An excerpt from my script review for House of Mourning which will be available 01/03/22:
1.) Marketability of the Idea
We’re reviewing a horror today.
By now you should know the argument (and hopefully see the merit in it) of writing a low budget horror script.
This is also a script from the 2021 Blood List which you should, by now, be familiar with and potentially exploring their Fresh Blood submissions later this year.
I’m not going to hound you about that.
Either you agree, or you don’t.
What am I going to hound you about?
More often than not we set aside time to research, learn, etc. on either specific projects or screenwriting in general and that leads to procrastination.
Should you be reading professional scripts? Absolutely.
If you’re writing a story set in a specific topic, should you have a basic understanding of said topic? Of course.
But there comes a time when “enough is enough” and you’ll need to put pen to paper (or fingers to keys for most of us).
And maybe it’s not a spec script from scratch.
My first step this year?
Going back and dusting off my contained thrillers, to see if there’s certain ones that I can implement a horror element into.
This way I’m easing back into my own writing after (arguably) three years off.
Don’t set unrealistic expectations for yourself (your truly isn’t a big fan of New year’s resolutions), instead…
Start with some free time this week and see where it takes you.
We’ll do it together.
2.) Plot Stability
I’m including this portion on the blog side of the site, along with my above “pep talk”, because this script’s main story has a lot going for it.
Where I’m going to cut it off on the blog though is with my one main issue.
Now, for any of those professional readers who “cheated” by googling for reviews of this script in an effort to save time, I do encourage you to give this script a read.
It was original, and for amateur screenwriters looking to write in the horror genre, there are things to learn from.
Starting with the really good.
This was almost like a Jewish Exorcist.
There was (I’m assuming here, not being Jewish myself) a lot of included lore and customs of our Hebrew brothers and sisters during an Orthodox funeral.
What it did was create ample opportunity for friction between the mother-in-law and widow, and with the real monster itself.
For instance, the whole “covering of the mirrors” angle to ward off demons while mourning…of course this is going to leave our adulterous main character vulnerable!
What we can take away from this for our own writing is the idea of “rules” that our monster has to follow.
Here the demon was confined to mirrors and shadows.
Faint scratching from behind a covered mirror in another room? Great, especially when you take into account that our widow is without her anxiety meds in a very stressful situation.
(Is the scratching real or imagined?)
The demon didn’t just show up around every corner or behind every door.
It could have, but it didn’t.
Following a set of rules like this makes the “game” more fun to play for the reader, particularly when your characters are just a hair slower to catch on than your audience.
(“Ah shit, don’t go in there!”)
What could be established better is more “mirror” confinement.
I mentioned the shadows above, and here’s where the rules got a bit “stretched” when we needed the demon to show up.
Keep it in the mirror, only able to fully come out when uncovered, or mistakenly thought broken.
(Broken mirrors hurt broken souls.)
There was a scene on the stairs where Gwen’s being strangled from behind, and although it’s a creepy scene it felt a bit like cheating, being that it popped out of a shadow.
The second, and perhaps more relatable technique for our own writing purposes, is the idea of a “slow build” to a horror story.
What this script did really well was sprinkle in bits of horror that built up to the main demon.
If you recall some of Reals’ horror reviews, nothing bothers him more than a horror script that isn’t scary.
Even yours truly, being a big baby when it comes to horror, knows there better be some sort of scary a quarter of the way in. Don’t give us filler drama until the final act, let us know something’s off early on.
This one did just that.
At first little bits of gross shit show up.
Bloody fingernails in glasses of water…choking on balls of goat hair…that creepy ass scratching from mirrors…a mysterious carving on the wall…
None of it “in your face” scary, but enough to let us and the characters know shit ain’t right!
And then you build upon it, teasing out more and more, until your main baddie shows up and we get an idea of what he/she/it is capable of.
After that it’s dealer’s choice how gory you want to go with it.
This script was more my speed, taking the “mind fuck” aspect of a horror thriller instead of the slasher route.
There’s a lot of good shit in here to check out.
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