All screenplays on the simplyscripts.com and simplyscripts.net domain are copyrighted to their respective authors. All rights reserved. This screenplaymay not be used or reproduced for any purpose including educational purposes without the expressed written permission of the author.
... Do not get all ticked off at me...I don't want to catch crap for that, but it's how it sounds to me...
B.B.B.: First off, there is never a need for these kind of disclaimers. It is always a boost when people read your work -- especially if they offer opinions of any sort. You'll find that out when your own work goes up
And I am supposed to "get ticked" because you invoke the name of S. King? While discussing my work? Believe me...no offense taken. There isn't a horror writer today that has escaped his influence.
I'm really glad you liked it, but I know how I feel when I see such "high praise" on other threads, so I feel compelled to point out that there is lots of stuff around here that is just as good. I won't name specific authors, but I suspect I don't have to.
Seek out their work, too, and you will improve. Reading helps your writing every bit as much as more writing, I think. And so does writing feedback -- expressing your opinions on what you've read.
That's why I read so many scripts -- you can be more objective with the works of others. It helps you learn what works, and what doesn't. It's very easy to spot the good and the bad in someone else's work. Not so easy in your own.
This was a ride. It also reminded me of Stephen King a little, as an earlier poster noted, for a couple of reasons. The family in the middle of nowhere in the snow with ghostly children around did evoke thoughts of “The Shining” and yes, the cat reminded me of “Pet Cemetery.”
Description is excellent. Very well done there overall. You do something I love to see and hate when other writers don’t do it. You use -- duh di di duh duh….synonyms! That’s right. Not the same descriptive words over and over again. You are a man who has picked up a (Breanne covers her mouth to softly whisper so as not to be overheard)…dictionary…more than a few times. That is something that’s always refreshing to see. Thank you. You mixed and matched and found a little poetry occasionally. -- Yeehaaaaw!
I only had one complaint about the description: there are some unnecessary little touches you put on them occasionally. I wouldn’t stop this altogether because it really kind of gives you your own style. I would make sure they’re befitting for the particular story, though. Lines like “Ty has killed a teddy bear” are cute but it follows a horror scene and tends to make light of it. I realize that line wouldn’t be shown on film but words like that undermine the horrific sense of the whole story.
I’m confused about a few things:
1) The father was found hanging. The mother was in bed. I understand that the murders were supposed to look like suicide. The father hanging made sense as looking that way. But how did the mother’s murder appear to be suicide?
2) Why didn’t Angel/Sarah tell the police what happened? Why did she act as though she were evil?
3) Why did Angel stab the Sheriff if he was trying to help her?
4) Why did the children pummel Greg with snowballs and a rock when he had done nothing to them?
5) Why did the bear/youngest son torture Ty? Oh, and by the way, the stuffed bear - is nothing sacred? Now you want to give little kids nightmares of their cuddly nighttime pals? -- haha
I ask these things because, in the end, the children turned out to be benign. The words of Sarah at the end seemed inconsistent with her behavior (and the other children’s behavior) throughout the story. They were “awakened” because of Yoder’s greed and Sarah basically said they had no problems with Dan and his family. Why then did they do so many threatening, menacing things to the Ereckson family?
A few other things:
One complaint; the “we-sees” where we do this or we see that. It really only serves to remind the reader that she’s reading a script and not voyeuristically watching events in someone’s life. It’s tantamount to a character talking directly to the camera. I mean, it’s okay and all. Not too big of a deal but it does kind of undermine the readers ability to suspend disbelief.
The oldest son looks at her a bit differently? The lone daughter’s eyes seem very familiar. How? I think it would be better just to say the oldest son looks at her sexually or the daughter’s look is similar to the way Angel looked at the Sheriff. Again, however, this portrays them as evil.
About Ty in his parent’s bed; Greg asks El, “did you sanction this?” Is he being sarcastic because she’s kind of bossy? That’s the only way I think this line would sound realistic.
Page 40 - She draws back with a start? Page 64 - she starts as the door slams. I’m not sure what you mean by “start(s).” There’s I think a couple of other examples where a character just starts. Do you mean this as in they made a sudden move, as in like a flinch? Or is this some writing trick I don’t know about? There’s nothing wrong with it. I mean, start is a verb like any other verb. At first read, however, it seems like an error. When someone starts, people are just accustomed to think “starts what?”
Overall, it was really good. At the end, for a minute there, I kind of thought that maybe it had an end too many. There were fights left and right. I started losing track of who had what gun and who went where. The driveway, the house, the barn, the cat came back to life, who was chasing who?, who was jumping on whom? It was action packed but it started to get a bit confusing. I was beginning to wonder if Indiana Jones wasn’t going to swing in on a whip and save the day -- haha.
Then you finished off with my favorite - some good old fashioned heart-wrenching emotion. The best part for me was the mother El and the thread of having lost a child. I wish this thread had been developed a little more. I wish she had opened up more about this event in her life. I wish she and Greg had had a little more intimacy in some of their exchanges. It would have really helped to pull the heart strings at the end. The scene with El and the now de-possessed Angel was moving. I felt it. I think you could have hit me harder though with just a couple of short but profound scenes with El earlier. This would have gone a long way toward cementing the bond between El and Angel. Maybe it’s a woman thing but there ya go with that.
Man, this is long. Sorry. Overall, it was definitely a good read and I really enjoyed it. As I said earlier, I’m not a huge horror fan. The only way horror movies are going to draw someone like me is with something more than slashing women and teens. Honestly, I wouldn’t have read if I hadn’t already read your writing and knew there would be more than the same ole-same ole. I wasn’t disappointed. This is way above average in a genre where that’s extremely difficult to do. Good work.
I almost forgot. You asked about the believability of the female characters. Since El was the only female character that wasn’t possessed or dead, I’ll comment on her.
I actually thought she was pretty believable, way more so than most female characters written by male writers. The only thing I can think of is: If I was preparing dinner and an old guy started telling me a story about how a bunch of kids were killed, I’d stop preparing dinner. For that kind of drama, oh yeah. I wouldn’t want to miss a second of that story. If my noodles were boiling over, I’d have to say to the old man, “Oh, hold on! I’ll be right back! Don’t say anything else until I get back!”
[Replies here are specific to Brea's comments with, like, huge spoilers]
I was very happy to find this piece kind of "rediscovered" lately, but it also serves to point out how none of these stories is ever really "finished". A mixed blessing. I'll try not to ramble.
* It is the empty medicine containers, and the scattered pills, that imply the mother's mode of suicide. * Why did the kids torment the Ericksons? I've heard this one before (off the boards -- you are the first one here), and it really sucks because I thought I'd fixed it. When Greg hears the whispered voices in the bathroom (pgs. 43-44), the children imply animosity towards Greg and Ty, and hint at some larger purpose for their presence. This was an extension of an existing scene designed to address that question. Note that Mary El, Angel's only real "ally" (of sorts) is never in any real peril. I wouldn't call the children "benign", but why not have them appear somewhat malevolent? Heck, in these kind of films I think kids looks scary when they are just standing around doing nothing. * What, exactly, would Angel have told the Sheriff? She is "back" for a specific purpose -- Yoder -- and will not be deterred. She did not perceive the Sheriff's actions as "helpful" at all, and desired no outside assistance. That's how I conceived it, anyway. I am still attempting to return to this point (and the previous one) objectively (not so easy to do!) based upon your comments. * You don't think "sanctioned" sounds real? I used that exact phrase with my own wife under similar circumstances while writing this -- and took it. * If you don't understand "starts", it is probably safe to assume that lots of people don't get that. I will definately evaluate this, and can probably change most of them into some form of "startled".
So, this is the kind of stuff that really helps. Alot. I am done responding, but will continue thinking about some of your points. Thanks again, Brea, for your thoughtful assessment of this work.
Yeah, benign may have been too extreme of a word. After all, a kid who stabs people with pencils or kids who pull people (albeit evil people) down to their deaths can hardly be called benign.
I understand about the mother’s suicide now and, quite frankly, I’m embarrassed I missed that.
I noticed Mary El was “safe” and assumed it had something to do with Angel/Sarah. By the way, some of the more tender scenes with Angel (taking the cookie, etc.) were quite touching.
The reason I mentioned Angel and the Sheriff was because I had assumed that Angel perceived him to be an enemy. I just wasn’t sure why. It didn’t seem that Angel or Sarah either one had any reason to view him that way. The poor sheriff got stabbed and shoved in farm equipment and all he did was try and help. That’s the price of being a supporting character in a horror story I suppose.
There was absolutely nothing wrong with using the word sanction. I’ve just never heard anyone say something like that. But it’s fine. It’s far better than using some cliché. It just sounded so legal or political to me. I keep up with politics so I guess it just made me think of economic sanctions or something so it’s me who needs to expand my mind, I suppose.
The same with starts. It’s fine. Just unconventional. I like unconventional. My only concern was clarity. I think unconventional is only good as long as the point is clearly communicated. I got it. It just took a minute because it was so out of the ordinary.
I think you’re a very talented writer Bert and I don’t want to stress (well I wouldn’t exactly say) negatives. You have a great flow. You’re very versatile with your vocabulary and you’re very smooth in your word choice. The scenes are kept short and meaningful and tie into the story. In other words, there’s very little fat. It was solid.
Don’t take this the wrong way because I’m not trying to bump you up above where you are at this point but for what it’s worth, I think it’s one of the better horror stories I’ve read (even counting novels).
Ok, so I am officially a terrible person lol. I told you I would read this MONTHS ago and I didn't do it. Well actually, I started to, then moved into my house at Uni and didn't have internet access for a couple of weeks which allowed me enough time to forget all about it. I looked back on some old post or PM where I said I would and felt pretty damn guilty, so I just read it in one two hour sitting, then read all your previous posts. Guilty feelings banished lol.
It's a really great script, and I'm afraid that, since I'm one of those *has to read it all before they can comment* people, I will probably forget to mention a lot of things I liked or thought could be altered, but I'll do my best.
The formatting is spot on, the descriptions are beautiful and vivid providing great visuals and atmosphere (I'm jealous as descriptions are my weak spot), and it seems to be clean in terms of grammatical errors etc.
Your plot lies nicely between the poles of originality and formula. I didn't feel like I'd read this story a thousand times before, and at the same time I felt (and enjoyed) some familiarity due its slow burning build up structure and its similarities between other horror films. It prevents the reader from feeling lost and too far removed from what's going on. After all, people like classics like THE SHINING for a reason, so they almost expect to find similar elements in other films of the same genre, but at the same time they don't want a re-hash or a rip off. You borrow ghost children, cats, a snowbound location etc, and work them into something fresh. There really is a big difference between borrowing and stealing. Anyway, the story was tense and scary and had a really creepy feel the whole way through even when nothing particularly exciting was happening (thanks to your great descriptions). I read this quite fast because I really wanted to find out what happened (obviously a sign of a good script), so the fact that I'm confused about a couple of things is probably my fault since no one else has mentioned them. Maybe you can clear them up for me anyway. *Alona - She talks like she knows something, she delivers a dream catcher (who sent it and why?), the dream catcher sets on fire the door blows off its hinges...I have no idea what all of this is about. *I got confused about this whole greed thing. Yoder wants the farm back and this is considered greedy by his siblings and therefore they come back to claim him? Or is that not right at all? I agree with whoever it was who said that the action at the end gets a little confusing, and maybe I got lost somewhere in there due to that and the speed at which I was reading. *Did Gaskins die, lose his legs, or just receive repairable injuries? As a hero I think his fate should be more clear (unless I missed it). I think those were the only things. Anyway, great story. I love the twist about Angel having actually been possessed by Sarah the whole time.
I liked your characters and the dialogue rang true pretty consistently, both in relation to each specific personality and in relation to how people in general speak in reality, except perhaps for the odd "you are" that should perhaps be "you're" for example. I have the opposite problem to you. I normally find dialogue to be quite easy if I know my characters well, and its describing visuals and action that I sometimes struggle with. Also, despite being male, I find women easier to write than men. Therefore I thought I could try and give some possible suggestions about how to develop Mary El, even though you were specifically asking for a female point of view. Here goes: You could play up the similarities between Greg and Ty even more. Not only is their relationship quite amusing at times because of the dynamic they have, but it could also be the result of Mary El's reaction to her daughter's death. Rather than turning to them for support, maybe she distanced herself from them (explaining the lack of intimacy between her and Gregg her dismissive attitude towards Ty), which caused Greg and Ty to bond with each other and form their close relationship. Mary El now feels lonely and slightly jealous of their closeness, not only because Ty is closer to his father than her, but because they have a special Father/Son thing going on, and the chance of having that special Mother/Daughter thing has been taken away from her. This would also explain her attachment to Angel and the irrational way in which she sometimes behaves. This would add to all the characters, not just her. It would give Greg and Ty slightly larger arcs and Mary El some more definition. Through losing out on her relationships with her family, she has become the disciplinarian and sensible one of the two parents, a role she continues to assume well into the script, but not when Angel is concerned, making the effect Angel has on her even clearer. It's just an idea, but let me know what you think.
Now just some general comments and stuff I liked: *The opening scene is a grabber. It pulls you right in and is very creepy. *The double use of the word "cr*p" in the car. Some didn't like it, but I did because after Ty says it, Mary El is halfway through telling him off (at least I think she is...if not then make it so she is) when Greg uses the same word, cutting her off. This simple use of a couple of words told me that Ty gets his foul mouth from his father, Mary El is the disciplinary of the two parents, and the close relationship between Greg and Ty results in Mary El's authority being undermined (not only because she's cut off, but because she's cut off by Greg using the same word that Ty was in the middle of being told off for using! It's brilliant!). If this was intentional then hats off to you, and if it wasn't then tweak it so that it definitely comes off that way because intentional or not it's a great little moment, especially if you go with what I said about the characters. *I have no problem with Hudlah saying "b*tch". Girls DO refer to each other as b's in friendly banter all the time, and it does add to the rough around the edges feel you want them to have. Maybe make them even more blunt and unfeeling to make them more like "trolls" so Mary El's statement is more justified. *I don't know if you've changed it since people complained, but I totally got that the mace was on the key chain. Clear as day to me. *Loved the photographs and portrait with the missing eyes. *Ty's line about going to the guidance councillor was one of my favourites too, and it made total sense. *The Teddy Bear works I think, but I do wonder if it could be pulled off visually without getting a few laughs. I'd maybe lose the snake tongue. I have no problems with the cat, and I loved the scene where it got electrocuted! *The ghost children in the bathroom scene was really creepy. I think a little more build up would help though, with the bathroom starting off empty and then the ghosts appearing out of nowhere rather than being there as soon as the scene begins. Not that you can mention camera angles etc, but I envision something like the camera following her hand as it pokes out blindly from behind the shower curtain to retrieve a bottle of shampoo from a shelf or something. The camera goes back the other way as she pulls it behind the curtain, and we see the blurry image of her behind the curtain pouring some into her hand. Then the camera follows as she puts the bottle back on the shelf, only now, out of nowhere, there is a ghost child standing right next to it. Could be one hell of a jump! Obviously writing it without referring to the camera might be more tricky, but you could get a real fright out of this scene, and it wouldn't be a cheap jump gag either, as the chills and suspense would be maintained by what follows; the ghosts standing there and watching an oblivious Mary El as she showers, and some getting great pleasure out of it. *I found the scene where Greg hears the whispering behind the door to be the scariest. When he realised they knew he was listening, I got a chill down my spine. Great stuff. The laughter and the snowball scene are also good. *The discovery of the nightgown was a shock because it happened during such a mundane moment. Very clever. The revelation of how it got the holes in it/why Angel has marks on her back was chilling and shocking, and I loved the way Ty saw it from the window. *The flashback of what became of the Yoder children was a great scene; it would be harrowing to watch. And the ghosts therefore being charred and burnt as a result is fantastic. Not only would they look even scarier, but they wouldn't look like your typical, pale ghost children that you see in every crappy attempt at a ghost story these days. *The climax was action packed (although maybe too much so, got a little confused at some points), and the snow globe tie in and the flashback that reveals the big twist were great. Oh, and I liked the reason for the cut out eyes and Mary El's touching bit of good news from Angel.
I hope this review was helpful since it was a long time coming! I really enjoyed your script, it really is one of the best horror scripts on here and you should be very proud of it. Suspenseful, scary and original. That's what everyone's aiming for but very few manage it! Well done.
"Are you saying I'm crazy!?" "Oh no, but I'm certainly thinking it loudly"
I commented on Hulda and it was just that it was so early in the script and bugged me so much that I had to comment on it. I don't know what kind of women you know, but I don't know anyone that what do that. I know women that are bikers (real ones, not the middle aged suburbia types that want something cool in their lives) work on cars, former inmates, lesbian horse women (they can be rough) they would never say that to someone in a friendly situation. Anyway, I tend to get hung up on small details and I guess I did here.
I just thought that a better way to show how rough around the edges they were would be to show missing teeth, dirty hair in a ponytail with a rubber band, a tattoo or a pierced tongue or something.
Couldn't agree with you more on that first one, Tomson.
And as for the second one -- I had to give a little "oh my god..." when I read your post....Huldah was modeled after a....well, you know. How screwed up is that!!! The ones I know sure toss that word around, but they're northern, not southern. Maybe it's a manners thing? Anyways, that does not mean I am discounting your opinion. I am still considering a few things with regards to her character.
[Self-indulgant replies specific to comments from Ian: Contains Spoilers]
Thanks again for your comments, Ian. Quite a bit to think about. My response is a bit delayed as I was reading about a gazillion short Westerns:
* Alona: She suspects things, but that's about it. An off-boards reader also gave a big WTF to the dreamcatcher. Still considering that one. * Gaskins: I considered bringing him back in a wheelchair, graveside, at the very end. But the cheese factor was too high. He is kind of unresolved though, isn't he? * Yoder: He is supposed to be unbalanced and irrational. Earlier drafts had this, but now it's kind of been dropped. Maybe I need to find a comfortable middle-ground for this. * The two cr*ps: Yeah...I was trying to establish the family dynamics right up front, and real quick. Not everybody got that, but it's nice to see that some people do. Actually, my biggest concern about this scene was people thinking, "Oh...they really wrecked and died", which would screw up everything, but nobody has come away with that as far as I can tell (doesn't happen, btw, for those reading spoilers). * The shower scene: The first draft laid it out just like you said, but with too many camera directions that are now deleted. I really like your take on this -- which reminds of what this scene could be -- and I will try to return to that -- somehow -- without directing the camera. But, yeah, it's pretty tricky. * The big paragraph about Mary El: This is the biggest, most helpful thing I am taking away from your comments. George and Heretic gave a similar take on their off-board comments, so the genesis of this must be there, but it is yet to be fully realized. You lay out the argument pretty well, with some excellent thoughts to ponder regarding the individual arcs for these characters.
I really appreciate the treatment you gave this, Ian. Excellent thoughts and comments. I'll be sure to deliver some payback when "Hideout" hits the boards.
Aw dude, you remembered HIDEOUT! *tear rolls down cheek* lol. At the moment it's kind of stuck at the end of act 1 which I also think is too long (25 pages). It will hit the boards eventually, as will my REPRISAL and JUST BEFORE DAWN re-writes. However, I have no clue which will come first as I chop and change between which one I'm working on all the time. The re-writes are serious overhauls too, not just touch ups, so its like starting from scratch with ALL of them! I'm a painfully slow writer.
I'm glad my comments were of use, I often find that character stuff is the most useful because someone can suggest something that changes your whole perspective and suddenly you've found new layers to your characters. When do you think you'll be doing your fourth draft?
"Are you saying I'm crazy!?" "Oh no, but I'm certainly thinking it loudly"
Can't say anything that hasn't already been said, so this'll be short. I can't say anything about format, spelling, grammar, or anything like that because I'm weak in those areas.
I loved this! It's the first horror script I've ever read and it has inspired me to write my own. In fact, as soon as I finished this thing, I starting thinking of a story!
I know you said not to rush or anything, and I wasn't going to, I was just going to read a few pages now, a little more tomorrow, until I had read it all. But after I saw that I was already on page 20 after just a few minutes, I figured I may as well read the rest. It rocked! Keep up the good work!