All screenplays on the simplyscripts.com and simplyscripts.net domain are copyrighted to their respective authors. All rights reserved. This screenplaymay not be used or reproduced for any purpose including educational purposes without the expressed written permission of the author.
Howl by Stuart Mower (scmower) - Short, Thriller, Horror - A psychiatrist takes on a patient who believes he is a Werewolf. While trying to find a psychological reason for this belief, he begins to realise there may be other forces at work. 20 pages - pdf, format
I'm 50/50 about your script. It's got some potential but it needs a lot of development to work imo. First off, put some life into your characters. To me they came across as cardboard cutouts. Reid had a little more life to him than the two other talking heads but not that much more. No clear goal. No clear protagonist. No clear antagonist. And really not that much urgency either. Basically you gave us no one to actually root for. That's problematic in my book.
I usually don't like to critique the writing itself because everbody has their own style but descriptions are few and far apart. Economy is definitely good but not at the expence of story's atmosphere. Same thing goes for the dialogue. I felt it was on the nose and without any real heartbeat. Get rid of the "the greatest trick the devil ever pulled"-line. We've all seen The Usual Suspects.
I understand that this is a short and you wanna get produced so you're keeping the set-pieces and action to a minimum but you have quite a few scenes that consist of two talking heads. It's just not that interesting to read.
A couple of nitpicks:
The opening scene with the two docs, I've seen this approach before - hell, I've even used it myself, where it's the guy's first day and the other guy is sorta reading his resume. See, I don't know how the recruitment process work at a mental institute but I'm pretty sure they have job interviews like everywhere else, so it seems strange that Stewart wouldn't really know anything about Graves - other than his name. It's called exposition of the worst kind.
Another thing, the day after Reid breaks free and they find the dead bodies you would assume that the police would be in control of the crime scene and not a couple of docs.
Down in the hole / Jesus tries to crack a smile / Beneath another shovel load
Hey Stuart, hope you’re around. When I read Christopher’s feedback about this being hands down the best script he’s ever read on SS, I had to check it out. I figured I’d be in for a quick, easy, clean read. Didn’t turn out that way at all.
I didn’t plan on taking nearly as extensive notes, as I ended up taking. But once I got started, I figured I might as well continue. As you’ll see from my Page by Page notes, there are many, many things wrong here, IMO. The writing itself is rather weak and stale throughout. Very few effective visuals given throughout. Lots of talking head scenes, as Rob pointed out. Just not good, IMO. Believe it or not, but I didn’t note everything I found, only the worst offenders.
Story-wise, again, I’m not seeing anything here that is new, unique, different, surprising…nothing, really. It didn’t do much of anything for me. I’m not sure why Graves does what he does, or what it’s supposed to mean. Or why I’m supposed to care. In the big scheme of things, you’ve used 18 pages and nothing really happens. We know Reid is a werewolf right out of the gate. He kills a nameless man in his dream and then in reality, but since we don’t know this man, and you don’t name him, what do we really care? We don’t know who or what this hooded figure is, either. Then Graves bites his fiance's neck, and knocks out Stewart with a stick. Reid goes to a tavern and turns into a werewolf again. The end. Am I missing something here somewhere? I don’t think I am.
Sorry, doesn’t do anything for me. Should be able to get the same across in 10 pages or less, IMO. Here are my Page by Page notes, Hope they help and make sense. Take care.
Page 1 – You’re first passage is a bit odd to me. The first sentence with “stands tall” comes off strangely. The 2nd sentence is awkward with “it” being used twice so close together – the first “it” is unnecessary.
You’ve used both “twenties” and “30’s” for age descriptions, and spelled one out and used numbers for the other. Be consistent and either spell all out or use numbers for all. But also, understand that there is a BIG difference between 20-29, and 30-39, meaning you should be more detailed in your descriptions when it comes do ages. I’m not sure how Graves could be a Doctor in his “20’s”, as it takes a bare minimum of 8 years of school (4 years of college and 4 years of Medical School), so at a minimum, he would be in his “mid” 20’s.
“He sits on the table in front of Stewart’s desk. Stewart picks up a file from his desk. He rummages through it.” – OK, so “He” has to be Graves, right? Why would he sit on a table, as opposed to a chair? That seems rather odd for an inexperienced new guy to do that on his first meeting with a doctor who is more senior and most likely, his superior. The 2nd sentence represents something you seem to do a lot – use unnecessary words at the end of your sentences. Here, it’s worse, cause you just used “desk” at the end of the sentence right in front of it. But the point is you should try to get out of the habit of using these unnecessary “endings” to your sentences. They are assumed, and therefore, unnecessary. One more issue here is that this passage contains actions from 2 different characters, and contains 2 sentences beginning with “He”, but in each sentence, “He” is referring to a different person. You don’t want to do that. Break up your passages based on thoughts or actions. When it’s a new thought or a new action (from a different character), start a new passage.
Stewart’s dialogue near the bottom of the page – “…graduated with a 1st…” – Awkward, and I really don’t know what that even means. Not the way an educated doctor would phrase this. But also, and more important, you should not use actual numbers in a script, unless you’re using them for ages in a character’s description.
Turn off the “CONTINUED” crap on your software. Having these at the bottom and top of every page is a waste and also irritating.
Page 2 – “wonders” – “wanders”
When Stewart says, “This young man…” – it’s awkward and unclear who he’s referring to, as you didn’t set it up properly (you need to intro him before he says this, not after).
“co-operative” – “cooperative”
“A man, Ryan Reid…” – No need to start with “A man” – it’s a waste. Just intro your characters immediately. Also, “late teens” and “early twenties” are quite different – some would say late teens are not “a man” at all, but still “a boy”.
“(V.O.)” seems to be formatted (centered) incorrectly.
“Reid stares out of his window…” – This may seem nitpicky, but it’s not “his” window, and it sounds odd, phrasing it that way, using “of”. It would read much better as, “Reid stares out the window…”
Page 3 – “They stop outside of Reid’s room.” – Aren’t they already stopped outside the room? Also, again, using “of” is incorrect…or awkward…or unnecessary.
In Stewart’s dialogue, you need a comma between “Hell” and “half”.
Page 4 – “Reid continues looking out the window as Graves enters the room.” – Here’s a great sentence to look at, cause there are a number of simple mistakes, and fixing them up is so easy. Once you understand this, your writing will improve in leaps and bounds. So, first of all, you see that you’ve got an orphan here. That’s because you one again chose to end the sentence with extra unnecessary words – “the room”. If you just ended with “enters”, you’d save yourself an entire line, the sentence would read better, an absolutely nothing would be lost. Also, the sentence is passively written, or better yet, “appears to be passive”, based on the “continues looking” part. No reason for “continues looking”. Much better as “Reid stares out the window as Graves enters.”
You need a comma between “morning” and “doctor” – you always want to separate names from the rest of the sentence by using a comma. This is almost always in dialogue, when this occurs.
Graves dialogue – “Well we’ll certainly see won’t we.” – Missing 2 commas…after “Well” and “see”.
Page 6 – “Reid laughs loudly at Graves.” – Another perfect example of using additional words at the end of your sentences. “at Graves” is a complete waste of words. It is assumed, and even if it isn’t, no one needs you to tell them such a fact. See what I’m trying to say?
“Stewart and Graves are in Stewart’ office.” – This is a terrible sentence. Obviously, “Stewart’” should be “Stewart’s”, but that’s not the biggest issue here. The phrasing is awful – “are in”. Your next passage tells us what we should know right off the bat. But you could have avoided this line entirely by writing better Slugs in the first place, throughout your script. There’s way more than 1 office in this institution, right? Because of that, you should write it out properly each time, so we know which office we’re in. “STEWART’S OFFICE”. Then, you should start off with your 2nd passage and completely do away with the first one, as it adds absolutely nothing but an extra line.
Page 7 – “Something runs along the path.” – 2 issues here – first, do we not see this “something”? if we do, wouldn’t we be able to see what it was? You’ve given zero description, making me wonder what exactly you want to show in this scene. 2nd, you don’t want to repeat your Slug in your opening passage, if at all possible. It’s repetitive and a waste.
Your next passage – “A MAN appears on the path ahead. He turns as the creature reaches him and drags him to the ground.” – This is phrased awkwardly…or just confusingly. What does “appears” means? As in we’re seeing it from the “creature’s POV? Or we’re moving along at a fast pace with the creature and the man comes into view, suddenly? The next sentence suffers from a double “him”, as well as starting with “He”. Basically, it doesn’t read well, and isn’t phrased well.
“And when it’s at it’s fullest, I’ll become one with them.” – A tongue twister with the double “it’s”, but actually, the 2nd “it’s” should be “its”, without the apostrophe.
Page 8 – As I said earlier, you don’t want to start a scene with dialogue…V.O. and O.S. are even worse, and this is not “(O.S.)” dialogue…it would be “(V.O.)”. The description passage here just doesn’t work at all, as written – very awkward and unclear. You need a comma between “man” and “Reid”. More importantly, you have “he” which is unclear, and then “Reid”, but it reads poorly, as I thought earlier, it was some sort of creature or wolf, so using “he” or “Reid” offers no visual as to what is supposed to be onscreen. Even “kills the man” offers no visuals. Then, the next sentence in the passage uses “looks”, just like you used 4 words ago. Doesn’t read well or look good.
Why are you using “PRESENT” all of a sudden as your Slug time element? That makes no sense at all.
You are also starting off another scene with dialogue.
“more angrier” – Really? An educated man is using this phrase? I don’t think so.
Page 9 – “Do you believe in the Devil doctor?” - Here’s a perfect example of why you need a comma separating names from the rest of the dialogue. See how the meaning of the question is different now, without a comma? In this question, the way it’s written, Reid is asking about “the Devil doctor”. Makes a big difference and is something you need to watch out for and understand.
Page 10 – “FLAT HALLWAY” – as opposed to what, a “ROUND HALLWAY”?
No age given for Tina…actually no physical description at all.
“Graves sits in the living room watching TV. He turns it off a takes a drink of beer. All is quiet in the living room.” – Lots of problems here. Once again, you’ve repeated your Slug for no reason. The 2nd sentence is odd because of the reference “it” to TV, and then, all of a sudden, he’s got a beer in his hand, which you didn’t set up. And then, the 3rd sentence is really downright bad. You reference the frickin’ “living room” again, and make it painfully obvious that all is not about to be right in the old living room.
“Graves site in silence, deep in thought.” – Huh? “site” – “sits”?
“Suddenly there is a bang from the hallway!” – When you use an exclamation point like this, it comes off (usually) as “oh my!”, which isn’t what you’re after. Much better would be, “Suddenly, a BANG from the hallway.”
NOTE - OK, so a “flat” is an apartment type thing? And the “Hallway” is outside his actual dwelling? If so, the above “bang” sentence needs to be clearer that the sound is coming from outside his dwelling.
The entire next scene “INT. FLAT HALLWAY” is poorly written, unclear, oddly worded. “AS he turns to go back to the living room…” – HUH, he’s outside in the hallway…is his living room literally adjoining the front door and hallway? Lots of jumping, passive phrasing, unclear referrals…just not good writing here – I’d rewrite and rethink the entire thing.
Same deal with the next scene – poorly written. You’re using the same words repeatedly – “something”, “bangs”, etc. You’ve got an irritating aside here, which should be immediately taken out, IMO (although, this is clearly just my opinion, as I loathe asides!). The last sentence takes the cake for being the worst yet – “He crawls away from the door as, on the other side, something howls.” – Really poorly and awkwardly phrased.
Page 11/12 – Graves’ dialogue about drug use sounds like a child talking.
“realise” – “realize”
Page 13 – I’m a little confused about Reid, and this is the 2nd or 3rd time he’s acted “out of character”. He continually says that what’s happening to him isn’t his fault. Even Stewart says he’s a good kid, yet every once in a while, He laughs at Graves, tries to scare him, and now even taunts him about last night. I don’t quite get it.
Page 13 – Your new Slug – “LIVING ROOM” should actually be, “GRAVES’ FLAT – LIVING ROOM”. You should really check all your Slugs, as most should be changed, IMO.
First passage is very passive – “are slow dancing”, “are on the table”
“Outside, the moon is full.” – So, we’re seeing this how? Through a window? You need to be more descriptive in your prose.
“unconfortably” – “uncomfortably”
“Graves and Tina start to kiss.” – You do this often – use something like “start” or ‘starts to”. You really want to stay away from that in a script. Either they do something, or they don’t. – “Graves and Tina kiss.”
Again, by underlining and using an exclamation point, you make your words lose power, as opposed to gaining it. It comes of very cheesy and is something you should really get out of the habit of doing.
Page 14 – “Hair is starting to grow…”
“Graves starts to become…”
Page 16 – “Graves suddenly stop…” – Should be “stops”
“realisation” – “realization”
“starts to hit him”
Page 17 – “He starts to lead Stewart away.”
New Slug – “Tavern” – Once again, you repeat it in your opening passage…and do it again in the next Slug!
This script was fantastic imho. I've read 100 or more scripts on this site and many of them seem as though the writers are trying out their versions of scripts and/or movies that are already out there - myself included. Howl was just superior.
Formatting, dialogue, structure, story, characters, I got exactly what Stuart was going for.
We all have our own opinions and that's perfectly cool.
But, what are you saying Stuart is going for in terms of story and characters?
What do you see here that is "superior" or "fantastic" in terms of formatting, dialogue, and structure?
In terms of formatting, the Slugs are not good to downright poor.
What is it about the dialogue that impresses you so much? The vast majority of this script, is 2 people sitting in either an office, or a patient room, talking about either expository stuff, or Reid's "condition". How does that create strong characters that we can relate to and want to root for?
Am I crazy? Maybe we're both crazy. It has been 115 degrees here the last few days, and you know David Lee Roth sure thinks it's possible to go "Crazy From the Heat", cause he used that term for both an EP and his autobiography.
This really wasn't a bad little story. I think there's an element missing somewhere that would give it some more depth and originality, but it's not a bad effort. And I don't think the talking heads was a major problem here. Click on the TV, unless you're watching a James Bond movie, there's plenty of talking heads, and this kind pf dialogue is always a part of stories like this.
The dialogue is decent, but needs to be polished by a few more passes at it.
Same thing with the descriptions. For example, I think there was a point when you describe "the man from the same dream", but you don't really describe the dream, though there is a brief slug for it. Easy to fix.
I think there's every reason for this writer to be encouraged and keep working. On the right path, for sure. Tighten things up, maybe add a little more depth, and it's looking good.
Oh, the devil dialogue. You can do this: refer to the quote we all know in many forms, and let the audience complete the thought. Let me show you what I mean.
Reid: Do you believe in the devil?
Graves: Not particularly, no.
Reid:His greatest trick...you know the rest.
Graves: So you believe you've been chosen?
Reid: Not a matter of belief, for me. Matter of fact.
I must be going on holiday tomorrow to enter this exchange. As new boy my comments are;
l love the exchange above. You are probably all used to this but for me this is excellent. It is the essence of learning.
Question? Does a decent story over come format and dialogue issues? It's been said to me many times that a decent story in the right genre will not be ignored for a few errors. Is this decent enough?
I did read the script before Sniper and Dreamscales input but I have admit I was cautious about answering due to TheSeconds robust opinion. Alas not one I fully shared.
I can't match Sniper, Lietskev or Dreamscales for formatting but surely you can't run away from these sensible comments. Whatever you think there clearly is a lot to refine. The suggestions offered make sense to me.
My issues are (sorry if any are repeats);
I could by into Reid (the unexplained dark side that's happened before we have been involved) but not with Graves. This should be something we buy into, and I didn't. I couldn't explain his actions and I couldn't explain the End. As questioned by others, i wasn't sure why I would care.
Others. Why is there a dream of the killing before? Why did he mention the girl friend? did I miss something? I agree on the devil quote. It did jump out at me.
I would imagine this could be a tight and gripping short and would love to see any revision.
Best of luck.
Ps should I ever post anything please do not say it is the best (it wont) otherwise I will get the dreamscale once over!!!
The Elevator Most Belonging To Alice - Semi Final Bluecat, Runner Up Nashville Inner Journey - Page Awards Finalist - Bluecat semi final Grieving Spell - winner - London Film Awards. Third - Honolulu Ultimate Weapon - Fresh Voices - second place IMDb link... http://www.imdb.com/name/nm7062725/?ref_=tt_ov_wr
But you should know that lavishing such unabashed praise onto a script is the surest way to draw out additional readers who are ready to deliver a smack-down.
That is in no way meant to diminish the criticism left by the other readers.
It is just a phenomenon that nearly always occurs.
If you call a script "the best", it had better be good, because every fresh set of eyes laid upon it after that will be extra tough.
The wise Bert has spoken... And i agree 100%
I read it too. I guess it was semi-original in the fact that it was strange and I didn't really get what happened or why. Some people like to read a script or see a film that asks alot of questions that are never answered. I'm not one of them.
For instance, How the hell did Reid get out of the psych ward the first night? It sounded as if he turned into a wolf already by growling at Craves' apartment door? If I'm wrong, excuse me, but Reid mentioned Craves' fiancee the next day.
I didn't get the bond Reid and Craves had or why Craves became so animalistic whilst making love to his girl. Him knocking out Stewart at the end so Reid could get away was a very weak ending IMO. Again, why?
You've gotten alot of good help here already. Not going to spend too much more time on it if the author is not around. You can thank Chris for all of the attention. Most Newbs wouldn't get these kind of reads without putting in a little time first.
Good luck, hope you're around to answer some questions....
I liked the concept of the story. Actually, I liked it a lot. I thought the premise of a doctor exploring clinical lycanthropy was interesting (I think the disease itself is fascinating) but it was executed about 50% properly.
I read your short after some of the comments and did find some formatting/typos but it did not distract me from the read. That said, it doesn't make a difference if I saw them or not. If they exist, correct them. This could also be from my interest in the topic - either way, a quick proofing will solve the problem.
I agree with the topics jwent mentioned. We don't understand some of the events, (especially how he got out) and others that aren't answered. It's not a question of art - it's the question of 'why?' I suppose the mentions of relaxed security could be HOW he escaped but when I think of a building like this, to me it would be rather difficult to escape. I enjoyed everything INSIDE the hospital. Anything happening outside seemed odd and a little jumpy. I would suggest getting rid of the flashbacks/dream and the scenes in Graves apartment.
The last third of the story didn't work at all for me. The escape, the transformation, the tavern (wtf?), and the 'path' were all unnecessary. The real twist for me is when we find out he really is a werewolf! I thought we were done, but then you just kept going. In short, beat it into my head for 17 pages then reveal your monster with a twist on page 18. I think that would work better, but that's just me.
Graves helping Reid was also pretty weak, but like I said, everything after the transformation you could do without. Am I to assume that Graves is also a werewolf or prone to lycanthropy since he attended the same school as Reid? If he bites his fiance when there's a full moon, that's proof enough for me. It's just another avenue you didn't explore and left me with another wtf moment. I say scratch that too.
Great concept. Nix the third act and focus more on your characters. Maybe explore another cause for lycanthopy other than LSD. (and there are many) Grats on completing a short, keep it up!
Nice atmosphere. The doctor/psychiatric patient conceit is an old one, but it still works.
Feel the script could be more visual. Might be an idea to see some more of Reid's dreams...particularly with the Hooded Man..that will enable you to get rid of some of the exposition and talking head syndrome which starts to slow it up...particularly in the latter third.
The ending fizzled out a tad IMHO. It's unclear as to Grave's motivation and it felt anti-climatic after the build up with the wolf pack and the Devil.
It's quite reminiscent of a novel called Darker than you Think:
I didn't go into the read to shoot it down or anythign like that at all. It does surprise me, however, when someone praises a script like this, only to find out, it's not all it was made out to be.
Reef, as far as I'm concerned, there's nothing wrong with a Dreamscale once over. In fact, I think it's a pretty nice thing to get. I mean no ill will when I point out mistakes, problems, or issues. Just trying to help and make others aware of such things. You know?
In response to your questions about story trumping mistakes and format, it depends. Story is king, as they say, but many won't read a flawed script, in terms of writing. This one isn't that bad, though, so if the story is so great, all can be forgiven.
But, IMO, there's nothing here at all that is remotely that great. If it works for some, that's about all you can hope for though, as you can never please them all.
With my luck, this writer probably won't even show up to the dance, and all this is for naught.
Hey sorry I haven't been here so far, I didn't actually notice the script was up until now. Plus I was in Glasgow for the last few days being an extra, so this is the first chance I got to come back.
Thanks for all the feedback, positive and negative. I appreciate everything, it means you took the time to read the damn thing and post points about it.
It's strange I've proofed this script like 5 times and I still never noticed the "sits on the table opposite Stewart" thing. It was meant to be chair it was just something I missed. I haven't actually seen "The Usual Suspects" (I know, I know, string me up) so I may not have been completely aware of the "greatest trick" reference.
In terms of the issues some people have with the third act, the main thing I'm trying to go for is to show that Graves has really been chosen to be a werewolf and that a sort of telepathic connection has developed between him and Reid. Perhaps I didn't put enough description in to show that. I often find it hard towing the line of writer/director where the writers basically start doing the directors job for them in describing it all, but I could probably explain it a bit more.
The scene set in Graves living room is really meant to be the moment where he is chosen, and Reid is also meant to be there in the flat with him but also asleep in the hospital. I'm really trying to bring in a supernatural element showing that he's really in 2 places at once.
I'm planning to produce this film myself once our term starts again. I already have an actor who wants to play Reid and I'm casting for the other roles right now. The tavern is a place we used in another shoot that I sort of fell in love with and wanted to include in another film. Also when we screen the film it will have to have a time limit and I've written the script with the time limit in mind (there was originally a lot more) however I'm starting to think I should have just written the script, made the film and then edited a different cut for the screening as I'm planning to do with another one.
Dreamscales issue with Graves being too young to be a doctor may be true. Unfortunately I'm sort of ignorant to the medical world but I am aware it takes a bit of time. I'll probably change it, the exposition is really to set up the character, but that's always tricky. Oh, and a first is sort of the degree grading system in the UK. When you graduate you get either a 1 or a 2, basically an A and B but we like to think we're special and have numbers instead.
I hope that covers most of the points (forgive me if there's something major I missed). Also thanks for all your criticisms, and I liked the 'Dreamscale Once Over' it's nice to get feedback from all viewpoints. Obviously I know I will never please everyone, no one film ever does, but if I can please most I tend to think I'm on the right track.