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Cobweb – The same, only different.


An excerpt from my script review for Cobweb which will be available 09/18/23:

2.) Plot Stability

“The same, only different.”

Arguably one of the most overused and generic statements we’re given (in one form or another) via rejection letters.

However, this script is a good example of what that means.

Relatively speaking, there’s nothing new here…

Similar to my argument of using old Twilight Zone episodes as a place to mine ideas for contained thrillers, this horror story gives off “vibes” of things we’ve experienced before, but is one of the reasons audiences continue to flock to the horror genre.

I know that the thing under my bed doesn’t exist. But I also know that if I keep my feet under the blanket, it won’t grab my ankle.” ― Stephen King

This story conjured up other movies, television, and plots I’ve come across before.

The first that came to mind, was an old episode of Tales from the Crypt titled The New Arrival that scared me as a kid.

In it a psychologist goes to a house to deal with a “difficult child” and the mother that overindulges her. At first, we’re thinking the mother is just pretending to be the daughter, as some sort of coping mechanism for the loss of a child. It turns out that’s not the case, but I won’t spoil this 1992 classic for you!

Then let’s not forget the classic Psycho where we absolutely know something’s off with Norman Bates, it’s just not clear what.

And lastly, just this morning as I ran, I was listening to an old radio drama from the late 1940s, where a tenant moves to town and takes the room of a girl who vanished mysteriously, but the landlady insists will return one day for her things. During the night, he’s plagued with nightmares of the girl sobbing and asking him to “free her”. He becomes obsessed with what happened to her, something other characters aren’t quick to talk about.

And that’s just to a few examples…

My point though is none of this is bad for the story!

This script is a new take on a “haunting” story, and one of the strengths of the story is it centers around an eight year old boy named Peter.

We’ll feel for a kid as our hero enduring these scary things, especially when he goes about investigating the “ghost” practically in the opening scenes, making sure it isn’t just in his mind.

And the script builds upon his experiences…

He’s “different” than the other kids his age, making him an outcast and leading to ridicule.

His parents are weird as fuck, even before we see that they take the definition of “grounding him” quite literally.

We wander through this existence with him, wondering which is worse, his parents or the monster in his wall?

Then Peter becomes a bit of a monster himself, but I won’t spoil anything for you.

The two issues I had with the script are something we need to be careful with in our own writing.

For the convenience of the story.

When the story starts, this feels like something new that is happening to Peter. If not the very first time, maybe only twice before.

However, in the reality of this universe, Peter is 8, and if Sarah has been trapped in the wall his entire life, her “tap, tap, tapping” on the wall would be commonplace for him.

Along that line of thinking, why even trap her in the wall next to his bedroom anyway? Wouldn’t it be easier to stash her away in a wall where her pleas will be muffled to him? Why not even keep her in the cellar? He’d never run into her there.

But by addressing any of those issues, you force the story not to work.

We need Peter in that room and scared because this is as new to him as it is to us.

Characters who directly ignore the truth.

This maybe goes along with the previous thought, but why do Mother and Father lie to Peter?

They obviously know Sarah is there, because they’re fucking feeding her, and tell him it’s all his imagination?

There’s no “rules” to suggest by feeding her she’ll stay quiet.

Are they simply willing him to ignore it?

Again, it doesn’t make sense, and only helps to fuel the suspense early on, because we’re meant to be in the dark too whether they know or not.

Realistically they’d have moved him into another room, or had a better explanation for what it was.

But keep in mind, horror audiences are extremely forgiving, and this is why we suggest writing projects in the genre.

(Not to mention it being incredibly profitable for most projects.)

Will some viewers be upset with these issues? Maybe.

But as long as you’re providing entertainment, no one’s going to crucify you for a few unanswered questions at the end.

The reason I bring it up, is to suggest by answering these questions in an entertaining way, you set yourself ahead of other writers, because you’ve delivered something creative and unique.

I look at something like The Sixth Sense, setting aside the mind-blowing twist at the end.

At the start of the story, we don’t walk in on Cole seeing ghosts for the first time, the catalyst is that Bruce Willis is finally helping him deal with seeing “dead people” and eventually coping with it despite all logic.

The story is strengthened because Cole’s always had to deal with seeing ghosts as a child, but with no one believing him.

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