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Strong story. Some good imagery, the giant mouth was particularly horrifying. Got a real sense of the world of the story and the period you set it in. Small negative: the sound-led transitions became a bit repetitive. Nice stylistic choice, but felt you overused it.
Perhaps the best one I've read so far in terms of WHY only one character speaks - emphasises her loneliness and isolation. I sympathised with Berith, though perhaps I'm skeptical she'd get away with it for so long? I wonder if her being confronted by the townsfolk could be worked into the climax...
But overall, a strong entry. Nice one.
EDIT: I have to agree with others, though, that using 'rape' in that scene was a poor language choice. Whether it is 'technically' is or it isn't (if she's agreed to his demand in order to get the information, hasn't she granted him consent no matter how abhorrent the demand?), it's such a charged word and as you can see it diverts attention from the story as people discuss whether it belongs there or not. First thing I'd do in a rewrite is swap that word out.
Obvious opening with the Druid circle (was the first thing I thought about as well) but you nailed the tone perfectly.
I was thrown by a few things: Shamans, Halloween....the time period and the location is uncertain. Are these elements consistent with each other? I don't know. I think Shamanism in Europe was around a long time before Halloween was celebrated...but I'm no expert.
Overall, for me it felt quite long. There were a lot of shots showing her being bad, but they don't add much. We can tell from the title that there's a price to pay. Feels like a whole lot of the story was redundant....she could just be told that she needs to kill x amount of people to have her son back.
There's a good story in there somewhere...a woman driven mad by grief becoming everything she hates and losing the one thing she wants more than anything. Just didn't quite come together in the time we had, for me.
Lovely atmosphere though. Well done on that. Liked the echoed sobs at the end. Sure, it's obvious but it still works.
The sex scene didn't do it for me, not to say it doesn't belong. Just jarring after the Shaman gave her the business. The lead in to the majority of the scenes was well done, it was an attentive effect that set the tone.
What I enjoyed was Berith going through the years, failing. That's one route in becoming a serial murderer. I'm a fan of obsessed characters, and Berith fits the bill. There were moments I thought it dragged some, but overall it was engaging. I was rooting for her, hoping her emptiness would be filled by her son.
It got somewhat anticlimactic in the end, it was unclear if her son was restored. After everything Berith went through, the price, her fate didn't come across deserved. Overall, solid writing - there were times during the read I felt there too, so the visuals were executed well.
I liked everything until the sobbing at the end. My eyes almost rolled out of my head there. Haha. Good job though! The rules only allowed for one character to have any dialog and I think it hurt the story a bit. The Shaman's silence is awkward and the skeleton hands pointing adds a bit of goofy to an otherwise eerie vibe. The awkwardness of a lack of dialog stands out the most for me in the scene where the old man jumps out of the carriage to help Berith. Usually, people say something during those situations. I know those were the rules but I think it could've been worked around better here. Minor complaint though.
Parts of this I liked and parts I did not...mainly taste I think. The rape scene didn't do it for me and why? I did like it when the hands said '10' ...now that was a challenge and I loved the jaws near the end. I think this could benefit by being shortened a bit.
Overall, a nice entry. But i had a question. During the montage of Bireth (Birth) trying to bring back the son in one line she's 55 and the next 58. Did I read that right? If so, how different does she look in three years?
Not too crazy about the rape scene. But I liked the setting and the overall story. Very gothic in tone. Gppd work. I sense a SS regular.
Within the guidelines of this challenge, I thought you succeeded here. Nice visuals, I like the setting you chose, I read a few of the other's, but up to this point -- yours is probably the one I'll remember the most,
As far as the rape scene, unless I missed something, Bireth is willing to do anything to see her son, she even went as far as murder. So, to me, that scene felt more consensual. Yeah, I know he tied her down, but that doesn't make it rape. Me, I probably would have replaced the rape part with -- he takes her hard from behind, or something like that, but I get it.
Regardless, I enjoyed this one. I thought it ran a bit too long, but...
A-CAROLING FOR CHRISTMAS
GHOSTS OF APPALOOSA
RISE OF THE AMAZONS
THE SLEEPING TIGER
THE TIME GUARDIAN
"When I dive... I go deep, only to surface the hub when necessary."
Couldn't quite sympathize with the main character. I don't know anything about the first forty years of her life, who the father was, whether she'd lost babies before, etc. etc., so I couldn't feel much sympathy when she starts killing so many people over this one lost baby.
Pretty well told, but that didn't make up for my distaste for what she was willing to do.
P.S. Why did the Shaman have to tie her down and "rape" her? She was willing, right?
Whoa. This was really good. Great visuals!! Really nice writing and several excellent transitions. It seems as though a Brit wrote it. Wonder which one...
Only a couple suggestions...
Flowing along nicely. I was completely immersed in the story until...
Pg. 3 - "We close in on the circle, until..." -- A camera man came in and did a close up on the circle. This is why I hate any kind of camera directions. And next --"...we pull back to reveal" -- There is a camera man on a moving crane.
Pg. 5 - "She springs up, scampers toward the boney hands." -- "scampers" seems like too light hearted a word.
I read this quickly, so forgive me if I'm missing key points. The story is interesting, but seems drawn out. I think it could use a good editing session to bring it into focus. But for one week, I can't complain too much.
The aging of the characters didn't quite work for me, especially the boy. I kind of wished Berith had a life with son till he was, say age 5. Five years of mother and son bonding would give her and us time to feel a connection.
And then in the story, stay with a 5-year-old kid. I didn't care for the boy as he got older, but that's me. Also, part of my disconnect is that the son had no name, right?
Also, a strong mother-son bond, would help me to understand how she could go on this killing spree.
I did like the mouth and the way it went about its business. Made me think of those wood shredders, such as in "Fargo." There is a sadistically comedic element to bones crunching and fluid spurting behind her, as Berith is enjoying the company of her son.
This is my first read in this OWC, so I'm off to a good start. There's more to like here than to dislike. Nice job.
A very atmospheric opening, that continues throughout, reminding me of the strong visuals in Burton's SLEEPY HOLLOW. Good descriptions balance prose elements effectively. Creepy storytelling through images. I liked the setting too, although it might help to know exact time period. I assume 1800s.
Brutal and effective transition between cemetery and bedroom. Shocking. I'd excise the ropes. It's scary enough this is consensual. But it shows the lengths this mother will go to. Another strong transition with symbol to stone. It seems like camera direction is necessary here, so I can excuse it. Not normally a fan though. I'd consider a sneak attack with the horseman. It just seems like he would have asked what's wrong or something. I really liked the primitive invocation with banging poles. It inspires camera work and editing possibilities.
The aging montage was haunting. I'd consider embellishing or emphasizing on emotion here. Maybe you could show the emotional toll these murders have on the mother. When she is told to kill 10 at once, I feel like her immediate response of "Agreed" is weak. She could shake her head no, curse, bang on ground, cry... This has to affect her, right. I think showing us the emotional side, even briefly, would make this short even more emotionally effective.
I loved the creepy image of her watching the famiky and counting to 10 on her fingers. There's a chance to parallel popular fiction here. She could see 10 kids playing outside and lure them with sweets like the witch in HANSEL & GRETEL. This story could be the real witch that fiction was based on. I already get the GRIMM fairy tale vibe. And that story is public domain, right. An idea.
The son returns. It's hard to excuse no dialogue here. What's he wearing? Maybe mom makes him clothes each year. This would add a strong throughline with the baby jumper. Would he appear nude out of portal, or in last years smaller clothes.
I'd also make him younger, like 15 or 16, erratic emotions of a teen. When he realizes what's happened, he can't talk. He fights a tear, screams, and pushes her into the teeth instead. By the way, loved that imagery. This could better excuse no talking, and excise the awkward stumble into gnarly jaws. This could add a bittersweet taste to the end when son gets over rage and regrets decision. He enters otherworld to be with mom in afterlife. I took some time thinking up possible scenarios to inspire because I enjoyed your atmospheric and haunting story. I hope you don't mind. I hope it helps.
Very atmospheric. Haunting. Gory. Could use more emphasis on emotional weight of practicing ritual. ***1/2 (out of 5)
I think you had a lot of ideas in your head and too big a story crammed into ten pages. Two montages are imh evidence of that and I struggled with the idea as a whole.
Main thing for me was that I didn't really sympathize with your main character Berith or like her at all, and I should.
The Shaman raping her came left of field for me - and was disappointing cause I liked your introduction of him - thought ooh, this is interesting... Plus, my understanding is that this is a business exchange of sorts, but then he doesn't seem to factor in any way in the story from then on.
I have a suggestion for you. The birth sequence could be replaced with Berith losing her child in a tragic accident - perhaps make him around five years old. That way you'd give me two characters I care about/backhistory and emotion and a reconciliation I could really get behind.
The jumper as 'motif/symbol didn't work for me either, sorry. To be honest it started to annoy me.
A small formatting thing: I think the description of Ext. Berith's Cottage could have been a little earlier - actually now I read on I think that slug just needs to be changed to something like: EXT. VILLAGE instead of BERITH'S COTTAGE i.e., the scene with the kids and carts and pumpkins etc.
Btw, REINS as in - horse, not reigns - monarch - probably a simple typo - easy to do and I think Summon's should be written without the apostrophe.
A couple of other things tripped me up too: I actually thought for a moment (given this challenge is horror and gore themed) that Berith literally exploded (the way you wrote it) until I read: 'thrusts a knife into his neck' so you might want to clarify the writing there. Couple of other nitpicks re phrasing of things but time restraints may have been a factor there so I'll refrain.
There's a nice horror vibe to this but overall it didn't really work for me.