Hey Bert -
You told me not to hold back, so here goes: This is the biggest pile of crap I've ever had the misfortune to read! Ha! Ha! Only joking! (sorry, I couldn't resist!)
reaper recommended ‘the farm’ to me along with a few others scripts on here. And I have to say, the guy's got good taste!
That said, I did have some issues with the script (mostly in the third act) and had to read it twice to try and understand it better, not sure if I succeeded completely, so apologies if some of my notes don't appear to make sense? Also, I did skim a few of the comments posted and I guess you've probably heard some of what I have to say already?
The notes may appear somewhat random; I've been thinking about the script and wondering how to organize my thoughts accordingly. I think Jeff (Dreamscale) had a similar problem with my own script; "Offline". LOL.
You have a nice, clean, writing style that is visual, yet never novelistic. Good job!
Page 1 – I sensed immediately that Angel was dead. A barefooted child, knee deep in snow, showing no apparent signs of discomfort and bearing the name ‘Angel’ made it fairly obvious. That said, if it were to be filmed as is, the audience would have no idea her name is Angel, and so may not be quite as savvy?
Some of your slugs are a mess! These ones in particular:
EXT. THE SAME FIELD WHERE WE FIRST MET ANGEL – DAY
PAINTING SUPPLIES IN A DARKENED ROOM – DAY
EXT. FARMHOUSE – GREG – NIGHT
Page 13 - EXT. FARMHOUSE WINDOW - DAY
Greg, Mary El, and Ty are all at the window now -- the same window through which Greg and Ty observed the abrupt
departure of Huldah and June.
The slug suggests that they are on the outside looking in – but unless I misread it? They were actually on the inside looking out?
Page 24 – Lucifer seems an odd choice of name for a female cat. Even though she did eat her own kittens!
Most of the characters were generally well drawn. I never had a problem with Mary El’s attitude towards Angel – given that she had recently lost her own daughter, I felt her emotional attachment to Angel was pretty believable under the circumstances!
My favorite character was Ty! He had heaps of attitude and personality and behaved like a kid his age would behave given the situation. Good job!
That said, there was one incidence where his character lacked consistency for me. And that was when he “gingerly” accepts Gaskins gun. Remember, this is the same kid, who earlier helped himself to Dan’s rifle in order to blast the evil teddy bear. So wouldn’t Ty be eager to accept Gaskins gun? Possibly even demand it?
Teddy Bear – I had a tough time accepting him as scary. Teddy bears are generally cute, fuzzy, fluffy little things. A demonic one was a tough sell for me – sorry!
That said, I found Angel to be the most problematic character. (more on her later!)
The dialog was good and one of the script’s biggest strengths. It felt naturalistic, real and above all, believable. My only real gripe with it was some of Greg’s dialog:
Page 81 –
The door suddenly EXPLODES outward, smashing into the
opposite wall. The padlock and hinges fly like shrapnel.
All four of them turn their eyes towards the ceiling, then eye each other nervously.
What do you think that was?
The door explodes and this is his reaction?!
Similarly, his line on Page 86 to Yoder: “That’s a tetanus shot, asshole!” is oddly comedic and, given what has just happened to him and his family, somewhat bizarre!
As hinted earlier, I felt the third act in particular, was rather confusing at times. For example, if I understand it right? Angel was always dead and possessed by Sarah. Yet, she is referred to as Angel throughout. Never as Angel/Sarah or Angel (Sarah) even after the reveal that she is in fact Sarah? Man, that confused the crap out of me!
Another problem I had in the third act, was with some of the scenes. When Angel ‘shows’ Ty how she is killed by Yoder we think it’s a premonition of sorts. I never had a problem with that scene because Angel has already indicated to Ty through her dialog that she is about to show him something. Later on, however, we have this on Page 84.
Yoder is at one of the headstones, hacking at the frozen ground with a pickaxe, preparing a shallow grave.
Followed by this on Page 85:
Yoder is gone. The gravesite is undisturbed, resting beneath a blanket of snow.
So if I understand it correctly. None of the stuff that took place between the two action blocks really happened?! It was a premonition or something? Either way, I found it both confusing and jarring and it took me out of the story.
THIRD ACT AGONY
As mentioned I think the story starts to fall apart in the third act. For me there are a number of reasons why this is. The narrative loses focus and is trying to accomplish too much. Consequently, there is no clear throughline.
THE TERRIBLE TWOS
You seem to like two of everything in this script! For me, the following observations are the reasons why the third act collapses under its own weight!
First off, you have at least two separate antagonists! One human as in Yoder and one supernatural as in Sarah/Teddy/Five Yoder sons. I think you need to decide on one or the other. Together, they just don’t work!
Angel/Sarah – If I understand this correctly? One dead girl (Sarah) possesses the body of another dead girl (Angel). That frankly, makes little sense to me! I think this is what the late Blake Snyder of ‘Save The Cat’ fame would describe as: “Double Mumbo Jumbo”!
I think Sarah could possess Angel if she were still alive for sure – but not if she is dead. That’s just too weird imo and stretches believability to breaking point!
The two almost simultaneous action scenes between Gaskins and Yoder and Ty and Teddy turn the story into more of an action fest than a supernatural horror story. Ty and Teddy works fine – it has a supernatural bent. However, Gaskins and Yoder is one too many imo.
Also, why is Teddy attacking Ty? Because he opened the box? If so, it seems rather a weak motive!
SOME SUGGESTIONS/WHAT IF’S/BRAINSTORMING
Teddy Bear – The story’s set on a farm so why not have Teddy be a scarecrow doll instead? Scarecrow’s are often perceived as a totem of death and would be far scarier than a sweet teddy!
Angel – What if she isn’t dead? Maybe when the Ereckson’s arrive she’s hiding. (something I think Atlas suggested?). Gaskins thinks she's run away, but she’s terrified and in fear of her life, because, as the Ereckson’s later discover, the supernatural forces will do anything to keep her there.
The fire that killed the Yoder children wasn’t started by a freak of nature. Its source was evil!
One of the Yoder kids (probably the oldest) has a real nasty streak and it was him trying to burn the younger child’s scarecrow doll with a match that set the field on fire and killed them all.
Since Angel and her folks arrived, what had been a barren strip of land for sixty years or more had suddenly become fertile again and had produced a bumper crop two years straight! Largely, as a result of the energy/lifeforce Angel gives off. This energy is what attracts the Yoder sons to her. The eldest (evil) Yoder uses Angel to control his siblings. They want to leave the farm and go into the light so they can be reunited with their beloved parents. But the eldest Yoder want to control their spirits for ever. Refuses to let them or Angel leave!
It would have a definite Poltergeist vibe for sure, but crucially, would still be that all important: “The same but different”!
Apologies for rambling! LOL. Just wanted to give you a little food for thought and hopefully spark something and get your mind racing on possible story alternatives!
Given everything I’ve said, you might think I hate ‘the farm’ On the contrary, I found it to be a good script and an entertaining read! Good job, Bert!