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SimplyScripts Screenwriting Discussion Board    Unproduced Screenplay Discussion    Horror Scripts  ›  The Farm Moderators: bert
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  Author    The Farm  (currently 27645 views)
Atlas
Posted: February 4th, 2012, 6:18pm Report to Moderator
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IV. Believability

  • Pencils aren't usually super-sharp, and purposefully have a lot of friction along the shaft for gripping. It would take a lot of force to put a pencil clean through a grown man's forearm. Plus due to the thickness, surgery would probably be required to close/reconnect any veins, arteries, tendons, etc. that were hit. If you want to keep the stabbing, I suggest a knitting needle--strong, sharp, thin, believably available in a farmhouse.

  • There is simply no way a six-year-old girl could be found alone with her dead parents, stab a cop, and still remain in the house, nurses or not. She would be removed to a mental health or childcare facility. (Who do the nurses work for anyway? Who's paying them to be there? What is this, some kind of commie socialist healthcare system where people actually get taken care of?)

  • Why don't they ask Yoder to call the power and phone company right away? Wouldn't
    such an isolated place have a generator?

  • Whoa, 1500 miles of driving? That's three 8-hour days. Why didn't they fly?

  • Why aren't they worried about being isolated with no phone, no power, no car, and a rapidly-dwindling/spoiling food supply? Houses like this often draw drinking water from a well using an electric pump, as well.

  • Why doesn't Mary El ask Angel about the eyeless pictures?

  • It doesn't make sense for a cop to bring key evidence with him to arrest the suspect. Cops don't do that. It would taint the evidence, making it unusable at trial.

  • Ty crashes the snowmobile and rolls--with the huge needle in his pocket?

  • Any cop would immediately draw his weapon on Yoder, an armed murder suspect.

  • It's stretching believability for the windmill collapse to knock out the phone and power lines--there are regulations about that sort of thing. I can kind of give it a pass except that it ALSO destroys the car. It's a little too contrived--and unnecessary; your logline says they're snowbound, and that would be enough.

  • Could a shotgun blast  (shot, not slug) really knock a piece off a gravestone?

  • The farm was foreclosed on, meaning it had a mortgage that Yoder wasn't paying. It seems unlikely that he would still be paying his parents' mortgage, so Yoder must have mortgaged the house himself. But why? It would probably be at least a million dollars for a farm of this size. Maybe a tax lien would work better? If Yoder wasn't growing anything, he couldn't have had the money for taxes.

  • Yoder loses his farm/house...and moves to the next house over? Or as he puts it, "Next farm east." How did that happen? Was it up for sale when he lost the house by chance? I could assume that it was a lie, but you actually show him there.

  • Why does Yoder use a cattle needle on humans? Wouldn't it leave a huge, unmissable puncture wound? Medical examiners tend to notice that kind of thing. Is Yoder so unsophisticated that he doesn't know they do autopsies? They watch CSI out in the sticks, too. It's boring to watch characters who are much less sophisticated than the audience.

  • Why didn't Yoder sell the farm and move to Thailand or something?

  • Yoder says, "But your brother...he planted on this land.  Lord, he built himself a house!" What's the teddy bear doing there if it's not the house where the kids lived?

  • Greg and Mary El haven't met their niece before now?

  • I don't understand why Angel has to die. The ghosts healed her before, why not now?


V. Names

  • Any reason why you chose the unusual spelling "Ereckson" instead of Erickson or Ericson or Ericsson?

  • What's with the name "Mary El"? Is it short for Mary Elizabeth? Is there a reason why "Mary El" is better than just "Mary"? I checked and the name "Mary El" is never spoken aloud except by Mary El when introducing herself. Also, aren't names like this usually hyphenated, like "Mary-El"?

  • "Angel" is just too on-the-nose.

  • Change Gaskins' name or dialogue tag to something that doesn't begin with a "G", such as Raskins or Sheriff Gaskins.

VI. Missed Opportunities

You missed some opportunities for dramatic irony and mystery, two of the most powerful storytelling tools.

Instead of:

Quoted Text

With a final, decisive swipe he knocks a small cardboard box out from beneath the bed.  Ty drops the pole to inspect the box.

It is a shoebox, sealed sloppily but firmly with duct tape. Scrawled across the top, in a child’s handwriting, are the words: “DO NOT OPUN.”

Ty ponders this a moment, then, with one hand, he reaches back into his bag and extracts a butterfly knife.

He deftly flips it open, then quickly works the blade around the perimeter of the lid.


Consider:

Quoted Text

With a final, decisive swipe he knocks a small cardboard box out from beneath the bed.  Ty drops the pole and picks up the box.

It's a shoebox, sealed sloppily but firmly with duct tape. Ty LIFTS it to his ear.

On the side facing away from Ty, the side he can't see, are the words:

“DO NOT OPUN”

in a child’s handwriting.

Ty gives it a SHAKE, causing a soft thump inside. He sets the box down, then reaches into his bag and extracts a butterfly knife.

He flips open the knife, then slowly works the blade around the perimeter of the lid.


Mystery is one of the most effective ways to maintain the audience's interest. By "mystery" I mean you establish the existence of a piece of information, then withhold that information from the audience. It's a form of setup/payoff. For example, this scene from page 14/15:


Quoted Text

It is a small office-cum-art studio.  The paintings are mostly landscapes with cornfields in them.  One depicts the windmill out front.  Another is covered by a tarp.

Mary El moves to the hidden painting and lifts the cover.

It is an unfinished family portrait, eerily based upon the black-and-white photo seen earlier in the bedroom, a copy of which is taped to the easel.


Instead of revealing the painting right away, you could do something like this...


Quoted Text

It is a small office-cum-art studio.  The paintings are mostly landscapes with cornfields in them.  One depicts the windmill out front.  Another is covered by a tarp.

Mary El moves to the covered painting. She reaches out to pull down the tarp.

TY (OS)
Mom! Help!

Mary El rushes out of the room, the covered painting unrevealed.


...which will leave the audience wondering what was under the tarp. You can reveal it later.
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Atlas
Posted: February 4th, 2012, 6:19pm Report to Moderator
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VI. Style & Technique/Miscellaneous

  • You have four paragraphs describing the snow and ice and irrigation system, no description of the house in and around which most of the movie takes place.

  • Taking four paragraphs on the landscape really slows it down. Those four opening paragraphs lack motion or action. They feel languorous--not something I would strive for on the first page.

  • You have kind of a "cold" open, where the audience doesn't know what's going on. The problem is that it's not that interesting. It's a girl walking across a field barefoot. Then she goes inside and emotionlessly pokes at two bodies. It's not a hook. (I'll make a suggestion below.)

  • From the first paragraph: "The horizon seems miles away." The horizon IS miles away, by definition.

  • There is a small, soft POP as Mary El dry fires the rifle.

    Use "click" instead of "pop." "Pop" sounds like it actually fired.

  • The dead animal shed feels like a setup, but there's no payoff.

  • In the opening, you use this simile:

    icicles dangle from its thick piping like glistening fangs

    I realize you're trying to establish tone, but this is not the way to do it. This is a type of novelistic embedded information. In a novel you can filter the reader's perception this way, but no one will be in the theater to suggest to the audience that the icicles look like glistening fangs, and the prop guys can only do so much. Most people will only see icicles.

  • Be careful with embedded information.

    For example, you wrote:

    Ty wanders over to the window, a veteran of too many family quarrels.

    The camera would see:

    Ty wanders over to the window.

    You need to put Ty's feelings into action or dialogue.

  • Generally, you could use more contractions in the dialogue.

  • Sometimes you show AND tell. Example:


    Quoted Text

    There is a lump beneath the bedspread, eerily still.  Angel approaches the bed and draws back the sheet. It is the woman from the photograph, but no longer smiling. Erica is dead.  Her eyes are open.


    Eerily still, eyes open. We get it. You don't need to say she's dead.

  • Nintendo Game Boy is 22 years old and never had any games like what you've described. It isn't even capable of that kind of game.

  • "Angel is well on her way up the windmill, precariously hovering above the car a good 15 feet in the air." Hovering?

  • Greg says, "Why do we have, like, 1000 dishes?" Aren't they his brother's family's dishes? Also, it's generally easier to read if you spell out the numbers, i.e. "Why do we have, like, a thousand dishes?"

  • Syringe and needle are not the same. A syringe is the tube-and-plunger part. They're often used with hypodermic needles, but you can use them in other ways as well.

  • I'm not clear on how the shot meant for Yoder hits Greg in the shoulder on page 96. It seems like Greg would've been too close.

  • You appear to be trying to isolate the family, but I don't think it works in this script because there's never a "we gotta get out of here" moment. What I'm saying is I never got the sense that they would leave if they could. This is related to the structure problem.

  • The fact that Greg doesn't know that Ty doesn't know who the Beatles are makes them seem like strangers.

VII. General suggestions

  • Figure out what the movie is about. You have some pieces about keeping the family together, but the pieces aren't assembled. Or it could be about Mary El finally letting go of the dead daughter that is brought up a few times, but not really handled.

  • Figure out the structure. Read Steven Spielberg's screenplay for Poltergeist and take note of its structure.

VIII. Specific suggestions

  • Cut the nurses. The fewer people involved, the better, and their nonchalance undercuts the tone. It would be cheaper, too--fewer actors.

  • Cut the line about Dan and Erica building a house and make it the original farmhouse. It makes more sense. Old farmhouses are naturally creepy--use that.

  • Have Gaskins meet the Erecksons in front of the house, but have him reluctant or subtly refuse to enter--if you make a tough guy scared, the audience will take the hint.

  • Cut the teddy bear monster. It doesn't jibe with the rest of the script and it's double mumbo-jumbo. It would also be expensive and difficult to execute in a non-silly way. Save it for another script, maybe.

  • Instead of a double suicide, which I've never heard of outside of teenage suicide pacts, make it a murder-suicide, which is more common especially in romantic/sexual relationships. It seems like Yoder would be more comfortable with a shotgun than poison as well.

  • Instead of being discovered by the police and stabbing one of them, have Angel hiding in the house somewhere where the police can't find her. This helps in the following ways:

         1. It gives the family a goal, something to do, a reason to explore/search the house.

         2. It's a more believable reaction for a six-year-old girl who's seemingly just found her parents    
         dead (think Newt in Aliens), then had a bunch of strangers come into her house. It's also a    
         way for Sarah to remain in the house, which I think is why she stabs Gaskins. Additionally,    
         if Sarah grew up in this house, it's reasonable for her to know a really good hiding place.

         3. It creates anticipation in the audience--they know she will be found, but not when or where.

         4. It gives you an inciting incident.

    My screenwriting professor used to say that a good idea helps you in three ways--and that's at least four.

  • Instead of opening on Angel crossing the snow, open with her murder. Murder is an inherently interesting way to start a story. Additionally, it creates dramatic irony and questions in the audience's minds when they find Angel alive--what is she? We just saw her die.

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bert
Posted: February 4th, 2012, 10:23pm Report to Moderator
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Quoted from Atlas
Ha! Like I said, death sentence on twelve forums.


For this???  Their loss, dude.

This is thoughtful and clear and much of it spot-on.  I am very pleased with much of this.

Give me a few days to digest before I respond, but right off the bat, I can tell you that this...


Quoted from Atlas
Instead of being discovered by the police and stabbing one of them, have Angel hiding in the house somewhere where the police can't find her.


...is pure dynamite.  I even did a little chair dance.  It solves so many problems with my scenario, cuts so much exposition not to mention pages, and offers a plethora of possibilities.  Consider it taken on board.

I know you got off to a somewhat rocky start here, but those who pay attention to the boards should also take note that you do not arrive empty-handed.

Some top-notch stuff here.  Like I said, give me a few days to think on this.

Thanks, and drop me a note if you ever post some work that needs a return look.


Hey, it's my tiny, little IMDb!
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Atlas
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Quoted from bert


For this???  Their loss, dude.

This is thoughtful and clear and much of it spot-on.  I am very pleased with much of this.

Give me a few days to digest before I respond, but right off the bat, I can tell you that this...

...is pure dynamite.  I even did a little chair dance.  It solves so many problems with my scenario, cuts so much exposition not to mention pages, and offers a plethora of possibilities.  Consider it taken on board.

I know you got off to a somewhat rocky start here, but those who pay attention to the boards should also take note that you do not arrive empty-handed.

Some top-notch stuff here.  Like I said, give me a few days to think on this.

Thanks, and drop me a note if you ever post some work that needs a return look.


Haha, that's right, I arrive bearing dynamite. Glad you liked it

Couple things I forgot to include:


  • If Yoder were to bear some responsibility for the fire/deaths of the children, it would be more emotionally satisfying when he gets it.
  • Have you thought about setting explicitly in the past? I noticed cell phones are not mentioned. If Ty's Game Boy is new, that would make it 1990.

Revision History (1 edits)
Atlas  -  February 7th, 2012, 1:17pm
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Electric Dreamer
Posted: February 7th, 2012, 9:29am Report to Moderator
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Quoted from bert


...is pure dynamite.  I even did a little chair dance.  It solves so many problems with my scenario, cuts so much exposition not to mention pages, and offers a plethora of possibilities.  Consider it taken on board.



I hope this means we'll see some new pages in the near future.
The Farm is still one of my top personal picks on the site!

Regards,
E.D.


LATEST NEWS

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is producing a short based on my new feature!

A list of my scripts can be found here.
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CindyLKeller
Posted: February 7th, 2012, 10:33am Report to Moderator
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One of my favorites, too.  

Let me know if you do a rewrite on some of this.

I'd like to read it again, but if you're going to change some of it, I'll wait.

Cindy


Award winning screenwriter
Available screenplays
TINA DARLING - 114 page Comedy
ONLY OSCAR KNOWS - 99 page Horror
A SONG IN MY HEART - 94 page Drama
HALLOWEEN GAMES - 105 page Drama
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bert
Posted: February 7th, 2012, 8:50pm Report to Moderator
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First, a quick thanks to E.D. and Cindy for their votes of confidence.  I will make sure nobody misses it -- one day -- when the epic rewrite finally emerges haha.

Turning back to Atlas, I thank you again for your thoughtful commentary, with plenty of great points to consider -- and you even managed a few things I had not heard before, which is no small feat.

First off, another huge thanks for the brainstorm that brings the family into the house with Angel in a far less contrived and far more mysterious and believable fashion.  I am still pondering exactly how to use this, but rest assured that I shall.  It changes so many things for the better.

As for the remainder, a step-by-step rebuttal would be far too voluminous, but there are several things I would like to point to without (hopefully) rambling on too much.


Quoted from Atlas
...you meant "torpor"


Yep, I sure did.


Quoted from Atlas
There's no real inciting incident. Nor is there a first act break. You have an event that happens around page 25 -- the bear incident -- but it doesn't change the situation in a meaningful way... Second, what is this whole scene doing here? It's on page 51 and runs for two pages. On page 51, you should be well into the second act.


Personally, I had always envisioned the first act ending when the nurses and Sheriff left and the family was left at the house alone.  But there was so much exposition leading to that point that everything was running behind schedule -- including the "page 51" scene that you mention above.

Having Angel roaming about the house already is going to help much of this, and everything should leap forward by several pages.


Quoted from Atlas
I don't know why Yoder killed the (other) Erecksons.


Farming the land brought the children back, which is the primary thing driving Yoder, but that is simply not enough in the current form of this story.  I get that, and Yoder's motivations have always been sort of a fuzzy point that weakened the script.  Yoder is the oldest of the children in the rewrite, not the youngest, and this helps things along in a few ways in the rewrite.

I dig your little rewrites under "Missed Opportunities", and completely get what you are going for with those.  There might very well be a place for the additional treatment you have given to these scenes.


Quoted from Atlas
Nintendo Game Boy is 22 years old and never had any games like what you've described.


Well, it was not so far-fetched when I did the first draft haha.  Progress marches on at light speed, eh?  Another good catch that I must correct.


Quoted from Atlas
Cut the nurses.


Man, I hate to do that -- but yeah, with Angel hidden there is really no use for them.


Quoted from Atlas
Cut the teddy bear monster.


My poor teddy.  Always a hot-button issue with just about every reader.  Some like it, some find it laughable.  The plan is to tone it down -- still there, and still a malevolent presence -- but no running around and slashing and such.

As for the rest, really good thoughts across the board, Atlas, and I thank you again for your time and effort above the call of duty.  You have given me plenty to ponder, and the notes have been printed off and stuffed into my fat rewrite folder.

Should you ever muster the gumption to post something of your own on here, be sure to give me a shout for a little payback.


Hey, it's my tiny, little IMDb!
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Atlas
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Quoted from bert

Personally, I had always envisioned the first act ending when the nurses and Sheriff left and the family was left at the house alone.


The nurses leave on page nine; the sheriff on page thirteen. Awfully early for the end of the first act. One way to think of the end of the first act is as a "point of no return." To continue the Poltergeist example, if they had left once the weird stuff started happening (chair stacking, TV channels, etc), then life would have continued as normal. Once Carol Anne is taken, they have no choice but to stay and fight.


Quoted from bert
Farming the land brought the children back, which is the primary thing driving Yoder, but that is simply not enough in the current form of this story.


My reading was that this is what Yoder thought--it's not clear where he got the idea--but that it was wrong.


Quoted Text

ANGLE’S GRAVE
A cutaway view of Angel’s resting place.  Rivulets of blood
trickle from her mangled back, soaking into the soil.

ANGEL (V.O.)
And he was wrong about many
things.  It was the not the
sowing of earth that beckoned
us.  It was not a seeding.

The streams of blood wend their way deeper and deeper into
the soil, finally disappearing into utter blackness.

ANGEL (V.O.)
It was shame.  And greed.
And the blood that followed.


It seems like it was Angel's murder and burial that did it. I think it makes more sense this way. For it to be farming that did it would imply some kind of metaphysical difference between a purposeful planting and natural vegetation.


Quoted Text
My poor teddy.  Always a hot-button issue with just about every reader.  Some like it, some find it laughable.  The plan is to tone it down -- still there, and still a malevolent presence -- but no running around and slashing and such.


That sounds better and more easily filmable. However, I would make sure it's tied into the main haunting so it doesn't feel extraneous.

Revision History (1 edits)
Atlas  -  February 8th, 2012, 9:44pm
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Hi Bert,

I've just read your script and I have to say I loved it!

I've read through a few of people's replies and I think that in terms of structure there's not much that I can add.

However I've seen a lot of negative comments about your cat and your bear... What! I thought they were awesome ideas. The script is very reminiscant of "Poltergeist" and other uber-creepy supernatural thrillers but it also had that element of something that Peter Jackson would have produced back in the day.

I enjoy the quirkiness of these two additions admist the creepy ghost thing, I feel like it's the perfect balance. I also enjoyed the raccoon dialogue, I found this funny and worked well with the quirky bear and cat thing you have going on.

My only critism was the ending as I found the action made it very overwhelming, I feel that perhaps if you tone down the action in the last scenes the story will come through a lot clearer. To me the suspense where Ty had entered the room and Sarah/ Angel was sitting by the window whilst Yoder had just come to warn them about her, was the climax. And when Mary found the eyes!!! Brilliant. I sat there not knowing who to believe and was extremely on edge.

Also the whole Mother losing a child thing, I didn't mind that, yes there have been lots of horrors where the Mother has lost a child but I thought that it strengthened Mary's relationship with Angel and I actually really liked that. What I didn't like through was the whole "you are going to have a child" thing at the end. To me I felt like I was reading a script like "The Haunted Mansion" and was waiting for Eddie Murphy to pop out.

I like your script because it's original and it reminds me of horror movies from the 70's/ 80's. I hope that you do decide to do a re-write soon, as I would really love to see this film.

- Sarah
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bert
Posted: March 12th, 2012, 3:53pm Report to Moderator
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Well, hello Sarah.  I am not sure we have met -- but welcome to the boards -- and thanks so much for giving this one a look.


Quoted from Sarah88
However I've seen a lot of negative comments about your cat and your bear... What! I thought they were awesome ideas...I also enjoyed the raccoon dialogue...


Thank you for sticking up for the bear!  I am not losing him, but will be scaling him back.  After numerous comments the consensus seemed to be, "a generally good idea, but taken a bit too far."

That's what I am working with anyway.  And you picked up on the raccoon stuff!  You would likely be surprised how happy that makes me.  


Quoted from Sarah88
My only critism was the ending as I found the action made it very overwhelming, I feel that perhaps if you tone down the action in the last scenes the story will come through a lot clearer.


Yeah, I totally agree with this, actually.


Quoted from Sarah88
To me the suspense where Ty had entered the room and Sarah/ Angel was sitting by the window whilst Yoder had just come to warn them about her, was the climax.


Yeah, I always felt that scene worked pretty well, but YIKES to that next point...


Quoted from Sarah88
...I felt like I was reading a script like "The Haunted Mansion" and was waiting for Eddie Murphy to pop out.


...so noted.  I certainly don't want it to be THAT scary.  


Quoted Text
I like your script because it's original and it reminds me of horror movies from the 70's/ 80's.


That's cool, thanks.  It was supposed to be a bit of a mash-up like that, and I'm glad you could see it that way.

I appreciated and enjoyed reading your comments.  Please let me know if I can return the favor for you sometime.


Hey, it's my tiny, little IMDb!

Revision History (1 edits)
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Penoyer79
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20 pages and 7 years old and still going strong... WOW

i'm guessing this is the consensus BEST ON SIMPLY SCRIPTS?

nice going Bert.
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bert
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Quoted from Penoyer79
i'm guessing this is the consensus BEST ON SIMPLY SCRIPTS?


heh...thanks for that, but honestly, I would have to say "no".

There is better around here -- and popularity does not necessarily equate to quality.

Buried in all of the marvelously useful comments on this thread are the keys to this script's many flaws.

For a writer, this thread is worth its weight in gold.  I don't see how I could gain better insight from anywhere at any cost.

Use these boards correctly, and there is no place else quite like it.

Now, one fine day when the next rewrite finally emerges -- maybe that one will have a shot...  


Hey, it's my tiny, little IMDb!
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Hello Bert - I just read your script and i loved it. Can't give you any real advice as i am just starting out writing myself. Where Atlas is the grand daddy on comments i am simply a newborn. Besides you have about a billion comments on here already. Hope to read something else from you in the future. Best of luck -
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RJ
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I cracked this one open because it had been commented on lately (if not, I wouldn't have seen it) and thought 'The Farm - horror?? how scary could this be?' Well I tell you now that I should not have read this before bed - Excellent script (minor points - which have been stated by previous comments)

I completely freaked myself out. My ears were on edge listening to every outside sound when I was close to the end and when I went to bed and shut the door - complete darkeness - I literally flew onto the bed, feared by the thought of a teddy with green eyes and big claws under the bed, meanwhile my husband turns to me and asks what I'm doing and then I feel completely stupid, lol.

I agree with Sarah about the Teddy, Fish-Head and the racoons.

When watching a movie, many things are overlooked and most people only remember the good parts if they liked it etc, therefor IMO everything worked well together in this script. I loved the story.

When it comes to toning down Teddy - As much as I scared myself with my own thoughts later on that - I thought Teddy was awesome - he added a special touch and I loved the scene with Ty fighting him at the end. The only thing I thought about after I'd gone to bed was 'Why did Teddy have it in for Ty?' Angel mentions that Teddy was angry with him, but I thought maybe just an extra line to mention why he was angry at the same time would have tied that up ie: he'd accidently sliced him while opening the box.

Anyway, just thought I'd tell you that I loved it and could picture every moment of it clearly. Good Luck.
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bert
Posted: July 21st, 2012, 12:03am Report to Moderator
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Sorry about the delayed response, guys.  As mentioned elsewhere, life finds me in a busy place these days, with little time for the boards and my comfortable status quo still a month or two away.

This weekend, however, finds me with a little breathing room -- a glass of New Zealand Sauvignon in hand.  Grapefruity.  Yum.  


Quoted from DV44
...I am just starting out writing myself.

Thank you for your thoughts, DV.   Be it from a novice or a pro, most authors will welcome any thoughts on their work.  Atlas is not around too much, but he did have some wonderful thoughts, didn't he?

I have seen you around pitching your forthcoming, but it is also good to see you taking your time, too.  Don't pull it out of the oven until its ready.  You'll be glad you did, and I'll put some eyes on it as time permits.


Quoted from DV44
Hope to read something else from you in the future.


Yeah...me too, haha.


Quoted from RJ
...I loved it and could picture every moment of it clearly.


Your comments made my week recently, bfly.  Thank you.  I was amused and enjoyed them a great deal.  I will tell you that the rewrite keeps the bear, for sure, but we "see" the bear doing less.  In a way (hopefully) the creep factor may even be increased a bit with these changes.

I know you have something floating around here (on butterfly wings?) but the title eludes me know.  Please drop me a note if I cannot find it on my own.


Hey, it's my tiny, little IMDb!
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