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Willie12 by Oney Mendoza - Horror - Fed up with the complications of traditional dating, college student Lauren turns to online dating for the first time. All goes well until she unknowingly invites a serial killer into her life. 112 pages - pdf, format
OK, Oney, I read this yesterday and decided to let it sit for a day before putting my thoughts down. I did not take notes as I read, but I did read this very slowly, taking mental notes and doing my best to take in everything you were going for.
I can tell you're a good guy and you've got a great attitude. You're also reading other scripts and that's always a plus. I really wanted to love this, as you know I read the first 10 awhile back. I'd be lying if I told you I did love it, and as I often say, my words are meant to help you as a writer, not put you or your work down in any way.
I'm going to attack this review in sections that I feel are all very important -and all needing of attention, sorry to say.
THERE MAY BE SOME SPOILERS, BUT I'LL TRY NOT TO USE ACTUAL CHARACTER'S NAMES TO PROTECT THE REVEALS
First of all, personally, I don't like the title...at all. After reading the entire script, I like it even less, as it really doesn't have much of anything to do with the plot and story.
Let's move onto the logline but keep the title in our minds as we look at it. Your logline reads fine, but in reality, it has very little to do with the actual story and plot, much like the title. I kept waiting for the log to kick in but it never actually does. Those who haven't read this, won't be able to follow this exactly, but if you think about what I'm saying, I think you'll understand where I'm coming from and where I'm going. I'm not a big believer in logs having to be anything exact or contain this or that. But, they do need to sell your script in some way, contain truth, and have meaning. IMO, this does not and after finishing, it was a sore spot for me, because there's so much you could have done with this, if it was indeed based on what you said it was going to be.
When I first read your opening 10, I'm pretty sure I told you a few things that were very important that were lacking here. After finishing, I still see them and it's a deathblow, as fr as I'm concerned.
I'm talking about overwriting, over describing, deciding to include things that aren't remotely important, and mostly runaway dialogue and banter that goes on forever and goes nowhere.
You've got a 111 page standard slasher script here, meaning we're looking at an hour and 51 minutes. Most will say immediately that's too long for this genre, but I'm actually not one of those. For what you do have here, it is definitely too long, though. Numerous pages and pages of nothing but dialogue between your characters. When I say numerous, I mean that it happens again and again in pretty much every scene, and it just goes and goes for no real reason.
You've done a pretty good job with the actual dialogue and characterizations, but I found myself not really liking anyone, based on how they spoke, what they said, and what they did. Hey, don't get me wrong, I'm a big partier and always have been. I have nothing against drug use and/or sex. In fact, I enjoy it quite a bit both in reality and in movies. It's too much here though, IMO. Too much talk of sex, calling each other names, drinking, drugging, puking, etc. Just too much without a big enough payoff.
I'd imagine if you cut down your overwritten prose and left the dialogue alone, you could easily carve out 10 pages here. If you also toned down your dialogue exchanges, I'm very confident you could cut down another 10+ pages. At that point, you' have the exact same story and you'd be right around 90 pages.
Now, here's the crazy thing...at 90 pages, this would still be too long, IMO, because very little actually happens other than partying, stalking, and extended fight/kill scenes. IMO, you need more here. More story. More motivation. More diverse settings. And, at least 1 character who is a bit different from the rest. As it is now, everyone seems to be the same person in most ways (even though you have given them character).
Let's talk about the story and plot quickly. The bottom line is that there really isn't much of either. We know from the intro that some girls have been killed in and around a small college town. I don't think there's any action other than a few totally false scares for like 40-50 pages, and that's a problem as far as I'm concerned. You've got to intersperse some action and horror in here early. You have to break up all the long dialogue exchanges.
You've got a very standard, almost by the numbers generic slasher here, complete with a masked killer who doesn't talk, who could be a number of possible suspects. The final reveal is pretty good, but it doesn't really deliver any power because there's no motivation for the killings. If this person is just a psycho killer who randomly kills, cool, but that's not what we have here. We have a killer who has killed a single girl every couple weeks or months, but all of a sudden, he/she just decides to start killing everyone in a certain group for no reason that i can see.
Another issue with the killer is the weapon of choice, which is repeatedly a 10" hunting knife. Not too creative, and the more it goes on, it feels very repetitive. Now, not to spoil anything, but there's obviously 1 kill scene in which a different weapon is used. The problem is that I didn't buy it at all the way it went down. Unrealistic, unless it was turned on. Funny, because I was just over at a friend's house and another friend was there to borrow this device, so I got a great firsthand look at it and how it works, and again, unless this device is on, it's not going to do what you think it might.
For me, the finale just went on and on and again, didn't seem realistic or believable. Running, hiding, slashing, getting slashed, falling down, etc. Didn't pack the whollup I was hoping for and definitely overwritten and just went on too long for me.
I did appreciate your beginning and end bookends. That was well done and left me with a nice lasting visual.
Some things to look for and understand in your writing that will help.
Avoid repetition. You have numerous lines throughout that say the exact same thing again and again. Read over every opening line underneath your Slugs and see if you're repeating your Slug.
Look for orphans. There's alot of them and they're inflating your script. Orphans by nature are a single word that spills onto the next line, but you can actually go a few steps further and see if you can do away with 2 and even 3 word spillages.
Read over all your 3 and above line passages - and never go over 4 lines. See if the passage contains a single thought/subject/shot. If it doesn't, they need to be split up. Look for unnecessary lines and do away with them completely.
Avoid using exclamation points in your prose. It works exactly the opposite way you think it does. Peeps think by using them, they're showing shocking action, but in reality, most will roll their eyes or even laugh out loud when a sentence ends in a completely unnecessary exclamation point.
Oney, I think you're a good writer, but there's one thing you've fallen into a really bad habit on and it really annoyed me throughout. I'm referring to your constant and obnoxious use of asides. Sure, Pros use them and many say there's nothing wrong with them or that they actually like them. But, it comes own to what you're saying, why you're saying it, and how often you're using asides. You went hog wild with them here. 95% were completely useless line wasters. Most were groan inducing for me, especially when they keep on coming. I bet you honestly have 3+ pages of asides that have no reason being here.
POV - POV's can be cool when properly (and sparingly) used. It's a definite form of directing and 99% of the time completely unnecessary. A few things to think about when you're reading your script over - Once you write POV (of who or whatever), the only things you can write about are what is being seen through that POV - nothing else. Also, once you start a POV, you have to "END POV", or "RETURN TO SCENE".
It's tough when you are concealing someone's identity throughout the entire script. You chose to use "killer" and you did it over and over again, which doesn't read well, IMO.
You also routinely chose not to tell us who's voice is speaking, even though it's revealed seconds later. IMO, this is always a mistake.
I'd read through all of your Slugs very carefully, including Mini's, as I saw quite a few problems.
I always recommend never using semi colons in a script.
Spell out numbers in your prose.
Watch your passive verbiage. You had an awful lot of it and it just doesn't read well.
Watch your use of adjectives and adverbs. Way too many.
Names or words used as names are almost always set off by a comma or commas in dialogue.
Finally, you chose to try and paint a backstory for Lauren with her Mom and family life. It didn't work for me and took up quite a bit of space. I understand what you were going for, but without actually having the mother in any scenes, it doesn't have any power and at times, came off as kind of odd to me.
Oney, I know you like slow burn, character driven horror with lots of banter. I do as well. There's just too much here and not enough of anything else. I wanted to like your characters, especially Lauren, but she didn't do much of anything that made her stand out for me. No one really did, including the killer who had little to no motivation for doing anything he/she did.
This may seem very negative, but I did read the entire script in 1 sitting. It was pretty well written and made sense. It's much better than many actual movies, IMO, but it lacks power and scares and contains way too much talking and partying.
Hope this helps, and doesn't come across as harsh.
To ski or not to ski...that's not even a question.
Sorry for such a delayed response. I was away for the weekend and didn't have access to my laptop to respond.
Welllllllll thanks for all the positive comments. I'm sure everyone will be lining up to read it now I kid, I kid...
Thanks for taking the time to read this man, really. About a dozen people have read this. Most of them are people I don’t know and a lot of them have pointed out flaws that I was somewhat already aware of but nobody has yet to really dive into other factors that you brought up so I appreciate that.
Avoid repetition. You have numerous lines throughout that say the exact same thing again and again. Read over every opening line underneath your Slugs and see if you're repeating your Slug.
Thank you for bringing this up. You know – after I had submitted this to Don. I read a review on someone else’s work telling them to watch out for this. I was like ‘hmmm I wonder if I am guilty of this’? Ha. Thanks – am aware now.
Using a lot of descriptions/adjectives is a really bad habit of mine. In all of my creative writing courses or just English courses in general, my instructors would always call me out – “More adjectives!... “More descriptions!”, etc so it’s just embedded in my head to be descriptive. I do tend to overdo it and I definitely need to dial it back.
The story obviously isn’t the strongest and whether or not I move forward with revisting this piece right away or a new feature, it was more the format I was looking to “perfect”. I think you’re the one who responded to a thread I posted about using CONTINUOUS in slugs because I wasn’t too sure. LOL man, I’ve come a long ways – like “Estaban”-type of formatting when I was 12yrs old, except I never used ‘Movie Voice’ LOL that's mean.
Again man, thanks for the read. I appreciate it a lot...you gave me a lot of advice.
I'm seen your name around, giving reviews so decided to check this out. There's a lot of banter/dialogue here. It's best to keep these within 3 pages so it doesn't drag. That first dialogue exchange between Lauren and Harley was approx. 5 pages and it's in the first ten pages. It wasn't bad, but it wasn't Sorkin either so no need to really keep it going that long.
A lot of characters introduced in the first 15-20 pages. Maybe that was intended to show the audience possible candidates for the killer. I didn't see a traditional "inciting incident" within those 20 pages. In summation, I think what happened is a "Flash forward" opening image, banter in a coffee shop, mass introductions of characters, and prepping for the party. Some misdirection scares, but nothing really happens until page 50 or so with Amber (where I stopped).
I think to improve this story you would need more "meat" and I mean story. I would make the party and Amber's death as Act One. Then think of more story and set pieces for Act Two. I skipped to the end and I think it's fine to have that as your Act 3. But I think you need to hasten the pace in Act One and beef up your Act Two. This means cutting the prose and getting the '10 inch knife' to gut that dialogue. Try to get to that sweet spot for horrors - 90-100 pages.
Act 3 is very blocky. Lots of 4 line sentences - sometimes 4/5 lines that end with an orphan. It tells me you kind of rushed this section, which is normal as most people tend to spend less time on Act 3 as they do on Act 1/2.
It's a standard slasher, and with some editing and work, you might get a hit/interest with some smaller prod. co's. However, you don't show anything new. The killer and POVs remind me of "Scream" and other slasher types. If you can, think of ways to make your characters, action, set pieces and even weapons unique - that will help you stand out from the crowd of slahers out there.
I appreciate you giving this a look. Yeah, from what others have told me the first act is the most problematic only because it's so light on horror. I'm aware of this and definitely need to move it faster - introduce the killer a lot sooner, etc.
Thank you for all your suggestions. I do appreciate it.
I haven't been on the website for sometime so I'm glad to be back! As for your script, I read the first 20 pages that reminded me of the slasher flick "Sorority Row." I like the female characters of Amber, Lauren, Vanessa, and Shea the @#$%^. The dialog was on point making your script easy to imagine the conversation taking place, but the only issue I have is the lack of action. Even at the beginning of your script where the police found the female body, I though the murder should of been written out for us readers the feel the victim's pain and desperation, and the killers mind set, the thirst for blood. I'll read the next 20 pages to see if the violence picks up.
remember you on here from ages back - you had something about a cult of medusa which I thought had great potential, perhaps as you've now matured as a writer you could give that another crack.
I thought I'd read this for you anyway.
First off the character descriptions so far are good, we all know guys like Harley - although I must admit the dialogue between him and Lauren is a little too on the nose maybe, he's very much a stereotype in this conversation - which always makes for a bit of fun, but perhaps just a bit more subtly could come into play with this scene in a rewrite. However at the end of this convo he seems to come into a better light, I'm curious to see whether he'll be in the script more. This opening scene maybe a little too rom-com esque for what this film is though.
Lauren and Vanessa seem nice girls, although in a script like this you always kinda know what's gonna happen to at least one of them (or maybe I'm wrong). Just a quick query - the phrase "total stressful social situation" I actually put this in something I was writing the other day (before I read this) and wondered where I'd got it from, is it a popular phrase?
REPORTER (CONTï¿½D) Are you considering a possible online serial killer? Both girls seemingly went missing after meeting someone they met from online. Isnï¿½t this true? Wouldnï¿½t this explain the numerous missing girls across the state? Have any arrests been made? -
does this reveal the plot a bit too soon? I'm curious.
AMBER Not in the mood for creepers, so please piss off.
not quite sure this sounds like someone with an 'innocent charm'.
Is Mitch meant to be creepy or just a little awkward in conversation due to his advanced years? Hard to tell atm, although of course if this were a film you'd be able to tell.
I like little lines in the action like "And she's a bitch" adds a bit of flare and character to your writing, as long as they're not used too much I've heard that they do help a script stand out.
TORI Why are you such a nasty bitch towards me? SHEA Cause youï¿½re the only one in the house who mouths back.
bit too on the nose? When I was at Uni I couldn't imagine two girls saying that to each other directly.
VANESSA Youï¿½re adorable! So virginal looking! Where do you hail from? Can I ask you a million questions?
hahahaha! How is this line to be delivered? Sort of sarcastically? Or enthusiastically?
The prank worked well...I was thinking it was real!
These girls are maybe getting a little too philosophical at times! With the pregnancy and the "Lauren you're a mess" speech. Tori is speaking like she's 40!
With the Piers thing Lauren's dialogue is very melodramatic, although with the medication she's on perhaps that's a staple of her character I'm not sure which way to go with that.
Some may say that the actual 'horror' aspects take too long to get going, it's almost an hour before the first lead character is dispatched, so to speak, not really a problem for me as I'm more a mystery fan as opposed to a slasher fan, I look a good build-up. A chance to get to know and care for the characters, as opposed to them just being one-dimensional bodycounts. I did think for a while that Amber might actually be a protagonist. Tension built up well leading up to this bit - I thought Jolene was going to be killed off, then Tori but the dice finally settled on Amber.
the dialogue between Lauren and her mother! Very Extreme.
"Youï¿½re always rude to me with uncalled for remarks. I donï¿½t care for you -"
Not quite natural. Think of arguments you may have heard between girls in their early 20s/younger, could you imagine them saying this line in a serious dispute?
Starting to think the mum could even be involved...or dad..
Piers certainly is persistent! What a pain in the arse! Didn't see Harley's death coming just then, thought he might have been a little more than fodder.
CHAZ How was your day sweet thang? Lauren rolls her eyes, annoyed. LAUREN Short, yet fulfilling. Kind of like an ex of mine. Thankfully today didnï¿½t cheat on me. CHAZ Nice. (to Vanessa) And you, you sexy cup of coffee?
Cracked up at Chaz' dialogue! Now I'm thinking well Chaz was at the party...and apparently Willie was...could it be?
VANESSA Goddamn. Youï¿½re a mess girl.
Big blocks of text here as Leo gets dealt with and the Killer goes for Jolene, I think it flows nicely but I know some will critique you on having too much text. The stabbing after the pregnancy comment is brutal.
The killer has managed to get back to the house that quickly and hide? Unless there's two killers, then again I'm not quite sure how much time has elapsed. Also if two girls came home early would they sit there doing coke in an empty house? A joint might be more likely.
For someone who has nerves and anxiety Lauren reacts pretty well to this attack, punching a killer and all. There are pages of action here, of course the action is needed to explain these thriller scenes, but I wonder if they might look better punched up with a bit of dialogue - perhaps Lauren asking the killer what his problem is (although in a more frenzied manner of course). So much action it's almost like reading a present tense novel (with the odd slug). I was expecting it not to be Piers and for him to either save her or become fodder...
Lauren is asleep? Perhaps passed out from wounds/tension would be another choice.
Confused with the ending, I did read through these pages at quick a fast pace, but I thought I was following - but was Piers working with Mitch? Was Mitch some kind of nutjob who was secretly living in the basement? What?
This was well written for the most part and the story worked fairly well, although I think the ending may need some work - I know it breaks the genre by not offering much explanation, but if an audience leave the cinema with too many questions they become annoyed. A few questions is okay - and works well for many films, for example "No Country for Old Men" but with this I was left thinking what actually happened?
There are lots of red herrings being thrown around and the list of suspects is huge at one point: Could it be Chaz? Could it be one of Lauren's parents? Could it be Mitch? Is it Piers? Is it maybe one of the girls? Could Leo be a psycho? Could Harley?
It takes talent to keep an audience guessing and I was kept guessing for sure, and I'm trying to put my finger on why the ending wasn't satisfying. I'm not sure whether it was because we don't see much of Mitch, or whether it was because there was no dialogue or unveiling of him at the end. I'm not sure, I'd like you to explain the ending a little bit more.
The characters were okay, but asides from Harley I didn't really find them overly likeable - as Jeff said earlier. Also, in my experience of uni (college) life such a bunch of opposing stereotypes probably wouldn't live together - Shea would no doubt live with the cheerleaders. While Vanessa and Tori would live with some arty types, maybe with Lauren in tow. I think out of all the characters Vanessa was the most interesting, most unique as a character I'd probably take her on a few dates but I wouldn't let it go any further haha. It did seem, especially when he turned out to have this amazing art, that Harley might have turned into a protagonist who helped Lauren vs the killer but alas he went.
Also it annoyed me that no one ever put up much of a fight against the killer, asides from Lauren at the end.
The logline definitely holds promise for a plot, and perhaps some of these characters have a place in a future story. There's a little known film called "Nightwatch" with Ewan McGregor in it, it's kind of a killer film and it really does keep you guessing right until the last 10/15 minutes as to who the killer is, I recommend you check it out and study their use of red herrings.
It's great to see you on the boards again and I hope I haven't come across as being far too critical, it's obvious that you're a good writer and the majority of the dialogue is pretty good, although the constant drug use is never really relevant to the plot - asides from perhaps with Harley's character.
Actor trying to write...
"A good script is never rejected because of layout or lack of technical jargon. If people like it, then any experienced film or TV PA or secretary can lay it out in professional manner and add all the technical terms necessary"
-- Ronald Wolfe "Writing Comedy"
"We don't make movies for critics, since they don't pay to see them anyhow."