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I'm Still Here by Sean Elwood - Horror, Thriller, Drama - After a car accident nearly kills him, a young man begins to experience strange occurrences around his home, leaving him to believe that his near-death experience has opened the door between the living and the dead. As he attempts to uncover the truth, he discovers that his sanity might be at stake.
Just a comment for anyone who is interested in reading it/is script shopping: This script is perfect for any independent filmmakers looking for a script that is easy and cheap to shoot. The script has two major and a few minor locations (all low budget) five characters (plus a few small roles), and has no major special effects or big budget locations. - pdf, format
'Sup Sean. These notes are gonna sound really blunt but I hope they help in some way.
Obviously, there will be spoilers, for those of you who haven't read the script.
From the start -- the title didn't grab me. Almost seems like you're going for an ambiguous title (LET THE RIGHT ONE IN), but it's too vague to really convey anything about the script.
The premise is workable. I immediately thought of some interesting places you could take the idea, and that's a good thing. My only gripe is you list it as a "horror/drama/thriller", which, to me, is so much info you end up making the logline sound too vague. I'm not sure what to expect in terms of tone, since "the door between the living and the dead" and "his sanity might be at stake" could be handled in entirely different ways depending on which of those three genres takes the driver's seat.
I'd ditch the opening, or at least, find some more interesting visuals for it. Right now we get half a page of black screen with voice over, then when we finally get an image, it's a guy sitting at a desk writing by candlelight.
I'd cut the first 3-4 pages at least, and just open to the doctor explaining to Ryan what happened. It would add to the disoriented feeling Ryan has, having just come out of a coma.
Now based on your note posted with the logline, this is intended to be low-budget, something for indie filmmakers to produce. What budget range are you going for? The hospital scene pretty much puts this out of reach for ultra-low budget filmmakers, unless you already have permission to film in a hospital. I'm not completely sure how all that works, and again, I don't know what budget you're even going for here. I feel like the majority of filmmakers who browse SS for potential projects would balk on this because of that.
Ryan goes back home with Kayla. Calls mom. Talks to Kayla some more. This scene only serves the purpose of introducing the characters and does a poor job at that.
I feel the same way about the next sequence, with Ryan just wandering around the house, bored. There's a piece of screenwriting advice from some writer better than all of us who says, always make your protagonist be in a hurry. Keeps things engaging. Now, that doesn't mean there needs to be a literal ticking time bomb in every scene. It can be a small thing. But adding something to give us a reason for being here will always improve your scenes. You don't want the suspense and tone you set up earlier to deflate.
Speaking of suspense, by now (around page 15 or so) you've introduced some things that should add fear, suspense, but they usually fall flat because there's no sense of impending danger.
This reminds me of a great movie, Possession, from 1981. You should check it out if you haven't already. One great thing about it is how well it lets suspense and terror slip into seemingly mundane life. A woman carefully sawing ground beef with an electric knife is surprisingly engaging when we just watched her flip shit and smash all the plates in the sink. (Then we get to wait until she really snaps.)
I'm going off on a tangent there, but I hope that can give you some ideas. I can tell, in some places, you tried to do some of this, but it never quite worked. I think you can ramp the stakes up higher.
Add tension between the characters, and in the places where you already have tension, add MORE tension.
About a quarter of the way in, the characters don't feel fully fleshed out. I haven't gotten the sense that Ryan has an actual life outside of waking up in the hospital and hearing weird noises in the house. By page 25 we're just repeating the same few events each scene. Now this can be explained by the last 20 pages, but it still doesn't make the first 80 any more engaging.
The whole "phone ringing at 3:00 AM" and "just static on the other end" was done in The Conjuring, and earlier, in Amityville Horror. The person standing in the corner of the room with her back facing us was used in Blair Witch and countless other supernatural horror films. The jerky movements are from The Ring. It's fine to steal, but at least put your own spin on it.
I'm gonna wrap up my rambling here, and say I hope this gives you some ideas for the next draft, and I'm sorry if I come off as too harsh. Take care.
Really surprised to see something by you on the portal. Almost slipped by me.
Gotta say I wanted to give up on this several times. Things get really tedious, really fast. I thought this was a spook house tale at first and not a very effective one. Lights going out, strange phone calls, lots of stuff that's been done before. Lots of repetitive scenes. It felt like it was padding.
I didn't care for Ryan or Kayla at all. I didn't know who they were. The only thing I knew about Ryan was that he was in a fatal accident, nearly died, and now strange shit was happening to him. A small exchange between the two revealed that Kayla was once a waitress. I think you need to flesh them out a lot more.
It wasn't until page 81 where I actually started to feel for the two. I'll refrain from going to spoiler city, but I had an inkling you were going to take us down that road. And hey, it was nothing new, but it added a sense of real danger and urgency that the rest of the story completely lacked, and that's probably why I thought the last 20 pages were the best. I started caring for Ryan and Kayla in a big way...I wanted to see them reunited....but all these feelings you got out of me came far too late. The first 80 pages are tedious, sometimes make no sense, and are even frustrating -- and that KINDA makes sense in a way because of the twist -- but you need to find a way to inject some real conflict into the story and breathe some much needed life into your characters.
I love this script. My advice is to finish the script, and then decide if the beginning is tedious. I worked with Sean on this project, and I think he found the right balance of showing us Ryan's reality, and making sure everything still works with the reveal.
He made sure that everything that Ryan does/hears/sees, has some basis in the real world.
If I had the time and money, I would shoot this in a heartbeat.
I have no complaints about the story. Mostly because I coudln't get into it due to all the over-writing. So much description, so much incidental/unimportant detail and action. You've also used "reveal" incorrectly a few times. Example: when you strike a match, it doesn't reveal a flame. The flame reveals the desk, yes, but the flame itself isn't "revealed." It just...you know...appears. Kind of a given when striking a match. I get that you're trying to establish a mood, but there are better (and leaner) ways to go about it.
It's this kind of over-writing that drags the read to a screeching halt and causes the reader to lose interest. If a guy strikes a match, just write that he strikes a match. We don't need to know the minutiae involved in its striking. Story and character. These are what you should be focusing on. WHAT happens, not HOW it happens (unless the how is vital to the telling of the story).
...is redundant. "OVER BLACK" is enough. Immediately the reader envisions a black screen. You're only repeating yourself when you include "Darkness, everywhere."
So give this another pass; whittle it down, be more concise in your choice of description, and remember it's not just about knowing what to include in your script, but what NOT to include.
Sean, I gave this a look the day it was posted, but like all the others, I quickly gave up, due to extreme overwriting, and to me, basically just the writer trying too damn hard.
Your opening passage ends in an orphan and it's completely due to overwriting and repetition.
You open "OVER BLACK", but never truly FADE IN.
Your opening Slug is a disaster - UNKNOWN ROOM - UNKNOWN TIME - really? Why are you being so secretive? Just not the way to hook your readers at all.
All the V.O. is also a huge turnoff to most readers, and it's all over Page 1.
You don't properly reveal Ryan until the bottom of the page, which is both a mistake and irritating. Why try and hide this? There's absolutely no reason that I can come up with.
You've got 3 orphans on Page 1, and tons and tons of unnecessary, overwritten detail. Again, just not at all the way to jump out of the gate. And then you have those damned irritating "CONTINUED" on the top and bottom of every single page.
I'm out, bro. Sorry. This needs alot of work to get readers interested in reading past Page 1.
To ski or not to ski...that's not even a question.
Hey Sean, I like this script. I got to page 26 and may be back for more. I had a short out-of-body experience myself and find this topic interesting. On page 2, I really like Ryan saying (OS) 'But what was there before light, before the heavens and the earth were created?' In the seconds scene, I would like to know what hospital jargon the staff YELL, I feel cheated that I don't know what they yell. On page 7, I would delete Kayla saying, 'Besides, if we have spiders in the house, then we probably have other bugs too.' In some places I would get rid of less interesting dialogue, such as: KAYLA Well she’s been calling every day asking how you’re doing. She’s worried sick about you. (CONTINUED) CONTINUED: 8. RYAN She’s always worried. That’s how moms are. Keep up good work, Marcela