An excerpt from my script review for It Comes At Night which will be available 07/17/17:
3.) Quality of Characters
Thrillers require one main thing…tension between characters.
Post-apocalyptic horror thrillers?
Tension between characters while fighting for dwindling resources all while fighting some external horrific circumstance.
This story hinted at some of that, but chickened out before going deep enough.
Paul, Sarah, and Travis. A family unit with a decent supply of food, guns, and available water.
Will, Kim, and Andrew. A “rival” family unit running out of water, but have livestock that provides decent source of milk and eggs.
Remember, normal life has ceased to exist, and whether or not it’s clearly stated, we’re in post apocalypse conditions, friends.
You can’t trust anyone.
Upon first meeting Will, Paul acts exactly how he should act, taking the precautions he should to protect his family.
Not only is Will a threat due to stealing supplies, he could potentially carry this unknown, but devastating illness.
After taking Will back to his family though, and killing two fellas in the process, the script became more of a “Daily Life on the Farm” story than anything horror or thriller related.
(How did Paul know Kim and Andrew weren’t sick? We don’t know, but they aren’t so I guess he had his reasons.)
The largest issue here is the lack of tension between these characters.
The more connecting and conflicting we make the relationships the more story avenues we have to utilize.
Travis was attracted to Kim. Develop that.
The easiest change to make, since he’s 15 years old, the only woman he’s seen in a while is his mom, and he’s creepy as fuck sneaking around watching people from the attic.
Have him catch her bathing from his peephole. Make her slip and mistakenly be over affectionate in the kitchen when neither of them can sleep, SOMETHING that will create drama for the cast STUCK IN A FUCKING CABIN!
That’s a great character arc for Travis to explore, especially as he grows closer to Will too.
Then Paul and Will.
Paul can’t trust him, until of course he completely does, giving him a gun and giving this new family free reign of the house.
It’s the apocalypse folks. No trusting.
When they come back, it should be an extremely slow and rule filled process to gain Paul’s trust.
No guns. No unsupervised access to the, food, water, livestock, etc.
Don’t like it? Sorry, I’m going to have to kill you, because I can’t trust that you’ll leave and not come back.
These would be completely realistic attributes for Paul to have, and would really piss Will and his family off…BUT Paul did just save them.
Then the whole resources argument. Someone, at some point should lead us to believe they’re taking more than their fair share.
How the hell doesn’t Will at least entertain the idea of taking all the shit and RUNNING? Especially with a truck?
Not saying he has to do it, but having the thought cross his mind via a discussion with Kim is GOLD, especially if peeping Travis overhears it!
In closing, creating an interesting setting isn’t enough.
Characters are who sell your story, and if they’re not constantly butting heads, especially in a contained environment, your script is going to bore readers.
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