Today, for #MusicMonday I have a story to tell you about a hilarious exchange with author ZZ Claybourne that resulted in this week’s music-inspired scene for John Wick Chapter 17: Memento Mori. “Death Never Forgets”.
(Yes, dear readers, fan fiction!)
ZZ was lamenting on Twitter that he bought a CD for The Cure, but when he opened up the case he’d found a Kid Rock CD instead. A few Tweets later and ZZ said he finally knew how John Wick felt. And thus...
All is Vanity by Charles Gilbert (1892)
First, let me fill you in on the important background details that led up to John Wick Chapter 17: Memento Mori. SO MANY MOVIES! Okay, at some point in the John Wick franchise (my version, anyway) both Winston and the pit bull, Boy, die. After Winston’s funeral, Charon hints he has a special relationship with Death. Metaphysical? Metaphorical? Who knows! It’s a mystery! (“I” know, but I’ll spare you the sordid, long-winded worldbuilding and character details. I had SO much fun daydreaming about working on this. Hah!)
Unfortunately, someone is targeting Charon’s family and he’s asked for John’s help. Turns out Charon has several brothers and sisters who are also named after psychopomps. John, who owes Charon a great many debts, reluctantly asks him who the suspected assassins are. He’s murdered so many people—who could be left!?!?!?!?!
Charon reveals a name John heard whispered when he was a little boy—Joki (pronounced YO-KEE). Joki, which means “river” in English, is a Finnish theatrical troupe turned death-worshipping modern dance cult of assassins. John grimaces. Charon asks him again. “Will you help me, Mr. Wick?” John grunts. It was only a matter of time until the Joki came after him for murdering Johann, their patriarch. “What do I have to do?” Charon says: “Protect my brother. Ghede.” John nods. “Understood.” “Good,” Charon replies. “Here is the address. I will meet you there.”
All of THAT just to introduce you to PAPA GHEDE played by ZZ Claybourne in this scene. (Because why not? If I’m writing fanfic I’m gonna go all the way, friends.)
CHAPTER 17: MEMENTO MORI
EXT. TATTOO PARLOR - NIGHT.
MUSIC CUE (faint): “Pictures of You” by The Cure
A MAN, 40s, black with a white skull painted over his face and dressed like a biker, is locking up his tattoo parlor on a deserted sidewalk. A streetlight flickers overhead. A SECOND MAN approaches him.
PAPA GHEDE: (Sighs) Again, Mr. Wick?
JOHN WICK: Your brother. He’s on his—
GHEDE: —Tell Charon he worries too much.
JOHN: You know I can’t do that. I owe him.
GHEDE: I can take care of myself.
JOHN: Can you?
John points behind them at the faint outline of a giant glow-in-the-dark skull.
GHEDE: Death doesn’t bother me, Mr. Wick.
JOHN: Look again.
Approximately TWO DOZEN MASKED MEN and WOMEN wearing glow-in-the-dark skeleton bodysuits perch on cars, steps, fire hydrants, etc. in various poses to form a giant human skull.
GHEDE: I’ll need an offering.
The skull dancers quiver threateningly.
JOHN: Now? Why?
GHEDE: To cross the river, Mr. Wick.
JOHN: But I have nothing. Gold? I—
The skull dancers step forward as one and draw knives in a fluid, choreographed motion.
GHEDE: No! A photo. Quickly!
John pulls out a photo and looks at it. A smiling WINSTON holds BOY in front of The Continental. John hands it to Ghede.
CUE MUSIC: You Never Met a Motherf***er Quite Like Me (refrain) by Kid Rock
Ghede grins, sets fire to the photo, then throws the burning picture at the human skull. Laughing, Ghede drops two sawed off shotguns from his jacket sleeves and starts shooting his way to the middle of the skull.
JOHN: Get behind me! And keep moving!
Ghede and John stand back-to-back, stepping forward, shooting the dancers. John empties a clip. Before he shoots again, the city lights blur. The movement of the dancers, combined with the lights and Ghede’s shooting, hypnotizes John. He freezes.
A dancer slashes John across the face and draws blood. John fires back and the dancer falls to the ground, dead. He shakes his head and glances over his shoulder. The Continental is across the street.
JOHN: (confused) Is that… How did we…
GHEDE: (laughing) I told you, Mr. Wick. You pay the price. I help you.
CUE MUSIC: “The Way Out” by Chamber of Echoes
A dozen dancers reform the human skull and, in one fluid motion, fling their knives at the ground, then draw their guns.
JOHN: Fine. Let’s finish this.