What's the real mystery here?
December 11, 2007 3:23 PM   Subscribe

For a maybe-film project that my friends and I are playing around with, what small-but-notable crime or deviance could occur at a crowded party, within an hour?

The plot so far is thus- the film opens with quick shots of a party, where everyone is drinking, making merry, etc. After the credits, it cuts to the next day. The people who hosted the party wake up in their apartment, finding it slightly trashed, filled with beer bottles, and missing one cat. They determine that the cat disappeared during an hour period the night before that they do not remember; in fact, as they interview their friends in a semi-serious investigation, nobody remembers the entire night- everyone's missing a few hours, and so they begin to try to piece the party together from the bits and pieces that each person has. While investigating, they happen upon a much bigger mystery that the cat has served as the Macguffin for. This will be the primary mystery of the film. But what should it be?
No murders or rapes- we want this to be pretty lighthearted. Theft is generally out- going from "where did our cat go" to "who stole my stereo" doesn't really up the ante. What mysteries could occur in the middle of a crowded party that would go unnoticed, but that careful reconstruction of the evening would bring to light?
posted by 235w103 to Media & Arts (25 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: There was that blog a while back...a guy strapped a mini camera on his cat. The camera snapped a shot every five minutes, he uploaded the shots to his "cat's blog", with little captions. You could have something similar going on, where the camera was found later, revealing clues to the cat's whereabouts during the hour, as well as what may have been going on during the party. The neat thing is, all of the pictures would be from the cat's perspective...low, cropped, etc.
posted by iamkimiam at 3:31 PM on December 11, 2007 [2 favorites]

A piece of original artwork stolen and replaced by a reproduction? Or something else valuable stolen and replaced...it could be an old baseball card or a pez dispenser or a rare bottle of wine or something.
posted by iconomy at 3:35 PM on December 11, 2007

Someone repainted the bathroom in an unsettling shade of salmon.

Someone placed a quart jug of a completely unidentifiable liquid in the refrigerator.

The clothes in their closets have been replaced with new ones from Gap Kids.

Someone wrote an uncouth message on a lamb bulb in such a fashion that the words are projected on the ceiling when the switch is flipped.

Someone fiddled with the computer, granting it sentience.
posted by Iridic at 3:36 PM on December 11, 2007

Sex: Someone got pregnant, or someone got VD.
Drugs: someone slipped something into people's drinks.
Unnatural hunger: they cooked and ate the cat.
posted by fings at 3:46 PM on December 11, 2007

Something involving drugs? Someone dealing or stealing drugs, drugging people's drinks, grabbing oregano out of the kitchen and selling it to clueless teenagers? Seems like something that would reasonably happen at a party without too many people noticing.

Espionage? Wiretapping? The landlord's installed hidden cameras and the hosts of the party are now unwitting porn stars?

Also, this sounds like a pretty good movie for one of the characters to be cleverly disguised.
posted by Metroid Baby at 3:46 PM on December 11, 2007

Maybe there was some drama when this one girl found out that her boyfriend was cheating with some other girl. The cat just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time during her scheme for revenge (which, of course, starts out simple but quickly spirals out of control through a series of coincidences and bad timing).
posted by Zaximus at 3:55 PM on December 11, 2007

Murder with an icicle--be creative. Hitchcock says it's a weapon that can't be traced because, of course, it will melt. I don't know how you'd work the cat in there, though...
posted by wafaa at 4:04 PM on December 11, 2007

Someone entered the master bedroom closet and bedazzled all of the designer jeans.
posted by iconomy at 4:06 PM on December 11, 2007

How about using the cat as a murder weapon? Naturally, you'd want to eat the cat afterwards in order to hide the evidence.
posted by Iridic at 4:09 PM on December 11, 2007

Best answer: an illicit couple make out in the washroom.
someone knocks to use the can.
realizing they can't both exit, one hides behind the shower curtain, and the other exists as usual.

the third person, the one who knocked on the door, comes in and does something- drug related, sex related, maybe makes a significant phone call, maybe clogs the toilet, whatever.

the one hiding behind the curtain witnesses whatever-it-is, and then, perhaps, is trapped for some time as a revolving door of bathroom use begins. they witness, or are blamed for, something bad happening in the can, but can't reveal why they were hiding because of the illicit relationship that put them in the bathtub to begin with.
posted by twistofrhyme at 4:26 PM on December 11, 2007 [1 favorite]

oh wait, sorry, mine is a means to discover a plot point, not a plot point in itself. sorry.
posted by twistofrhyme at 4:27 PM on December 11, 2007

Best answer: Missing person. Can't find one of the party-goers to interview. Is he/she missing or just gone for a while? Does he/she have the cat?
posted by trinity8-director at 4:30 PM on December 11, 2007

Identity theft. The cat is taken for some reason involving its ID chip.
posted by Sara Anne at 4:43 PM on December 11, 2007

Someone leaves a Zune and the new owners can't get rid of it.
posted by Craig at 4:47 PM on December 11, 2007 [2 favorites]

Best answer: One of the guests attempted to poison one of the other guests.

The poison was mistakenly misplaced before it could be used.

Another guest mistook it for a packet of sugar and put it in with the tuna casserole.

Everyone had the tuna casserole but at different times. The cat was also fed some tuna casserole.

The effect of the poison in humans when it is so diluted is to cause blackouts.

In small creatures, such as a cat, the effect of the poison is still fatal.

The poisoner figured out at some point what was going on. This is the only person who didnt have a tuna casserole, it is later discovered.

The poisoner, also having figured out that the strange behavior of the cat (later, it is learned that others remembered the cat "acting wierd") might cause problems, lures the cat outdoors and puts them in their car, where they later drop the cat in a nearby field.

Etc. Etc.
posted by vacapinta at 4:53 PM on December 11, 2007 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Man, these are all such great ideas.
The way we're thinking it, the cat disappears only to make them start thinking about what happened at the party. The cat just ducked out the door at some point, and will return to the apartment a few days later.
I'm thinking what it may be is that the two people who are investigating, a girl and a boy who live together but aren't dating, hooked up in a bedroom. The next day, they find the bedroom mussed and a used condom on the floor, but don't remember that it was their own coitus detritus. They start asking around about the cat, and become convinced that whoever was in the bedroom was somehow involved. So they start interviewing all of their friends, who either just don't know who was in the room, or just saw someone leaving wearing a hat or something, or who know but either assume that the investigating couple shouldn't find out that they were the mystery couple. Finally, a guest who was at the party, but who isn't close friends with any of the major characters, is run into in public. This person explains the entire situation.
Is that too cheesy? Is it too...mumblecore? Half of the film is just going to be clever jokes about other films, I fear- the missing guest is going to be named Hrundi V. Bakshi.
posted by 235w103 at 4:54 PM on December 11, 2007

The Mafia (or similar) took it by mistake: they had the wrong house! (They're a disorganized crime ring, apparently.)

They meant to break into apartment 132, and were wearing all black and ski masks. Of course, when they arrived at your main character's apartment, #123, they slipped in, with people thinking they were dressed for the party, too. Not realizing their mistake, they slipped some drugs in the punch, hence the blackout.

In the course of finding their lost cat, your characters somehow unearth the real secret of your neighbor in 132. You can have some fun here, but maybe he's a hitman, or a drug lord. He has a soft spot, of course, hence his cats.
posted by fogster at 4:57 PM on December 11, 2007

I think, to be honest, that it has to be that something important got stolen, or a death, or someone going insane for no reason, or something like that. I can't think of anything that would be engaging enough otherwise - it has to have some sort of emotional or physical impact on the characters for the solving of the mystery to mean something to the audience. Make it more complicated and more important than the stereo, and it's still an escalation from "where did the cat go".

Either that, or make it funny and ludicrous. Like someone being abducted by aliens, or becoming delusional from cat ammonia and thinking they are Elvis, or having to pass some weird detective test in order to join the CIA.
posted by gemmy at 5:01 PM on December 11, 2007

Someone replaced all the regular coffee with Folger's Crystals? That's pretty criminal if you've ever tasted Folger's Crystals.
posted by iconomy at 5:07 PM on December 11, 2007 [1 favorite]

Adding to trinity8-director's missing cat/person scenario.

The cat wandered in as a stray some months before. Ads were placed, shelters were called, no one claimed the cat.

The cat is missing after the party, but nothing else seems amiss. With the door opened so much with guests coming and going, it's no wonder the cat got out. After a few days, they figure the cat is just a wanderer. After all, they found the cat, so it's likely he (she) just wandered off again to the next welcoming home.

After (days/weeks) of alerting shelters and putting up flyers, they chalk it up to just a sad loss, but assume kitty is safe with someone else.

But then, authorities come knocking. There is a missing person. The last time he/she was seen, was at the party. Did they notice anything unusual? They tell the authorities that nothing seemed amiss. But after the authorities leave... thinking back... hmmm... the cat seemed pretty cozy with this person.

Then, they start to get phone calls from a mysterious person asking about the lost cat in the flyer, insisting the cat is really his, and he will pay them a reward to return the cat if they ever find it. The person's demeanor suggests panic/intensity rather than love for a missing cat.

-the cat has an implanted chip with secret information?
-a rare and valuable gem disguised as a rhinestone on the collar (but why not just take the collar? to not raise suspicion, maybe?)
-has been used in medical research, and is carrying a "time-bomb" virus that will only become contagious after months of incubation. The cat escaped during a "28 Days Later" style raid on a testing lab. The cat napper wants to use the cat as a blackmail device.

There are tons of possibilities along those lines. Finding logic behind it all is the hard part. And the fun part.

Good luck.
posted by The Deej at 6:03 PM on December 11, 2007

Meanwhile the cat has been posing for LOLCATS.
The owners will die from literally laughing their heads off.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 8:27 PM on December 11, 2007

When cats disappear, they aren't necessary out of the house. They can be somewhere inside, accidentally locked in a closet or cabinet or laundry hamper, and can sit or sleep there quietly for HOURS (even until the next day) before someone either finds him by accident or he starts meowing.
So your story might involve something being opened and closed during the party and the cat hopping in. Requires to be resolved in less than a day, unless the cat is in an area of the house where you can't hear the eventually inevitable meowing.
posted by easternblot at 10:27 PM on December 11, 2007

To nitpick your premise: How do they know the cat disappeared during that missing hour?

The cat is seen at 10pm. At 11pm, a pizza delivery arrives. The cat is a fiend for pizza, and would normally be purring and meowing and leg rubbing in an attempt to score some. The non-appearance of the cat when the pizza arrives is proof that the cat is missing/trapped/incapacitated and that it has happened between 10 and 11.

(Insert any other favourite food--someone could be cooking, or open a can of tuna, or could arrive from a restaurant with a take away box.)
posted by happyturtle at 12:48 AM on December 12, 2007

They're about to call the police, but figure they shouldn't call 911 because it's not an emergency. But the words are missing from the phonebook, but it's filled with slices of cheese.

They're weirded out, but every book is missing all of their words, but are filled with food )cookies, break, a smashed donut, etc).
The couple sort of stare at each other and are really confused. One of them goes to the fridge, and it is filled with large letters.

The begin to investigate and realize that the wife half of the duo is not really the wife, but a man dressed as the wife, and is really a neighbor that came along to the party. At this point, people are really freaking out and begin to really harass the guy (who has now lowered his voice) about what happened to the cat and the food in books and the letters in the fridge. Just as it seems like it's going to get physical, the husband, who is totally angry about what happened to his missing wife, has his voice crack, and it turns out that the husband is really a woman who was also at the party, but who is just as confused. At this point, everyone is silent.

They slowly start realizing that they've all switched identites over the night and are each dressed as each other, but there's one odd guy out who hadn't traded with anyone. They can't figure out who the odd guy is; he doesn't seem threatened and is just as confused as they are, but can't help them in the slightest on who he is. After a few minutes of interogation (shortened into movie time), the confused john doe asks if the donut they found in one of the books is still around. As he starts eating the donut, one of the guests figures it out.

They call the police, just dialing 911 now, and the cat shows up, back at the door.

I want credit in the movie.
posted by history is a weapon at 11:58 AM on December 12, 2007

In case this is unclear, the rest of them switched overnight, except that they were going to call the police (about the missing cat), and the police officer had switched with the cat.
posted by history is a weapon at 12:08 PM on December 12, 2007

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