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SimplyScripts Screenwriting Discussion Board    Unproduced Screenplay Discussion    Horror Scripts  ›  The Ghost of John Moderators: bert
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  Author    The Ghost of John  (currently 4203 views)
Don
Posted: August 11th, 2010, 6:51pm Report to Moderator
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So, what are you writing?

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The Ghost of John by Daniel Meade (electricsatori) - Horror - WARNING: EXPLICIT CONTENT "Have you seen the Ghost of John? Long white bones with the skin all gone..." This haunting children’s song inspires a group of college students to set out into the sprawling West Virginia wilderness where John Butcher is rumored to still roam.  95 page  - pdf, format


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Curskineville
Posted: September 2nd, 2010, 4:47am Report to Moderator
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Hey Daniel.

Now, I'm not sure why but these kinds of stories seem to be super popular at the moment. A group of machete-biscuit co-eds head blithely into the wilderness to be picked off one by one. In fact, the formula is pretty standard by now and it goes something like this:

In the very first scene, a terrified person must flee an unseen monster/ghostie/cannibal redneck inbred family of dentists and is summarily snuffed > Then a car loaded with the most disparate bunch of people you'll meet outside of a bad joke (the jock; the virginal nerd; the smart, sensible girl; the consummate slut; the oaf) travel towards the site of some horrific legend + expositional banter which gives you an insight into which archetype they'll each be playing and what kind of horrible death they're "unknowingly" lining up for > The merry band then stop somewhere for supplies where the proprietor (sometimes but not always in cahoots with the bad guy) will tell them to turn around and DON'T EVER GO INTO THE WOODS! > Weirdly, the group, as a whole (bar the smart sensible girl who'll briefly bite her lip in consternation), will ignore this sage advice and blunder off to their splatterific doom coincidentally as the sun is setting behind a jagged mountain range and > We sit back and place bets on what order these chowderheads will buy the farm > Oh, and then the smart sensible girl will prevail - generally after her top comes off; staggering down the deserted road to her freedom, she'll desperately wave down the first car she sees which will be driven by - you guessed it - the bad guy's cousin/mother/rabies-addled French Poodle and this is where we dramatically cut to black and the fate of our heroine is IMPLIED (which is an odd place to start thinking about subtext; you know, at the end).

If I sound cynical, I'm really not. These kinds of romps can be fun if you're in the mood to switch your brain off. But man, if you're wading through the graveyard of a premise that's been done to death (pun intended), you really need to make it stand out. Which brings me to my point, at last: There's something so cartoonishly enjoyable about the tone of this story, it lifted it out of the potential quagmire of been-there-seen-that. And basing it around a creepy poem and an antagonist who for some reason reminds me of the London bogeymen of the Victorian Era, I think with a couple of rewrites, you could probably pick out the bones (again, pun intended) and build something pretty unique. And your writing style is solid. I mean, I wasn't once confused as to what was happening or stumble over anything and, oh man, that is so important when you have limited space to hold peoples' focus.

Now, I might be on my own here but I think we need to be careful about violence for violence's sake. If everything you put in your screenplay has meaning, then the eyeball-exploding demise of the irritating over-sexed Gridiron enthusiast needs to have meaning too. Otherwise it's just horror by rote. That scene with Nick's (I wanna say organ enema, but I shan't) death was so singularly graphic, it actually almost turned my stomach - and I can casually eat my popcorn through the worst of it. This is a partial compliment. In terms of gross-out, you succeeded admirably.
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dogglebe
Posted: September 2nd, 2010, 2:52pm Report to Moderator
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Quoted from Curskineville
Then a car loaded with the most disparate bunch of people you'll meet outside of a bad joke (the jock; the virginal nerd; the smart, sensible girl; the consummate slut; the oaf)


This, for me, is probably the biggest turn off in a screenplay or movie, this list of characters.  Outside of The Breakfast Club, you would never find these people together.  Being in high school/college is all about belonging to cliques.

I seen enough scripts where these are characters, such a diverse group that should be so easy to write.  Sounds good on paper, but when you put it...well...down on paper. it falls completely flat.

You can have four or five characters that are similar in the same story.  We Are Marshall is filled with jocks.  Revenge of the Nerds is filled with nerds.  Little Women is filled with smart women.  New Wave Hookers is filled with sluts.  And Animal House is filled with oafs.  The characters in these movies are different from each other, yet they can all be categorized in these cliques.


Phil

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dogglebe  -  September 3rd, 2010, 9:15am
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Dreamscale
Posted: September 2nd, 2010, 3:01pm Report to Moderator
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Hey Daniel, not sure how I missed this when it was posted 3 weeks ago.

Based on the positive review here, I wanted to check it out as you've given lots of very detailed reviews in the past, and I didn't think it was right your script is sitting here with nothing.

Well...sorry, but 13 pages in is as far as I'm gonna be going.  Here's the deal...

Talk about generic, cliche ridden material, man.  Damn.  This reads, looks, and reeks of 1,000 scripts/movies in this genre.  I mean, seriously, as the above reviewer pointed out, it's literally cookie cutter stuff here...and it's not for me in any way.

It's also very long winded in the irritating back and forth dialogue between all these completely unlikable characters.  I guess every script/movie needs a period of getting to know our characters, but I can tell you that I know more than enough about these idiots already, yet the banter continues.

A few issues that can help in a rewrite...

Your SLUGS have some issues.  You've used both "VAN" and "THE VAN" - pick one and stick with it. Several of your SLUGS state either EXT or INT, yet you have action taking place in the opposite.  Doesn't make sense and is hard to follow.  If you're trying to say the camera is not where the action is taking place, I understand, but IMO, it doesn't work and is just another way of directing in your Spec script, which you don't want to do.

You've decided to use "THE" in front of some items, in both SLUGS and in action passages, which doesn't work for me at all.  If something hasn't been intro'd yet, it shouldn't be labeled as "the".

Biggest annoyance for me is the actual writing style you decided to use here.  I'm sure there will be lots who love it, feel its fresh and witty, etc, but for me, it's a huge turnoff.  Lots of goofy asides, really annoying unfilmable descriptions of your characters, yet not a single age given for anyone yet, which means with all the crap you did use, there's no way to get a visual on anyone.

I can't go on, as I know exactly where this is going.  I know the style will continue with the asides and unfilmables coming fast and furious.  And, to top it all off, I've seen this movie way too many times to want to sit through 94 pages of this.

Sorry for the harsh tone here, Daniel.  When I saw your name as the writer, I perked up and looked forward to reading, as you seem to have quite a handle on screenplays, based on your posts.  Maybe you do, but it appears to be a style that I literally cannot tolerate, and will not subject myself to.

I am interested to see what others think. I seem to stand on my own island quite a bit, so it won't surprise me if that's the case again.

Best of luck to you with this and everything else you're working on.  Take care.


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bert
Posted: September 3rd, 2010, 8:39am Report to Moderator
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Quoted from Dreamscale
Biggest annoyance for me is the actual writing style you decided to use here.  I'm sure there will be lots who love it, feel its fresh and witty, etc, but for me, it's a huge turnoff....


Yep...you're right, Jeff.

Right in that I disagree, that is.


Quoted from the script, introduction for Vanessa
In the back seat is VANESSA, expert hottie, slutty slut slut slut slut.


It's funny, man.  It does not waste space -- in fact, it is quite compact -- and it is effective -- now we "know" her well enough to move on.

Do you really think describing her hair and clothes would be more effective?  **yawns**


Quoted from Dreamscale
I am interested to see what others think. I seem to stand on my own island quite a bit, so it won't surprise me if that's the case again.


It is called "voice", Jeff, and it is a disservice to advise authors to stifle it -- unless they have no idea what they are doing, of course -- you know the difference -- and that is not really the case here.

We will probably disagree on this forever -- that is fine -- but I feel compelled to let ol' Dan know there are two distinct camps on this issue.


Hey, it's my tiny, little IMDb!
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Dreamscale
Posted: September 3rd, 2010, 10:59am Report to Moderator
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Bert, I don't really want to get into something like this, but I will respond to you.

Did you read the script...or at least 13 pages of it?  If so, I'd like your commentary on what you read in terms of story, etc.

Your quote of Vanessa's description is actually a great one to discuss, IMO.  Is it funny?  Yeah, it is funny.  I think it would be even funnier if it read as, "In the back seat is VANESSA, hot as shit, and a total fucking SLUT to boot.

But, listen men, first off, this is a horror script.  IMO, horror scripts should not be funny in their tone.

Secondly, being a "hottie" has absolutely nothing to do with being a "slut", and should actually be quite offensive to both hotties and sluts around the world.

Thirdly, this is a total case of writing a description with an unfilmable aside.  I know, I know, you're going to say that based on this aside, it is easy to "see" what she's wearing and what her demeanor is.  Is it also cool to write a description like this, then?  "In the back is Butcher, MMA Heavyweight Champion, and as mean as a fucking junk yard dog."

And finally, as I said earlier, you may like this description.  You may say it's funny and has voice.  You said it is compact and effective.  So, how old is she?  How old are any of these characters?  We all know damn well that just because someone is in college doesn't mean they're 18-22 anymore.  An age of a character is very important. It's so simple to drop an age in the description.  It's very compact and extremely effective.  No reason in the world not to!


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bert
Posted: September 3rd, 2010, 11:08am Report to Moderator
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Quoted from Dreamscale
Did you read the script...or at least 13 pages of it?  If so, I'd like your commentary on what you read in terms of story, etc.


Maybe skimmed that much -- some from the front-end, and some from the back-end.

I would venture to say that while this is a horror script, it is also intended to be absurd and comical.

It is intentional that these characters are stereotypes.  It is a very self-aware script -- and while that is not a new trick by any means -- the script does capture that tone and spirit well enough.

I got that vibe from the front -- and definitely from the end -- where he clearly ventures into "Evil Dead" territory.


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MacDuff
Posted: September 3rd, 2010, 11:12am Report to Moderator
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Popped this one open and ended up reading it in one sitting.

This is a script that knows its premise, knows its audience and delivers.

Yes, the characters are cliche. Yes, the premise isn't original. But I still liked it.

I am in the group that loved the writing style. Clear. Concise. The story purrs along at a rapid pace. The style of the writing matches the style of the story. It gives it personality and when you are writing something that has been done before, it's good to have that angle. Something different. Something that can stand out amongst the throng of other horrors out there.

The dialogue, for the characters that are present, is great. The dialogue at times is funny, over-the-top and down-right offensive. Loved it. There are a couple of moments where there is exposition or some flat humour, but overall it works.

The characters, as I mentioned above, are cliched. But you play on that; in the story and in the character descriptions. I can't really argue them at all as it is clear why you created them.

Spoilers

The story is good. I'd never heard of the poem before, so it was new to me. The only slight concerns about the story is that John never really turns up until the 3rd Act, it's more of demon vs college kids movie. I also wasn't in love with your climax. You had some great sequences/scenes up until the climax and I felt a little let down by John's appearance. Especially how Andrea momentarily escapes and the whole blowing up the well that somehow unleashes a river. I can't picture how that would work with a stick of dynamite. Also, I wasn't thrilled with the last scene in the movie, but it's grown on me due to the sequal that you have seemingly planned out.

Overall, this is a tight, well written script. Good horror moments, great dialogue and good characters - although they are cliched. You embrace everything about this genre and work with it. The biggest drawback is the concept, which isn't unique and the 3rd Act which is a let down compared to your 1st/2nd Act.

It feels like a homage to movies such as Evil Dead. The horror, humour, the premise.

Good luck with this.
Stew



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Dreamscale
Posted: September 3rd, 2010, 11:44am Report to Moderator
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OK...if nothing else, at least I was successful in getting you some reads and comments, huh Daniel?

Looks like I am on my island here, and that's OK.  I like my island.  It's a cool place to hang.

Bert, I am a bit confused here still.  You obviously love the writing, story, and characters here, why wouldn't you read the script?  Why skip around and then read the end without really reading any of the script?  Doesn't make sense if you like what you see so much, does it?

Sorry for all this, Daniel.  Sometimes a little controversy helps,. though, you know?


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MacDuff
Posted: September 3rd, 2010, 11:46am Report to Moderator
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Quoted from Dreamscale


Sorry for all this, Daniel.  Sometimes a little controversy helps,. though, you know?


It got me to read it!


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bert
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Quoted from Dreamscale
Bert, I am a bit confused here still.  You obviously love the writing, story, and characters here, why wouldn't you read the script?  Why skip around and then read the end without really reading any of the script?  Doesn't make sense if you like what you see so much, does it?


What's your point, dude?  I am at work.  Sheesh.


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Dreamscale
Posted: September 3rd, 2010, 12:13pm Report to Moderator
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My point, dude, is that whether or not you're at work, you chose to read small portions of this script, most likely based on my scathing words, and then decided to tell me you disagree with what I said.  So, if you don't have time to comment or reply, you shouldn't get started then.

Actually, though, dude (sorry, can't help myself today), my point is probably more along the lines of the fact that you wouldn't and won't read this script, based on the writing and story because there's no way you'd get through it without destroying stuff in frustration and anger, yet you choose to disagree with my opinions.

That's all.  Now go back to work, get your shit done, and enjoy a nice long 3 day weekend.

Sorry to all for being difficult and an ass.


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dogglebe
Posted: September 3rd, 2010, 12:28pm Report to Moderator
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I read only two or three pages into it, to where the Indian appears.  I put it down; it was a painful two or three pages.

What you need to do, Dan, is stop writing scripts and work on your character developing skills.


Phil

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MacDuff
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I guess I'm in the minority here.

spoilers

The characters do need fleshed out and there's hardly any character development, but most don't survive long enough to have any semblance of an arc or progression anyways.

I would agree and say that the protagonist needs to be defined better and be a stronger all round character with a clear goal and resolution; but it doesn't hinder the experience (for me) that most of the surrounding characters colorful yet a little flat in the development department.


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Dreamscale
Posted: September 3rd, 2010, 1:08pm Report to Moderator
Of The Ancients


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Phil you can come hang out on my island any time you want.

MacDuff, I don't think you're in the minority...not yet, at least.  seems like it's 2-2 so far.

Let me just say again for the record.  The style chosen by Daniel, for me, is very irritating, and that's before we even get into whether or not the characters are well developed, developed at all, have arcs, or anything.  It's a personal thing for me, and that's what I was trying to state.

When it comes to "readers" or "gatekeepers" reading a script, I am 100% positive you will find more than a fe who will be very turned off by this style.  I'm also sure, others will enjoy it and find it fresh, maybe even witty.


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