Write to Reals: Hell Fest – Script Review

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An excerpt from Reals’ script review for Hell Fest which will be available 04/12/21:

What Needs Work

The Killer – This is part of what I believe made my initial viewing of the film so forgettable: the killer was bland, uninspired, and unmotivated.

Also, he is named The Other Man.

Talk about a boring killer name. We have Jason Voorhees, Michael Meyers, Freddy Kruger, Leslie Vernon (That’s a joke, but shout-out to all the fans of Behind The Mask!), and now… Other Man.

See why that doesn’t work?

He has no real backstory or motivation, and we are hardly even given a hint at what drives him.

Plus, he is not even wearing a cool mask / getup that sets him apart from other slashers.

To give a nod to some Kentucky independent filmmakers, the film The Wicked One was done on a tight budget with a Kickstarter Campaign for supplemental funds, and still managed to create a killer who fans dress up as at conventions and who generated enough interest to greenlight his own sequel: Wicked Ones.

My point is: crafting a special villain who uses unique methods of torture and who is highly motivated to carry out his or her killings is a must for any slasher script.

This note could also be boiled down to: Know Your Genre!

The Cliché Reporter Intro – Look, I am trying to cut this script as much slack as possible, but since we are using this as a teaching tool, I do have to mention that there has to be a better way to give us information about Hell Fest.

Right now, we literally have a reporter standing outside giving exposition, and she comes back again at the end to deliver even more!

Female Character Descriptions – These were pretty bad all around.

For example, on Page 5 –

KATELYNN. She’s 18, pretty in a girl-next-door’s-hotter-older-sister sort of way.

Sigh.

I’ve said it before, but I will say it again: describing your female characters as HOT is not going to fly with readers in today’s market, and, honestly, you should be able to come up with something more original than: She looks good.

Though, to be fair, it wasn’t just the female characters, but most of our cast in general.

Like this introduction to Mr. Dunn on Page 8 –

MR. DUNN (30s), a young, handsome guidance counselor…

The Underlined Text – This is probably a personal note, but I didn’t really need the underlined description when the writer was trying to highlight something that was happening.

One (of many) examples can be found on Page 29:

A STROBE FLASHES and a pre-recorded soundbyte of BREAKING GLASS and a SCREAM hits as A witch-like HEAD MISTRESS pops out of a panel in the wall, claw-like fingers clutching in their direction.

I would personally format it something like this:

CRASH!


The pre-recorded sound of BREAKING GLASS ECHOES through the dark hallway, as —


AHHAARRGGG!!!


A WITCH


Pops out of a panel in the wall, claw-like fingers clutching in their direction.

The reason I would format it in this way is to add white space to your script, improve the flow of the read, and direct the camera without actually directing the camera.

The Watching The “Act” Scene – What I mean by this is on Page 31 we get a scene with The Other Man (still hate that name, by the way) who is killing a victim in the “Deform School” as Katelynn watches.

Of course, Katelynn thinks it is part of the show, but it is not, and she gets creeped out.

I can probably give this script some leniency, as it was written four years ago, but in the intervening time, I have seen this exact scene played out in multiple horror features, such as Fantasy Island, Haunt, The Scarehouse, etc.

It’s a creepy concept for sure, but it is also played out and it’s time to come up with some new horror beats.

The Relationship Drama – I just did not care about who liked who and who would end up with who, as I knew most of the characters would end up with a knife between the ribs and in a body bag by the end of the script.

It gets really egregious around Page 39 – 42 – which is just a filler argument that could be entirely removed with no real change to the story.

Very Little White Space – This is a problem, as the paragraphs of text were making me skim as I read and did not add anything to the script that could not have been cut or condensed.

I think the writer was trying to keep the page count low, which is fine, but when your pages are so packed with text that it is a slog to read the action description, it really defeats the purpose of having a low page count.

The Kills – The Other Man just kind of… punches things. He punches through the glass to kill Mirror Man, he slams Lucas’ head in a door, stabs Childs with scissors, and chokes-out Danny with razor wire, but nothing really gruesome or unexpected, which is what this genre is famous for.

Heath Ledger’s Joker in The Dark Knight (2008) says:

I’m a dog chasing cars. I wouldn’t know what to do with one if I caught it!

Similarly, The Other Man in this script is just a creep chasing teens, he doesn’t know what to do with them when he catches one!

Show Me What You Got – When The Other Man finally speaks, he literally says:

OTHER MAN

So show me… show me what you got.

And, of course, all I can think about now is the Rick & Morty episode “Get Schwifty“.

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