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Henrietta

Ohio, 1887. A multiracial family is devastated by illness after 11 year old Rhett believes she has summoned a demonic power. While her doctor stepfather quarantines the house for cholera, Rhett must fight through an otherworldly dreamscape to protect her mother and brother. (harryaspinwall.com/henrietta)

After Rhett, a young Black girl in Ohio in 1887, jokingly curses her little brother Ben, the boy has a dangerous seizure. They both begin to experience dreams of horned creatures in the darkness, from which they flee to the safety of light and a glowing cup. As Ben grows sick, their mother, Antonia, cares for him, while at the same time fending off pressure from a railroad company to sell her land. Their white stepfather, an accomplished doctor, believes that Ben has cholera, and he quarantines the house, but after Ben’s death, the illness spreads to Rhett.

The creatures won’t leave Rhett alone. They are appearing in the house now, leaving scratches along the wallpaper, telling her not to drink from the cup in her dreams. Rhett confesses her nightmarish visions to her mother, who cautions Rhett not to listen to the voices: Mental health issues run in the family, she says, and her own mother ended up in an asylum.

But Rhett gets sicker. At last, in a psychedelic fever dream, she listens to the creatures and refuses to drink from the otherworldly cup. She throws up a mass of poison and begins to recover; now, however, her mother is sick. Her stepfather takes her under his wing and begins teaching her medicine.

As they care for Antonia, the two grow closer, until one day a haggard railroad worker accosts Rhett in her back yard and warns her not to trust the doctor. Rhett banishes this encounter from her mind, but her suspicions are raised when she finds clues that the doctor has been meeting with the railroad company. Following a hunch, she uncovers lockets of other Black women hidden in the doctor’s study. The railroad worker tells her that her stepfather is a conman who has been marrying and murdering Black women to gain their property.

Before Rhett can set a plan in motion, the doctor discovers her conversation and drags her to his study to administer more “medicine”. With the help of the creatures in her fever dreams she rejects the poison and escapes, but nobody in the town believes her story. Returning to the house to gather evidence, Rhett is captured by the doctor, who prepares to kill her outright. At the last second, she allows the supernatural creatures to reach out to her, pulling them into the real world to protect herself.

The following morning, authorities drag out the remains of the doctor, who seems to have been killed by a pack of wolves. Tearfully Antonia wonders what they’ll do now. Rhett, however, is strangely optimistic.

Script Excerpt
Written by:
Format:
Screenplay
Budget:
Low
Starring Roles For:
11 year old Black girl
Paul Rudd
Lupita Nyong'o
In the Vein Of:
The Witch
Get Out
The Cell
Posted:
04/14/2020
Updated:
04/14/2020
Author Bio:
Harry Aspinwall is a Scottish-American queer and neurodivergent filmmaker. He got his BA (Hons) in screenwriting and playwriting at Brown University in 2011, and since then he's been working in film in the US and the UK, specialising particularly in historical and speculative fiction and their intersection with queerness and privilege. His work has created cult followings, and has been featured in Huffington Post, Buzzfeed, the Nerdist, Tor.com, Hypable, and Geek and Sundry (and got tweeted out by RL Stine once).

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Contest Results:
Fresh Voices Feature (First Place, Winner, Horror category) [2020]
Diverse Voices (Finalist) [2019]
ScreenCraft Film Fund (Finalist) [2018]
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