

When we meet Carl, he has a woman’s body in the trunk of his car. Carl’s controlling mother loved the family dog more than him. As a child, Carl was thin and frail, but as an adult he has become a huge bodybuilder and an angry bully. Carl is a senior scientist at Balcones Pharmaceuticals working on a high stakes project to bring a new anesthesia to market. Carl is a loner with only one close friend, James Newman, who works in animal testing. James is handsome, manipulative, and a narcissistic sexual predator. Carl fantasizes about a future with James. Carl’s jealousy drives him to stalk and kill James’ other lovers.

Amy is a scientist at Balcones Pharmaceuticals working in Carl’s lab. She is smart, talented and a natural leader, but Carl does not respect her. Amy is also a loving mother with a five-year-old daughter and a husband who adores her. When Carl is demoted for poor performance and Amy is offered his job, Carl unravels and kidnaps her from the company hike and bike trail. Amy is held hostage in Carl’s bathroom while the police and her family begin a frantic search.

At the crime lab, Kate and Warren investigate two new homicides. A dancer from a local gentleman’s club has been drugged and stabbed to death. Kate identifies the drug as a powerful anesthesia similar to ketamine. When another woman’s body is pulled from a local lake with the same drug in her system, the stakes of the murder investigation are raised. Detective Matt Williams forms a theory that James and Carl are using an experimental drug to prey on women.

Matt follows up on his hunch and visits Carl at his apartment. When he confronts Carl about his relationships with James and Amy, Carl attacks Matt and shoots him with his own gun. Matt is dumped in the bathroom where Amy is being held hostage. By the time SWAT arrives, Carl has decided to kill Amy, Matt and then himself, but Carl has underestimated Amy. When Carl storms the bathroom, Amy attacks him. As Carl overpowers Amy, the SWAT team breaks down Carl’s front door and kills him with a single shot to the head.

The film ends with two dramatic and emotional scenes. Kate’s rowing team wins the regatta and Kate’s mother encourages her to reconcile with her father. Kate and Warren visit Amy in the hospital and learn she has been promoted to manager of her research group. Amy is also pregnant with her second child and she wants to name the baby Katherine if it is a girl. Kate and Warren walk out of the hospital hand-in-hand with the promise of a happy life together.

Why This Story Now?

Cadverine is a smart thriller that brings the very successful crime scene investigation concept to the big screen. The screenplay is an adaption of an unpublished novel set in Austin, Texas. Austin consistently ranks as one of the best places to live in the U.S. and would make an interesting setting for the film. Women are underrepresented in the thriller genre and the characters of Kate and Amy provide challenging roles for female actresses. As a millennial character, Kate is a role model for young women and her story will appeal to both teens and adults. In addition, the story has an ethnically diverse cast of memorable characters who would be appealing for a sequel. This story also has social impact as a cautionary tale about workplace and domestic violence and the effect of childhood trauma on adults.

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The Writer: Holly Jurbergs

Who am I? I’m the tall person standing next to you. Randy Newman wrote a great song about it called “Short People.” You can find it on his album “Little Criminals.” Seriously, people come in all shapes, sizes, and colors. It’s a beautiful thing. 

As a writer, I’m drawn to the dark side of human nature. What makes criminals tick? What is driving their obsession or anger? On the screen, crime stories deliver big emotional payoffs when the monster is captured or slain. In real life, justice is often delayed or never realized. I’m interested in strong female characters, family secrets, moral dilemmas, and forensic science. I’m also excited about creating challenging and compelling... Go to bio

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