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Invoked (was The Lost Soul (was Snake Bite)) by Adam Castillo - Horror, Found Footage - A young man films himself and his day-to-day lifestyle as part of a online video journal, but things take a harsh turn when he begins to notice a recurring supernatural phenomenon in his footage after a distant relative suddenly moves into his home. 91 pages - pdf format
While I enjoyed the creepy moments of this script, as you handled them very well, overall there are a lot of issues going on in this screenplay that could use a lot of work.
First and foremost, you will need to read through this screenplay and spell check/grammar check everything. There are spelling and grammar errors sprinkled throughout. Heck, even if the first word of action in this script is a spelling error (remember, itís PEEK not PEAK). You make this same error any time that you utilize the verb Ďpeekí. Thatís not a great start for a screenplay and, while glossed over easily, will turn readers off from reading the script, as it will look amateurish. Really focus on each word when you read through this script again and be sure to fix any errors that you are able to spot.
Secondly, remember to capitalize character names. Not doing so will also make you seem like an amateur screenwriter, as all introductions of characters need to have their names in CAPS.
There are some parts in this script that make me wonder how weíre even seeing the action take place due to it being found footage. For instance, page 7:
The two struggle to make it up the top of the stairs while hauling duffel bags both in their hands and on their backs.
How is Tyler holding the camera while heís carrying duffel bags in his hands and on his back up the stairs?
Another instance, page 22:
Allison laughs as Tyler walks out the door and shuts off the room light. She lays there on her mattress, in the corner of the room, dimly lit by the small lamp.
How do we see Allison in bed if Tyler has already walked out of the room?
I feel you need to work on the characters some more, too. They all sound the same, especially Tyler and Allison. They talk exactly the same and so itís hard to distinguish the two when reading their lines. If Tyler is a punk kid with skater-like hair, I feel he should be more apathetic toward things, have certain depressive emotions, and show that heís a loser or not very popular (as Allison--or moreso the demon that possesses her--says toward the end of the script. Speaking of which, he probably shouldnít be getting comments on his video if heís as much as a loser as the demon says he is. Maybe he struggles trying to get views. That would be an interesting take on his video blogging, and maybe he gets depressed that not many people are watching his videos).
Additionally, Allison seems all-too bubbly and happy-go-lucky considering that her mother has died. There are moments where she struggles with it but overall she doesnít really act like anything happened to begin with. Maybe she gets super close with Diana since sheís the next motherly figure that Allison can go to, maybe she accidentally calls her ďMomĒ at one point. Really drive the point home that Allisonís mom died, or was possibly killed (itís not very clear to begin with).
These are our two main characters and yet they sound exactly alike. Give them different voices, make them different people. Maybe Allison IS happy-go-lucky and sees the best in everything, and that in turn starts to change Tyler, who is depressed, doesnít have many friends, isnít very popular, etc. I donít even know if thatís true for him, Iím just going off of what Allison (or the demon) had said when she got possessed.
Speaking of which, why doesnít Tyler show Diana the footage of Allison being possessed, especially with how denying she is toward Tyler? Diana comes to all of these assumptions and yet Tyler does nothing to prove to her what happened. Maybe he tries showing her the footage but itís suddenly erased? Or itís all static-y?
And speaking of the static, you bring up that up on page 34, yet itís never mentioned before page 34, and you never play with the static idea again. Iíd say make it a recurring thing, or donít make it a thing at all. And if you do make it a thing, make sure you put it in the descriptions beforehand so the director knows that thereís supposed to be static during those shots, and that Allisonís face is supposed to be warped during different shots. Is her face warped in every shot? Is there static whenever the camera is on Allison? You have to be clear.
Delving further into the descriptions, there are many instances where you write exposition that the camera cannot see. For instance, page 45:
What was that? He stops dead in his tracks, just as he was about to reach for and pick up his camcorder. Where did that noise even come from? His eyes dart in every corner of the kitchen, wondering what the hell just happened. He angles his head to check the living room area. Nothing, just Allison, deep in her sleep, on the living room sofa.
That was definitely something.
And again on page 71 - 72:
There are still no sounds coming from the bottom floor. Did they surrender and leave? Are they hiding from him? Is there even an intruder at all? Did something just fall over in a room downstairs? So many questions going through Tylerís mind as he makes his way down towards the split-entry level entrance of the home..
Why are you asking these questions? I guess itís to help build suspense but action lines are there for what the camera sees. If itís for the actor, let the director take over and he/she can tell the actor to think these questions, or at least act like heís thinking them.
There are a lot of action lines with this exposition that can be removed and make for a cleaner read. Write only what the camera sees, nothing more. Itís okay to put a more narrative line and here and there, but you want to do it sparingly. Otherwise it starts to read like a novel and thatís not how screenwriting works. Screenplays are cut and dry and very literal. Leave the fluff out.
This is strange for me to talk about since I typically have the same issue, but you really need to work on the dialogue. These people are talking more like theyíre texting each other. They go into too much detail about things when it can be left out and the message will still be there. They talk about a lot of non-related things happening in their lives that can be nixed out. I wonder if you did it for character development, but we really donít need to know what grade Tyler made in Spanish, what chores Tyler did before Allison arrives, or how Dianaís boss is toward her, and many, many other sections of dialogue. You could cut out the pizza scene, and most of the photo album scene (until Allison starts talking about the church), the scene with them watching Twilight (or the first part until they start talking about Allisonís dad). Just a lot of dialogue could be cut out. If you want me to, I can go in and cross out all of the parts I feel you could cut out, still get the message across, and in turn decrease the page count by at least 10 pages. Itís just a lot of talking that doesnít necessarily need to be there, or sounds too much like someone texting someone else. Also, I strongly dislike Uncle Jamesí dialogue. It just does not sound real at all.
Lastly, it takes a REALLY long time for the action to finally start. Like, page 40 or page 50 was where things started to take an interesting turn. You throw a couple of small things here and there throughout the beginning, but overall it was nothing but a lot of talking, which makes for a boring read. And then the demon story came out of nowhere. Is it hereditary? Why is she being stalked by this demon in the first place? You start bringing up something about Kundalini but then never touch on it again. Things started to get interesting, but then it just sort of goes nowhere and is just a typical ďThis happens...and then this happens...and then this happensÖĒ without fleshing on the deeper story. We never figure out what happened to Allison parents or if the demon was even involved. They were in a car wreck? Whoís this other couple? And then the church thing, that was brought up and then never brought back into play again. I thought a cult was going to show up at the house and really bring out this demon that is supposedly inhabiting Allisonís body. I think you need to have people talk less and flesh out the story more. Throw in more spooky happenings at the beginning of the script, and flesh out the story and maybe have Allison recollect happenings at her own home before she moved in with Tylerís family.
I hope that my comments help make this script even better. I didnít want to be too harsh on it but it can definitely use a lot more work. I am more than happy to go through the script and make edits to what should be kept and what should go, both with dialogue and with descriptions.
I want to start out by saying thank you so much for taking the time to read through my screenplay and giving me some very, very helpful feedback. I really appreciate all the constructive criticism and your overall thoughts. I will use everything you said to my best advantage and make fixes where needed.
I have had this film in my mind for the past seven years, but never really got around to writing it up until the end of 2017. It took me only a few months to write this first draft out, which might have not been the best draft - this is my opinion, as well. I knew the beginning, middle and the end of the movie way before I even started the first page of this script, but because I knew the characters and the plot so well, it didn't really register to me that readers needed more explanation. This is the first feature I have ever written, so there is that, as well.
I am currently prepping myself to write another revised polished draft with more scenes that include more development of the main characters, more action - less waiting, James' character is completely removed, and so on. If you would like to see my notes I could send them to you.
There are some parts in this script that make me wonder how weíre even seeing the action take place due to it being found footage.
Again, because I have this certain image in my mind of how the actual film would look like, I need to take into consideration the image the reader obtains. I can see how certain points would not make sense if it's set up as a "found footage" film. I will tweak where needed.
If Tyler is a punk kid with skater-like hair, I feel he should be more apathetic toward things, have certain depressive emotions, and show that heís a loser or not very popular (as Allison--or moreso the demon that possesses her--says toward the end of the script).
What I lacked to show in this draft, was a thorough explanation of the Tyler character. The thing with him, is that he is very lonely. It's just him by himself in the house all the time. His Mother, Diana, works these long graveyard shifts every night, then sleeps throughout most of the day until going back to work for the rest of the night. It's something that he has not dealt with positively in the past. Something that has driven him into a downward spiral/depression. I tried to hint at that a few times, where Allison finds a bottle of anti-depressant medication in the cabinet with Tyler's name on it. There is also a bit where he slips up and says, "My therapist also says----" and cuts himself off. What I want to especially include in this upcoming revision, is his resilience. He has found, not only a new hobby to distract himself from negative thoughts, but people online that care about him, friends. That's why he is so constant with his daily video blog. He has found a sense of belonging and purpose.
The Allison character has obviously been through quite the trauma, so it doesn't make sense for her to be as energetic and bubbly as she comes off, which was another fault of mine. She lost her Mom a year ago in a car accident, and her Father was just sent to jail and is awaiting trial for possibly vehicular manslaughter. I know it's not really clear or explained what happened. I am not really open to making sequels to this film, so I know I need to answer that question somehow. Anyways, this new draft has Allison presented in a more depressive, post-traumatic state, as it should.
Diana is a single, hard working Mother. She is very distant from Tyler, although she doesn't mean to be, mainly because of her work. Like I said above, she works long hours throughout the night and rests throughout the day. It's just been her by herself, struggling to support herself and Tyler. Living paycheck to paycheck, and because of that constant worrying about keeping a stable job and paying monthly bills, it has gotten between her bond between her and her son. That is something that I want to dive deeper into with this new draft.
why doesnít Tyler show Diana the footage of Allison being possessed, especially with how denying she is toward Tyler? Diana comes to all of these assumptions and yet Tyler does nothing to prove to her what happened. Maybe he tries showing her the footage but itís suddenly erased
Regarding all the supernatural stuff that Tyler, she doesn't want to hear it. She has enough on her plate with bills, her job, and taking on the responsibility to look after Allison. I thought I had made it clear, that when all of the paranormal activity starts to build up in the home and surrounding Allison, Tyler's laptop goes haywire and the footage is unseen by Diana. If not I will review and make corrections.
And speaking of the static, you bring up that up on page 34, yet itís never mentioned before page 34, and you never play with the static idea again
The static thing was only meant to be seen by the online viewers. Tyler mentioned not being able to see any of the static himself when watching the footage from his camcorder or laptop. He thought it was an exporting problem when uploading the footage online. The shadows and glitches covering Allison's face were supposed to be somewhat of an easter egg to the audience that something was very off about her character from the moment of her arrival, as if something had followed her to the home.
Itís okay to put a more narrative line and here and there, but you want to do it sparingly. Otherwise it starts to read like a novel and thatís not how screenwriting works. Screenplays are cut and dry and very literal. Leave the fluff out.
Got it. I thought it would be a good idea to bring the reader into the story more or build suspense here and there, but I get what you mean and will fix.
Itís just a lot of talking that doesnít necessarily need to be there, or sounds too much like someone texting someone else. Also, I strongly dislike Uncle Jamesí dialogue. It just does not sound real at all.
I see that. There were a lot of scenes and diologue throughout the screenplay that I was kind of iffy about, but I think I was just trying to add some time in there, which played out against me. I guess I wanted more joking around and normalcy with the characters, so that the reader could see that they are just teenagers. I have a lot of work to do, I know.
Lastly, it takes a REALLY long time for the action to finally start. Like, page 40 or page 50 was where things started to take an interesting turn. You throw a couple of small things here and there throughout the beginning, but overall it was nothing but a lot of talking, which makes for a boring read. And then the demon story came out of nowhere. Is it hereditary? Why is she being stalked by this demon in the first place? You start bringing up something about Kundalini but then never touch on it again. Things started to get interesting, but then it just sort of goes nowhere and is just a typical ďThis happens...and then this happens...and then this happensÖĒ without fleshing on the deeper story.
That's what I was most worried about. The buildup to the action. That's what got the Paranormal Activity films a bad wrap, as well. The first half of those movies was really nothing, and then the BAM everyone is getting thrown around, possessed and dying.
I hope that my comments help make this script even better. I didnít want to be too harsh on it but it can definitely use a lot more work.
Again, thank you so much! I appreciate it! I was hesitant at first to upload, because I knew this wasn't the draft I was most comfortable with, but I just wanted some feedback on how to make the next drafts better. I have quite a distance in front of me, but I hope this movie turns out great. I would love to put it to film one day.
I have returned and submitted the latest draft of my horror film, INVOKED. I have applied feedback that I have received from all contributions of feedback, or at least tried to. I have even applied feedback from ScreamFest 2019. Hopefully it's a much easier and better read for you all. All feedback is welcome. Trying to get this thing right. I have ideas for a new draft, including entirely new thematic elements to push the film in a new direction, but ...I want to take a break until then - come back with fresh eyes and see what I thought of this draft after a while.