Sunday, 10 January 2016

THE ACCURSED - HORROR

LOGLINE: Doomed to a life of depraved immorality, a woman finds herself targeted by a vengeful assassin hell bent on wiping out her kind forever, but neither knows that something far more sinister is hunting them both.

WRITER: B. Marshall

SCRIPT BIO: Placed in the top 4 of the 2015 blood list. A collection of the years best unproduced horror screenplays.

INITIAL REACTION:

One thing I'm learning from these horror loglines is that too many writers don't know how to put together a compelling logline. 

A good story requires a good goal. Let's look at The Accursed's logline goal.  "a woman finds herself targeted by a vengeful assassin" -- what's the goal there? Basically her goal is to evade being killed. That's an open ended goal. That means the story is going to be unfocused and wandering. 

And guess what. This screenplay was that. 

This had to be one of the most unfocused screenplays I've read in a long time.

Not only did it have hundreds of characters to keep track of, the storyline was muddy, and unnecessarily complicated. 

Not an enjoyable read this one... 

Let's get into it and understand why...

 THE STORY:

In 16th century Bavaria, a woman gives birth to a still born child. The mid-wife is accused of being a witch and killing the child right after birth. After torturing the 'witch' and still not getting a confession out of her, she's found to be guilty. 

A good old witch burning at the stake is to be held.

As the 'witch' goes up in flames, she mutters a curse in Latin, then she explodes and all of her accusers are infected with a severe case of immortality. 

We jump to 400 years later and we find our band of immortals living life on the down-low in Los Angeles. 'Cause that's where all immortals go to live. Right?

There's one major caveat to this being immortal gig. If you don't 'feed' on a mortal at least once a year, you will 'Become' - which means, you'll start to get blood noses, and transform into a monster like state. When you have Become you will then have the terrible affliction of being allergic to sunlight, in fact, sunlight will kill you. Not a good thing, unless you're bored of being immortal and want to die anyway.

Somehow, there is a group of Immortal Hunters, who have set out to rid the world of these immortals. 

After the opening hook, the story starts in Paris where this band of merry immortal killers have tracked down their first immortal. They torture her into giving up the whereabouts of the other immortals, (LA), then burn her alive.

Bummer.

We then join our 'hero' MARIE - a pretty damn hot 400 year old who is dating MICHAEL - a 30 year old doctor, with perfect... well, everything. This guy couldn't be more perfect. Oh and he's just given her the keys to his apartment and his heart.

For Marie to live a normal life, all she has to do is feed on one Unworthy a year to get by. Now being that this is the ONLY thing she has to do to stay alive - and she does want to stay alive - it seems a little odd that she's forgotten to feed on anyone all year and she now has 24 hours to do the deed or she's vampire dust. 

But that's just the way it is. As Marie's choosing who it is she's going to feed on this pack immortal killers hunt down some of her immortal friends in LA and start wrecking havoc. 

Marie soon gets a warning call, the hunters are after her, she can go on the run, but they'll use anything they can to lure her out, meaning she has to end things with Mr Perfect if she wants to save his life and keep him out of all this immortal hunting business.

Will marie be able to evade the Hunters, will she be able to keep Michael out of all the nastiness?

Let's break this down...

CONCEPT:

This is the first hurdle this script fails to leap. There is nothing new here. It's essentially the same Vampire story that's been told throughout the ages. Even though the writer makes a point of not using the word vampire, the tropes used here are taken directly from the vampire world. 

The concept is: "A woman cursed with immortality is hunted in present day LA." That's an open ended concept which plays into the screenplay.

There is a human angle in there, by the way of the relationship between Marie and Michael, but again, it's nothing new. Marie is immortal. She falls in love with a mortal. She has to end the relationship so she doesn't hurt him any more than she already has. 

We've seen that storyline a hundred times. 

And the immortal being hunted angle, seen that also.

This script fails miserably on the concept front.

CONCEPT RATING 3/10

CONCEPT TIP: New. Fresh. Unique. Ask yourself, are you bringing anything new in your screenplay? if not. Put the idea to bed and start on something else. Writer's often fall in love with their execution of a stale idea. It doesn't matter how well you execute, if the concept isn't there in the first place your script will fall flat.

FORM:

Right away I could tell that this writer doesn't know what they're doing. I don't know what program he used to write this script but it wasn't Final Draft. The formatting was scrunched up. Lines pressed tightly together. 

The writing was mediocre at best and there was an overuse of CAPS and underlining. 

Terrible form.

FORM RATING 4/10

FORM TIP: If you're not willing to lay out the $200 required to get a copy of Final Draft, then you're not taking screen writing seriously. Readers can see right away if you've written your script in one of the 'free alternatives'. 

FORM TIP 2: Use CAPS and underlining sparingly. If you over use, it's like the boy who cried wolf. We stop paying attention when you do use it. 

STRUCTURE:

Structure was all over the place. Shit just kept on happening. There was conflict, in that Marie was being hunted and wanted to protect the one she loved. But there were bullet holes galore here.

First major one that I could not get over was that Marie has to 'feed' once a year to survive. If this is the ONLY thing you have to do to live, you don't leave it until the 11th hour. 

It felt like the writer allowed this unbelievable over-sight just so there would be a sense of urgency.

Weak writing 101.

STRUCTURE RATING: 4/10

STRUTURE TIP: Make sure the story beats are plausible, not written in for the sake of making the story play better on screen.

CHARACTERS:

Huge character count here. I was constantly checking back to see who each character was. Why does there need to be 4 hunters? Why not one or two? And why are there 75 immortals? Isn't that 74 too many?

The Characters here were stereotypes through and through.

I'll focus on Michael. This guy could not be less real if he were a mannequin. Everything about this guy was perfect. Beyond perfect. He was sickly perfect. If you met him in real life, you'd just want to punch him in the face he was so unrealistically perfect. 

That was the level of writing that went into all the characters here. The writer thought only in black and white terms. 

This is one of the reasons the SOCIAL NETWORK was such a great film.  Every character in that film was 70 good, 30 percent asshole. That's how it is in real life. People aren't always really nice, everyone has a dark side to them.

CHARACTER RATING 4/10

CHARACTER TIP: When we see characters on the page that we can't imagine meeting in real life, then the reader starts to check out. Think about your characters as if they were real people. If you met them in real life would you believe that they were for real? Or would you think they were phoney? 

DIALOGUE:

Dialogue here could not have been more on the nose. There was also ample doses of exposition. 

The writer didn't even try to layer some sort of subtext or nuance into the dialogue. 

DIALOGUE RATING: 3/10

DIALOGUE TIP:  We often imply what it is we what to say rather than say it directly. If your characters are saying everything that's on there mind right as they think it, your dialogue will come off as unrealistic, as will you characters.

VOICE:

This read like a 14 year old wrote it. It was confusing and over written. I don't want to dwell on how poorly this was put together.

VOICE RATING 2/10

VOICE TIP: Learn to write before you put yourself out there. Just putting words on the page is not writing. It's typing. Anyone who can speak can type. It takes practice to be able to put together a decent sentence that will convey what it is you're trying to say in a clean and  clear way. 

PRODUCTION:

This script relies on VFX, it's also 10% period, which shoots the budget through the roof. 

I can't see this being made on anything less than $20mill. 

With the cast of hundreds and multiple locations that doesn't make this an easy sell. 

Just one of the myriad reasons it hasn't sold yet. 

SUMMARY

Keep it simple and fresh. This plays more as a novel than a film. In novels it's fine to have a high character count and a complicated plot. Screenplays are a different beast altogether. In a screenplay the story needs to be clean and clear, easy to follow. The characters need to be clearly defined with a closed-end objective.

This screenplay was the antithesis of that. 

Oh, and the title, could it get more corny?

OVERALL RATING 3/10