THE JANITOR: Psychological Thriller/Melodrama - Completed Treatment.
An average, normal-looking middle-aged American works as a lowly
janitor at a large shopping mall. After scenes of development that
depict the slow deterioration and mental and emotional distress brought
on by years of social neglect, family crises and job-related pressures,
he suddenly goes berserk and proceeds on a wild killing spree through
the city. His tragic story ends in an office building above the mall
where, after taking and killing hostages, he is finally subdued and
slain by police.
“ T H E J A N I T O R “
Patrick P. Stafford
Synopsis and Treatment For
For Motion Pictures or Television
(Approximately 100 - 120 Minutes in Length)
Patrick P. Stafford
9250 Reseda Blvd. #169
Northridge, CA 91324
COPYRIGHTED (C) BY PATRICK P. STAFFORD
CAST OF CHARACTERS
Harry Toiker (the Janitor)
Barbara St. Johns
Old Man on Bus
Minor Cast (suggested & non-essential)
2 Black Janitors
Swat Team Members
Old Lady on Bus
Fire Dept. Personnel
Swat Team Captain
Gang Youths on Bus
Setting of Story
In a low-rent residential area in Los Angeles (Harry’s home); at a busy shopping mall/office building in Downtown, Los Angeles; and other scenes throughout Los Angeles, California.
Time of Story
Synopsis of Story
Drama seldom explores in detail the weirdness or abnormalities of human behavior, and often fails to examine those entities who often lurk unnoticed outside the stream of “normal” society. This has largely been the realm of comedy--for it is a far greater pleasure to laugh and be amused by what we do not understand, than to scream or cry or to be horrified. There is an element of human nature that superficially remains inexplicable and misunderstood for its causes and preventions. For there is a darker side to human behavior and human nature that is often only exposed at its climax, which is usually ignored during its imperceptible development.
The gangster movies of the past and the plethora of exploitation films about terrorists, serial killers and mass murderers seem only to touch upon the abnormal or antisocial behavior of such entities and the singular aspects of man’s darker nature. We more or less understand the causes and motivations inherent in a person who from childhood to maturity leads a life of crime or terrorism. We know the influences of greed and anger and the concepts of corruption and temptation and how these elements concern the development of the habitual criminal. Broken homes, poverty, family squabbles and societal pressures are all tantamount to the life of the gangster, murderer and petty thief.
Some general or supernatural notion of “evil” has occasionally been injected or proposed as the culprit. For terrorists and terrorism, the notion is more vague or complex: we are led to believe the motivating factors which may or may not compel an individual to wantonly slay hordes of innocent people may stem from political convictions or simply from any one of a half dozen mentally sociopathic or psychopathic afflictions. The victimizers in effect, have had their problems for quite some time, if not all of their lives. And a viewing audience can basically understand the factors culminating to a violent conclusion.
But what about the non-descript, mild-mannered citizen who is suddenly transformed into a mass-murdering killing machine? What about the individual who, seemingly unprovoked and normal in every acceptable concept of the word (even apolitical and docile in thought and prior behavior)--what about this person who suddenly takes gun or bomb in hand and suddenly and savagely begins to indiscriminately kill and destroy those around him?
Recent incidents in American society and elsewhere have produced a number of these unexplained mad men. One behind the wheel of his speeding car mowed down dozens of innocent pedestrians in Westwood, California some years ago. Another, with an assortment of guns and rifles, shot and killed or injured more than twenty men, women and children in a MacDonald’s restaurant in the 1980’s. More recently, postal clerks, office workers, husbands, wives, mothers, fathers and adolescents have gone on murderous killing sprees in places that had always been the refuge of public gathering, employment and peaceful home.
These incidents are not commonplace, although for many, they may appear to be worse than this: a national epidemic. Nor are they the aftermaths of angry gun-totting hardened criminals or only the indiscriminate rampages of half-crazed terrorists. Stereotypical culprits are not at work here. But rather, it is the walking time bomb: the seemingly normal, well-adjusted, law-abiding family man of middle income, with devoted wife and children who, seemingly possessing all the necessary ingredients for maintaining a happy, innocuous life (perhaps just like you or me!), can unexpectedly at any time or place, explode in a sudden and lethal rage of murderous intent. Such individuals are society and law enforcement’s most feared criminal: the serial or mass murderer without a M.O.--the rebel or terrorist without a cause.
This is the drama and the human behavior explored in “THE JANITOR.” This man, this unexpected mass murderer, this beforehand normal, law-abiding citizen--this sudden and momentarily made madman is among us in the marketplace, the work place, the shopping mall, on the bus and sauntering nearby along any public avenue. Society’s stresses and pressures and his environmental and emotional experiences are depicted in detail to explain his apparently suddenly crazed behavior. Its exploration and explanation is the theme to “THE JANITOR.” Its solution or prevention--if there are any--is not the subject here, nor needs to be as it would diminish the single effect of this tale.
For “THE JANITOR” is a psychological thriller about one such man whose titled profession is the impetus to his soon-to-be released fury. He has all the traits and characteristics to be termed a normal person. He possesses the same hopes and aspirations, the same desires and urges, and the sane innate or developed proclivities to do harm or effect good.
His name is Harry Toiker, an innocuous name for an innocuous man who, in his mid-forties, earns a modest income and comfortable living from his chosen profession. The effort of my story is not to present “any” person who is capable of gunning-down and bombing hordes of innocent people, and then does. Because almost every person is quite capable of effecting great carnage, if he really puts his clever, calculating intellect to the task. My story explores what it is that can create such a person and propel him to behave in such a violent manner. Indeed, there are elements of a broken home, family squabbles and a great amount of social pressures. But the unknown variable, the unexplored element, the seldom-considered cause or catalyst injected in my story is self-esteem--or rather, the lack of it.
From beginning to end Harry Toiker is developed and develops. He suddenly explodes and violently erupts after reaching the apex of this development. His self-esteem is the deciding factor; the consequences of this factor are of secondary concern albeit climatic conclusion. Harry Toiker needs to answer his loss of self-esteem, and do so dramatically and violently. But to him there are no victims in his world of lost self-esteem. Only his victimizers--familiars and strangers alike--who have alienated and disgraced his little world. And his sudden unleashing of pent-up anger and culminating hate is the only way he knows how to punish whoever and whatever is responsible for his miserable plight.
Notes and Specifications on “THE JANITOR”
The story/script is written for low-budget production and can be anywhere in length from one hundred to one hundred and ten minutes (or longer if desired) and can be modified in the number of roles and storyline to suit budget filming. Because of the nature of the story the enhancement of atmosphere and setting might be served by being filmed in black and white. This and a narration by the protagonist’s mother are merely considerations offered by the writer which could enhance the overall effect of the story and theme. But the concept of the whole story is by no means limited to these considerations.
A completed outline can be provided within a reasonable amount of time (two or three weeks if need be) if optioned or bought. A completed script, separate or in conjunction with, the treatment, can be provided within one to three months if so optioned (including a shooting script).
The amount of cast or number of characters in the story has not been given any set specifications (this treatment notwithstanding) and adjustments or accommodations to the script can be made to the specifications of the optioner. The setting and location of the story as well can be altered to accommodate production or to meet the requirements of optioner for a speculative script.
Treatment of Story
Harry Toiker is not an angry sort of guy. He is not mad or insane. But this story is about a man named Harry Toiker who slowly and imperceptibly becomes angry and quite mad at the world. His anger is not remarkably abnormal or unjustified. And just because he becomes homicidally mad at the world does not mean he has become a crazed maniac or some stereotypical psychopath. Harry Toiler is very probably just like every other low-income, basically-normal American citizen who has lived and worked in a typically urban environment. He is normally educated and has a high school diploma. He has had girl friends and regular friends and gone out dancing and voted on election days. There is nothing particularly remarkable about him; and nothing particularly different or outstanding either. There is no special psychological profile to his past: nothing to indicate why one day he would become so angry and mad at the world that he would take gun and bombs in hand and go out and massacre dozens of innocent human beings.
Harry Toiker has lived and gone to high school and grown up in a relatively normal household--though his parents divorced when he was sixteen years of age--for he has had his bad times and good times like everyone else. Though there is nothing exceptional about him, you can’t say he is mediocre or has an inferior intelligence. He’s just a face on the street; the guy next door; the blue-collar or even white-collar worker being paid a nominal income and living slightly above the poverty level; the guy you might have a few beers and polite conversation with at the local bar; the modestly attractive individual you might to out on a date with or see at the local ball game; the polite, well-behaved, normally appearing gentlemen dressed in janitor’s overalls whom you see in a shopping mall dumping trash cans or in an office building mopping hallways. He opens the door for you and greets you with “Good morning.” He goes home every night to watch T.V. or read a good book--or stops off to have a couple of beers or simply entertains himself by taking his aging mother out to see a movie. He could be you or me or the guy next door or the person you have seen every day for over eleven years and said good morning to for over eleven years and never thought anything more about it than: “Harry’s an all right guy. I hardly know him, but he seems okay to me.”
But Harry Toiker is not really all right. He is thirty-five years old, of medium height and build, dresses plainly and talks plainly and acts completely normal. But thirty-five dull, unremarkable years have taken their toll on him. And it is because there is nothing exceptional or superior or special about him, Harry Toiker is getting tired of the way things are and the way his life has been--and is continuing--and he is slowly and ever dangerously more and more becoming angry with himself, his environment, and the majority of the human race he encounters.
Many millions of us have had deaths in the family and have come from broken homes. We all have our skeletons in the closet, the family bad seed or hidden secret about someone we know or love which might add further shame or humiliation if the secret were discovered. We are all exposed to societal and environmental stresses and pressures; and each of us gets pretty angry and upset over political, personal and the social problems and issues confronting us today.
But Harry does not forever control his mounting anger. Nor does he restrain his outrage and jealousy, and bitterness and dissatisfaction with the world in general and various people in particular. He is growing frustrated with his inability to change his status in life. He is bored with his own mediocrity and lack of talent or ability. And something must be done. Someone or some thing is responsible for his lot in life. And as his attitudes, values and self-esteem deteriorate further-- his anger and proclivity for violence increase.
This development or evolution of self is depicted in Harry Toiker from the beginning of the story. For there has to be a beginning to one’s degeneration. There has to be a starting point when the first seeds of a hostile, destructive nature manifest themselves. And the story takes up this development at a point in Harry’s life after he and his mother have recently relocated from Chicago to Los Angeles, after Harry has reached the age of thirty-five, after he has worked at various odd jobs to make ends meet since he reached 19 and graduated from high school, and years after starting out hopeful and reaffirmed in spirit to become modestly successful and satisfied with his new janitorial job.
Sure, his mother is a semi-alcoholic, has a nagging temperament and often derides him for the most petty of reasons. Sure, his father was a war hero in Korea, now deceased from cancer, and whom he much envied but almost fanatically admires. And his brother Ben is a successful stockbroker living and working prosperously in Chicago. If anything inspires Harry, it is watching football on television and collecting comic books. But Harry is not a naturally depressed or maudlin person. He envisions that one day he might become a manager or supervisor of other janitors and retire from a good-paying job.
We hear the narrator tell us all this about Harry (the narrator is suggested to be Harry’s mother). We learn about Harry’s past and the present, and are introduced to what the future may become and the events which might cause Harry’s unpredictable future.
He travels the bus from his small house in a low-rent district of Los Angeles. And this is where it all begins. A close neighbor is a man we never see and one who apparently is always engaged in screaming fights with his wife. The noise pollution of playing children and automobiles and another neighbor’s dog add to the ambiance of Harry’s domestic surroundings--and to the overall depressive if not disruptive environment of his life.
Today’s local bus rides to and from work are filled with disturbing incidents: gang youths and rude, loud-mouthed strangers who crowd the bus, and one individual playing blaring music from a hand-held stereo--all these serve to irritate Harry to no end this morning
These bus rides become worse: a group of youths dressed like punk- rockers, rude and belligerent, verbally abuse and even physically threaten other commuters; a filthy, smelly homeless person attacks a women in an effort to rob her; various commuters who Harry attempts friendly conversation with are unreceptive and almost hostile to his attempts at sociality; an elderly woman who is almost violent when she demands Harry’s seat; and the rude, unfriendly, sometimes inconsiderate behavior of the bus driver and other passengers Harry encounters each day on the bus--all these gradually begin to exact its toll upon him.
His job as a janitor is the focal point of his deterioration: his daily chores at a downtown shopping mall and on two floors of the office building above the mall bring him into constant contact with persons many rungs above him on the social ladder. Attorneys Mr. Hathaway and Mr. Pottsworth do not even notice his existence. Harry must dump their trash cans each morning, and he invariably gets in the way or enters when their refined sensibilities are easily disturbed. Their elevated language to him is cold and condescending. Three secretaries: Denise, Carole and Joyce, are main characters in a suite full of young, attractive women.
From his first day on the job, Harry is introduced to all these people who occupy the areas he is assigned to clean. Jacobson, an older man who has been a janitor in the building for over ten years, is assigned to insure Harry work performance. Mr. Staufler, the janitorial supervisor, is Harry’s boss. He is not particularly friendly, and his expertise in supervising people consists of no more than telling each janitor that he better do his work right and not ever show up late.
Harry is given a locker located in the basement of the mall where lockers and restroom facilities are located for all the employees of the mall. Harry makes only one friend from among these building employees, and it is Jacobson. And Harry, from his docile appearance and quiet demeanor incurs very little friendliness from his fellow workers, and even innocently acquires the dislike of a few. In particular there is Pinky, the man so-named because of his light red complexion and pimpled complexion, who is in charge of security in the mall. Pinky is just a naturally hateful, antagonistic sort of person and enjoys deriding--even threatening--those he dislikes whom he may know only as mere acquaintances and can take pleasure in pushing around.
Harry’s job is boring and tedious, and Harry is not used to brushing elbows with lawyers and sophisticated executive secretaries. He has never learned how to deal with various types of personalities nor how to handle different kinds of conversational situations. He is a quiet, simple person, only interested in doing his day’s work and being left alone.
But things don’t work out this way. And though there are no great catastrophes or crisis or major incidents or anything great out of the ordinary to be excluded from a normal day’s work, there are a preponderance of minor confrontations, verbal altercations and social irritations to only further affect and effect Harry’s already predisposed disposition to anger and the violence waiting to surface.
This treatment is not meant to detail scene by scene just how Harry becomes the murderous individual he does. Nor is any attempt made to deeply analyze or describe the characterizations of Harry’s fellow protagonists and antagonists. The purpose here is to outline the series of incidents and events and influences and aspects of Harry’s little world--including his mother, co-workers, all acquaintances and strangers alike--all who contribute to the overall effect that pushes him over the edge and completes his imperceptible descent into madness and violent behavior.
There are an assortment of minor characters Harry encounters who add to his irritation and mounting anger. He walks across the street after the blinking sign has changed to DON’T WALK. A waiting motorist screams at him to get. the hell out of the way. He orders some food in a restaurant and engages in a bitter dispute with a waitress in order to obtain the specific choice of food he wishes to eat. He is infatuated with Janet Hillsbarry, an unattractive and overweight woman who also works in the building as a secretary. The relationship between them is awkward and always embarrassing since he has trouble communicating that his feelings for her are honest and not out of sympathy.
Misunderstandings occur between them, aided by humiliating confrontations with the other three attractive secretaries who poke fun at Janet and Harry out of sheer malice and pleasure.
Harry is beginning to feel bombarded by an avalanche of annoyances, insults, humiliations, disruptions, arguments, condescending treatments, and all the pressures of his job, home life and social environment.
Pinky only adds further fuel to this steaming fire when, from an obvious misunderstanding Harry is accused of stealing a man’s wallet which he inadvertently finds in the mall.
The bus rides to work and back each day and evening are not always filled with annoyances or incidents; but there is ample annoyance enough during each trip; for one day Harry suddenly (the first time) strikes back and strikes out at another bus passenger who has disturbed Harry in the past. This first retaliation is minor, and amounts to only a minor fist fight between Harry and the other passenger. Harry gets the worst of the altercation and becomes aware that he is out of shape and unprepared for such confrontations. He begins to exercise and visiting the local city library to read and study self-defense.
Harry is given another chance to keep his job at the mall; but Pinky has him under his eye and even threatens Harry to watch his step. Janet begins ignoring Harry’s tepid advances in deference to the other secretaries who continue to poke fun and pretend to flirt with him. The lawyers see this and tell Harry to cease fraternizing with their staff.
Harry’s mother begins to drink more. She is lonely and also dissatisfied with her lot in life, and much of her pain and frustration she takes out upon Harry. He is a bum and a lowly janitor, she tells him; not half the man his father was.
Harry’s only friend other than Jacobson, who at this point in the story is hospitalized from injuries sustained after being attacked by muggers, is John the elderly man Harry rides the bus with each morning to work.
Harry must endure demeaning tasks such as cleaning toilets and mopping up messes made in the mall. He finds himself being constantly derided by Pinky and now another security guard who accompanies Pinky on duty and is easily seem to be Pinky’s consort.
At the library and via the Internet Harry begins reading books about manufacturing bombs and in the use of various types of firearms.
Harry arrives one morning late at work and is approached by Pinky who threatens to tell Mr. Staufler about his tardiness. Then Harry is admonished by Mr. Pottsworth who tells Harry his intentions to inform Staufler of this infraction. This particular day is the worst of all: everyone seems to be on his back, everyone seems to be more than ever insulting him and making his work unpleasant. He leaves to take a lunch break. He spots two youths knocking an elderly lady to the ground in the mall and snatching her purse. He attempts to catch the two youths, but Pinky intervenes and physically assaults him. A fight ensues between them, but is immediately broken up by other security guards and janitors. Mr. Staufler calls Harry into his office. Harry is admonished yet again and threatened with losing his job.
Harry travels home that evening on the bus, and again a minor incident occurs which further infuriates him: the bus driver throws an old man off the bus who is unable to pay the fare. Harry attacks the bus driver and then suddenly leaps off the bus while it is stopped. He goes into the nearest bar, and after a few drinks is drunk and filled with self-pity. A disruption occurs in the bar: a husband is seen slapping his wife, and Harry intervenes. But the wife wants none of his chivalry and attacks Harry and is then aided by her husband. Harry ends up being thrown out of the bar.
After this Harry is seen buying chemicals and electrical equipment used to make bombs. He is seen purchasing some handguns, a shotgun and rifles and various military paraphernalia.
Harry has reached his breaking point and only his mother is mildly aware of it. As their relationship has worsened, he has become violent with her and now periodically locks her inside a closet. Her last effort to dissuade him from doing something crazy only causes him to be more determined.
The final day he leaves for work he is seen carrying a large bag filled with explosives and weapons. His mother extricates herself from the closet and contacts the police.
He takes his last ride on the bus. This last ride sees the same group of gang youths on the bus. They are seated in the back of the bus playing loud music and making all sorts of rude disturbances. Harry confronts them and after a verbal exchange they attempt to throw him off the bus. But Harry is now well-armed, and pulls out a gun from under the heavy jacket he is wearing. He shoots them and leaps from the bus as it pulls to the curb. After a short run, Harry mixes in with pedestrians and is seen making a hasty walk to the shopping mall and his place of work. It will be his last day as a janitor.
The last scene of the story is a scene of bloody massacre and death: he methodically plants explosives in unseen mall locations and arms himself with the various weapons he has brought. The explosives are timed to explode consecutively within a few minutes. But before traveling to his work place located floors above the mall, he disposes of Pinky and another guard who are seated at a security desk near the building elevators.
He throws an ignited pipe bomb at the security desk where Pinky and his partner are seated. There is an incredible explosion and the two men are killed instantly. Harry then rushes to one of the elevators and ascends to the twelfth floor where his familiar antagonists work. He pulls off his jacket and pants and reveals the janitor clothing he is wearing underneath. What ensues hereafter is a rampage of death and destruction explicit in detail and horror.
Many are killed and injured on the floor and throughout the various office suites located therein., as Harry rushes in and out each suite shooting occupants and tossing pipe bombs among them. Some of them flee down a main hallway and escape by one of the elevators or down a stairway.
After his initial rampage, Harry collects a number of unharmed occupants and forces them at gunpoint into a corner office where he orders them to remain. He then destroys both elevators with bombs and rigs another bomb to the stairway.
In the mall, police and fire department personnel are seen evacuating the building. Suddenly, the bombs Barry planted in the mall begin to explode. More people are killed.
Harry doesn’t know at this point what he wants or what message he wants to convey to the awaiting press and television crew outside the building. The building is surrounded with police and Swat teams. Janet Hillsbarry is safe outside the building and tells authorities that Harry had called her up and told her to meet him at a nearby restaurant when his assault began.
Harry communicates with the police by telephone and demands that a television crew come up the stairway and interview him. He informs them he has the stairway rigged with explosives and a large number of hostages under his control who he will start killing he they don’t comply with his demand.
A news crew is dispatched to meet with him and Harry delivers his message to a city-wide viewing audience. His message is simple and clear: his has been a life bereft of opportunity and dignity, filled with individuals who have always treated him with ridicule and scorn. They are the strong who prey upon the weak, and the rich who exploit the poor, and those blessed with good looks and happy lives who enjoy demeaning and belittling a common man such as he. The world is cold, cruel and mean-spirited...and he has decided to pay it back for the ill-treatment it has rendered him!
Barry’s message is seen and heard by thousands, and many of them are seen to empathize with his message, and perhaps even with his actions. Soon after the news crew finishes its interview and Harry and is seen to leave, Harry releases the hostages and they are seen fleeing the now evacuated building while Harry ascends to the building roof. Cameras and onlookers watch him strap a cache of explosives to his body and, in a gesture of resignation, sets it off and blows himself and the top floor of the building to kingdom come!
Harry’s interview is seen and re-seen. His message is expounded upon by every expert in society. There are questions and guesses and assumptions and suppositions. But one fact stands out: a nondescript guy named Harry Toiker was normal one day. The next he seemingly became completely changed and completely abnormal, to the regret and unexpected surprise of dozens of killed and injured victims.
There was no way to know it would happen. Not by anyone, evidently. No one could have seen the telltale signs, the gradual deterioration, and potential for destruction that had been developing and evolving. There are only victims now--dozens among dozens of them. And though the survivors and the viewers and witnesses to Harry’s rampage remain puzzled and uncertain and in denial of what the cause or causes may have been, somewhere we see a lowly-looking, low-paid, strikingly-normal looking person going about his daily job and incurring unearned wrath from strangers and acquaintances alike. He is a janitor or an office worker or a mailman or a gas-station attendant. He has lived a good number of years now, at least thirty or forty of them, so it’s a long enough time to have experienced enough suffering, rejection, ridicule, pressure and stress to cause any amount of mental disorder or sudden emotional afflictions to mold him into a violent threat to strangers anywhere.
For there is something about civilized society today that is creating more and more of these janitors...these walking time-bombs...these perpetrators of violent acts of tragedy waiting to take place. This story is only one intricate, conjectured look at what and who that “something” could be. The end result--the lost of self-esteem, the gradual fermentation of uncontrollable anger and violent intent--is real and almost becoming commonplace. Harry Toiker is but one testimony to its ever-increasing existence.
T H E E N D