Amateur Script: b>Vampire Prison by Peggy
Logline: In a soon to be closed decrepit, island prison off the coast of Seattle an ancient vampire buried for a hundred years is awakened. Can a prison guard on his first day save himself and a few civilians before the zombie hoard overtakes them and possibly the world?
Imagine being locked up in an old, soggy decrepit prison on a rocky island off the coast of Seattle?
Imagine being locked up with the worst prisoners you can imagine.
What if this is your first day at work as a guard and a storm knocks out the power?
If that’s not enough, an ancient vampire from China is uncovered from beneath the prison and quickly begins to either consume or turn the inmates into zombies to do his bidding.
Welcome to Ryan Vessey’s 3rd day as a guard at Hawker’s Island State Penitentiary. By the end of his shift, he’ll be fighting to escape the prison with a few civilians before the zombie hoard overtakes him and possibly the world.
First off, a comment on the synopsis. That’s a lot to “imagine.” Remember to structure your synopsis like a written pitch, hitting all the plot points. Pitching and one page synopses can be one in the same, since the goal is to demonstrate your story has structure and that action escalates.
(See our how to pitch your script article for more.)
Okay, so zombies…vampires…how will this review go?
1.) Can we visualize the description?
This was another case of mediocre description.
Nothing was really bad, but there wasn’t a tone established that told me, “Hey you’re going to want to read this thing beginning to end!” (Other than the courtesy we assign to all scripts reviewed that requires us to read it all.)
Most of us know by now even as screenwriters we’re expected to use our words like proper wordsmithies. Two examples of what I’m talking about:
Inception Script Review
The Matrix Script Review
Unique descriptions that let the reader know you’re not wasting their time.
Manny gives Brandon a “look”.
Several characters do this throughout the script. This is a perfect example of “too plain” description, and an opportunity to be showy.
The look is meant to show the other character asked a stupid question, but dress it up a bit.
1.) Manny stares through Brandon like he’s not even there.
2.) Manny shoots Brandon an icy glance. Brandon coughs and stares at his feet.
3.) Manny looks at Brandon like he’s the simplest single celled organism on the planet.
Stuff like that, and BE CREATIVE with it.
Everyone is waiting for Dr. Havers to signal that James is
dead. Victoria looks at her watch impatiently.
No one IS DOING anything. They DO everything.
Page 43 – A CRAZY “we see” fest! Cut all these out and just describe the action. A few throughout the script are okay, but bundled up like a package deal is too much and comes off amateurish.
Ryan and the Lt. begin grabbing at the wall with their hands.
They just grab it.
Suggestions on where to start
Go back and look for any present progressives and remove them. I’m not sure if I’ve just not had any in the previous scripts or that I just wasn’t looking for them, but quite a few stuck out here.
After that, look for ways to improve the quality of the description, adding tension ESPECIALLY, since this is a horror script.
3 out of 10 points.
2.) Does the author use an acceptable format?
Format was good except for a decent amount of typos.
Proper names weren’t capitalized, along with some missed articles in front of nouns.
A thorough reread should catch these.
8 out of 10 points.
3.) Is the dialogue free of exposition and rich in subtext? Does each character have a unique voice?
A LOT of exposition in the first portion.
It was establishing why these characters were going to the island. Why the island is so scary. Etc.
I’ll get into it later, but dropping hints about the island should be much more subtle in the beginning, and not a HUGE DUMP right from the get go.
Another problem was the lack of unique voices.
Reiva had hers, and the warden, but everyone else just flowed together.
This probably wouldn’t have been such a big problem except for the LARGE CAST of random men. Billy, Brandon, Peter, Ryan, Lt. Spirelli, Stanley, Wilson, Manny, etc.
Holy MALE CHARACTERS, Batman!
Page 32 – Brandon says a line that, I believe, is intended for Billy, but Peter answers.
It’s dead. I’ve got to get in
contact with the mainland. This is
She looks at her watch.
Oh god. It’s time for the
execution. I can’t leave here.
Do we need a literal play by play? Can’t this be more of a trial and error with a few “shits” in between?
Page 47 – We have description saying a door is locked, then a character tells us. Pick one or the other. This is a GIANT TELL, and really takes folks out of the story.
(Not to mention another opportunity to dress up the description with things like “strains to turn the handle” or “jiggles the knob in frustration” to tell us it’s locked.)
Main thing to focus on here in a rewrite is to make these characters stand out. Two are currently okay, but could still use a pickup. Overall the remaining characters need more pointed and exciting things to say.
4 out of 10 points.
4.) Does the writer understand the challenges and rewards posed by the medium chosen in which to tell his/her story? Shorthand version of this is: Is it a movie and not a play?
Yes. It’s a zombie movie with a flying vampire. (More on that later.)
10 out of 10 points.
5.) Is there anything unique in what the writer presents? Are the writer’s ideas, based on this sample, likely to continue to be original?
The story was okay, and I really had a hard time putting my finger on why I wasn’t absorbed in it, then it came to me. It’s a typical horror script.
Nothing new happened. People ran, were attacked, some lived, some died.
I kind of knew what was at the end of the tunnel, and knew what was going to happen once the bitten inmate was reintroduced to the prison population, and I had a general idea of who would get away.
For originality’s sake I’ll reward some points for Peggy making the vampire semi unique, along with how the zombies were created.
5 out of 10 points.
6.) Does the script have a hook?
The logline was interesting. Roy and I have become fans of contained thrillers, since we think it’s an easier way for new writers to break into the industry.
The first two pages were a problem though, since I didn’t understand why I was seeing what I was seeing, nor did I particularly care.
8 out of 15 points.
7.) Is that hook effective?
We don’t meet our “main character” until page 15.
That’s kind of a problem, since the way he’s introduced doesn’t even suggest he’s the main character.
We’ve been introduced to character after character after character after character, that when Ryan finally does show up, he just seems like one more body that can be thrown into the zombie meat grinder later.
I like the few folks there for the execution. I even like the execution scene, but DROP ALL THE REST!
We don’t need to see Reiva in the store.
We don’t need to see the folks in the tug.
We can COMEPLETELY remove the tug anyway, since both characters on it die, and it isn’t a viable option for later escape.
A really good place to start it?
Ryan on duty with the guy getting killed (see I can’t even remember his name since there’s so many freaking people to keep track of). Show him as a bit sentimental so we identify with him.
Then the warden being told the folks have arrived for the execution, and her wanting above else to fry the guy.
Then the folks in the waiting room as they drag the dead man walking out.
And your inciting incident? BOOM the power goes out from the rain.
Do wee need to see Gowan attack Pauly? Not necessarily, but having Pauly be sick and interact with James Wilson should be shown.
Keeping Gowan for a later reveal has the potential to keep us page turning with gusto.
(People will go to great lengths to discover what the monster is, but once they find out they easily lose interest. Shit, look at Lost with the smoke monster.)
Another important part here is for Dr. Havers and Ryan to share some sort of moment, letting us know there’s a potential romance a brewing.
7 out of 15 points.
8.) Is there enough to maintain the hook? Reveals, conflict, etc.?
Once the power is out (technically the midpoint in this current version), the plot felt like a Benny Hill bit where the group runs back and forth, each time losing a member or two to the zombies.
It was rushed to say the least.
I never really felt they were in danger either. By that I mean I knew the numbers were going to slowly dwindle, but that the key players would be fine.
The main plot points are there, but I think a GREAT idea would be to give them a clear cut goal of how to get through the prison, then make it dangerous.
The boiler room was a nice touch, but maybe a person or two has to go and release a valve to pump the water out of their escape route.
What’s really needed is adding suspense, and slowing this part down. The danger’s there, but it needs drug out a bit. Cutting out that initial exposition dump will leave you more free space to accomplish what needs doing in this part.
7 out of 10 points.
9.) Does the story play to a target audience, and have the elements demanded by that audience?
It’s a horror movie that I think vampire and zombie fans will enjoy.
The thing I HATED? Gowan suddenly flying for no other reason than you wanted him to.
That and his being translucent felt like too much.
Having his minions be zombies instead of other vampires was cool though.
Then a few small points.
Page 64 – Reiva goes back to a cabinet in the dark and grabs acid? Why can’t she just find it and keep it since it’ll probably be useful?
Page 68 – Ryan is told you can’t walk around the island, so why are they looking for cars to drive around it?
7 out of 10 points.
This is a decent story that drags too much in the boring initial parts which then results in later rushing the good parts.
If Ryan is truly the main character, then we need to focus more on him. As currently written, I’d guess this story was about Reiva, which isn’t bad, but some sort of focus needs to be established so we know who to root for.
Total 59 out of 100 points.
I read this last night. I went in with the bar at my crotch and left with it jamming my kneecap. For a screenplay with an engaging logline, the writing could have been better. I’d advise the writer to go back and combine some characters, delete some and rewrite the shit out of some of the dialogue.