Dark Passenger

Donald Allen Kirch

Book Cover

GENRE

HORROR SUSPENSE/THRILLER MYSTERY FAMILY HISTORICAL FICTION

    Core Theme

    FEAR OF THE UNKNOWN.

    TIME PERIOD

    Earlier 20th Century

    COMPARABLE TITLES

    THE MUMMY, TITANIC, BLOOD VESSEL, DRACULA, MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS, ALIEN, SNOWPIERCER.

    CHARACTER LIST

    DENNIS PARKER: EARLY-30S. LEAD. PASSIONATE. DETERMINED. INTELLIGENT. DARING. OUTCAST.

    THOMAS ANDREWS: LATE-30S. SHIPBUILDER. DENNIS'S FRIEND.

    KA-RE: OVER 3000 BUT APPEARS IN HER 20S. EGYPTIAN MUMMY. DENNIS' MONSTER/FIXATION.

    CAPTAIN SMITH: LATE-50S. CAPTAIN OF THE TITANIC.

    REGINALD COTTS: 60S. DETECTIVE ON THE SHIP. HELPS DENNIS.

    SAHISH: 40S. DENNIS'S ENEMY, SEEKING THE MUMMY FOR HIMSELF.

    Logline

    Onboard the RMS TITANIC, Professor Dennis Parker believes he's taking with him to New York the archeological discovery of a lifetime. As the voyage progresses, passengers and crew become the victims of several grisly murders - not seen since the infamous Jack the Ripper.

    Target Audiences

    Age: 18-34,35-54,55+

    Target Gender: Universal

    Setting

    Egypt, Valley of the Kings, Southampton, England, Belfast, Ireland, R.M.S. Titanic

    Based on a True Story

    No

    Publishing Details

    Status: Yes: self-published

    Publisher: Why Not??? Publications

    Year Published: 1997

    Starting Description

    Dennis Parker, an archeologist, discovers a 3,000-year-old tomb that historians said DID NOT exist. Of a high priestess of Amon-Ra - a powerful woman in the "Cult of the Dead." Upon the tomb's discovery, his digging permits are expired. Dennis "secretly" sends his discovery home on the TITANIC!

    Ending Description

    Ka-Re, the high priestess, rises from her tomb and brings about the destruction of the R.M.S. Titanic. In her undead eyes, the Titanic is sailing off into "The West." This is the direction to "The Land of the Dead" - a place she can NEVER go...so, she destroys the "unsinkable" ship.

    Group Specific

    Information not completed

    Hard Copy Available

    Yes

    ISBN

    ISBN-10 : 1521150656 ISBN-13 : 978-1521150658

    Mature Audience Themes

    Extreme Violence

    Plot - Other Elements

    Other

    Plot - Premise

    Overcoming Monster/Villain

    Main Character Details

    Name: Dennis Parker

    Age: 30s

    Gender: Male

    Role: Protagonist

    Key Traits: Clumsy,Complex,Educated,Modest

    Additional Character Details

    Name: Thomas Andrews

    Age: 39

    Gender: Male

    Role: Sidekick

    Key Traits: Charming,Complex,Confident,Educated,Honorable

    Additional Character Details

    Name: Reginald Cotts

    Age: 59

    Gender: Male

    Role: sidekick

    Key Traits: Complex,Heroic,Honorable,Obedient,Outspoken,Skillful,Strong Moral Code

    Additional Character Details

    Name: Ka-Re

    Age: 3000+

    Gender: Female

    Role: antagonist

    Key Traits: Aggressive,Criminal,Greedy,Villainous,Power Hungry,Unapologetic

    Development Pitch

    A haunting and mysterious tale of the Titanic's demise, DARK PASSENGER explores the idea that this disaster was the result of an ignored "mummy's curse." Somewhat based on a "legend" stated in a 1922 British newspaper article, a cursed sarcophagus, belonging to a High Priestess of "The Cult of the Dead," was cataloged as being within the cargo hold of the R.M.S. Titanic. It was heading to the New York Museum of Natural History - it never got there, of course. There are those who FIRMLY believe that a curse caused the famous ship to sink on April 15, 1912, taking over 1,500 souls to the bottom of the North Atlantic. This is a thrilling tale of murder, intrigue, and ancient curses aboard the notorious Titanic on her ill-fated maiden voyage.

    Genre

    COMEDY, SUSPENSE, THRILLER, ROMANCE, DRAMA

    Brief

    The passengers of the Titanic--the largest ship ever built--are excited to embark on her maiden voyage, but little do they know that stowed away on board with them is a 3,000-year-old mummy who will soon be awoken, eager to fulfill her terrible curse.

    Overall Rating

    GOOD

    Point of View

    THIRD PERSON

    Narrative Elements

    Authors Writing Style: GOOD

    Characterization: GOOD

    Commerciality: EXCELLENT

    Franchise Potential: FAIR

    Pace: EXCELLENT

    Premise: EXCELLENT

    Structure: GOOD

    Theme: GOOD

    Accuracy of Book Profile

    The logline should make reference to the mummy. There should be more than just horror in the genre category--also thriller/suspense. The development pitch could make mention of similar films and the market for them today. Otherwise, it's all pretty good.

    Draw of Story

    The premise: a mummy on the Titanic. It's immediately interesting. The fact the Titanic was a real ship that really did sink adds to the enjoyment as this story (based on real-life rumors) implies that the ship sank due to the curse of the mummy on board. Very well done in this story is the theme of classism and tensions between the classes of Great Britain in the early 20th century and how it relates to those same tensions today. Particularly enjoyable about this novel is it's merging of three distinct genres--horror/thriller, period piece, and murder mystery--into one exceptionally fun tale. The story never takes itself too seriously, either, and maintains the sense of fun throughout.

    Possible Drawbacks

    The plot is messy at points, relying too heavily on contrived events and overly convenient occurrences. The author attempts to fit in too many characters and subplots, which is particularly the case for the two romance subplots for the two lead characters. In the space of a couple of scenes for each character, a female stranger to each character becomes a lover, and the final scene of the novel features one of these relationships being certified by a kiss, leading to a happily-ever-after ending that the story does not warrant nor require. Related to this problem is an overreliance on the Hollywood formula of a happy ending with new romance included, and allowing the story to end more organically would serve it well. There is also an unfortunate racial bias toward white people in the novel and overall a lack of diversity that will not be welcome for today's audiences. Although Britain in 1912 was very white, there is appropriate opportunity to include some characters of color, as well as roles for women outside of love interests. The only irredeemably evil characters in the story are Arabs, who are demonized when bad and subservient to white people when good, referring to white people as "master." Also, characters motivations are at times unclear, such as one of the lead characters deciding to go down with the ship when he has a family back in Ireland and the other main characters seem to survive relatively easily. With some tightening up of the story by cutting back on characters and subplots, introducing a little racial diversity and balancing out the demonization of Arabs, and clearing up character motivations, DARK PASSENGER could make a fun creature-on-a-ship period horror perfect for indie studios or possibly major studios with the right pitch.

    Use of Special Effects

    THE STORY RELIES A LITTLE BIT ON SPECIAL EFFECTS

    Primary Hook of Story

    The premise of a mummy on the Titanic is immediately interesting, and brings to mind right away two massively popular 1990s films: TITANIC and THE MUMMY. The merging of the horror/thriller, period piece, and murder mystery genres is unique yet commercial. A film adaptation could take a universal approach, becoming a family-friendly horror adventure such as THE MUMMY, or could take a more adult route and become more violent and frightening.

    Fanbase Potential

    Yes, this could be a massively popular film--a summer blockbuster--as it is highly reminiscent of two of the most popular films of the 1990s: TITANIC and THE MUMMY. It is comedic, scary, thrilling, and fun all at the same time, while also being a semi-realistic period piece based on a true event--blockbuster material.

    Awards Potential

    Possibly for makeup/costumes/creature design, and sound and editing. Not for best script nor best picture in a general sense, but possibly for horror-specific awards.

    Envisioned Budget

    MEDIUM BUDGET

    Similar Films/TV Series

    TITANIC, THE MUMMY, DRACULA, BLOOD VESSEL, MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS, SNOWPIERCER.

    What’s New About the Story

    Its premise and merging of genres are unique. It could be made more unique by relying less on the plot points and concepts of TITANIC and THE MUMMY and introducing more elements of its own. A more diverse cast would help to bring it into the 21st century and allow it to stand on its own merits. The story should also rely less on the Hollywood formula of a happy ending with a new romantic relationship blossoming for the lead character, and allow for a more organic ending.

    Lead Characters

    They're all unique and distinct from one another. Their different ways of seeing the world clash in the right ways to fuel the tension in the story. They are characters you care about and enjoying spending time with.

    Uniqueness of Story

    Yes, I think so. It needs work on the areas aforementioned under my answer to "Did anything make you want to put the book down? What can be done to avoid that?" but the premise is original and fun enough and the genre-merging done well enough that this story could be quite attractive to indie and major studios.

    Possible Formats

    Film - Studio, Film - Streaming, Film - Indie

    Analyst Recommendation

    RECOMMEND

    Justification

    The premise of a mummy on the Titanic is immediately interesting. The fact the Titanic was a real ship that really did sink adds to the enjoyment as this story implies that the ship sank due to the curse of the mummy on board. Very well done in this story is the theme of classism and tensions between the classes of Great Britain in the early 20th century and how it relates to those same tensions today. Particularly enjoyable about this novel is it's merging of three distinct genres--horror/thriller, period piece, and murder mystery--into one exceptionally fun tale. The story never takes itself too seriously, either, and maintains the sense of fun throughout. It could be a real crowd-pleaser and a family-friendly horror adventure such as THE MUMMY.

    Brief

    The passengers of the Titanic--the largest ship ever built--are excited to embark on her maiden voyage, but little do they know that stowed away on board with them is a 3,000-year-old mummy who will soon be awoken, eager to fulfill her terrible curse.

    What We Liked

    DARK PASSENGER's premise of an Egyptian mummy unleashing a curse on board the Titanic is immediately interesting and brings to mind two of the biggest films of the 1990s: TITANIC and THE MUMMY. The fact that the Titanic was a real ship that really did sink adds to the enjoyment as this story (based on real-life rumors) "reveals" that the ship sank due to the curse of the mummy on board. Very well done in this story is its theme of classism and tensions between the wealthy and working class of Great Britain in the early 20th century, which relates perfectly to those same tensions today. DARK PASSENGER excellently blends three distinct genres--horror/thriller, period piece, and murder mystery--into one exceptionally fun tale that could potentially be a highly popular crowd-pleaser. The story never takes itself too seriously, maintaining its sense of fun throughout. Comedic, scary, suspenseful, and light-hearted simultaneously and a semi-realistic period piece based on a true event, DARK PASSENGER is a summer blockbuster waiting to happen.

    Film: DARK PASSENGER is best suited to film adaptation, and could be adapted successfully by indie and major studios alike. Because of its similarity to massively popular 1990s box office hits TITANIC and THE MUMMY, DARK PASSENGER is a summer blockbuster in waiting. Its merging of the horror/thriller, period piece, and murder mystery genres is unique yet commercial, and the story is a perfect combination of humor, suspense, thrills, scares, and light-hearted entertainment. A film adaptation could take a universal high-budget approach, becoming a family-friendly horror adventure such as THE MUMMY, or a more adult mid-budget route, becoming more violent and frightening, such as the more recent OVERLORD and BLOOD VESSEL. Regardless, DARK PASSENGER is the kind of fresh story that feels timeless, borrowing from popular films without mimicking them--in 2021, it's a perfect recipe for success.

    TV: Because DARK PASSENGER is based around a real-life event--the sinking of the Titanic in 1912--this real-life event offers the perfect end-point for a limited TV series adaptation. As the audience knows in advance that the ship will sink, the series could build to this inevitable event, escalating the atmosphere of dread, horror and suspense with each episode while simultaneously focusing on its murder-mystery/horror plot and Sherlock Holmes-like detective character investigating a "serial killer" on the ship who is in fact an unearthed Egyptian mummy hungry for blood. As the audience knows so much more than the characters, both in terms of the ship's fate and the fact the killer is the mummy, this offers much opportunity to foster a sense of paranoia akin to John Carpenter's THE THING sustained across many episodes wherein, to the characters, any passenger could be the killer until the killer's identity is revealed. Because of the thousands of passengers onboard, there are myriad possibilities for exploring relationships between characters, secrets, flashbacks to before the voyage, etc., creating adequate tension and intrigue, until the final episodes potentially see the mummy revealed and the ship begin to sink as story and character arcs are resolved.

    Key points: Excellent premise; Genre-blending to great effect; A fictional spin on a true story; Fun and entertaining the whole way through; Reminiscent of massively popular 1990s films--beloved movies of many current filmgoers' childhoods--without mimicking them.

    Synopsis

    EGYPT, 1909: DENNIS PARKER (American, early-30s) and his men dig in the desert in search of the tomb of ancient Egyptian KA-RE, who was buried alive as punishment for using black magic and evil deeds. BELFAST, IRELAND, 1912: Shipbuilder and Chief Designer of the Titanic—the largest ship ever built—THOMAS ANDREWS (late-30s, Irish), exhausted from years of hard work but satisfied, marvels at the Titanic, which will be embarking on her first voyage tomorrow with Thomas on board. He walks home through the foggy city and bumps into old friend Dennis Parker when gunshots whizz past. Thomas and Dennis rush to Thomas’s apartment where Dennis explains that he is being pursued by an evil man named SAHISH who wants what Dennis has discovered: 3000-year-old sarcophagus and mummy Ka-Re. Dennis will board the ship in Southampton, England, where his cargo awaits. At the Belfast shipyard, Thomas is attacked by Sahish and his men, demanding to know where Dennis is, until Thomas’s colleagues chase Sahish and his men away. Thomas boards the Titanic. In Southampton, CAPTAIN EDWARD SMITH (late-50s, British), REGINALD COTTS (60s, retired former investigator with Scotland Yard) and Dennis board the Titanic. Sahish locates the Sarcophagus in the cargo hold and opens it, horrified to see two fully formed eyes staring out at him. Ka-Re cuts Sahish’s throat open, killing him.

    As the Titanic sails for New York, Ka-Re believes it is sailing off the edge of the world and attempts to sink it by starting a fire in the engines, which is discovered by Thomas and put out by him and the workers. Ka-Re kills multiple passengers, leading to Smith requesting Reginald uses his investigation skills to find the killer. Reginald, helped by Thomas and Dennis, find clues that lead them to red herrings and dead ends as the bodies continue to mount, until lookouts on the front of the ship spot an iceberg fast approaching. Ka-Re uses this opportunity to attempt to sink the ship. Invisible to the ship’s officers, she takes control of the bridge and turns the ship hard starboard, causing the iceberg to scrape along the entire length of the ship’s side. The ship begins to sink and mayhem ensues. There are not enough lifeboats for all passengers as corners were cut on the ship’s construction without Thomas’s prior knowledge. Wealthy first-class passengers are evacuated first while the poor drown on the lowest levels. Thomas resigns himself to sinking with the ship, feeling responsible. Dennis also feels responsible as he brought Ka-Re on board, but he manages to escape into the water as the ship sinks, as do Reginald and Smith. They huddle on an overturned lifeboat when Ka-Re surges out of the water. She shares a passionate kiss with Dennis, then grabs Smith and dives into the water with him, sinking him to the depths along with her. Dennis explains that Ka-Re required one final sacrifice to reach the underworld and chose the ship’s captain. He and Reginald swear to keep Ka-Re a secret as nobody would believe them anyway. They are rescued by an approaching ship and inform its passengers the truth: the Titanic sank because the company that owned her cut corners on her construction and it was not the fault of Thomas, who was a master shipbuilder. Dennis and Reginald reach New York grateful to have survived.

    About The Author

    Donald Allen Kirch is an award-winning author based in the U.S. He has a degree in Radio and Television Arts and is a Member of the Horror Writer's Association.