An excerpt from Reals’ script review for The Apology which will be available 11/18/19:
The story is about a retired schoolteacher who has spent 30 years searching for her missing daughter, only to learn a horrible truth that may cost her everything one dark Christmas Eve with the return of an old friend.
I like this logline for several reasons (and I have a note for the writer as well!):
First, it gives us all the information we need in one sentence: our protagonist, our stakes, our catalyst, and our genre. Crafting your logline is an art form and one that takes time and multiple drafts to really nail, but this logline is a great template to use, as it manages to cram a lot of information into a small space.
Secondly, I am a fan of the Christmas setting for this story. Anyone who knows me (or has taken a look at my Kiss, Kiss, Bang, Bang profile picture on W2R) knows that I am a huge Shane Black fan and most of his film (barring the disappointing Predator release) are set around Christmas.
That is not the only reason that I like the Christmas setting, because I also think that thematically and visually there is a lot that can be done here with the juxtaposition of “The most wonderful time of the year” with horrifying/bloody/gory imagery. It creates a disturbing disconnect in the reader’s (and eventual viewer’s) mind, as the usual feelings of comfort and safety are assaulted by horrific scenes and a mounting sense of dread and anxiety.
It is just something to consider as you are crafting your own stories: what setting is best to maximize the impact of your story? What season and/or time period is going to most accurately represent and provide visual cues as to the themes, story beats, and emotional changes that your characters are going through? This might sound too film-school-y, but crafting a striking, original setting for your story will help it stand out and remain in the mind of your reader long after they have put your script down.
Now, as I said above, I have a small note for the logline as well, which is simply that I would recommend changing the wording a bit to increase the sinister presence of the “old friend” who shows up – just something to build on the intrigue of the story.
The story is about a retired schoolteacher who has spent her life searching for her missing daughter, only to learn that some mysteries are better left unsolved when an old friend arrives one cold Christmas Eve to share a sinister secret that will forever alter both of their lives.
This is not my story and the logline did a lot of things very well, but there are always ways to improve your work and I think that the above example places a bit more mystery into the logline, which is always good, as you want your reader to be excited to pick your script up!
With all of that said, let’s get to The Apology!
The Length – By my count, and ignoring the Bloodlist cover and title page, this is a 94 page script. With horror, 88 – 95 pages is a sweet spot, with some notable exceptions, of course. I say this often, but it is only because I have read too many scripts that drag, wear out their welcome, or have nothing to offer after a few pages – and many of those are horror or thriller screenplays.
The Lead – It is not very often in a horror script, film, or story that your protagonist is a 66 year-old woman, but I liked that twist on the typical “teens-in-danger” horror trope.
It is also really interesting that her age plays into the plot – about halfway through the story, Darlene has a chance to run and tries, but she is not as agile as she once was and climbing fences and running through the cold and deep snow take a toll on her.
In addition, I like that she feels like a living, breathing character and that this is accomplished while moving the plot forward.
An example of this is below, when Darlene is asked about how she feels about her daughter’s disappearance:
Just vanished. How are you?
It’s dulled some but devastated.
In the hands of a lesser writer, this dialogue exchange could have dragged on or turned into a sappy monologue, but this works much better. We understand that she is still heartbroken and that it is not a feeling that is ever going to go away. That is all we need to know and it is accomplished quickly and efficiently.
Jack’s Introduction – I like the way that Jack (Darlene’s old friend who stops by) is introduced. It is not a long, drawn-out scene, but enough to see that there is some history between him and Darlene and that there is still some tension between them.
Not to mention that fact that his car just “happened” to die right on her street, stranding him. This is something that we, as an audience, already know is a lie, which makes us wonder what, exactly, he is doing at her house.
The Contained/Limited Actor Nature – Yes, this is not a surprise, but I really liked that most of the story took place in one location. It means that the feature can be filmed on a budget and, since the script/film is horror, there is a built-in market and lots of interest in limited-location horror stories told well.
Plus, we really only have two main characters and a couple of supporting players. This is great, as you can pitch the script as an actor’s showcase and the fewer actors, the more affordable the project.
Another point that I wanted to mention is that I like that the house is a part of the story and directly influences the plot.
For example, the power continually going out. We see it happen briefly at the very start and again when Jack shows up at Darlene’s door and then, of course, towards the end of the script.
This is just a nice touch and little details like this that you can sprinkle throughout your story make it stand out and stick in a reader’s mind.
Now, I did not like the flashbacks – as you can see in the What Needed Work Section of this review – as they took us out of the home and, I felt, were a bit unnecessary and sort of a crutch.
Grace – Grace is Darlene’s friend who shows up at the beginning and who we know will come back in the final act, but she is a really fun character and a friend that we should all be lucky enough to have in our lives.
For instance, this one exchange made me laugh and is a great way to show the camaraderie between Darlene and Grace:
By the way, what the hell did you do to his neck?
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