“The True Evil” has a nice pace, with major events happening frequently and changing up the story and providing new information, it never felt tedious from a story perspective. However, the characters too often feel like stereotypes which isn’t helped by dialogue that lacks subtlety and style. Additionally there seem like many logic issues with the script where people say things that aren’t supported. Unfortunately there are also major formatting and grammatical errors in the script that need fixing and will turn away most readers and need some serious attention.
I enjoyed the way the mystery unfolded in the script, and the idea of a criminal who can convince people to kill themselves. There was also a nice reveal later on about James knowing about the cop the entire time, and in retrospect maybe that explains some of his actions.
But while the mystery is good, I felt as though the answers weren’t quite as solid. For instance, Oliver plotting against the girls because naked pictures of him were sent around the school? That doesn’t seem like it goes far enough to warrant his reaction. Especially when you compare it to Mary/Brett’s story where she’s raped and it’s covered up. I love the parallelisms between these two stories (in the cover-ups), but hers seems so much more traumatic. I think the story could really benefit from amping up what these girls did to Oliver.
I also didn’t really buy that these girls would kill themselves just for turning in their friends. Maybe I have no heart, but while I see that action being hard to live with, I don’t think it would be suicide level bad. Maybe I’m alone on that, see what other readers think.
There’s some issues with the flow of the dialogue, and I suggest reading the lines out loud for that to eliminate the clunky ones, but a bigger issue is the lack of subtlety. Look at James’ big block of dialogue on page 11. He just spurts out his entire backstory and motivation in a blunt, unrealistic manner. It’s good to let an audience know who your characters are and how they got there, but there has to be subtlety to how they speak. Also, I bet the audience could piece together most of what he says from the rest of the scene, so this also amounts to over-explanation.
Overall I think the dialogue needs a major rehaul. Try to make it more distinct, less on the nose, and trust the audience to pick up the emotions and relationships between the characters. I’m looking at page 16 “She’s only been on the force a few months, but she shows promise.” That reads too much like a character description and lacks personality. If James really needs to tell Dan who Megan is here, think about “She’s green, but she makes a good cup of coffee, so she’ll probably be Captain one day.” Or not that exactly, but something with more style and less blunt.
The cop characters are all a little bit stereotypes and that’s unfortunate. The Gruff Detective with family issues because he overcomits to work? The smart, logical Asian analyst? The Black by-the-books Captain? The young eager Detective? I’ve seen those all before, and outside of James I think the others never grow out of those stereotypes. That’s unfortunate, and I’d really look to make them more unique by their actions and dialogue. Also maybe avoid the racial stereotypes, or mix it up a bit.
James is weird, he seems like a crappy cop and a poor father for the bulk of the film, and as a result I really don’t respect him or even like him that much… but I started to think at the end that maybe that’s the point? Is he the real villain of the film? Maybe, he certainly hasn’t behaved ethically. If I may suggest. Either make him more likeable and show his pursuit of Oliver better. Or, make the traumatic event the girls did to Oliver better, so that in the end the audience will feel for Oliver a bit more. Right now I kind of feel stranded about halfway through where I don’t really like anyone enough to identify with them.
Jennifer is kind of snotty, but when she laughs at “Rebecca always did whatever I told her to do”, it makes me kind of hate her. She just got her friend kidnapped, and that’s her response? Instead if she hung her head low when she said it we’d feel sorry for her, which is far more powerful. Just a small note.
With the villain, just a thought, but do you need to say it’s a man on page 35? Keeping that gender neutral may help keep the mystery going. I’d also like to see more description for the mask to know what we’re seeing. Is it a pig mask like is Saw? A Shatner mask like in Halloween? It’s an important detail.
The structure is a real strong part, and that’s a really good thing to have right. Dialogue can be tweaked, formatting fixed, but the frame to hang it on is sometimes the hardest part to fix. I really liked how major events seemed to happen so frequently.
There’s a great start to the mystery on page 6, hooks us in with this pile of belongings, I also love how it develops on page 14 with these being objects that went missing throughout the months leading up to the kidnapping. Then Cindy reappearing on page 30 pushes it in a nice new direction and her committing suicide right after. After that Jennifer shows up at the station, which keeps everything moving. Throughout this there’s nice hints at the Oliver’s history that keeps me interested.
The climax with the reveal of James’ knowledge and of Jennifer being kidnapped is decent, but I really got a little turned off by all the montages. Which may actually just be a formatting issue.
I felt a little cheated by the ending, but like I said, the montage format really distracted me from getting into it. Still, while the thematic ending made a lot of sense (and I loved the reveals of how each girl helped kidnap the others), I wanted more action at the end. There’s no physical confrontation, just a message on a TV/letter and a dead daughter. So the great final conflict kind of fizzled out. What I expected, and what may work better, is if James finds Oliver at the warehouse and is somehow put in a situation where either Jennifer of James must decide the other person’s fate. I’d like to see James decide to take his own life and not let Jennifer finger him, that would still be a dark ending, but it might give James some redemption and also complete his story a little bit better.
There’s a few problems where I feel like police protocol isn’t followed. Like James picking up the letter and walking out of the scene around page 20. Also James doesn’t always seem the quickest, and his reaction to Harold’s single kidnapper theory seems wrong. Or at least I don’t buy it. And James disregarding the letters easily? That seems foolish and unprofessional. Although I’m also not sure why Harold thinks it’s a revenge crime, but whatever. Then James discounts what Dr. Sklar tells him later? Is he the worst cop ever? Every piece of evidence he gets he seems to ignore, which makes me wonder what detective work he’s actually doing.
Also, why would James and Megan go to an NYU Office building, isn’t it out of their jurisdiction? And also a tad inefficient when they have phones? I actually realized at this point that I had no idea where we’re based. What’s more, the campus police office is closed? That doesn’t make much sense, or at least it isn’t explained in a way that I believe it. It feels like a writer’s device to delay action and create suspense (which is fine), but it’s done in such an unnatural way that it bumps me.
Other logic issues:
- 52: How do we know the kidnapper won’t go after Jennifer on the same night? That seems underexplained, and not only is James a terrible cop, he’s a beyond terrible father here, and kind of a bad human being for sending his daughter home like this.
- 64: A revenge case, still? Really? There’s nothing to suggest that, and with Oliver’s approach with Mary/Brett it seems quite the opposite. I get that in the end it is a revenge case but Harold needs to make his point better.
- 70: Weird thought, pictures of Oliver naked are probably considered child pornography, slipping them into newspapers? That’s a serious crime and maybe takes the teasing to a weird level.
- 85: James’ gun is left on the table? Really?
- 95: Did we ever see James giving information to Jennifer? I think that’s what it’s implying here.
As I said, formatting is a big issue with the script. It’s a sad truth, but unless a spec-script matches the standard it isn’t going to be taken seriously. I’d suggest picking up Trottier’s Bible and following that. It’s a comprehensive book that should answer all your questions. Also if you’re not already, I suggest getting Final Draft, as it makes most formatting easy. A few specific notes.
- The title page doesn’t count as page #1, so page 2 here is actually page 1.
- FADE IN comes before the slug line and is followed by a colon.
- Dialogue should never be split from one page to another where the person’s name (OFFICER 1) is orphaned on the first page. Additionally if dialogue carries over it should have a MORE/CONT’D between the two.
- General rule, but wrylies (like “attempting to be vigilantly (sic), but looking bored”) should be only used when absolutely necessary (it isn’t necessary here, and in most places) and try to keep them to one line and not wrapping down to the one below. Also, avoid using “beat”. It’s more a term for a stageplay, although there’s some wiggle room on that.
- In a slug line everything should be caps (looking at “several hours later” on page 4)
- You don’t need to break out everything into a subheading (like page 9 with DESK), this can be distracting and should be used only when essential. Again, this has wiggle room.
- There’s also a lot of unnecessary words in the actions. Looking at page 12, “James grabs a chair, sits down and beings speaking informally”. The begins speaking informally isn’t necessary, and isn’t in the moment of the script. We’ll see that all in a second and description like that should be cut.
- I also think the dialogue might extend to far to the right margin?
- The montage formatting is way off and very distracting.
There’s also lots of grammatical and spelling errors in the script. It needs to have a really detailed proofreading given to it, spellcheck won’t catch everything. Like on page 4. It says police offers instead of police officers. On page 23, it’s stalking not stocking. Also be careful in slug lines with all caps (page 7, ENTRENCE WAY, later on BRUNETTER).
Overall I think “The True Evil” has promise. It’s got a great churning of events, but needs a punch up on the dialogue, a good proofreading and format check, and then a few other tweaks to make it flow. After that some more attention can be given to our main character, his arc, and how the audience is supposed to feel about him. As well as amping up several of the story elements to make Oliver’s actions seem more justified.
At least that’s what I took away from the script, hopefully you find it helpful, but every reader is different, and in the end you need to write the story you want to write.
Review of: The True Evil
reviewed by ProfRedSweater on 03/13/2012
Review ID: 4152962
Other Reviews by ProfRedSweater 53
A review of Long Time Jerkby ProfRedSweater on 02/01/2013Hello, and welcome to the depressed, suicidal, castration, dog referencing comedy genre! I tackled that a while back with “What Happened to Billy’s Balls?”. It’s a tough road to climb, and you have my sympathies for all the people who just don’t see the humor in that. Anyway, there’s some good ideas in “Long Time Jerk”, but I think it needs some honing down and focusing...
Hello, and welcome to the depressed, suicidal, castration, dog referencing comedy genre! I tackled that a while back with “What Happened to Billy’s Balls?”. It’s a tough road to climb, and you have my sympathies for all the people who just don’t see the humor in that. Anyway, there’s some good ideas in “Long Time Jerk”, but I think it needs some honing down and focusing to get the story really firing. I’m going to try and outline what I liked about the script and then places where I think it needs work. I also list my notes/thoughts as I’m reading through the script so you can see inside a reader’s mind as they’re experiencing your story. Well kind of. That sounded weird.
What I Like (I don’t go into too many details on this):
- The dialogue flowed well and there were lots of gems and fun moments hidden throughout. It really made the read go a lot easier than you’d expect from a 140 page script.
- Gertrude’s introduction is out of the blue, but the character is great, and her and Colby’s relationship is probably my favorite part of the story. It’s a little childish, but I like how these loner/losers both find a partner in each other.
- The plot churns nicely at the end, lots of events happen and the story isn’t afraid at going into different directions, even if the audience may not want to go there.
- I liked the scene with Wyatt and how it both shows this last beacon of hope for Colby and his old world of friends, and then tears it apart. It was painful, but felt true.
- The general idea and execution of Colby getting kicked out of his home/running away was kind of neat. I’d like to have seen more details about his time on the street, and less about his friends, but it’s a good setup for a comedy.
What Needs Work:
I’ll start easy. The typos/grammatical errors. There’s a lot of them in there. It’s hard because when you read a script you start to scan and your brain will fill in holes and make sense of lines, but it really needs a proofreading as they’re quite distracting.
Next, let’s hit that elephant in the room. The length. Bad news, it’s way too long and that becomes a burden. Good news, I think there’s a lot of ways to fix that.
- Consider cutting out Jack and/or the VO. Not just for length, but it also feels unnecessary. It’s kind of like you have all these funny one liners for the moment, but no one for Colby to deliver them to. Or sometimes it’s just an update on what Colby is thinking at the moment. But with rare exception it doesn’t advance the plot. Sorry to say, it also feels like lazy writing. Events and Colby’s reaction are what can reveal his progression. We don’t need him to say out loud he has feelings for Gertrude. We know that already. Here’s an idea: Cut Jack/VO. But have Colby meat a crazy old man who lives in the forest. Let him talk to him if he needs to at the end of the days, and you can create some really funny scenes out of this depending how far you go. How crazy is he? Is he just a warning of what Colby could be? And perhaps at first Colby seems to like his lifestyle? Does the crazy guy become like a spurned lover when Colby’s not around? There’s a lot of opportunities depending on the tone of the humor.
- Trim down that dialogue to save space. Some of the scenes go on for too long and hammer variations of the same jokes to death. I get that there’s a lot of funny things that can happen in the scenes, but they don’t all need to happen. The opening scene with the parents is a perfect example. An audience will love you more if you get in, make only the best jokes and then get out.
- Combine Colby’s friends/acquaintances into fewer characters. Diane, Gertrude, Alan are important characters (if not exactly “friends”). But Sam, Adam (+group) and even Tyler all kind of occupy the same space. In the beginning Colby runs round to all of these friends and we get slight variations on the same scene. It’s unnecessary and boring. For instance, why aren’t Alan and Tyler the same person? At worst it’s a little too convenient. At best it gives us another reason to hate Alan (cause he’s the perfect kid that his parents love) and it makes Diane’s sleeping with him even worse. What point does Sam have at all? To show he can somehow help some friend out, but not really? It doesn’t do much. Cut him. Then make Adam his only real friend, who isn’t actually his friend.
While I’m on the subject. Reference Wyatt earlier on. Make him this idealized friend from perceived better times (high school). Have them reference how Adam/Wyatt and him used to hang out earlier or something. Set him up so that when we go and visit him it has a big build up, which makes the let down even better.
Moving on to Colby. He’s just too pitiful right now. As he’s written, he’s lazy, boring, the wrong kind of weird, and doesn’t seem smart (or maybe he is, I can’t tell). That’s a hard character to root for. Honestly, I felt like he got most of what he deserved. He needs to come across more as a good guy in some way early on. I gave a suggestion below, but I think it needs more than that. What makes him so great and relatable? Maybe he had dreams when he was younger to do something, but some event made it so he couldn’t? He’s got to have something though, and it’s a significant problem now.
There’s also problems with Colby’s arc. He has a slow romantic build up (consider speeding this up as well, it feels repetitive), and then he kind of stands up to Adam at the party (but I don’t know if he was provoked enough there), but there’s not enough in between and I don’t know what his flaw is (besides being a wuss and weird, needs to be more specific) and how he’s confronting that.
A note on comedic identity. I find it a little all over the place in this film. Him trimming his pubes and cutting himself feels really out of sync from the next 30 pages. There’s other moments too that feel similarly disjointed, it’s just something to be aware about. But humor is so personal that no one can really tell you what you want the comedy to be.
For the dialogue, it did feel a tad generic at times. Playful and amusing, but I wanted more specific jokes as opposed to banter. Random examples from the opening scene. The better than ice cream or pizza was good, but better would be better than Chunky Monkey ice cream. Or instead of “parent of a retarded child or a murderer” really think what type of murderer. Maybe not the best examples, but everywhere just think how words can be more specific so they really stick in your brain.
And now, the ending. So much darkness. I liked what happened with Wyatt, I liked that Diane came back in the picture to screw up his thing with Gertrude. What happened at the party was pretty dark. The only thing I’d cut is maybe seeing Gertrude with Alan. Which is ironic, because I totally did the same thing in my script (put the love interest with the villain)… so maybe I just am struggling because it’s not what I wanted to have happen, even though it should. Hmm, see what others say. Anyway, I was even on board with after the party and the castration (although that’s going to be a difficult line to walk because as Colby becomes more relatable and likable it’ll be much more of a strange act). And Gertrude coming back after the castration felt like a big solid move too. All of this happened in such a flurry that I really was wondering what the hell was going to happen and it felt good and eventful. But…
The ending felt like a cop out. It wasn’t satisfying and I even questioned if it was done because you decided 140 pages were enough and you had to end it. I don’t think you can lead an audience up this path and then just have him die. So I feel the end needs to be reconsidered. Consider a happy ending, and a sad ending. But having him die is just a cop out.
Okay, and here are my detailed notes I took while reading the script…
1: I’m going to be looking for cuts the script can make. You can cut the kitchen scene it’s unnecessary. Also, there’s more of a comedic punch if you go right to the living room after the VO.
4: It’s nice fluffy dialogue right now, and amusing to funny. But on page 4 I feel like it’s getting repetitive. You’ve told this joke already and now it’s beating the horse dead. Maybe that’s the point of the scene. But it can be almost half the length and the jokes will hit harder.
6: Can we have a description of Jack? An idea on age, look. If he’s an imaginary figure in Colby’s head. I didn’t feel we needed it for Mom/Dad, cause they’re parents and this doesn’t feel like a film about parents, but even Tyler could do with a bit more description to help paint the picture.
7: Heh, I like the scene and how Tyler complains about people ignoring him while he ignores Colby. Kind of paints him as a hypocrite, with no friends and poor people skills.
8: Okay idea to show that Colby is loved by dogs, makes him kind of nice. A better idea would be to show the dog starving (or needing to crap) while his parents argue. Then Colby helps out by feeding/cleaning up after the dog and we see that the dog likes him and thought Colby may not be super successful he still serves a purpose and maybe he will be missed, plus it’s more of a nice act. Just an idea.
8: Need a period at the end of “Colby walks out”.
8: Just occurred to me how strange his cutting his pubes felt in the beginning, the rest of the humor so far feels way off. But perhaps it will come around.
10: Format is okay so far… but you can put FLASHBACK in the slugline. That’s standard.
10: Don’t quite get the dress action here. Make it clearer. Is she in a mini-skirt kind of dress, I don’t get how this happens.
11: Yup, Jack is definitely imaginary. (Fight Club in reverse)
11: I was kind of predicting in my head that she would be having sex with someone else. It’s kind of been done already, but that’s okay if we go in a new direction soon.
14: Okay. If he’s going to puke, sell it in the description. I want to hear that he’s literally blowing chunks all over her my little pony collection. At first I didn’t even know if this was literally puking even until the next page.
15: Not sure if this is intentional (probably is), but him referring to it as running away from home makes him sound a little like a brain damaged child. At this point I have limited sympathy for Colby.
19: Typo: around the towards the side of the house.”
20: Typo: “It’s really is kinda”
20: Jack seems kinda pointless. What would happen if you cut him out?
20: Typo: “RON sits in the back on the a laptop”
22: Nice twisting of the knife in terms of naked pictures of Diane.
24: A fake blow job? Why wouldn’t it be a real one?
26: Typo: “hits is pipe”. Give the script a read through looking for these. They’re not spelling errors, just wrong words. Happens all the time cause brains will take shortcuts when reading them.
28: Hey, Colby knows what projecting is. Shows he’s smarter than someone.
34: It’s just too much at this point. Colby is a sad sack, he’s been beaten up on repeatedly and he’s not likable. Need to rethink how the characters are introduced and how many scenes of his friends turning him away that you need.
36: Not sure why he’s suddenly invigorated. Not sure I’m buying it.
37: “Is that dead girl?” I think this is supposed to say “is that girl dead?” I do like that introduction though, something new.
38: Funny sentiment from Colby about heroes, but that dialogue block needs to be punchier.
41: “as well with the aid of his shoulder” reads funny.
44: Where are we? This corridor doesn’t say where, same with shower/bathroom. Are we in a hotel? A school? An office? No idea. The shower/bathroom is explained in dialogue a little later, but because of the corridor scene my mind is completely somewhere else so I’m picturing it wrong as a reader and that leads to a bump when the dialogue says something else.
53: Typo: “thinks your weird little pussy” – maybe “you’re a weird little pussy”?
54: Is that line supposed to be GERTRUDE or her MOM?
54: These characters seem to act more like they’re in their teens than their early twenties. But maybe that’s the point?
59: The scenes with Gertrude have spunk the them. Nice.
59: Typo: “I actually believe you for A second”
59: She really did have sex with a dog didn’t she. If so, bold move.
62: We really don’t need both VO and Jack. They’re both the same idea, giving Colby a way to talk when no one else is around. I think a bulk of it isn’t necessary as well.
65: Typo: Small stream blood
66: You could have him faint when he sees the blood? That’s more of a punch to end the scene than her pulling him inside.
74: What movie did they watch? I feel like I need some detail.
80: That was weird Colby talking to Jack while Gertrude is in the room.
83: Is he smart? For the most part he’s seemed dumb. Except maybe two instances now.
85: This church/school story feels a little weird. It makes Colby seem more like a jerk than anything else.
85: Hmm, more talk about dogs and bestiality… foreshadowing?
89: Heh, funny that Gertrude just says it out loud. She really is kind of socially awkward.
90: Ouch. That’s a gut punch. But kinda dark. I wish we would have set up Wyatt earlier though. All the characters just seem to come and go.
94: typo “Colby stand in the middle…”
94: Typo: “Mom shoves a piece of pizza in his mouth” – made me think he put it in Colby’s mouth.
95: Typo: “well, you need a some kind of”
98: Typo: “You’re argument” s/b your
100: Typo: “ not AT all seriously considering”
102: Typo: “just his time go” – Seriously not calling any more of these out. But it’s really distracting. This script needs a proof reading.
104: Why is “hook up means sex” in VO?
112: Uh, Gertrude flips away? Weird.
115: Colby singing these lines to himself really does nothing for me, it may be something to cut to save pages? But others may like it.
118: I like this as a moment for Colby to finally stand up for himself. But it doesn’t seem fully provoked. His disbelief about Colby/Diane is somewhat founded, and really he’s being kinda nice to him besides that.
126: It’s actually really sad to see things get fucked up and Gertrude to sleep with Alan. For a comedy this is fairly depressing at times.
129: And then it gets pretty pornographic… heh. As a comedy I’d like to see this taken kind of sillier even, otherwise it does feel a little off in tone.
134: Whoa, there’s a twist. Though it kind of makes sense.
137: And the twist back about Gertrude coming to him. Nice too.
139: And he dies. Okay. Not sure if this is satisfying as an ending. But interesting.
Overall this script has a lot of potential. In fact it’s bloated with potential right now, like there were just so many ideas that needed to get written down and they all did. But going back through the draft and cutting or combining repetitive ideas (character/dialogue) and finding out better ways to convey the characters arc (losing Jack/VO and going with events) will really help it to feel like a punchy story. Also focusing more on Colby, how we can relate, and his overall arc would really help to cement it down.
Thanks for the read! Best of luck with the suicidal castration comedy!
A review of Buster (revised)by ProfRedSweater on 07/03/2012I’ve always been a fan of silent films, although my tastes were more for Chaplin over Keaton because I found Chaplin connected to his audience and the human condition better than Keaton, whose famous deadpan kept me at a distance. I felt a little bit that way with the script of “Keaton” as well, at a distance. At least for the first 72 pages, where I think a stronger goal... I’ve always been a fan of silent films, although my tastes were more for Chaplin over Keaton because I found Chaplin connected to his audience and the human condition better than Keaton, whose famous deadpan kept me at a distance. I felt a little bit that way with the script of “Keaton” as well, at a distance. At least for the first 72 pages, where I think a stronger goal and connection to Keaton might help us relate to him.
That said, I really truly enjoyed the story and it was as much a joy to read as anything I’ve encountered on Triggerstreet. Which accounts for my limited detailed notes. I also felt a little pang of sorrow and happiness at the end of the script, although I’m not sure if someone unfamiliar with Keaton would feel the same, and you may have to look to other reviews for that input.
Ok, all that said, I’m going to run through the elements and try to point out places where I thought things might be improved.
Well it’s a biopic, and it’s certain to draw a lot of comparisons to “Chaplin” from the 90s. The flashback structure for biopics is also getting a bit overdone right now, but I like the Twilight Zone twist to the script which keeps it a little fresher.
Ultimately I wonder if the TZ aspect goes too far. I don’t think this is trying to be a true sci-fi script and the helmet sticking to his hand seems to suggest that more is going on here than just reminiscing. You may consider toning down those aspects of it. I’d also suggest that TZ Buster should be less present near the end of the script. I found having this extra Buster hanging around robbed the scenes of some of their emotion. You could consider just swapping out the actual Buster with the TZ Buster (minus silly hat) or just keep him at a greater distance from the action. I wanted to really be there with Buster during these scenes but instead felt like I was watching the scene with the TZ Buster.
Pretty spot on for me. Everyone seemed to have their own voice and I didn’t find that they spoke in a modern tongue. The only note I’d have is that Natalie’s sisters and mother all sounded a little too much the same in the bickering scene (the one before Keaton shows Natalie their new house) and that made for some confusion on the page.
There’s a lot to like about Buster Keaton as written. I loved the way his deadpan was introduced and called back to as a coping mechanism. I loved his brief interactions with Chaplin. And I loved his decent into alcoholism. But despite Keaton’s onscreen presence, in a biopic you need to connect strongly to the main character, and I found that I didn’t do that for the first 72 pages. I’ve traced this back to his lack of clear goals.
Some goals are there, I think, but just not pronounced enough. I would suggest one goal would be his desire to make a feature film, but I never sense that true frustration and urgency to do so. What’s more, when he finally does do that in the film it’s glossed over. There’s no payoff. I’d love to see his glee at doing his first feature. The great success he gets with it (or not) and then for him to get comfortable only to have “The General” fail and then fall apart destroying his career. That goal and arc is so close in the script that I can taste it. I just need more passion for him early on. And a real buildup and payoff to his first feature in the script. I could be wrong (and maybe I am) but I don’t even remember acknowledging when he makes the first feature and the reaction it got. This could be a really strong arc for the character (with the ups of success, the failures, and then eventual acknowledgement of greatness for “The General”) and something we can relate to in his character. A major part of this story is his career and what it means (I think of a Hugo like moment in the end being possible) and it’s not fully realized on the page here.
A second goal has to be tied to his love life. It’s not just about Keaton the filmmaker, but also Keaton the human being. His relationship with Natalie intermingles with his career and leads to his downfall in both, only for his eventual redemption with Eleanor. But right now he seems a little indifferent to Natalie early on. His broken leg seems to be the only thing that makes him commit to her (for some reason), and I think we need more of this passion. We need him to not seem so defeated at the pool party towards her and then just sing to her about love (and then move to LA, etc, etc). But we need a real love story here. One for the ages, that eventually gets screwed up by his own flaws and her ties to her materialistic family. The elements are there. It just needs to be sold a little better early on. Let us know early that his goal in life is to love a woman who truly gets him, even if he gets diverted by the desire for sex. In fact, that could be a great established flaw early on if when he goes to have sex with Daisy he could already have a girl, but she doesn’t put out, then he goes for Daisy and loses them both as a result.
Just spitballing ideas. What it comes down to is that I need to know what Keaton wants and what his own roadblocks are to achieving it early on. In fishing around I can create my own, but they need to be sold harder.
The other characters in the script seemed to lack real depth. It’s not a terrible problem, as I think these are Keaton’s memories of them, so it may be okay that they all fill one role. There’s a lot of one-dimensional villains and on the flip side I think Eleanor is pretty much in the "good compassionate wife" role although she gives flashes of personality.
Still I would like to see just a bit more complexity to Natalie. Even though Eleanor is the woman who finally understands and fixes him, Natalie is the love interest of the film. And the audience needs to connect to her and understand her arc. Keaton can be the villain here. His actions turn her from the loving awkward girl in the first part, to the bitter woman who takes his kids from him, and that’s okay. His actions have done this and it makes him even more tragic and his redemption at the end even better.
This can be done by working more on the buildup to Natalie’s actions on page 69. She’s cut Buster off, but we haven’t really seen why. I mean he even gave her this big house, so right now she just kinda seems like a bitch. Sure, there’s the reference to his sleeping around, and we get a mention of the bootlegger five pages before. But we don’t see their marriage fall apart. We see her unhappy with the original house he built her, then boom, it’s over. More actions need to happen on screen to sell this arc.
I thought the switching between TZ Buster and flashback scenes was handled well. They had nice transitions worked into them and didn’t intrude very often. There was a big jump to Buster married to Eleanor ten years later on page 104 that could be a bit smoother, but that’s nitpicking. I assume that when a year is specified in the slug line that it was mentioned in a Super? But that may be my mistaken assumption.
The only other comment on structure ties to the first act changing into the second. I can’t really identify that turning point. There’s no strong hook there that gets me. But I think that’s more because of Keaton’s goal issues early on and I’m sure addressing that will make this point clearer.
Hmm, I’m not sure what to tackled here that I haven’t already. One thing I did note was that there wasn’t much drama until page 72. I thought we needed a few more big moments of challenges and triumphs. There may have been the hints of them there, but nothing I found impactful. I believe a lot of this could be because of the lack of goals to care about, and it would be resolved by playing up the first feature arc more.
One other comment I’m tossing in here, is that I would have like the alcoholism hinted at just a bit more in the first 72 pages. It’s great that you saw what it did to his Dad, and on page 72 it hits hard after being hinted at on page 64, but in the first part I can’t remember seeing him even hint at getting drunk. Searching back it seems like he only touched a cocktail at the pool party. But that arc needs to grow more in what we’re seeing. I know it was Natalie that turned him to alcoholism in some way, but with the history of his Dad it makes sense that that was always there, and I think we need one more example of that, even if he gets drunk “by mistake” when he’s younger and everyone thinks it’s funny. That would also give a nice contrast to him drunk later on the beach with all the hobos.
I had some issues with the long paragraphs of action, especially early on. I felt like they should be broken up to really sell the moments and instead I was treated to these repeating three line paragraphs of dense action. This is probably more a personal preference, but I found that they made the script drag and felt unnatural. I thought they might be this way because of concerns of page count, but really that’s a little bit of a cheat, as I think a lot of these action blocks would take longer than the page time they’re given.
Also a lot of the slug lines seemed to get stranded on a previous page away from their first action line, which isn’t standard I believe.
Here are my detailed notes I took while reading the script…
1: Something about the “Inert on a table, the time-helmet prop” line bumps me. Like I should already know there is a time helmet prop in the scene. May want to smooth it out a bit.
3: I wouldn’t mind the paragraphs of Buster holding on the door jam and the doctor saving himself being broken up more to sell the action. Three paragraphs of three lines reads a bit blocky to me and doesn’t sell the action. I’m guessing page count was an issue with the script though. This is of course a minor comment, just about readability.
6: These big blocks of action don’t do the story justice. The moments really just plow together as short little sentences.
18: I like the script at this point, but I’m not sure the point. It’s giving his bio through a series of flashbacks, but I’d like to know what’s at stake, what we hope Buster learns, where is his big flaw that pursued him through life? His commitment to family? He left them just now.
18: The “Lou nudges Buster” should probably be broken into proper parenthetical form. (i.e. on its own line).
24: Slugline seems to have slipped up a page here. (same on 29. 39, 58, 61, etc)
39: Somewhere around this part I get the idea that this may be a love story between Natalie and Buster? That’s a good goal. Very Walk The Line.
42: No sure why Oddity is capitalized.
51: “Leave the tears to Chaplin.” So true. Also love the bit on 58.
60: “I surely wouldn’t let “it” happen a third time”?
64: We’ve seen a few hints of his alcoholism, but maybe not
94: How does Buster react to rock bottom here? Cry? Scream? Shrug? A little bit more specificity would be nice.
Overall I really enjoyed Buster’s story, and I think it’s ripe for being done as a film. However, to really get to the heart strings, as opposed to just a recollection of his life, we need to know about young Buster’s goals, which will help intensify the ups and downs as he succeeds and fails. Additionally giving a little more depth to the character of Natalie will not only make a supporting character stand out, but really help to paint a more complex Keaton and add to the tragedy and redemption of the story.
I hope you found this review useful. I liked the script a lot and would be willing to answer any questions you had to help clarify my comments. I'm a little exhausted right now, so it's entirely possible they're not completely coherent :) read
A review of FRIGHTLANDby ProfRedSweater on 04/30/2012Frightland has a great setting and the start of a solid backstory, both of which would make it fit well into the slasher flick genre. However, after the intro the script starts too slow, and then never really pays off the killer’s backstory into anything more than a stream of meaningless murders. While a lot of horror flicks in the eighties could get by on that, today they... Frightland has a great setting and the start of a solid backstory, both of which would make it fit well into the slasher flick genre. However, after the intro the script starts too slow, and then never really pays off the killer’s backstory into anything more than a stream of meaningless murders. While a lot of horror flicks in the eighties could get by on that, today they have to be something more. Additionally, the formatting, grammar and sometimes clunky description really rob the script of a lot of its impact.
The idea of a slasher flick in an amusement park atmosphere is something of a standard, however I did like the backstory of the child murder and the satanic ritual. The script really struggles to capitalize on this backstory though. Not much is ever explained about who Agnus is, what the importance of the rituals was, and how or why that allows him to do these murders.
I’m not saying we need a huge insight or therapy session explaining the man, but he needs to be more. If a scene was added later in the script where someone stumbled on something revealing more about Agnus that would be great. Perhaps in his house? Or if they stumble on Hooper, who tells them about how he too was part of Agnus’ murders until he split up. Anything to really add another layer to the premise and make it more than meaningless kills strung together.
There’s some decent exchanges between characters, but there’s also a lot of fat to the dialogue. It can be punchier in many ways (that I’ve detailed in my specific notes). Also there’s a problem with every character speaking the same way. Outside of Billy (who is a super d-bag) they all use similar slang and more or less sound the same.
Going back through with a keen eye to each character and really making them sound unique would be great. There aren’t really high expectations for characters in slasher flicks, but they usually at least stand out as stereotypes, like “the funny guy”.
There’s really too many characters introduced straight away. That isn’t always a problem, but the bigger issue is that they all blend together and are never really established. I’m not sure who we’re supposed to care about, who we’re supposed to identify with, and as such I never really feel any terror or concern. They’re all just disposable body bags.
The way to fix this is to create a few characters who are likable, and have a flaw to relate to. MaKenna is likely the protagonist (if you want to use that term), but what do we know about her? She’s hot. That’s about it. I don’t sense that she’s really ambitious, and I don’t see her flaw or any real goal. Sure, it’s her goal to make a video, but only to get an A I think? I don’t sense that passion. There’s also no arc to her character or what she learns. I realize Slasher flicks don’t need this, but they’re so much better if they do have it.
I’d also suggest that the Koren/MaKenna relationship needs tweaking, at least early on. Koren hitting on her in front of K.C. feels a little ridiculous. There needs more subtlety there early on. It’ll make the characters more complex instead of hitting you over the head with it. Also MaKenna never really seems interested in Koren until they just basically get it on. A few inklings that she even likes girls might be nice.
Likewise with many of the other characters. I suggest going back and really looking at ways that they can be distinguished by their dialogue and their actions and work on giving at least one character an arc.
I thought the intro worked well, and while a little long, it didn’t feel tedious. After that the first act felt a bit long. Specifically it feels like we don’t really start our intro to Frightland until page 30. And right before that we go to three different people asking where Jay has gotten off to. That feels repetitive, boring, and delays our intro to Frightland.
What I suggest is that you work two of those introductions (Libby and Lori Beth) into Jay’s walkaround. That will make us feel like we’re in the meat of the story faster and not just dragging our feet. Plus that will beef up Jay’s tour into something more than a montage. As a result I think the audience will get to the story earlier and get a better feeling like they’re learning the place.
I’d also suggest cutting down this first section a bit (eliminate some of the makeup artists! Combine them with others!) as right now I’d say page 38 is when we kick into the second act, as it’s the first time we see that Agnus is there and is still killing people. That’s too late to go into the second act and most horror fans will lose interest if there isn’t a murder sooner than that.
The intro works well to set up the mood and create a memorable villain, however, part of thrill of these types of movies is the mystery. Is Agnus really killing people? Was he a bad guy or just misunderstood? What about that creepy guy Jay? Maybe it’s all an elaborate prank by the makeup department?
And a lot of that mystery is dispelled the first time we see a murder and it has magical qualities to it. I’d suggest pulling back the murders into less invisible weapons and more gruesome murders where maybe the person could have survived (check out April Fool’s Day). That’ll keep us guessing who the real murderer is. It’s a big change really, because the only thing making some murders unique is the invisible aspect, and also there’s a lot of manipulation of the environment that’d be hard to explain.
However, the invisibility and environment manipulation is never explained now, as Agnus is as much a mystery on page 1 as he is on 96. So if the murders are pulled back a bit, given a bit of mystery, and if there may be a logical explanation (Jay does run a maze and likes special effects), then it will keep the audience guessing longer. Then when there is a scene later on where we discover some backstory to Agnus we can really roll out the magical aspects.
What’s more, I’d also suggest against seeing Agnus’ face when he takes the baby. Leave the audience guessing if he’s really bad, or just, perhaps, mentally handicapped. Later that gives us another reveal, when it shows he is bad. I like the idea of Hooper being a part of this reveal, but it doesn’t have to be that.
Outside of that I did feel the ending kind of misfired. The added part of the kids going back feels unnecessary, and it gives no thrills or scares. We also already know that the park will keep running because Jay has got his way again. An ending shot of the patrons walking inside excited to visit frightland while we pull back to reveal the rocking chair on the porch would be a much better ending in my opinion.
Also, I may have missed this, but I thought MaKenna had been decapitated on page 87, but then she appeared again the next day to blow out her brains. I don’t know how this happened. I read over it many times and her head seems to be lying there next to Ian’s.
As previously mentioned, there’s a lot of formatting issues as well as problems with unfilmables, unnecessary caps, and generally the writing style of the script is distracting to me. It’s true everyone has their own way of writing scripts, but it can be a lot more impactful if some of the fluff is cut out and it honed down. I go into that more with my detailed notes, which…
Here are my detailed notes I took while reading the script…
1: Frightland doesn’t need to be at the top of page 1, it’s not standard format.
1: Not sure about “Opening Fields”. Is that the name of the fields? If it’s just an opening shot on fields, you don’t need to call it opening, and it feels a little funny to start with that if it’s just the name of the fields.
1: Maybe a choice, but should fog-filled by hyphenated?
1: What is the symbol carved into the tree? If we’re going to see it, and it’s important, I’d like some idea. Like a swoop with a line through it, or whatever.
1: “ominous looking” trees” or “foreboding looking symbols” is kind of a cheat and a bit lazy. Instead, a “gnarled, contorted” tree gives that same impression of ominous, but really gives an image to the audience. These cheats are okay every now and then, so I won’t mention it again, but just something to think about.
1: “A perfect first home for two newlyweds” is a bit of an unfilmable, it’s not terrible, but it’s unnecessary. And honestly, I have no idea why a home in the middle of nowhere would be good for newlyweds. As a newlywed myself, it feels quite the opposite, and I can’t tell if the script is going for sarcasm.
1: Not a big deal, but I think the dialogue here could be punchier and also less on the nose. “Cause I’m really looking forward…” is a bit lazy. Instead she can express that idea with “In bed before midnight? Is it possible?” or something else.
2: Page numbers are cut off for some reason on the pdf.
2: “Totally into their intercourse” sounds kind of silly. Specifically the word intercourse.
2: Also, we don’t need “Meanwhile” or the BACK TO in this instance, and I don’t think this would count as CONTINUOUS in the slug line.
3: I’m finding some description clunky. Lines like “kneeling down to inspect this sight with a look of wonder of how this came about”. It’d be punchier just as. “He kneels down and looks at the glass with confusion”. Or maybe not that, but something.
4: Ok, last note on unfilmable-eque lines, but “a bit apprehensive now, although he stills sees no need to be.” Just doesn’t work. (also typo with stills)
4: “SUDDENLY,”. This should not be in the script. If you want abrupt, try going with “--"
5: Typo “go get her and bring here”
5: “Just then,” also has no place in this script. It would feel a lot more sudden without these notes.
5: The script is killing me with the “as she spots the worst possible sight she could ever see” and “unlike very few ever heard”.
7: Remove “Little While Later”. If you need to, put it in place of NIGHT on the slugline below.
7: I’ve seen “these X” very often, like “these woods” on this page. “The woods” is better in these situations.
7: You use “some sort” repeatedly here, it’s distracting and feels lazy.
8: A camera doesn’t pan upwards, it tilts upwards and pans left/right.
8: “pardon the phrase” is really distracting, and all the side comments on character motivations (like “almost unaffected by the wrath coming his way”) really rob this scene from any punch.
GLOBAL: I’m going to stop commenting on formatting and scriptwriting technique from here on out, a lot of the previous mistakes are repeated, and mentioning them each time is pulling me out of the story.
9: A random story note. But think about how the script would change if we hadn’t seen Angus’ face in the baby’s room. It would possibly make him more menacing, and also would give a little hint of mystery. Not saying it should be done, but may be interesting.
13: “To see um off”, I get that it’s going with Bud’s style of speaking, but it feels off and like a typo when included in the description lines.
14: Not proper formatting for a montage.
15: Flashes “its” lights. Not “it’s”
16: Not sure if it’s the point, but the conversation between MaKenna and Officer Todd is really hammy. Which is fine if that’s the point.
20: “as this someone…” doesn’t quite make sense.
21: Cameras don’t PAN DOWN. Also, some people may not like the referencing of cameras, it doesn’t feel necessary how it’s been used, so it may be best to exclude it if you can.
21: I think a line of dialogue was mistakenly put as description. “ask them in there…”
22: How are the statues weird? I’d like to know more specifics.
22: Really a dialogue block shouldn’t end with a parenthetical. Split it out into it’s own action line.
25: Huh, they’re film students? Didn’t realize that, they were portrayed more as news reporters, unless I missed something early on. But that should perhaps be clearer.
25: This looking for Jay seems incredibly repetitive. They’ve gone to 3 places now and I don’t know what we’ve gotten from each place that is necessary. It feels more like treading water and trying to fill scripts. I’d suggest cutting it down to one interaction as I’d get bored if watching it by this point of the film.
26: Bob is that point where I feel like too many characters have been introduced, and they mostly feel unnecessary. Maybe I’m wrong on that, but they need more effort to make them distinct.
27: Shaun? I thought the makeup artist was Robert? There’s two of them? Why do we need so many characters? I assume it’s for a bloodbath later on, but I don’t care about any of them.
30: Parentheticals are out of control. Most of them should be separate action or aren’t needed (for instance the “about Angus Greene” line).
31: Ok, what’s with this. Hooper is the only one in town from when Greene was alive? But we’ve heard several other people talk about knowing him! (Like Joann just two pages later, and so many others!) What am I missing?
33: Another issue with dialogue in the action line.
34: Again on page 34.
35: Hmm, is Jay having Bob plan to do some fake scares on MaKenna/Ian to build up the interest in the park and make more money? Just a guess.
36: This is one too many musical montages for so short in the script. Think about eliminating one, drawing less attention to it, or try a different technique.
37: Caps for “SOMEONE APPROACHES HIM FROM BEHIND” is unnecessary.
39: It feels a little creepy that Ian is lusting after Lori Beth. She seems really young in the description, and I don’t know why, but he feels older.
41: I don’t know if these people are supposed to be Delaware natives. But I lived in Delaware. I also lived in Texas, and some of these accents are far more Texan.
43: “usually always”, makes the character sound stupid, not sure if that’s the point.
48: This “Greene was innocent” line doesn’t really play since we saw him kill the newlyweds. If you don’t show that in the opening scene I think it will be a lot more effective though.
55: “Or someone I should say”, this bumps the reader out of the story.
61: s/b going at “it”
62: “there’s gonna trouble” s/b “gonna be trouble” also “when Jay trusted ‘us’ here after hours”
65: “We split from Ian…” dialogue on an action line.
66: Why does Beth call Billy “Brad” here? Typo?
67: Ian punches Billy to the floor, but we get no comment about it from him the rest of the page. There needs to at least by a physical reaction by Billy. Like a glare.
68: “looking to in a minute” s/b “too”
68: Not sure if it matter, but “she could of gotten lost” s/b “she could have gotten lost”, unless Ian is intentionally supposed to sound less intelligent.
69: “goes threw a cut” s/b through
73: Parentheticals with dialogue now?
75: Being more specific with the scares Lori Beth hits in the haunted barn would really help to convey the mood, it just feels underdeveloped right now.
76: Weird formatting to a new line with “Is still looking at her…”
76: “Loved ones of someone”? Pretty vague and how are we to know this? Give a description instead.
77: Please tell “me” that’s a fake.
81: Passes out? That seems really out of character for MaKenna.
85: Nice twist here of MaKenna killing Ian.
88: Shouldn’t be that extra space before the parenthetical.
91: So I thought MaKenna was decapitated on page 87… now she blew her head off. I’m not sure what’s going on, but I’m giving it a chance. (Ok, having read to the end, I don’t get it. She was decapitated, but then not?)
92: “wanna really wanna”
96: Cut the last part with the kids coming back, it really serves no purpose, it’s much more powerful to end on the coverup.
Overall I found that Frightland has promise, but the first act needs tightening up, the ending needs cutting back, and there needs to be more attention given to the character’s arcs and making them unique. After that a good proofreading will really help to not distract the reader from a fun little slasher flick that has a creepy backstory and plenty of blood.
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