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Why does she turn to her? From the following blocks of action I can surmise that she is turning to her expectantly, waiting for her opinion on something. In fact, it would probably be better to get rid of her turning to her at all and go straight to CAROL and her description, the scrunched-up nose thing.
EXT. HOUSE - DAY
A tall, dilapidated Victorian sits on a large expanse of
weeds, trees and overgrown bushes. Its top windows are
boarded. A lone plank of lumber sways in the wind.
In the above it looks like you've written 'HOUSE' in the action, realised it and then deleted it. It looks like that because of the 'A' at the beginning of the sentence. Drop the 'A'... go straight into, Tall, dilapidated, Victorian, sitting before an expanse of weeds, trees and overgrown bushes. Because being 'on' weed, trees and overgrown bushes would be difficult.
INT. CAR - CONTINUOUS
I think it's kinda charming in a...
Always avoid going straight to dialogue if at all possible. Have some form of action. Have them reach for a boiled sweet... anything to avoid going straight to dialogue after a new slug.
Look, we don't have to stay for
dinner. You know I've been tracking
this dollar bill for, like, seven
years now and --
I know, I know. First dollar you ever
made at that little lemonade stand
when we were kids.
This makes me cringe. You're talking the plot. A better way to tackle this would be to have Carol bored, maybe wanting to go home. Lyndsay snaps at her, I've been searching for this dollar bill almost seven years.
Carol snaps back, Big deal! The first dollar you ever made, blah, blah, blah.
Whenever you have exposition to feed us, bury that sucker deep. That means hiding it behind drama. This way our concentration is on the drama and not the exposition being oh-so-subtly forced down our throats.
I/E. CAR/FRONT YARD - CONTINUOUS
They get out of the car and start for the house.
Maybe you've seen this utilised in a pro-script... I can see how an int and an ext could go together in one slug. However there just isn't any need for it here. Just go back to EXT. HOUSE and have them getting out of the car and then a new slug for when they enter the FRONT YARD. You don't have to utilise a new slug for the front yard, but I would as this would enable you to better describe it as they walk along a path, maybe it's gravel, red brick, overgrown and hard to get by...
Who's at the door, rat?
Should be (OS) not (VO)... also no need for the (from inside) parentheses.
Brian's face suddenly looks sweet and innocent.
From his stuttering and age, I already thought of him as being quite innocent.
Brian grabs a small mirror from a shelf. He races over to
Grandpa and places the mirror under his nose.
A little fog. Not much.
Oh, that's good.
We do that sometimes.
He's as old as
Ask him about the dollar.
Brian RUNS, trips over his feet and lands on Grandpa's lap.
In the above sequence Brian checks Grandpa out with the mirror, but then also runs, manages to trip over his feet and fall in grandpa's lap afterwards. He's already next to Grandpa, so how does he run and fall into his lap? Unless he's attempting to run over Grandpa's head, I can't see it happening.
All in all, not a bad story. She goes in search of the dollar and finds it. No plot holes that I can think of, so it works. Reads fast, characters have an individual voice, action for the most part is fine. Pretty decent job mate, thanks for sharing.
Thanks for the review. A lot of what you mentioned rings true. The I/E was a tough one for me. Thought that was the best way to go with that. Severus' VO was inexcusable. That one just got past me somehow. House standing on weeds...that's another time I remember staring at a paragraph thinking...hmm, something's wrong here! And good advice on burying the exposition there, man. There's another version of this with further editing, but my laptop crashed. For all I know I might have fixed a few of those already.
This short was written for Michael's (Spesh2k) dollar anthology. You might remember Michael's The Soda Machine. Anyway, this one didn't quite make the cut, but at least it explains the dollar angle.
Strange slug to start with - EXT CAR? I would put focus straight on to the spooky house. So instead of that wasted opening slug and line of action, open with the EXT. HOUSE, and then show the car screeching to a stop outside before moving into the car.
How do I know Carol is conservative?
"Carol peers across Lindsay" Is she looking at Lindsey or out the car window? This could be clearer.
"A lone plank of lumber sways in the wind." I don't get this? Is this hanging from the window? Leaning against the house? Maybe dangling off the roof - all I get is images of pirates when you use the word plank.
Okay, so they're at the creepy house to get a dollar back - how will she know it's the right dollar? There’s plenty of dollars flying around. How did the people in the creepy house know she was looking for her special dollar? Was she putting out a message on Facebook. How do the creepy people know they've got the right dollar? Lots of questions so far.
"I/E. CAR/FRONT YARD - CONTINUOUS" Or EXT. HOUSE.
Why is Carol, a 16 year old, laughing about rape? I found this a rather odd thing to say.
Love the spooky rocking chair - always a good visual in this scenario.
"(it's) hinges" its.
L-l-l-l-lesbians? How old is Brian? 12 or 15?
Why does Lindsay look at Carol, bemused? Maybe she thinks they are lesbians?
Severus should be O.S - not V.O
"It's the girls with the dollar!" Who has the dollar? I thought it was Brian, but he's telling Severus the girls have the dollar. Isn't Lindsay or Carol bothered about how they knew about the dollar, or where they got it from.
"Brian's face suddenly looks sweet and innocent." What did it look like before? Horrible and guilty? Wouldn't he be sweet and innocent to lure them in and then suddenly change appearance to nasty and shady. I don't know, maybe this one is going a different direction to what I thought.
Why did they rub their hands on the back of their jeans? Was it because of the handshake? If so, then I would have them do this immediately after the handshake, gives it more effect. I was a little confused by this line at first, didn't understand what they were doing.
Could use a mini-slug (living room) in the house IMO.
“Brian RUNS” Why run? Where was he standing to suddenly trip over and fall on to Grandpa’s lap, I thought he was beside him?
Why did they shriek at the old man’s groans? What is going on? Where is the dollar? Who are these people?
“The door next to the staircase SWINGS open.” Take me back… what door is this again? Did this get intro’d before?
“MOMMY, 87, blue hair.” Should this be Grandma? I find it hard to believe that this is actually Brian’s mom – that would have made her 75 when she had him… it’s possible I guess but how old does this make Grandpa when he had Mommy? I’m very confused.
“Did I hear someone say we have guests?” No, she didn’t.
Again, how does Lindsey know this is her dollar? Does it have a special marking on it or something?
“OMG.” Does Lindsay say Oh My God or OMG? Do people actually say OMG – I know it’s used but didn’t think peeps went around saying it.
“Big tooth-less smile.” Does teeth have some meaning? Severus has sparkling white teeth, but Mommy is tooth-less.
“A bloody tooth” Yeah, I’m beginning to think teeth have some meaning.
“Drink! Drink!” How can she drink? He did just smash the glass over her head, right?
You don’t actually need to have the full slug – could just have used “LATER” Doesn’t matter, just thought I would mention it.
“stained couch in the living room.” Is this the same couch Severus was sitting on before?
WTF?! Is 87 year-old Mommy doing a lap dance for the dollar girls? This story has really taken a left turn.
“Brian sits on the arm of Grandpa's chair. He claps excitedly.” Is the spotlight on Mommy or Brian? Or maybe there is a technical guy up there who’s moving it around. I thought it was pitch black other than the spotlight.
“Oh, Mommy! This never gets old!” This is just getting weird!
“sashays's” Does sashays need an apostrophe?
“She lets loose a greasy FART” Okay, okay – this has really gone into spoof territory. What is the plan here? Why have they taken the dollar girls hostage? Just to force them to watch this hideous lap dance.
“She finishes.” You mean the lap dance, right?
Lol! Grandpa has a bulge in his pants the size of Florida – where did you come up with that one? Lucky Grandpa.
“Severus stands. Covers his ears.” He should have been covering his eyes the dirty bastard.
“Severus goes behind the couch. CLANKING noises are heard.” What couch? The one he’s sitting on or the dollar girls? Why is there clanking noises?
“One hand holds a power drill.” Oh, now I get it – he keeps his toolbox behind the couch instead of the garage or shed.
“Fear engraves itself on Lindsay's face.” Who’s fear?
“Severus hops on Carol and pins her.” Why? Isn’t she already tied up?
“Carol's mouth forms a perfect O” As long as it’s a “perfect” O. I have no idea what this means.
What happened to Carol? One moment, she seems kinda lost and out of it, you know, with people drilling holes in her head, but then she suddenly springs to life and is using the drill (stupid move by Severus BTW, who leaves the drill on the couch with the victims)
“He casually grabs the Samurai sword. Jabs it into the back of the couch.” So Severus is now behind the couch – I’m finding it hard to keep track of characters movements. Is Mommy still lap dancing? Is Grandpa’s bulge getting bigger?
“A gray piece of intestine wiggles out through the gaping wound.” Loving the gore – this reads like the intestine is alive and trying to escape.
“Lindsay falls back, raises her legs. She slices the duct tape around her ankles with the sword.” Okay, I’m getting confused... how did Lindsay get the sword? I thought Severus had it?
“Severus races around to get her.” It’s a couch! Not a thirty foot wall, why race around, just pull the sword out, if he still does in fact have it? Or jump over and grab her.
“Lindsay stands. Runs to the back of the couch.” This must be one big couch!? People are running around it like it would stop a full on attack.
Okay, so the samurai was still stuck in the couch – this Severus loves to leave his tools hanging around for his prisoners to grab.
“She hastily slices the tape around her wrists.” With a samurai under pressure, she better be careful.
“Picks up the sword” Huh? What did she cut the tape with?
Really!? A power drill verses a samurai sword – Severus isn’t very bright is he?
“lunges over the couch” Finally! If he’d done this a minute ago then he wouldn’t be in this mess.
“He looks up at Lindsay, stupefied.” Maybe I wrong about Severus… he’s quite fun. Love how he looks on amazed that a samurai sword could do such damage.
“his big boner pups a tent on his urine stained pants.” Yes! Grandpa is back.
“She's ready for anything now.” That’s an understatement. What was worse I wonder: seeing Carol die, or Mommy’s lap dance?
Oh no, what a disappointing end to Grandpa, hop he fell backwards.
“The spotlight above suddenly goes out.” I forgot about the spotlight (which you hyphened earlier) did it light up the whole room? Just wondered what the point of it was? Maybe some the scenes were taking place in pitch black.
“She steps forward and trips over a corpse.” Seems clumsy for someone who would be on alert, her adrenalin pumping.
“leaving us behind in the darkened room.” What happened to spotlight?
I really wish you’d gone full spoof here – how funny would it have been if Lindsay comes back in, picks up the dollar and then says “Oh fuck! This isn’t even my dollar” and then leaves… well, I think it would have been funny.
Not sure what to say about this because I don’t know if it was supposed to be serious or not, the tone shifts completely from the halfway point. I looked at the logline again and there is no mention of comedy – just horror.
It’s entertaining, I’ll give you that, but the actual plot is paper-thin and the characters (Lindsey and Carol) don’t really come across as likeable – I didn’t care for the situation. She’s been looking for a dollar for seven years, I doubt that and there is no possible way to ever find it when you think about it. There needs to be something special about this dollar, a way to make it stand out from the crowd but to be honest, I don’t think it works anyway you swing it.
I would give them a more creditable reason to go to the house like I don’t know, maybe a party or the chance to prove themselves to the local bullies that they’re not scared to go to the haunted house. Those are both pretty awful actually, but definitely more believable. If it stays this way, then make Lindsay more curious about the dollar and how they have or why they are giving it back. Try to create more suspense in those opening 6-8 pages, make it seem like something bad is about to happen while letting the reader get to know Lindsay through these said moments. How does she react?
The second half of the story is just weird, funny and over the top mayhem and if that was what you was going for then good job. I can see the Sawyer (or Hewitt) family being at the top of your mind when writing this.
On the other hand, if this was supposed to be more scary, terrifying or shocking then it failed in a big way. It just becomes a parody towards the end with stupid decisions by our mad villains and Grandpa’s boner of course.
So, overall this one didn’t do a lot for me as a story – I found the whole situation flimsy and the horror here came across more as over the top comedy, but if the recent OWC has taught me anything, it’s that we all see horror in different ways. On the bright side, it was entertaining and did give me a chuckle so thanks for that.
Thanks for the read. Sorry it wasn't up your alley. The bit of exposition that I left out was that Lindsay had traced the dollar bill through on online bill tracing website called "Where's Washington." A take on another dollar tracing website. But due to page count I needed to keep this one short so I scrapped it.
Hope you are feeling better, Phil!
Now for Steve! (Coop)
That was, hands down, the best negative (sort of) review I have ever been given. And the funniest by far! I've read it a couple times and I'm hysterical laughing. Excellent job, my friend!
I appreciate your suggestions, and catching things that didn't seem to make any sense. writing this I was kinda aware of some of these things but I guess I just didn't deem them too big a deal to fix.
And, God no, this is not a spoof! Technically, it is horror -- horror lite? I don't know what you'd call it really. This was written for Spesh2k's dollar anthology, where all the stories -- horror -- have to have a dollar bill placed in the story somewhere. So, that's where the dollar angle came from. And I had read Michael's (Spesh2k) The Soda Machine, which has a guy fucking a soda machine, for Christ's sake, so I took my cue from that with this piece and tried to put it way over the top and crazy.
My idea of horror is pretty straight forward. If you read my OWC entry, One Evil Man, that is a good example of the horror I like.
This piece, as you have so deftly pointed out, was so ridiculous at times it was funny. I wasn't really going for funny -- shocking perhaps -- but if it read funny and people got a few laughs out of it then I am pleased. I entertained.
And come to think of it, a lot of horror movies aren't really big on believability, are they?
Your suggestion of having Lindsay come back at the end only to discover that the dollar wasn't hers was a great suggestion! If I ever re-write this I'd like to use that.
Steve, I read this all the way through and then read the comments.
I'm not going to comment on the actual writing, but I will say it needs work in numerous areas.
I will comment on the meat here, though.
For this kind of story to work and be taken seriously, there are several things you need to get right, and the most important is tone. The tone here is way off, which makes this read like a comedy...a sick comedy, but still a comedy. Everything is too over the top and it's just impossible to take as intended.
You also have to have characters that we root for, fear for, and generally care about. You didn't do that here at all, and because of that, it doesn't work at all.
You also have to set the scene properly, and again, that didn't happen. We don't know anything about anyone, or really anything about anything. Since our 2 Protags are 16 years old, one has to assume that they haven't travelled all that far to get to this "house", and it's day, so that confirms it's not a long trip. Where is this? Why are these evil killers out there and why do they want to do what they do to these 2 innocent girls, almost immediately?
Starting off with an EXT CAR Slug is a total missfire. Set the opening scene of where we are.
The whole find the certain dollar bill thing is also a big missfire, in that it's just goofy and so unrealistic.
While reading, I got the feeling you recently watched Devil's Rejects and/or House of 1,000 Corpses, because it just played out like a bad parody.
I don't mean to be harsh and I hope you know that, Steve. I love the genre you attempted to write, but there are certain rules this genre lives and dies by.
To ski or not to ski...that's not even a question.
Thanks for taking a look at this. The consensus is in: this needs some work!
I think the reason why you're not commenting on the writing is because you've done so before -- on my OWC story, which got a much better review from you. As you are a senior member of SS (and I mean senior only in regards to time spent here) I was waiting for your review, and yes, I was expecting the worst. But I was pleasantly surprised. The writing there, as it is here, is much the same. It's not joining sentences, not enough apostrophes, commas, stuff like that. I understand completely, and am working on it. Problem is, my shorts just don't get enough of my attention as, say, a feature would. Perhaps I could have eliminated most mistakes and worked on my "staccato" style, which I now look upon as more a nuisance than anything.
That being said, Phil hit it on the head when he referenced The Texas Chainsaw Massacre family. That was more what I had in mind. Writing it over the top was my intention from the beginning. Re-reading after your review, I can see where the problems lie and why it's taking some heat.
On the other hand, this was kinda meant to be fun, and I only had about two weeks to write it. I knew it wasn't traditional horror. I knew it wasn't straight up comedy. A hybrid, perhaps, and if there is one regret it's that I didn't flesh out Lindsay's character more. There's a whole list of explanations this story needs.
Oh well, back to the drawing board, I guess. BTW, I know you're just being helpful, Jeff, and it is much appreciated.
Steve, I'm getting close to senior on every level...
Hey seriously, I think you know I'm trying to help. If yuo went for over the top comedy, that's cool, but it didn't feel that way. I too laughed at Coop's review, but he's pretty spot on, as he usually is - those smart ass damn Aussies!!!
Point being, you can make this work for what it is, if you want ot, but you're wading into heavily cliched, been there, done that, territory.
Your OWC had alot going for it, and I'll tell you now that IMO, it was top 5 or so stuff.
This needs work or needs to be scrapped, but we all have these scripts. so it's up to you how to proceed.
Peace out, bro.
To ski or not to ski...that's not even a question.
Read this a few days ago - then let it stew in my head for awhile! Just gave it a second read. Thing is, I pretty much agree with everything everyone else has said about it.
I liked how Brian only seemed to stammer when talking to the girls. However, his shyness suddenly seemed to disappear when he grabbed Lindsay's face and eyeballed her on page 5 - so his character came off a tad inconsistent imo.
One thing that puzzled me (apologies if someone else has already brought this up) was this on page 6:
"Carol grabs her arm, but Severus comes from behind and puts her in a bear hug. He lifts her off the floor.
Carol kicks wildly. Screams her head off.
Lindsay, oblivious, grabs a glass of lemonade and gulps it down."
As far as I could tell, Lindsay and Carol are in the same room? So how is it possible Lindsay never heard Carol's screams?
Mommy's bizarre song and dance routine on page 8 could come off quite creepy if done right imo. However, what followed: the greasy fart she let loose and Grandpa's boner the size of Florida etc - Resulted in a definite tonal shift, as others have mentioned.
Personally, I'd loose all the comedy stuff and keep it as a straight horror.
I quite liked CoopBazinga's suggestion about Lindsay coming back for the dollar only to realize it wasn't hers. But given that she had just seen her best friend murdered, I found it a tad difficult to believe that she would come back at all?!
One idea I had, that would obviously take the screenplay in a slightly different direction, is: What if Lindsay was adopted as a small child and the only keepsake she had of her biological family was half a dollar bill.
So she's not going to pick up the first dollar she made - she's going there to meet the owners of the matching half of the dollar bill - her family! Imagine walking into that house, meeting that bunch of oddballs and discovering that they are your blood relatives?!! Talk about gross!! Lol.
Given the time constraints you mentioned and the fact that a dollar had to be included in the narrative - I think you did a pretty good job overall. I also liked your writing style! (though I know it's not to everyone's taste!).
I read this last week but didn't get a chance to comment. I had kinda forgotten about it -- not a good sign for a script of extremes.
This definitely read as (black) comedy to me. It's so utterly over the top that it couldn't really be taken seriously. This is not a bad thing in itself, though I suppose it's bad if it's not what you were intending.
Phil rather succinctly explained why this doesn't work. Short setup followed by a bunch of excess. Texas Chainsaw is a good comparison, and if you think about why that film works, it's all in the ratio of setup to payoff. Your characters here don't function as much more than moving meatbags -- the girls are helpless innocent girls, the family are arbitrarily depraved, walking gross-out gags. The latter can be a lot of fun, but the former will always, always defeat a torture story (for me). I'll argue a working definition of drama as the clash of two parties with different goals, and their maneuvering to achieve them. The maneuvering tends to make up the majority of the twists and turns. There's no maneuvering here. There's a reversal, I suppose, but more or less this boils down to...the girls make a bad choice, they pay for it. That's a story that can happen in thirty seconds. Twelve pages needs rising and falling action, and there's nothing here -- just a constant stream of gross. And gross is great, but it only works as the icing on the cake -- never the cake itself. The Texas Chainsaw dinner is famous, and great, because of the story that precedes it. By itself, it's nothing.
And your major inciting action here is that they decide to go into the house. And we think, "What a couple of dumbasses." And that's basically what the rest of the story gives us -- a couple dumbasses pay for an obvious mistake. So there's no surprise in there.
The exposition's not working. It's "as you know..." stuff. Needs to be switched up. Part of the reason this script is facing that problem is because of what I talked about above -- the important stuff needs to get awkwardly jammed into the first page because they've gotta get tortured soon.
I haven't said much about the actual sequence of events in the script because I think your writing is fine and I think the sequence is fine and the gross-out stuff is quite funny. But it's really just not worth even thinking about without a setup that draws us into the story and gives us some actual characters.
Hey, thanks for taking a look. Much appreciated. It is agreed that this needs some work. Starting out I thought this to be a fun piece (still do), but as you and other commenters noted, there needs to be sufficient build up in order for this to work on any level. I guess it was one of those things where I had so much fun torturing to do that I let little things like build up and character motivation slide! Essential, yes, i agree 100%.
Maybe I should stop writing these things in my car at the Dunkin Donuts parking lot in the morning before work! It's true.
I figured I'd return the favor, since you commented on two of mine.
So...this is definitely a way out their type of story. I get it that it was part of that anthology with the dollar bill. I think I commented on the soda machine too. Which I thought was pretty off the wall toward the end. Yours had this weird Devils rejects/Texas chainsaw/I don't know what...lol
I actually found the beginning pretty funny. when that screen door fell, and she's like, "Were outta' here"..that had me laughing out loud.
It seemed like this could have worked if you settled on the right tone. You could have went balls out comedy, or straight creepy horror. The two of them blended together didn't work for me.
How or where did Lindsey spot the dollar in the house. She's like "Hey, there's my dollar" Where was it? On the table? The floor? And if it was on a table somewhere, How did she know it was HER dollar? A lot of dollars out there, ya' know.
I think the point that turned me off about it was when the mom was giving the grandpa a lap dance. That was just unsettling. And if unsettling was what you were shooting for. Then you aced it.
The gory stuff, I love, big fan of the blood and guts. But when you teeter on that weird family scenario and odd behavior, I don't particularly find it scary. It definitely was entertaining to say the least
It wasn't a bad read though. It was quick, flew by. It was just... a little bizarre.