Thursday, 14 January 2016

THE BECOMING - HORROR

LOGLINE: An immature teenage girl must protect her younger brother when their babysitter becomes infected by something in the woods.

WRITERS: Lauren Thompson & Zachary Donohue

SCRIPT BIO: Finished at number 9 on the 2015 blood list.

INITIAL REACTION:

This was an interesting one. It had a good opening. Not your typical high concept hook, but a more gentle introduction to our two main characters. The writing was very promising, there was an intelligence. Compared to yesterday's piece, the writing here felt like a Booker prize entrant.

The main character's flaw was setup relatively well very early on and there was enough empathy setup to draw you close to the characters. 

It was going really well -- until I realised that by page 29 nothing had really happened. We had had 29 pages of ordinary world setup.

That's way too much. You really should be executing your inciting incident between pages 10-15. 15 at the absolute latest. Of course there are exceptions to this, but as a general rule of thumb, the earlier we get the inciting incident the better. 

In Jaws it happens in the opening scene. The girl goes for a swim and is eaten by a shark. This is the EVENT that will send Sheriff Brody on his journey. 

In The Becoming the inciting incident happened on page 30. 

That was a huge red flag for me. I then looked at the page count of this horror and it sat at 117 pages. That's roughly 25 pages too many for this story. 

The more I read, the more it became apparent the writers don't understand the importance of the screen writing maxim - 'Start late finish early'. 

The essence of that boils down to - clearly understand what it is you're trying to achieve in the scene you're about to write. Then with that goal in mind, think about how late you can start the scene, how close to that important beat can you can begin, then once you've executed the important beat, finish the scene as soon as feasibly possible. 

Let's get into it... 

*** Spoilers...

THE STORY:

MADI is a typical 13 year old girl. She's becoming interested in boys, is starting to rebel against her parents, but not in an outlandish kind of way, just in a regular push the boundaries kind of way.

She has a seven year old brother TUCK who is deaf. 

Being the older sister, Madi is responsible for Tuck. But she's growing weary of having to always be there for her brother. 

She's supposed to chaperone Tuck home on the school bus, but an offer from her best friend Hannah and two cute boys, Adam and Jeff to go for a 'loser ride' (a drive around town for no reason other than going for a drive) - proves too tempting and she shirks her responsibility leaving Tuck to get himself home.

Realising that Madi's ditched him, Tuck gets off the school bus and goes searching for Madi. 

It's okay, this is not a Prisoners storyline. Tuck makes it home safely, as does Madi, but their parents are pissed with Madi for shirking her responsibilities.

They take away her cell phone as a punishment and threaten grounding her all summer if she doesn't step up and be responsible for her younger brother.

That evening Madi's parents are off for their anniversary dinner. Madi has invited Hannah, Jeff and Adam to come around and hang at her place. But after Madi's screw up with Tuck, her parents have hired a mild mannered baby sitter - KIMBERLY - to keep an eye on them.

That night Madi's friends turn up, and even though Kimberly doesn't approve, they hang out anyway. 

Later, the party gets a little too boisterous and Kimberly finally steps up demanding that Madi's friends leave. 

But rather than exit in an orderly fashion they sneak out and hide in the greenhouse.

Kimberly notices the house is eerily quiet all of a sudden. 

Her search for Madi and her friends takes her to a nearby forrest, where a white pulsating sack of 'something' that hangs from a tree, extends an umbilical like cord that suckers onto her and pumps something into her through her naval.

She runs back to the house, where she soon passes out.

Madi and her friends find the infected Kimberly and try to help her, but their cell phones aren't working for 'NO REASON' and the babysitter is soon vomiting a white gooey substance everywhere that crystallises into a plaster like state harder than steel.

Madi and Adam get Kimberly into the second family car and set off for a hospital, but as they drive, Kimberly wakes from her slumber and tears Adam's jugular out.

Madi only just manages to escape, but Kimberly chases after her, following her back to the house.

Will Madi be able to protect Tuck and save her friends from the monster that Kimberly is becoming?

CONCEPT:

Right off the bat this script isn't doing so well. The concept here is pretty run-of-the-mill.

'Something infects someone causing them to become a monster of some form.'

That idea is done and dusted. If you're going to run with a stereotypical base concept like that you need to find a really fresh angle to give it a breath of fresh air.

The writers did inject a deaf child here. I really liked that. In fact, this was easily the strongest part of this script. 

But unfortunately having one of your main characters as a loveable young deaf child does nothing for the concept here. 

The concept remains - 'Something infects someone causing them to become a monster of some form.'

We need more than that for this script to really grab you. 

Also, the setting is an over used trope. This is essentially a cabin-in-the-woods film. Madi's house just happens to be set waaaay out in the woods. Again, that setting is a cliche for horrors. If you're going to use it, give it a fresh angle. 

There was very little in the base idea to elevate it above the rest of the pack.

CONCEPT RATING 4/10

CONCEPT TIP: It's fine to use stereotypes and cliches. Just make sure that you're breathing a unique twist into them, otherwise you've got yourself another dull script.

FORM:

Form was okay here. Sentence structure was great. You really felt like the writers had a good understanding of how to write. The spacing was great, their layout was okay. 

They did underline and CAPS the dialogue a few times. They also over used exclamation marks!!!!

If you have to use an exclamation mark, just use one! Anymore looks desperate.  

Main problem with the writing here was that there was way too much of it. 

This script really should have been 20-30 pages shorter. 

They could have told the same story in that many pages. In fact the story would have been better if they'd trimmed the fat. 

FORM RATING: 6/10 

FORM TIP: Never direct the actor. Don't underline words in their dialogue you want them to emphasise. It's an insult to the actor. In fact, it's an insult to the reader as well. 

STRUCTURE:

Here, I'm going to talk about some bullet holes in this script - that ties into structure.

No phone reception. 

All these kids cell phones had no reception.

FOR NO REASON.

That's just bad writing. It's fine to have no cell reception, but you need to EXPLAIN WHY. And being out in the woods is no excuse. Not unless your characters are out trekking. 

The coverage from cell networks are sooooo good these days pretty much everywhere you go you can get a signal. 

Also, landline anyone? 

The home phone here doesn't work.... for no reason?

Also, I never understood WHY these characters didn't just leave the house and run for help.

What you never want to have in your screenplay is that moment where your audience is so annoyed with the decisions your characters are making that they want to yell at the character, 'Why don't you just run?!'

This all ties back into structure. These writers tried to get some form of structure in here. They developed a great flaw for Madi, and they put her in a situation that TESTS HER FLAW. You'd be surprised how many writers don't get this. 

But after such a great setup, if feels like the way they wrote act 2 was... 'let's keep them at the house for 80 pages, just having stuff happen.' 'Yeah, cool, great idea.'

The structure in act 2 fell apart.

The way you define the end of the second act is right after the lowest part of the script, the hero realises that their flaw is what has caused them to be where they are now. 

They understand what their flaw is. They accept that their flaw is their responsibility and they vow to do everything they can to resolve it - starting now - they're no longer going to make flawed decisions. 

Now there was a beat here that felt like that, but straight after that, Madi goes and makes another flawed decision. 

STRUCTURE RATING: 5/10

STRUCTURE TIP: Understand structure. Before you do any more writing, go and read three books on structure. But do more than just read them. UNDERSTAND structure. When you have that memorised, then go back to your script and OUTLINE before you write. 

CHARACTERS: 

Characters here were good. Better than structure that's for sure. Tuck was the best by far. Madi was well written. Hannah felt a little on the nose and Jeff and Adam were homogenous. Could have been the same people. 

The parents were bland also. 

It felt like a good deal of thinking went into Madi and Tuck, and once they were fleshed out, the other characters were strung together on the fly. 

CHARACTER RATING 6.5/10

CHARACTER TIP: Fully understand EVERY character before you dive in and start writing. It's very tempting to start writing when you've got your main characters figured out. But understanding all ancillary players will give your script a fully realised feel that will elevate it above the rest.

DIALOGUE:

Dialogue here was fine. There weren't any zingers, there weren't any moments where I sat back and thought, ' damn that's some well written dialogue,' but for all that, they didn't drop the ball.

The dialogue, while uninspiring, felt grounded and real.

Dialogue can be a tricky thing. While you want your character's dialogue to stand out, you don't want it to stand out for the wrong reasons - i.e - it sucks. 

DIALOGUE RATING: 6.5/10

DIALOGUE TIP: Until you're sure you're writing good dialogue, I'd err on the side of caution. Yesterday's piece had some really bad, over written dialogue. It felt really fake. Pulled me out of the story. 

Today's piece, while there's nothing exciting, it plays it safe, and consequently there's never a moment where I was pulled out of the story by dialogue. 

VOICE: 

Voice is an interesting one today. At first I felt they had a really confident voice. The writing was really smooth. Considered. Intelligent. But that voice only lasted until the half way mark. From page 50 on, I realised that they didn't fully understand structure, and the voice that felt clear and considered, soon felt repetitive and dull. 

VOICE RATING: 6/10

VOICE TIP: Voice translates to the memorability of the writing. Go through your work and be honest to yourself, does your writing standout in a good way, a bad way, to does it just kind of fade into the background. How memorable is your writing?

PRODUCTION:

Again, an interesting thing to consider with regards to this script.

It's contained. One main location - the house. Which typically means low budget.

Also a low cast, 8 main characters. Fifty extras for a few scenes. That's another tick in the low budget column.  

You're never going to get any A listers into this script. It's just not the piece that attracts that kind of talent. So cast wise you could save money. 

But the caveat here is the VFX requirement. There is a serious need for special effects for the majority of the film. That would send the budget through the roof. 

I'd say this would be a hard push to get done on anything less than 10 mill. 15 would be much safer. 

SUMMARY:

It started out really well. The writing was great. The characters were well defined. The flaw was well executed. But then structure and logic gaps let this script down.

The concept also needs something more to really help it stand out. At the moment it's playing as just another copy of... well, many other films we've all seen. 

The script feels too familiar. 

OVERALL RATING 6/10