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I read this script a while back before i was joined up here, I should have re-read it, my bad, I'll give it another gander tonight, still it was a great script, a lot better than most on this site, plus I also wrote in too much camera stuff in my script that I am going to take out, mostly POV, so I'm not innocent in that regards. keep up the good work.
I was somewhat thrown into the throngs of another one of those "Children of the Corn" movie series when I read this one. Being that I am not a big fan of the horror genre, reading this script made me glad I had the opportunity to review it. The hook in this one is the little girl "Angel" who drives the entire story with her ever so curious behavior. There are several places in the script that need improvement but overall it was a good read.
2. INT. BATHROOM - "She pokes him curiously with her finger, watching him twirl".... Where is she poking him? ex. In the stomach, chest or thigh etc. - A specific location would not hurt here.
3. INT. CAR - "Greg wipes some condensation off the windshield with a balled fist, then peers through the hole he made"...What drives him to behave this way? Maybe he is being curious? Then a little emotion here would not hurt. ie. "curiously peers".
4. INT. FARMHOUSE - "Huldah lights a cigarette...She spots Gaskins at the window and waves him inside"....Once again, the audience needs some kind of emotion or urgency here to connect with Huldah and Gaskins. ie. "anxiously waves him inside".
5. INT. ANGEL'S ROOM -"A rap at the door. Angel does not turn around...." I would omit: "The door soon creaks open (anyway)".
Suggest use of open door by Huldah in next sentence as she pokes her head into the room.
6. GREG - "You can do that?" ...Not exactly convinced here that a 6 year old is capable of doing this. Please choose words that convey bewilderment or shock by Greg that a 6 year old could have done such an act.
7. [ACTION] Mary El is shocked at her frankness in front of Angel. Dialogue from MARY EL would be best here because of "Sometimes you can still smell them". Mary El needs to be curious of Huldah's use of the word "them".
10. GASKINS - "Well...house calls from the type of doctor she needs..." - He's the Sheriff for god's sake. Why didn't he just restrain Angel and take her to the next major city's hospital? Explain.
12. GASKINS -"Listen. This is not a rich county..." - Here he makes the nurses and the county sound cheap and desperate to Greg and Mary El. It sort of sounds like they are wealthy. I guess you were playing to their sense of humanitarianism, no need here...Please re-write, needs improvement!!!
13. GREG - "Looks like jacket weather..." - [ACTION] Just before this dialogue, I would put in some menacing rain clouds overhead just as a reference for TY to look at.
14. INT. A DARKENED ROOM [ACTION] “Mary El moves...” Is she moving slowly or quickly?
16. GREG - "I can’t believe..." TYPO (on to). Also needs an exclamation point at end of the sentence for character emphasis.
17. INT. ART ROOM “A Native American woman...” Need her approximate age and a description of her here. Needs Improvement.
19. After ALONA (calls back) to Mary El there is no dialogue from Mary El in response. Needs Improvement!!!
24. TY – “That’s Lucifer” …Improper use of English language because MARY EL asks “Who is this?” And how does TY know the cat’s name? Suggestion: [ACTION]- Not seeing a collar or nametag on the cat, Ty makes up a name for the cat. He names her “Lucifer”.
TY – “Do you know how… She ate her kittens” Needs an explanation in the form of [ACTION].
“Aw…hell, no” – Omit “hell” here because of Ty’s age. Suggestion: “Aw…no…Where did that bear go?
35. INT. TY’S BEDROOM - NIGHT “Ty loads a fresh cartridge…” It’s here that I’m totally confused. Is Ty carrying a shotgun or a rifle? FYI: An ammo cartridge is loaded into a shotgun. Needs Improvement.
37. MARY EL - “Just go”…Sounds like she doesn’t care about Greg getting hurt or killed. Too uncaring!!! Needs Improvement.
38. EXT. FARMHOUSE - NIGHT [ACTION] “Greg trudges through the snow…--a flashlight in one hand, a rifle in the other” It’s sort of an odd way to carry a rifle. Suggest: Greg carries the rifle a different way.
INT. CLUSTER OF TREES [ACTION] “A SNOWBALL …” Greg needs to show some kind of emotion after getting hit because he is in unfamiliar surroundings.
41. AT THE KITCHEN TABLE [ACTION] “Mary El shushes him” Is she doing this slowly or just the opposite here? MARY EL “Do you want to drive Ty into town?” - WHY SUGGEST THIS? The car is completely inoperable at this point!!! Needs Improvement.
46. When Greg meets Yoder for the first time neither he nor Mary El ask him for the use of his phone. COMPLETELY UNREALISTIC!!! Needs Improvement.
49. [ACTION] “His own terrified eyes…” Suggestion: “He gazes upon his own terrified eyes…”
50. YODER “Raccoons…” He needs to really sound like he is unconvinced here and/or angry. Suggest: “Raccoons…my ass!”
64. INT. KITCHEN – NIGHT
MARY EL “Hello again. You left before I could ask if your telephone is working”
NOW SHE ASKS FOR A PHONE!!! SHE’S NOT THAT DUMB?
This should have been done on page 46.
89. INT. BARN – NIGHT [ACTION] “The bear hooks with a claw” – Makes no sense here…CHANGE!!
In summary, I have made some suggestions that I perceive necessary to improve this script. I really liked Yoder’s family story. It helps to keep the audience interested and the story moving. My real concerns are the slow points that involve Gaskins inability to really act like a sheriff. He definitely needs to stand up to Yoder and Angel to show that he’s in control.
Children of the Corn?!? So -- a crappy movie swap, huh? Is that how it works?
At least I've seen it already haha. [Note: That's an inside joke, folks.]
Pretty good for an inaugural review, Byron. Be sure to respond to George in your review exchange thread if you are interested (and you should be -- he's amongst the best -- no lie).
Several of your comments are spot-on -- things I intend to incorporate later -- but if you will permit me, it may be instructive (or self-indulgent -- take your pick -- it's a fine line) if I were to rebut a couple:
4) "anxiously" and 6) "bewildered" and 14) "quickly" or "slowly": Two points here. The first is to leave room for the actors to decide some of this stuff -- to interpret the character as they see fit. This gets back to the parenthetical comment in "Suspect Zone". There is no need to "direct" every single line of action or dialogue to the most minute level -- obsessing about this will lead to clutter and excess length.
Scripts should be built for speed, and broad descriptions are just fine.
Also, a quick word on "ly" verbs. These are considered "weak", and while you can't always avoid them, you should try to minimize their use as much as you can. A sentence with an "ly" verb can almost always be rephrased to make it stronger. I'm still working on cutting these, too. It's hard.
32) "hell". I'll keep that one, thanks, and language will still remain PG-13. In fact, I got a 13-year-old, and there is nothing false about that line.
35) shotgun -- rifle -- cartridge: Thanks here. I gotta go through and make sure all of this is consistent, don't I?
41) She has no idea what has happened yet. This makes Greg's response sarcastic, as intended.
89) "Hooks" is a good "action verb". And no "ly" on it, either. You can't visualize that one, huh? I'll think on that.
Considering your final comments, you know, I've always felt that Gaskins was one of the weakest characters, too. His role is limited, but yeah, he probably does deserve to be doctored up a little in the next draft.
Thanks for the read-through, Byron. Your thoughts on this are appreciated. You should try to hook up with George, too. He's a clever guy.
This will be the first of many, many mini-reviews of The Farm. I’ll examine the opening scenes here.
What can I say, but you are a very good writer. I’m a big fan of Salvage, you probably know that. The Farm is further evidence that you have the chops.
This story is like Pet Semetery meets The Shining. King-esque in atmosphere and dripping with creepiness.
While I see the potential of The Farm, I think at times it reads flat. I do think most, if not all, of the component parts are here to make it work.
But it feels like you have taken these parts and assembled a Mr. Machine, rather than the preferred Frankenstein monster (pardon my metaphor, or was that a simile?).
I want this story to get up and breathe. To open its eyes. To say, “I’m Alive.”
I will do you the good service of pointing out inconsistencies, as I see them, because I know you understand how to use criticism/advice to your advantage. This is most commendable on your part.
Your combination of skill, being thick-skinned, with a strong desire to improve, are why I think you will succeed in this industry.
While you have a beautiful opening sequence, I think you can go further. Really mix action with visuals. A back-and-forth process. As you’ve presented, I kind of get a split-screen image. Beautiful imagery over here, little girl walking over there. Sort of coming together, sort of not.
So, taking what you’ve already written (excuse my staccato-style descriptions; I’m writing fast), this is how I envision the scene if I were directing:
Set your landscape -----
A vast, snow-covered field Morning sun glints Horizon endless
FOOTSTEPS - OS Crunching into snow
A little girl trudging through an ocean of fresh powder. Her breath catching in the chilly air. She treks past a mechanical beast -- an irrigation system. Triangular sections. Spanning half the field. Menacing.
The little girl is a tiny speck of life against this stark, barren landscape.
This is ANGEL
Six years old. Her nightclothes wet and streaked with mud. She’s barefoot, but in no apparent discomfort. In no particular hurry.
She forges on.
CREAKING sound overhead. A mighty windmill. Its red-and-white blades turn with the morning breeze. Angel troops past and the CREAKING recedes.
She looks ahead. Treks toward something dark and foreboding. Approaching... An ominous structure, two-stories high. The FARM HOUSE.
Of course, you would have to flesh all this out to fit your style.
-- Contrast the little girl against the elements. This is open country. Vast and insulated. Sounds carry. Let’s hear the windmill turn. Let’s hear the swing on that old oak tree.
Where oh where is the description of the house? Take a look at your first 5-10 pages and find where you first tell us that this is a two-story home.
Remember the nature of the beast. In a story like this, the house is a character. A presence. Milk it, Bert.
What is Angel’s motivation for entering the house, going to the bedroom and pulling the sheet on mom? Poking dad, who is hanging in the bathroom?
Tell me it’s Not for the viewers’ sake.
It might be preferable to have her go in search of a pet. She enters the house and calls out a name. Fish-Head???? “I know you’re hiding from me.” Then she goes upstairs to look. Would this work?
You’re on the right track. Nice setup of the family dynamics. Dad drives, trying to keep the car on the road. Trying to maintain control. Ty playing a video game. Boys just want to have fun. Mary El “studying a book about death, grief, and children.” Uh, Noooooo. Much too academic. Better to have the book open, face down on her lap. Mary El leaning back. Head against the rest. She stares out the side window. A forlorn and lost expression on her face. Watches the world pass by.
I do like the double c**p lines and Mary El snaps back to the moment. Ty has gotten away with one. Maybe Greg doesn’t. Play off of Mary El’s eyes, expression. Dad is easy-going, Mom the disciplinarian.
At the Farm
I can’t make up my mind if I want to hear Gaskins say something to the family as he leads them to the house. Maybe a few words. Your call.
First meeting with Angel
Drama, Bert, drama.
Bedroom door locked. Padlocked. June can’t find her keys. Huldah nudges her aside and opens the lock with Her Keys. Mary El is incensed – locking up a little girl. Unthinkable. They enter the room.
Let me say, I don’t like Huldah’s dialogue here (the “you’ve got some visitors, baby… you really need to listen” line). She sounds a little like Mary El.
How about some more gruff. Fitting of her looks and style.
Greg’s dialogue with Gaskins (the “hey, man…”) doesn’t sound like him either. It sounds more like Ty.
Back to the scene. Here I think you underplay the drama.
-- I think what is slowing down this interplay between the characters is the weighty descriptions and the overdrawn dialogue on Pages 5-7.
Change your rhythm, Bert. Shorter, punchier sentences. Crisper dialogue.
Example: Gaskins does too much explaining. Have him say a few lines, then Huldah interrupts. She explains a thing or two. Then Gaskins jumps back in and speaks. Then Mary El accuses Gaskins of getting forceful. Then he says No he wasn’t. Then Huldah says Angel took her pencil. Then Gaskins says Angel stabbed him with that pencil. Then he shows everybody his wound. Then he says the pencil went clean through. Then Huldah says Angel is a danger. Then Mary El defends Angel. Tensions rising. Mary El and Huldah, maybe, have a tiff. Gaskins explaining more to Greg.
Little dramas. Divert everybody’s attention (theirs and ours).
Then Bam. Angel springs to action. Charges Gaskins. Fires mace into his face. He screams (Yes, Burt, he gets hit square). June rushes to his assistance.
Huldah throws a sheet around Angel. Her words sharp.
Greg manages to confiscate the can of mace. Mary El is enraged. She berates Huldah. They go at it with words.
Gaskins in agony. June rushes him to the bathroom.
You get what I’m saying.
This gives Angel an opportunity to break free. To Run out of the room, into the house she knows better than anybody here. Mary El gives chase.
Now we get a glimpse of the house. Dark corridors. Many rooms. Eerie.
Mary El catches up with Angel. They are alone now. There, there, Mommy’s here. OK, Aunt Mary’s here. Now her comforting words:
MARY EL We are not going to take you anywhere, OK? We are not going to make you do anything you do not want to do.
Comforting. Intimate. Trust building between Mary El and Angel. And Angel knows Mary El is her defender.
Allow the natural conflicts to unfold. Exploit opportunities. Cut some of the dialogue. Or split it up. More volley of dialogue between characters. The more one person talks in this scene, the more you amp down the tension.
On Page 8, for example. Mary El introduces herself and the family – this should be done earlier in the scene, I think. She follows this rather lengthy dialogue with more dialogue about how they aren’t going to take Angel from her home. Blah blah.
You’ve just doused the fire.
Create and explore more options. Find better ways or places to insert exposition. Mix it up.
If you don’t like the padlock scene with June searching for her keys, you can stay with the scene of Angel looking out the window. We hear this jangling, but never see the keys in her hands.
Then when she attacks, we again hear the familiar rattle of keys. Now we connect.
Holy crow, Abe. I pop back onto the boards for a second and find all of this going on.
“What the heck is this guy doing?” I think, “It looks like he wants to do the next draft himself…”
But once I had acclimated myself to the staccato, rapid-fire style of your posts, I did find some gems in there.
The padlocked door. June can’t find her keys. Of course. And it makes these ladies appear even more like the trolls they are supposed to be, doesn't it? And establish the windmill earlier? Yes. Perhaps.
It looks like you are going to town on this one -- above and beyond the call of duty -- but you sure have some unique takes on some of this stuff that have not yet been raised. Some of them quite clever.
It’s appreciated, Abe, but please don’t wear yourself out here. Save a little to spread around, you know? And I suppose I’ll hold my questions until the end.
Forgive me if I come off sounding like I'm trying to rewrite your work. Don't mean to do that. I edit writers' (journalists) works for my community newspaper. Often, I've got to go back and rewrite a lot. Force of habit.
I like the scene of Mary El in the art supply room. Nice atmosphere. A moment to reflect.
Because of her own demons, this might be a time for her to have a moment to Let Go. Lose her composure. Win our hearts. Maybe she see’s something in the room that says kids. Little ones.
Dad and Ty living it up in the other room. Very cool. Finding old LPs. Nice touch. Can you take this further? I’d love to see them getting into some music. Bonding big time. Dad maybe doing some dance from his high school days. Ty doing air guitar. Let them cut loose and have laughs.
By the way, I like it that dad comes off kinda like a bud to Ty. I know of dads who are like that.
When mom tells the boys to turn off the racket, well, we know her side and we know their side.
The Alona scene is good. I see Dead People, no wait… I see actress Cherry Jones as Alona. I like this lady. Great visual here of the window upstairs opening and little Angel looking down. Really like that effect.
And not to mention Alona’s cryptic last words.
The panoramic bird’s-eye-view of the farm is nice. I’m one of those people who don’t fret too much over the use of Camera Angles, if used very sparingly and in the right spots.
Do Not Rewrite Bert’s work – Slap. Do Not Rewrite Bert’s work – Slap, slap. OK, Better.
Really, though, I am working on my werewolf short script. Just letting all these ideas flow in as I tinker with your story.
On P. 20, when Mary El’s makes that VO comment about staying away from anything dangerous… not so sure about that. It sounds like it needs a sarcastic response from Greg. But that would dilute the impact of her words. I think this is OK.
Greg in the combine cab is nice and personal. Finally, Greg reaches out. Connects with his brother.
I have to take you to task on Ty’s findings in the shed. A speed reader might not catch that scene. Can you break it up a little. Take more time as Ty passes each cage. Maybe he even pokes a stick at one of the dead animals. I’d like to see his expression. Grossed out? Fascinated? Curious??
What is this weak mewing business? The line just plains reads Weak.
Have him turn off the heater, which leads him to a new discovery.
Dead kitten bodies (maybe we don't see the kittens. Just Ty's face as he reacts).
Ty brings the cat inside. We don’t need that mewing from before. He maybe should just show up with a cat. He can recount his gruesome tale of how she ate her children. Nice effect there, by the way.
P.21 How about if Mary El talks to the cat? Instead of asking Ty ‘who is this?’ She asks, ‘And who are you?’ Her addressing the cat in this way says something about her personality. And we further warm up to this woman.
P. 27 Opens the box with a butterfly knife? There is a martial arts weapon called a butterfly knife. I know that’s not what you mean. How about a pocket knife or a Boy Scout’s knife, or a Swiss Army knife. Something familiar maybe. Just being knit-picky.
I don’t want Teddy to attack Ty at this point. Ty sees the bear come to life. He’s creeped out. Enough for now.
Nice scene with the dead kids showing up while Mary El is showering. But what is their intent? Knit-picky again. They should be there to do more than just observe. Eerie imagery, however. I can see Mary El washing her hair, and like Marian in Psycho, we can suddenly see dark shadows behind the shower curtain. Even from behind the children, we see their burned clothes. And Mary’s blurry image through the shower curtain. What fun a DP can have with this.
I’m thinking what if maybe Angel shows us. When Mary El draws back the curtain, the kids are gone. But there’s Angel. Maybe to turn away the ghosts from harming Mary El. Maybe Angel is really Mary El’s protector.
Next scene: Bedroom. Mary El (I’ll just call her EL) has a reaction to sitting on Ty’s knife. Then she strokes the boy’s hair. I smell conflict of actions here. Hmm.
Maybe El has to get the conversation turned to Angel and get into that a bit. Her tone changes and Then she strokes Ty’s hair.
Greg reminisces about Dan. Good that you set up the scene in the combine cab. Now he's getting sentimental. Or remorseful, or something. Did they grow up on a farm? Greg says Dan was so proud of this place. His dream since they were kids? The family farm, right? I kinda got the impression Greg was really foreign to this place. He doesn’t react to the house as if it’s familiar. Maybe it's just the way I read it.
Don’t know about that “Ah, hell no,” by Ty. Maybe an “Oh s***.”
I think it would be better if Ty had left that knife stuck in the bear. Have that scene firm in our minds. Then when Ty awakens and doesn’t see the bear, it will be clear to us that the bear and the knife are gone. Kind of ominous that the knife would disappear too, wouldn’t you say?
P. 32 The oldest boy ghost watches Mary El sleep. Maybe it doesn’t need to be explained. But why do the ghosts do this? They have no intention of harming El, right? What’s this staring about?? Makes me feel that it’s there to say, look here are ghosts? Just me picking at a scab.
P. 32-33 I think Greg is doing too much explaining. He is groggy, his words should be limited. ‘Can’t sleep with us… go back to bed.” Brief and unfocused. Then Greg is snoring again.
P. 33 Why does Ty go back to his bedroom without switching on the lights? It’s spooky in there, dude. He’s gotta see what he’s shooting at.
Kind of awkward to say the 'hand not manning the trigger.' Just say with his free hand, he opens the door.
I think during this skirmish with Teddy, Ty gets bitten. If he got bitten earlier, he would have said so. Keep the drama here. He fights with the bear, gets bitten and blows Teddy to smithereens. When Greg and El don’t believe his story, he shows the bite/claw marks and the oozing blood.
P. 34 Aha, lights Do work. Greg and El flip the switch.
How about when Ty comes back to his room, with the rifle, he gropes around for the switch, can’t find it and then he hears Teddy stirring. Now he has to keep both mitts on the gun, his eyes ahead and well, now I can buy him not turning on the lights. But he’s gotta try. Right??
P. 35 Don’t agree with Greg’s words. “That’s convenient, now you can’t sleep in here.” Come on, dad’s on Ty’s side. He’s gotta give the kid the benefit of the doubt. And Dad has to go to the window and look out. Even if he doesn’t see anything. Let me tell you, if I shot a gun, claimed that the creature was blown through the window, I think everybody in the room would be compelled to look out the window.
Bert. What is wrong with Mary El???? Where is her maternal instinct?? Angel is in the bedroom, correct? Gunfire. Animal in the room. Ty is bitten. Window has a hole in it. Mary El has Got to Comfort Angel. No buts about it. She has to protect her little Angel. The girl has already been traumatized more than once. Fix.
And fix Dad too. Just doesn’t ring right that he comes off so flip, or so sarcastic.
P. 38. Good series of scenes with the children ghosts laughing and firing snow balls. Not scary, but visual. The whole windmill crash is great. Yeah, I can see that big-time on the screen.
Shooting at children?? Sorry, Bert. That’s not good. I don’t care whether Bert can see the kids or not. Don’t shoot. It tells me he’s not very responsible. If it were Ty, yeah, I see that. But Greg is an adult. What adult shoots at laughter, at air, when maybe, there’s a kid out there? Scary thought.
P. 40 Don’t like it that Mary El says, her first words, the kid’s are sleeping. That line just lays there, for me. Better to start with the second line. “I heard a gunshot. Or what were you shooting at?’
Ah, come on. P. 42. Greg doesn’t say a word about the windmill demolishing the car? That’s dumb.
I know you don’t want him repeating what we just saw, but if he’s going to speak, then he’s just got to say something about that car. Otherwise, he comes off as stupid as those kids who wander into the dark to be slaughtered by Jason. Well, not that dumb.
And when Mary El says it’s Okay for Greg and Ty to stay in town… a perfect opportunity for him to mention the car.
If you’d rather not have Greg say anything about the car, then he shouldn’t say anything at all.
Maybe he stumbles into the semi-dark house, ashen-faced, trance-like, bleeding from the head and just walks past Mary El. Maybe he can’t muster any words to describe what he’s been through. Maybe he’s got a bit of a concussion.
Perhaps Mary El goes out and sees the wreckage. Then she comes back with that same look.
P. 42 Bottom of page. Angel screams. Everybody awakens. Mary El says to Greg: What the hell were you doing?
What a thing to say. Greg isn’t the type to do anything to the girl, right?
I would think El would say, “What happened?” That’s not being accusatory.
Sometimes she talks to her family like they’re strangers. Like she doesn’t know them.
Now this would be OK if El’s mind is getting warped. If she is coming unglued. If that’s the direction we’re headed, Bravo. I’m seeing a female Jack Nicholson. She is getting overly protective, intense and insensitive to Greg and Ty.
But I don't think that's where you're going.
** Bert, where are the cell phones? Everybody’s got a cell phone these days. Even if they don’t pick up a signal, they’ve got to have cell phones. Ty has got to have a cell phone.
P. 46-48 Yoder appears at the door. Don’t like this setup. I think Greg is the friendly one, the one to invite him in. Mary El should be the guarded one, cautious.
Yoder isn’t particularly friendly. Inquisitive maybe. He said ‘I heard gunshots.’ There was only one gunshot, right? He heard the gunshot, but Mary El didn’t hear the crash of the windmill?? Well, OK, howling wind. Gunfire is a sharper sound. Maybe no complaints there.
I’m troubled that Mary El not only invited this guy inside, but allows him to sit near a sleeping Angel. I don’t know.
As soon as he says ‘I come to see the girl,’ red flags go up in my mind. And should go up in El’s mind, too. Something too ominous in those words.
I think a better way to approach this is:
(no intension of rewriting, but…)
Have Greg outside. Maybe inspecting the damage to the car. Yoder shows up. Naturally they talk about the damage. Maybe the fiece wind from the night before. Yoder comes off as folksy. Wins Greg over. Maybe Yoder says he knew Dan. Another reason for the two men to connect. Then Greg takes Yoder to the house. Greg can introduce Yoder to Mary El. Much friendlier. Now he is welcomed into the house.
The snow globe. Yeah. Like the scene. Especially Yoder’s image in the ball. Wow. Hey, what is Yoder’s intention anyway? What does he expect to find there at the Ereckson farm? He obviously is there to see Angel, but why? Or maybe, what is Angel’s intension toward Yoder?
Something’s amiss on P. 48. Yoder spooked and hurrying away. Then he stops, turns back to the shattered window and says, ‘raccoons.’ Huh? This man is scared s***less. He’s gotta keep going.
And to make that scene really feel off, Greg and Mary El on the same page, discuss why they goofed and said ‘raccoons.’
Do they have super hearing? Did they hear Yoder question Greg's statement about ‘raccoons’?
Better to have Yoder say ‘raccoons’ right after Greg tells him that’s what he scared off. If you place his reaction earlier, then we know that Yoder’s not buying the story, and Greg and El also know this.
However, regarding this whole raccoon business, I say What the f***
Raccoons, rodents, bears, what difference does it make? Greg doesn’t live there. He might not know a raccoon from a pole cat, from a possum, a mink and a skunk. Why are they fretting about that mistake? Who is Yoder anyway. It’s not like giving a statement to the police.
One more thing – nobody asking Yoder if he has a working phone? A drivable vehicle??
Calm down, Abe. inhale. Exhale.
P. 51 -- Shed. Dead kittens in a cage. Uh, not sure about this. Are kittens kept in cages? Is the cage locked? Is Fish-Head possessed by a spirit? Was she inside of the locked cage when Ty found her?? Can’t recall now.
Maybe Ty should help dad bag the dead animals. Then they could speculate together. Wow, that could be chilling exchange of ideas.
Dead snake in a terrarium. I believe that's what they call the thing for snakes and reptiles.
When Mary El and Ty check Angel’s room concerning the Gameboy, I think you have a natural segueway here for Mary to look out the window. And see Angel down there near the wrecked car and live powerlines.
Because these are live wires, which has been there from the night before, all the more imperative that Greg and Mary El try to get help. Again, they should have asked Yoder about a phone or car.
After Yoder freaks out, we understand why no help is coming.
Which brings up another point. Wouldn’t Greg go get help. Walk to Yoder’s farm. Or somebody else’s farm. He can’t just stay there under these circumstances.
Play all the cards. Let’s see them (Greg) try every means to get help.
Maybe Nobody realizes the wires are live. Maybe it’s assumed they aren’t. Not until Fish-Head gets fried.
P. 53 Angel climbing the windmill reads passive. You tell us she is 'well on her way up the thing.' It seems like we’re seeing this from a distance. Put us up close. From Angel’s POV. Let us see her trying to rescue Fish-Head. Put us in the eye of the storm, so to speak.
I’m kind of in favor of dad not being around. Perhaps off to get help, so we think. Mary El is freaking out. Ty is forced to climb the windmill to rescue Angel. He's reluctant, but Mom insists. He gets stuck up there. Then, dad is there. In the combine. Rescues everybody, except the cat.
P. 58 Greg and Ty trying to get the combine back in the barn. Mary El cutting out new eyes for the painting. And Where May I Ask is Angel? You can’t leave this child alone, not after what she has just done.
Have Angel help Mary El cut the new eyes.
This scene, however, opens a great opportunity for Mary El and Angel to talk. Talk as they do crafts. Because it was Angel who cut out the eyes, right?
So Mary El will want to know why and help the child deal with her anxieties. Afterall, El did tell Greg that she could reach the child. Now’s her chance. Reach out, El.
Ah, a good time to clear the air? Greg and Mary El must have a blow-out of an argument. Well, I don’t know if here is the best place. But they've got to argue and not just small talk. Get to the meat of their fears, concerns.
The couple have got to get back in synch emotionally. Prepare for what's coming.
Thin ice here, Bert. Don’t think Mary El will just welcome Yoder back into the house. Didn’t he leave under strange circumstances? I might buy it if Yoder was gracious and apologetic, and has brought a gift: a cake, a pie, something to eat. A peace offering.
He’s got to earn their confidence before he starts blurting out warnings of them being in danger.
Or, he's got to come on strong. Maybe he's pakcin’ that shotgun. He forces his way in.
One or the other.
At the bottom of the page, why are Mary El and Greg allowing Yoder to sit on this matter of the estate. I wouldn’t allow him inside the house, let alone privy to business matters regarding the house. Just my take on this matter.
Oh, now I read that the letter contains info. About Yoder owning that land. OK, that’s why nobody’s protesting his presence. Make this apparent. It’s kept in the dark and then sprung on us. I kinda feel manipulated.
They've got to pump this man for information.
P. 64 Need a Flashback. Make it clear.
P. 65 I like the look back in time. The Yoder family. How they died. This is good.
P. 68 So the Yoder family once owned this land? And the Yoder dad sold it to the Dan Ereckson??
P. 71 How did Angel get Ty’s knife from his back pocket?
P. 72 Don’t understand why Mary El is replacing the new eyes with the original eyes. To me it’s irrelevant. Angel’s psychological state is the issue here.
And what has happened now that Mary El asks “Where is Ty?” Is there some realization on her part? Does she think Ty is in danger?
When Greg and Mary El enter Angel’s room, do they see the ghost children there? Who sees the children?
Mary El’s first words as they enter: “Get away from her, Ty.” She has switched gears, I think. I would have thought she’d say, “Angel, please don’t do this.” Instead, it’s get away from Her.
Mary El try has got to talk Angel out of this bad situation. Reason with her. Tell her everything’s going to be Ok. Maybe even get between Greg and Angel. She’s been so loving of this child, and now, she says very little in this scene.
P. 74 I see at the bottom of the page, Mary El is back to offering Angel comfort. What happened at the top of the page?
Yoder comes unarmed? He obviously knows the spirits are present. Does he perceive Sarah/Angel to be a threat?
P. 75 I want to see Mary El lay it on the line with Angel. “What is happening here?” “You know something, Angel. I want the truth.” She should be more forceful. Afterall, in a few seconds, she’s gonna lock this child in. So why not get tough.
P 76 Bottom of the page. Mary El demands to know why Yoder is doing “this…s***. What s*** specifically. Maybe she should demand to know what the H*** is going on.
P 77 Sure took Yoder awhile to say it. ‘That’s not Angel. That girl is a blasphemy.’ He Is afraid of the girl. Yet, he comes unarmed? Maybe he has a shotgun hidden outside. By the door. If so... he's got to have that shotgun when he enters Angel's room. Consider that.
P 77 I do like the dreamcatcher bursting into flames. The tendrils. Very creepy.
P 79 Yoder says his sister Sarah had eyes as brown as molasses. Is he saying Sarah’s spirit inhabits Angel’s body? Or is he just saying that to be saying it?
P 81 Ah, I see Yoder hid his shotgun. But in the shed? Not very accessible.
Greg and Yoder investigate. Why are Mary El and Ty sitting in the kitchen? I think they would be hanging back at the foot of the stairs, waiting with curiosity and concern.
My gut says Mary El won’t take no. She is going upstairs to check on Angel and god forbid anybody who blocks her path.
Bottom of p 79
Greg’s dialog. Sounds unsure… “I think we need to find her before he does.” Needs to be way more forceful & urgent.
Need a better or longer transition scene between Yoder retrieving his gun in the shed and the family seeing him pick-axe a grave.
Yoder drops a bundle into the hole and starts filling the hole… uh, is this supposed to be Angel?
Yoder found her already? How could the family see Angel’s face if she’s in the hole? They can’t be that close. This madman has a pickaxe.
I see now. Angel is projecting a vision.
∑ Did not mention this earlier, but why did Angel allow Ty to see the image of Yoder killing her in the field? Why not Mary El?
Yoder’s word suggest Sarah has been a restless spirit for a long time? Maybe since her death? Hmm… this could present troubles for you the writer.
Bert, if you’re suggesting that Sarah has only to life (in Angel’s body), then what good is shooting Angel? It doesn’t skill the spirit of Sarah. She could inhabit another warm body.
Why is Fish-Head returning to life? Which spirit inhabits her body??
I don’t see that Fish-Head is chasing Ty, yet when Greg runs after Ty and trips, he lands near Fish-Head.
I’m not seeing how this works.
Wait, now Fish-Head leaps at Yoder. Uh, what’s going on?
Mary El yells run to Angel. But why should Angel run? She’s there for another purpose, right?
So Angel doesn’t run. Mary El goes after Ty. Doesn’t Mary El see that Angel is standing there? Won’t she try to remove her from this tense scene, especially if Yoder is still alive.
Angel takes the rifle. OK.
P 85 Shed. Mary El comes across a large control panel. How are we supposed to visualize this? Is the control panel a side of a wall. Is it floating in space. Tough to picture without more description.
Near the top is a an irrigation company logo, and a picture of the rolling behemoth that straddles Angel’s field.
The above line is vague. Still can’t get a grasp on what she’s seeing.
Where is the shed in relation to the barn?
I gotta tell you, Bert, that Ty is a total wimp. He’s running into the barn to hide? Can’t he run into the barn to retrieve a weapon? Or better yet, run into the barn to drive the combine?? But to hide. Oh lord. I cannot route for a 13-year-old boy who is this gutless. His family’s life is in the balance.
Maybe he’s chasing after Fish-Head. Or Angel. Or something. Make this kid a bit more gallant.
Also, Ty running to hide has killed the tension. Now if he had run to the barn to retrieve something, and we know dad is waiting for that something back at the grave site, then any delays Ty faces ratchets the intensity.
P 86 Tell us this is the Teddy bear. I thought it was a different bear at first.
Now I want that bear and that combine to chew the s*** out of that wimp Ty.
Bert, why is the bear up there in the loft? Don’t say it. Waiting for Ty?? Ugggh. Better that bear lie in wait in his room. But up in the hay loft of the barn, and then Ty just happens to pick that for a hiding spot? Never.
OR, how about Ty goes into the barn to hide and he hears somebody (something) follow him into the barn? He thinks the cat. We know it wasn’t the cat. Mom? No. Dad? No. So what followed him in?? Enquiring minds want to know.
What machinery was heard starting up? This was a couple of pages back. The bottom of P 84.
No mention of machinery rumbling in the barn. No mention of machinery rumbling in the shed. So, what gives?
The sound of the snowmobile perhaps?
If so, why doesn’t Ty run toward the snowmobile and Gaskins? The barn is not that far away.
P 86 I see the combine has come to life. So that wasn’t this piece of machinery we heard 1 page earlier.
P 88 Ty clings to life at the rim of the hopper. And here comes the struggle between Yoder and Gaskins.
Gaskins is getting mulched by the blades. Where is Ty in relationship to this? Perhaps his fingers are slipping, almost ready to give.
This could be an exciting visual scene to film. But on paper, I don’t see where Ty is and where Yoder is.
Angel sitting on the pipes. All of these farming equipment is hard to visualize. I’m not familiar with it. Taking your word for all of this.
Why is Angel swinging her feet? Such nonchalance. No sense of urgency in her actions.
P 90 Two scenes with Greg entering Ty’s room.
Why is Greg searching for Ty? That’s what mom set out to do. With both of them searching for Ty, there is less drama. Dad has got to be battling Yoder. Otherwise, Yoder doesn’t seem like much of a threat.
P 91 Ty has never seen a syringe so big. Does his eyes widen, what are we seeing to know this?
P 91 A dying or suffering Gaskins hands Ty a syringe, but I don’t think he would be playing Q&A: “Do you know what that is for?” Just have Gaskins tell him. Economy of words, plus maintain the sense of urgency
P 93 What angle is Greg approaching Angel? Because he gets shot. Hmm. This would be tough, because he would have to be in front of the rifle barrel. Not to say this isn’t possible. You know best.
It might work better if he knocks Mary El out of the way. I take it Greg thinks she is the target. This would make sense if it goes down like this. And he goes down like that.
Ty in a snowmobile and with a gun. Is this Gaskins’ gun? Just curious.
P 94 Ty tells Yoder “they know what you did.” The police, I presume and not the ghosts.
Getting confusing who has a gun and who doesn’t. Ty takes a tumble and the gun goes flying. Yoder still has his gun.
P 94 Now Mary El is holding Angel’s gun.
Best not to use shoot to describe a character looking at another character (shoots a look). Not when there is a gun trained on someone. Gets confusing.
P 95 If the cops know about Yoder, why did only Gaskins show up? There should be several police units in to get this guy. I think even in a small town. They might be assisted by neighboring towns in capturing a homicidal killer. How about Gaskins showing up with a couple of officers. And Yoder kills the two officers. That's more realistic. Otherwise, Gaskins is in idiot. Nobody goes out to arrest a killer without backup.
Snow and soil transformed into a soup of slush and mud. Visually all of the morphing and transforming might look cool, but they’re hell on the reader. Blink or skip a line and then it’s like Whoa, what’s this?
On the same note, I do like Yoder getting pulled down under and then the ground transforms into ice over him. And there he is trying desperately to get out. Very Nice.
Love the snow-globe reference here.
The Starts word isn’t universally used in this context. Is it regional? I’d go with the familiar startled.
P 99 Streams of blood “wend” their way… is that meant to be “wind”?
I did like the secret that Angel tells Mary El. Did not like Angel dying. I feel it was a cheap death. Of course, I guess she was already dead. Well, more on this in my evaluation.
There are a lot of really nice things with The Farm. There are also some confusing elements. I’ll address the areas I think are problematic or potentially problematic.
First, I’m not a fan of the two dead bodies in the beginning and how they are presented. Feels like a plant, a setup.
I’ve got the family figured, but I’m not so sure about Angel (Sarah), Yoder and the ghosts.
I think Angel should attack Huldah and not Gaskins. Gaskins can help her cause. Huldah is an obstacle.
Getting rid of the trolls opens the door for family to care for Angel. She’s got to know this and act accordingly. Stab the nurse and send her to the hospital.
Just noticed on P 99, Angel says to Mary El, “you tried to help me.” EL responds, “you don’t need any help.” Angel: “no.” Uh, this is wasted dialogue. Everybody knows El tried to help Angel.
Let me see if I understand the story: These restless Yoder spirits have been driven to restlessness “by shame and greed.” Then why do they attack or torment Greg and Ty? Don’t these spirits know that one of their own is the greedy, evil person?? Spirits have to be smart.
Why don’t the spirits torment Yoder? I mean really shake him up. Don't they break things in his house? Seems I remember such a scene. He doesn't seem overly bothered, though.
I’m bugged by the snowball-throwing incident. The children’s laughter. Not that’s it’s a bad scene on its own, but how does it fit with this story? The ghosts seem malevolent. Dangerous. Ominous for the sake of the movie, not true to their motivations.
Who owns the farm? How does killing Dan and his wife help Yoder?
Yoder is calculating enough to set up a double suicide, but so stupid he kills them with an injection. What gives? Like nobody would do an autopsy… It would work better for me if Yoder killed Dan and his family, then buried them. Seems that would be in keeping with his character. Heck, he buries everything else.
The mystery would be, what happened to the Ereckson family. Can't do autopsies if there ain't no bodies.
Likewise, it would work better for me if Angel wants to lead the family to Dan’s burial site. Or to the truth. That sounds reasonable.
But I don’t think that’s the story you want to tell.
As for the ghosts, it would be creepier to me if they were crying for help. That they are tortured souls. As is, I don’t know what their intentions are. To torment the guys and observe Mary El?
I take it that Angel’s only power is to create a vision which reveals the past. Correct? Then why doesn’t Angel do the sensible thing and show the vision to Gaskins? He's the law.
What’s up with this Teddy Bear? This is what causes confusion. It is evil. Possessed? Isn’t this the bear that belonged to one of the Yoder kids? Maybe it should be Ben Yoder’s bear when he was a pup.
Hmm, now I’m wondering why the real Angel’s spirit couldn’t inhabit her own body. She was killed by Yoder. She should be the ghost that seeks justice, or revenge. That seems logical. Angel’s soul is restless.
Are we only seeing Sarah’s spirit in Angel? Or are their duo spirits occupying the girl’s body? Why does Angel’s spirit show up at the end? This seems to be there to tug at our heart strings. Make us feel warm and fuzzy. Explain things. Well, I guess it works Not logical, but a feel good scene.
Ah, Bert, you’re a clever devil.
I guess the story Ben tells on Page 64 is not true. Did Ben burn down the family house, with all the trimmings, sorry, his siblings inside? Now Sarah has reason to come back. And the Yoder kids are most certainly restless. They need to see Ben in the ground. Dead and buried before they can rest in peace.
But hey, dude, where is the vision/replay of this murderous scene? It’s not at the story’s end. Gotta tie up the loose ends.
Oh yes, why are the eyes cut out of the painting? I’ve seen this before in films. Been there, done that. So, does it serve a purpose?
How does Ben Yoder know that Angel (whom he killed) is seemingly alive and well? He pays a visit to Greg and Mary El, with the intent of checking on Angel, right? Did he see her outside?? This is farm country, so I don’t think anybody told him about Angel. And how did Angel know to escape from her bed before Yoder arrives to kill her? She must have witnessed the murder of her parents. No biggee here, just wondering.
Shouldn’t we see a vision of Yoder killing Dan and his wife? You showed us Yoder going after Angel.
Again, being knit-picky.
The final battle royale at the story’s end is a doozy. It’s a bit hard to follow. Are the children’s spirits turning on the machinery? They can do this?? If so, they should be able to dispose of Ben. Sorry to keep going back to this point.
And all those guns. Hard to keep track of who is armed and who was armed. Bet this plays better on the screen than it reads on paper.
Watch out for the over-describing of scenes. It really bogs down the story. You need to keep the pace of this thing humming. Especially the action sequences.
Going back to P 57, that scene where Yoder hears the rumbling of the combine from his house, have him pull out a pair of binocs. We should see him checking out the Ereckson farm.
On P 69, what does Yoder mean when he says that Greg’s kin 'done something awful that night, the worse they ever done.' Is he referring to the so-called suicide? Or is he saying something else?
Does Yoder really believe if he kills Angel again, he kills the evil spirit that seems to be haunting the farm?
I could go on. But you know your story. Maybe there is some logical thread that sews up the story into a more logical package. Remember. The riddle should be solvable within the story. Maybe on second or third viewing, I would get it. That’s pretty good on your part. Can you pull that off?
Fix the illogical. Stay consistent with your characters and their actions.
There has got to be something in that deed that reverts the farm back to the Yoder family. Yoder has to know this, which is why he kills Dan and his family. Yoder wants possession of the land. I just can’t buy that he’s killing people just to put the so-called spirits to rest. Because those spirits are restless due to his killing of the Erecksons. They weren’t restless before that, right? Is this a Catch-22?
Maybe go with Yoder having killed his own siblings. Maybe he’s so wacked with dementia that he doesn’t remember it that way. Then you Must show us the vision of him killing his brothers and sister. That’s a real loose end.
If you fix this aspect of the story, I think it could work.
There you have it. Hope that helps. If nothing else, I hope I’ve stimulated thought. You were the first person on this board to kinda befriend me (after I reviewed Salvage) and so I’ve repaid you here with a back-breaking critique. You won’t see anything like this again. I’m off to do my own scripts now.
Best of luck. You are a good writer. And this is a whale of a story in more ways than one, so says Capt. Ahab. Fix the problems and go sell this spooky beast.