Comments Made During the Contest
Brian Wind (Level 5)
Written and paced very well. Nice, tight, intense. This kept me engaged from start to finish with plenty of gore to keep me entertained. Very nice job on this. I can't think of anything that needs improvement here. Two thumbs up.
Calvin Peat (Level 4)
I'm not a fan of the horror genre, but this is very well written.It makes great use of description, which helps to distract from the somewhat gruesome nature of events.Also, having decent characters and a decent storyline helps to prevent it from just being a gorefest. The story is set up well, and the ending makes sense in terms of the rest of the script.Very Good.
Caroline Coxon (Mod Emeritus)
Being British, it amuses me the use of 'story' for a house, for which we say 'storey' A two story house??? One that has Little Red Riding Hood AND Cinderella!Holly, family resemblance? Uh? What do you mean?Personally I find the capitalisation of sounds distracting. Some people don't but many do. It could be the Hollywood reader you want to enjoy your script so beware. You also use it for verbs like SWATS, TEARS. Why? It does my head in.John stumbles over something? Did you mean Holly's arm? I think you need to say so.I'm not sure about this. It seemed like a lot of mindless violence without much substance or back story to make it have any gravitas. Then it becomes like violence just for the sake of it. The ending tailed off weakly.In general, the writing was good but the story was insubstantial.
CarrieAnn Lee (Level 3)
This reads like it was written by a novelist/ slash screenwriter. Good desriptive vocabulary and steady momentum. I may be recovering from Christmas fruitcake, but there were a lot of little things that didn't click for me. If the camera is close enough to capture "furtive glances" why not tell us who the characters are then or at least capitalize the MAN and WOMAN. If we are close enough to see their faces, couldn't we see John breaking the glass? Pane of glass. Opens the door . . . should read - pane glass and opens the door. I understand economy, but not at the risk of appearing to have a grammatical problem. Why do you use ON LIBRARY as a heading when we already know they are in the library? Also, when you describe the scene where Holly raises the meat cleavor, you tell us she is closing her eyes then drop down and put "Closed. Thunk . . .If you want to divert our attention to the screen door, replace it with THE SCREEN DOOR CLOSES BACK TO Holly who is . . . Or anything that will clarify that you are talking about the screen door and not about her eyes. Anywho, your peice has some little boo-boos. Then again, another script reader may not be bothered by incomplete sentences and get everything you are saying. These are just the things that bug me - little ol insignificant me. I can tell that you are going to be good at this - keep on writing!
Chris Keaton (Level 5)
Sure I thought I have figured it out on page one,but. However, it's beautifully written. Your action blocks are masterfully descriptive and tight. I learned a few things by this one. Damn this one is my favorite now. Nice twists. Wonderful Job!
Chris Messineo (Founder)
Wonderful visuals, atmosphere, and tone. This is a fun read.I wish there was a little more to the story though, as this feels like style over substance. Why happened ten years ago that they feel compelled to break into this house? Do they really think they will find a body? Why are they killed and tortured in this manner?Your craft is great and with a little work on the story this could be very good.
Dan Lennox (Level 5)
Very well written. The suspense and tension was great! I could picture the whole thing every step of the way. Great job on the structure, dialogue was tight, and action and descriptions were right on. Very good job!
David Birch (Level 5)
most of the writing was top notch...some things over redundant...such as "pins his coat sleeve to the doorframe"...so "tugs desperately at his pinned sleeve."...is recycled...wastes the readers time...makes the reader go back and see if there is something he/she missed...john ceases struggling (awkward on its own) but is redone when you write "john freezes"...you make the reader re-read the same thought...this may seem like i'm nitpicking, but this was written at a higher level than most, so the critique needs to be at that same level...overall, nice job...
Elias Farnum (Level 5)
This was a good malevolent ghost story. Frenetic action, good stuff. Some of the direction was throwing me off and I was a touch confused at to what ultimately happened to Holly. Did she stumble outside, back door banging and all. Or did she just fall down dead, and that's what John stumbled over? I would have liked to see her hand, or arm, get chopped. Subtle visuals are a nice touch however. Great dialogue.Had that Asian horror feel. Very Good, this should do well.
Faith Friese Nelson (Level 5)
"Only 10 years." Numbers should be written out unless they are a date. "Only ten years.Excellent story with a lot of suspense!
Harriet Barbir (Level 0)
Well written piece that established a sense of atmosphere and mystery. Just had a niggle about why they went in there and didn't let sleeping dogs lie. What evidence was there to link them to or implicate them the boy's death if he had gone in there of his own accord, toher than the bullying?
Javier Torregrosa (Level 4)
I really enjoyed your story. It was worthy of a rewrite. You can turn this into a feature. I've seen far east films that are freaky scary and your story has that feel. Add some water, shadows and eerie voices and you're onto a winner.The writing was quick and easy and colourful in areas.All the best.
Joel Davis (Level 5)
This was a nice ghost story. It was simple and well-told. The slugs were a nice, unexpected scare and they felt original. That was great when she cut off her own arm and ran away. I thought the exposition on the first two pages was a little forced, you could have them talk about something else and 'sneak' the exposition in.Well done. My only complaint is that once we get why they're there, to recover the remains, we can pretty much guess what is going to happen and it plays out as expected. You don't need a big twist ending or anything, just something to add the suspense. "Will they survive" doesn't count for a horror movie -- that's a prerequisite, you've got to give us something more. The title didn't really work for me, it fit the mood of the story but didn't tell me anything tangible about what the story was about.
John Brooke (Level 5)
Loaded with feverish action that goes from brain teasing to full frontal horror realism. The awful comeuppance of an evil brother and sister act of torturous sadism. Unburied the dead undead accomplish his revenge Good little horror film.
Jon Hill (Level 4)
I liked the haunted house idea but, unfortunately, your execution wasn’t quite there. I think with a little tidying up this could be a good horror script. For example, the opening dialogue was a little too unnatural and was just there to set up backstory. I also didn’t like the way Molly read the book thinking it might be worth something. It’s a sharp contrast to go from scared to greedy.It’s also not quite clear what exactly happened in the first. How did the Boy die? Was the house haunted before he entered or because of his vengeful spirit? Or did he fall to his death?
Jonah Yarden (Level 4)
Your title relates to a word used in the descriptive text. unless you were going superimpose that word on the screen its relevance is debatable. Not knowing what they did doesn't make the story more haunting it would probably just annoy a short film audience as there is a line between vacancy and abstraction...it is a tight rope but 2 or 3 lines of exposition doesnt resolve your need to apply a conflict. You could have, say, started with or scattered some flash cuts representing the actions you sought to expound, which though cliched if poorly executed would have been more engaging and applied a state of intensity. Aspects like what your characters look like are important, as i learnt with "My Work In Progress", but dwelling on those elements only distract you from developing how to best devise their actions and enviroments to best modulate your narrative.I think your approach to format is strong but i would advise trying to watch a film like Taxi Driver, as i did, and asked yourself how wordless emotion is represented on the page. Its not only about writing 'he's forlorn' but building a narrative that begins to shadow his conflict.Even though you seemed to be writing a B-movie styled short with the inclusion of the jock reference you also seemed to mirror the character driven contributions to the genre such as The Grudge, which made me expect more from it. Keep writing!
Jose Batista (Level 5)
Excellent Work! This script had me from the start with sharp descriptions and the ghost of the little boy established the tension well. You flowed smoothly with good dialogue and the ending was proper. Predictable, but enjoyable because of a simple story that was well played out. I liked how the title played on both the house and the little boy's ghost. Certainly a script that can be expanded into a longer horror film. Great Job!
Kyle Patrick Johnson (Level 5)
I doubt they'd be debating whether or not to go through with it... they're already in the house! Too on-the-nose. Just show us what they're doing, allow us to assume they've already talked about this. Their dialogue about the kiss and telling us they were the last ones to see him was also far too on-the-nose. You know, a flashback or opening scene would tell us the backstory perfectly without this unrealistic back-and-forth.You write with a fantastic pace for horror (not my favorite genre, but you did it very well). The story is ugly and non-redemptive, but you accomplished what you set out to do once you'd left those rough dialogue scenes behind. Clean up that opening and you'll have a tremendous piece.Details:-"normally the life of any party", tough to get that across on film, might want to cut it.-Does anyone actually call anyone "Sis"? It seems like a romance novel convention, not reality. I've never heard it used in conversation. Of course, you might've.-Slugs can burrow into your hands? That quick? And eat their way around inside you? That quick? Hm.
Leigh Smith (Level 4)
Reading this script was like sprinting to the end of a race. This was well written!!! There was a sense of fear and dread from the opening to the last word. I screamed in my mind, "Don't go in the house." just as I would in the movies.The Ghost seemed to be toying with the siblings the entire time. The bloody violence was self-inflicted. Holly was able to flee the house. The Ghost didn't kill John when he had an opportunity to do it. The Ghost didn't want the two to suffer the same fate as he did for some unknown reason. I want to know what went on in the House 10 years ago.I do prefer John's last words to be, "Oh God." and then ending with the sun setting behind the vacant, dilapidated house. It hasn't been exstablished if the Ghost can communicate with John. I don't think he can. I don't think Holly or John ever saw the Ghost. So, I don't think John's final plea for help is needed. Holly got away and she should send someone to look for John eventually.I didn't feel anything for the John and Holly. The characters were stereotypes. I didn't care at all about their pain because they were dumb enough to go into the creepy house. I wanted to feel sympathy for someone -- John or Holly or maybe the Ghost. I felt that was missing.This script was a great read.
Loren Prendergast (Level 3)
I really like the scene with the kitchen door swinging open and shut. I think you could drag this out even more, make it more suspenseful. Open: lifts cleaver. Closed. Open: sweating... trembling. Closed. Open: coming down, crying. Closed. Etc. But, I guess that could be on the directors part if the script were ever produced. Why couldn't John just jump through a window at the end? And, I could've used more description about his basement position. How stuck was he, etc. Was he further haunted down there?
Margaret Ricke (Level 5)
I really like this. I don't know if the formatting is correct or not, but it conveys the action really, really well. The worms were unexpected. I knew the cleaver would come into play, but not the way it did. I love being surprised in any way when I'm watching a horror movie.Some of your sentences were a bit too clipped. "A CAR..." would have been okay. Others were perfect cut short and fast.Your characters are well-defined. The dialogue is good. I can't remember any spelling or punctuation errors. If there were any, they happened during the action and I just didn't care to notice.The pacing is good. The title's okay, but I think it could be better.Good work.
Marnie Mitchell Lister (Level 5)
This was a pretty big story for just 5 pages. With this much action it just felt like it was squeezed in, especially the part where Holly chops off her arm.I liked the creepiness of the little boy running around and Holly and John not seeing him. I don't understand why after 10 years they suddenly decided to go back though. Some of your character descriptions aren't filmable. Like how do we know John is the life of every party? How can you show us that on screen instead of telling us? Same thing with Holly being small-town ambitious. If you can't show us through their action, phsical characterstics or dialog then it just doesn't work. I think this story is pretty cool but could be better told in about 15 to 20 pages, with a little backstory including why they decided to go back to that house after 10 years.
Martin Jensen (Level 5)
This is a good concept for a horror, but you do burn through a lot of story at once, and the setup is really not long enough for the payoff. Within five pages, you can only really aim for a few effective scares, as they each need their own build-up where you crank up the tension for a sustained period of time, before a release. The first scare (Holly with the slugs) was good, but her cutting off her own hand with a meat cleaver (hello Evil Dead 2!) happened too soon. We need to see more of her becoming crazied - after all, I'm sure I wouldn't cut off my own hands because there were slugs on it. At the end it was very unsubtle to have the meat cleaver and shard of glass flying to him on camera, but I liked the reprise of the rotten floorboards. Overall, it was good, but needs to be tighter to make it scarier.
Matias Caruso (Level 5)
This was well executed.Nit pick: The dialogue at the beginning seemed a little contrieved. Since they are already in the house, one can assume that they already debated the reason for going. That’s why their exchange jumps as obviously included for the audience’s benefit.The visual of the kitchen door swinging open and closed to let interrmitent glimpses of the carnage, was brilliant. My favorite bit.The premise, honestly, is not original. Saw this kind of thing in horror movies many times before. But the execution, the pacing, and the writing style were pretty good.Very Good.
Mike Dominguez (Level 3)
Not much to critique. Your description of the action is right on target. The script really had me on the edge of my seat wanting to read what was going to happen next. I felt like it would translate into a film very well. The weakest aspect is the expository dialogue - the less you can get away with the better, although what you have is still above average. There's nothing stunningly unique about the script, but the writing was excellent.
MJ Hermanny (Level 5)
This is great, really sent shivers through me - those slugs - horrid!!The pacing is superb, I was racing through it to see what happened next and you really evoke a 'horror' feel. The dialogue is also good you convey just what we need to know without it being too on the nose.Not too sure about the title, feel you could have come up with something better. Also, where did Holly go? I figure she chopped her arm off which John subsequently trips over, and then the back door SLAMS which I assume is Holly leaving, if so, then surely she'll go get help...And just two little nit-picky points in your character descriptions:"JOHN, early 20s, football jock, big man on campus, normallythe life of any party, now subdued, pulls on his frat jacket."How would you show us what John is 'normally' like?"HOLLY, early 20s, family resemblance, determined, grim, smalltownambitious, carries a heavy-duty flashlight."How would we know Holly has 'small town ambitions'??I'm injertectiing here at the close of the month as I have recently learnt that descriptions such as these are acceptable for introducing lead characters. So ignore those comments!Otherwise, fantastic read, great job, well done.
Neal Barringer (Level 0)
I don't know about this one for sure. your choices of verbs just seemed out of place. your choice to use fragmented sentences created distractions. especially since they change the tense of the verb. "Cleaver discarded on the bloody island counter." this sentence has no subject that's doing the discarding so it is not in active structure. in fact, the rest of the script from this point had no subject doing the terrorizing. maybe that was intentional? because of that choice, I felt less than satisfied with the unresolved questions opened in this short. speaking of unresolved questions, what happened to Holly? I applaud your attempt to create suspense. but, this attempt seemed to be from a filmmaker's eye. so, grasping the visuals you were trying to convey was very hard.
Nikhil Venkatesa (Level 1)
That was an excellent short script, my friend. I loved it. You set it up so well, and then it turned into a revenge like horror. But one thing you should've done was show Holly after the meat cleaver part. Awesome script.
Paul Williams (Level 5)
This opened with very creepy, albeit somewhat familiar visuals of this old house. Then the 10 year-old lurking in the shadows and crevices of the house. Good job with that.Once the slugs burrow into Holly's arm, the rest of the story is kinda murky to me, I found it hard to follow and determine what was happening.Does Holly chop her arm off with the meat cleaver?Does John stumble over Holly's arm on the kitchen floor?Who is this other friend they are talking about?Your screenwriting is very good, format is proper. Didn't detect any typos.
Philip Whitcroft (Level 5)
Great script. It's intriguing immediately, the tension is built up really well, the action is fast and unpredictable, and best of all questions keep being posed and all the way to the end many of them are not answered.
Raymond Belair (Level 3)
Nicely done. I'm assuming the black slugs weren't real, and I like the idea of the "ghost" manipulating their minds to achieve his purpose. Holly's reaction seemed a bit extreme (and the cleaver was a little too conveinient), but I can live with it. I wasn't crazy about the ghose physically attacking John with the cleaver and glass shard. I'd rather that you restricted the ghost to psychological torment as his only method of interaction. I was left wondering what happened to Holly. Did she die from blood loss in the yard? If not, why didn't she send help back for John? Good luck!
Ron Hooker (Level 4)
I think the "dark and spooky" was captured pretty well. The imagery was good and it's clear that the boy was the ghostly remains of an apparent dare that went wrong. What threw me off, however, was the book and its evil contents that led the girl to chop off her hand. It didn't seem to fit the story. I think that scene should be rewritten to support the rest of the script.
Sally Meyer (Moderator)
I'm not a fan of scary movies, but this one was quite well written. The characters were likeable. Not sure of the title, what does it have to do with the story? I wasn't sure if the story really made sense. But a lot of horror movies don't. They usually have some 'being' or force that is aimed to kill the innocent victims. In this story the two come back to the house, evidently from their conversation, they talked someone (the schoolboy) to go inside the house and he was never seen again.Once they are in the house, things start to go terribly wrong. The ending leaves me wanting more. I mean I suppose what's going to happen is that he's going to suffer the same fate as the school boy.Like I said, I'm not a fan of horror, just because things don't always add up. The slugs eating at Holly.. and then the meat cleaver rising up to attack John. Those things just aren't real and wouldn't happen in real life, so they don't appeal to me at all. But I know that a lot of people love to watch really creepy stories like this, so I think you'd have a definite target audience.
Scott Merrow (Level 5)
I think I mostly understood this, but not completely. There are a few things I don't get. Let's see...ten years ago, this was a scary haunted house or something. John and Holly teased the boy, so he went in the house alone and somehow died. Now, someone is going to tear down the house, so John and Holly come to find the boy's body and cart it away in a tarp. Why would they do that? They don't really have anything to hide -- they didn't kill the boy, they just teased him. Then, when they get in the house, some kind of slugs burrow into Holly's arm, so she cuts her arm off. What kind of slugs burrow into your skin? Did the ghost boy somehow control the slugs and sic them on Holly? Or were they just an unrelated hazard she happened to unfortunately stumble upon? Then the ghost boy scares John with the cleaver and a glass shard, and John falls through the floor where he's trapped under a heavy beam, presumably to die and join the ghost boy. There are some spooky elements in this, but it all seems kind of disjointed to me. Maybe there should be more about the boy or more about John and Holly's motivation or something to tie it all together. There were a couple missed opportunities, too. The cleaver being wielded by an invisible hand had some promise, but then all it did was pin his coat to the door. Then the glass shard is an inch from his eye -- and he just slaps it away! Two scary things that just sort of fizzled out.
Stephen Brown (Level 5)
I thought the introduction were a little overblown for a 5-page short. You can be forgiven the close to unfilmables for a feature but were they really needed here?Good build up of suspence with the flashes of the Boy.I thought the meat cleaver scene was really well done.This was pretty good and you achieved what you set out to I believe. The exposition on page 2 was a little messy, a little on the nose.I'd have liked there to have been some sort of twist to this, because as it is, it is pretty much just your run of the mill horror.
Steve Monger (Level 3)
I like the mystery surrounding the boy and the house. The swinging door/meat cleaver moment is also original and inventive. Overall, I think the script is highly visual, jumping straight off of the page.
Tim Westland (Moderator)
This was really very good. Lots of action and movement and tensions and style.I LOVE that John's cry for help is exactly what the kid's cry probably was. Brilliant.The only qualm I have is with your camera direction, ON LIBRARY, ON KITCHEN DOOR, etc. Leave the camera direction for the Director.But geez... that's a pretty piddling complaint, eh?Great job!
Travis DeStein (Level 5)
The first line of dialogue gave everything away for me. All the dialogue from then on felt extremely redundant and very forced. Your writing felt a little choppy at times. The ghosty-ness seemed corny and very cliche.
William Coleman (Level 5)
I really liked use use of the suggested, the implied. You tell your story well and you make me want to know more as you tease me along. This is horror, a ghost story perhaps, but it is intelligently done and not just a slasher script. I don't need all the details. I fill them in myself - and your making an audience do some of the work is a great storytelling tactic. I also like the slowly accelerating pace that rises in intensity until there is flat out action and shocking moment after shocking moment. There have been man discussions of blood and gore for shock purpose on various threads. So much that is written now comes off as having the "yuck factor" but yours sweeps me into past deeds and revenge that is understandable.You write your action sequence vividly and well. At five pages this seems just write even though I sense it could be a longer film or even a feature, but I think some of the implied horror and shock might be lost in an expansion. I'm not giving many fives. You got one of them. You are a talented writer. Keep at it.Get a friend with a camera, some actors, and find an old rundown house and shoot this.I have one qualification. I don't like your title. You need something more suggestive of what you wrote. Yes, I know, good titles are hard to come by.
William D. Prystauk (Level 5)
Good stuff, though what happens to Holly is a bit of a mystery - "John stumbles over something on the other side of the island counter." Is the "something" Holly's hand or her body? Be clear. It's fast-paced for sure, but don't overuse short sentences and fragments, because the storyline gets a little lost. And though I like the title, the ghost-kid isn't forlorn, he's vengeful.Some pointers: Watch your descriptions. How would we know the following: "big man on campus, normally the life of any party" when we're in the audience watching the characters on screen? The same with this: "small-town ambitious". Save that stuff for the short-story version. Also, remove the excessive "POV" and "On" usage. Directors don't like being told what to do.A solid rewrite and this should be excellent.
Comments Made After the Contest
Brian Wind (Level 5) ~ 2/1/2009 12:44 AM
My favorite script of the month. Very nice work Patrick.
Tim Westland (Moderator) ~ 2/1/2009 1:03 AM
I loved this. I'm favoriting you.
Patrick Sweeney (Level 4) ~ 2/1/2009 1:09 AM
Thanks, Brian! And thanks to everyone for your critiques.I challenged myself to write an all-out horror short this time. Funny that several people questioned the title, because it was a last-minute change. The original title, 'Haunted,' I decided to save for a feature-length version of this basic concept, with more characters & a different, larger setting, so at the last minute before submitting I switched the title on the short. Also, the 5-page limit did me in a little - I'd have liked to have had a little more of John & Holly arriving, and a shot of Holly collapsing in a field at the very end so we know there's no rescue coming for John, but didn't really have the room, and it definitely hurt the story. (Esp. not clarifying Holly's fate). And I still need to work on my dialogue in these shorts some more, the page limit seems to drive me to excess exposition I normally manage to avoid in longer pieces.To clarify a couple of things, which is not to say folks were wrong but that I need to rewrite some things. Normally I avoid camera angles like the plague, but in the case of the book, I was trying to show that the slugs were an illusion via the changes in POV from Holly (slugs) to John (no slugs). Obviously, that didn't come across to everyone. On the stairs, I tried to set up that we are seeing Holly from John's perspective, through the swinging door.Thanks again for the comments & feedback.
Patrick Sweeney (Level 4) ~ 2/1/2009 1:14 AM
Thanks, Tim! I was composing my epic while you posted. :) I'm glad you enjoyed it.
Patrick Sweeney (Level 4) ~ 2/2/2009 1:38 PM
Considering the rewrite. Thinking about flash-cut flashbacks to reveal the backstory as our primary story progresses, though I worry about pacing. Also, I'm going to expand the opening a bit, and add something on Holly's fate to the end.
Patrick Sweeney (Level 4) ~ 2/2/2009 1:40 PM
Oh, also open to a title change, though I don't have any ideas as yet.
Jose Batista (Level 5) ~ 2/3/2009 3:44 PM
Great script Patrick. Definitely one of my favorites this month. If you do a rewrite I will certainly read it, though I feel the story works great as it stands. Cheers!