Monday, 11 January 2016

WE SUMMON THE DARKNESS - HORROR

LOGLINE:  S​et at the height of the Satanic Panic craze of the 1980s, three twenty-something girls attend a heavy metal concert where they quickly hit it off with three fun-loving dudes. As the night progresses, dark secrets are revealed and a night of fun spirals into a vicious fight for survival.

WRITER: Alan Trezza

SCRIPT BIO: Screenplay finished near the top of the 2015 blood list.

INITIAL REACTION:

Loved it. This screenplay was a much needed breath of fresh air after yesterday's headache. 

in Summon, the writing is clean, lean and well written, in yesterday's ramshackle piece the writing was the opposite. Confusing, messy, dirty, there was no flow.

And the story here was much easier to follow. It wasn't completely bullet proof, there are a few things that not perfect in this draft, but would be relatively easy fixes. 

If I were a producer with money to put down on one film, so far it'd be this baby. 

Let's get into it... 


THE STORY:

As the logline says, Summon is set in the 80's during the height of the Satanic Panic craze that was sweeping America. Heavy metal was all the rage and the powers that be were sure that it was the sole reason the youths of America were rebelling against the establishment. 

We join three hot 20 something girls, Alexis, Val and Beverly as they drive to Alexis's cabin in the woods, which turns out to be a million dollar mansion in the woods. 

Here they prepare for an amazing night out seeing their favourite heavy metal band that's playing somewhere nearby. 

Alexis and Val are interchangeable, almost the same person, but Beverly is the runt of the pack. Wary of everything, doesn't want to drink, doesn't want to break any kind of rule.

At the heavy metal concert the girls meet three awesome guys, IVAN, MARK and KOVACS.

There's some pretty serious chemistry between all 6 and after the concert they retire to the girl's mansion in the woods where the party quickly turns into murderous debauchery.

Literally.

I'm tempted to go into spoilers here, but I won't. This script is well worth the read and if I tell you what happens before you have that chance to read it, it'd ruin it. 

Let's break this baby down...

CONCEPT:

The concept here is pretty straight forward. It's essentially a contained horror slasher. 6 youths at a cabin in the woods being killed one by one.

There's nothing new - yet. But what Summon does really well, is it layers on just enough fresh angles to make this idea feel new enough. 

It's set in the 80's for starters, and we don't get many screenplays set in the 80's. It gave everything a unique feel. Fresher than if this same story had been told in the present day. 

The great thing about setting it in the 80's was that that choice was dictated by the story. It wasn't a writer saying, 'hey it'd be cool if we set this in the 80's, you know, for shits and giggles.' No - the actual story is supposedly 'based on real events' and therefore the story required it be set in the 80's. 

The second fresh angle is the twist. Without getting into spoilers, the twist here is in the vein of Tucker and Dale Vs Evil. It's the antithesis of what you'd expect. 

CONCEPT RATING 7/10

CONCEPT TIP: Write the unexpected. If your storyline sounds too familiar, try adding an unexpected twist. Think, what is the one thing no one would expect of this storyline, then write that.

FORM:

Form was just beautiful here. The writing clean and clear. I did not spot one spelling mistake or typo. The lines were kept lean all the way through, especially when action was occurring. 

My only negative word on form here is that it felt a little too sparsely written in places. 

If a producer is going to spend years of their life getting a film not only funded but made, they want to know there is substance to the body of work they're developing. 

There's a fine line between lean writing and too lean. 

FORM RATING 8/10

FORM TIP: It's good to write lean, but beware writing too lean. Keep your writing fast and fun but make sure there is substance to it. 

STRUCTURE:

Structure here wasn't amazing. It did keep me engaged all the way through, but it never felt like we were hitting any HJ beats. 

That stems from a lack of a clearly defined hero and a lack of a clearly defined flaw. 

There's a flaw hammed into one of the guys who is leaving their band to go and 'make it' in LA. His flaw is that he never commits to anything. But for a flaw to feel real we need to see that character living life with their flaw and that flaw very obviously holding them back from achieving what they need to achieve in life.

There was none of that here. 

There was also somewhat of a flaw in Beverly, but again, we don't really see that flaw in the ordinary world, so it does't really play like it's an actual flaw. 

This is what I'm talking about when I refer to substance. This screenplay was a fast fun ride, but because we never really delved into who these characters were, it played mostly at surface level. 

STRUCTURE RATING 6/10

STRUCTURE TIP: You don't have to write every beat of the Hero's Journey, in fact I'd implore you not to, as your script will come across as formula, but to give your story a sense of depth it pays to follow at least 50% of the Hero's Journey. Give the reader more than surface level fun. 

CHARACTERS:

While not as good as they could be, the characters here played really well, mostly due to their snappy dialogue. 

There was a lack of definition between the three girls. Only Beverly stood out a little as she was the one that wasn't so sure of her self. Val and Alexis could have been the same person. 

The same goes for the guys. They were all interchangeable. Aside form the things they wanted, there was no major difference in personality. They were all cut from the same stone. 

That said, these characters were fun and easy to read which bolstered the script.

CHARACTER RATING 6.5/10

CHARACTER TIP: Definition. Make sure that each of your characters plays with enough of a unique identity that they're clearly recognisable from the others.

DIALOGUE:

Dialogue here was fun and fast. Really easy to read and follow. A great sense of dry humor, wit and timing. 

For all that, all the characters speak in exactly the same way, and there's nothing going on between the lines. It's all surface level. 

But then, when you look at what this script is - a fast fun teen slasher thriller/horror, deep subtext is not the requisite dialogue format. 

DIALOGUE RATING 7/10

DIALOGUE TIP: You don't have to hit us over the head with your 'read between the lines' dialogue, but a piece of nuanced dialogue every now and then will help your script no end. 

VOICE:

Very confident writing here. Not one stumble in syntax, spelling, formatting. It read very clean and fast. There was also a few laugh out loud moments where the writer was giving a nod to the reader. Well executed. The voice was great here.

VOICE RATING 8/10

VOICE TIP: Be confident and commit to your writing style. You can see when a writer is second guessing themselves and hedging their writing. Don't be afraid to take some chances. Even if it doesn't come off, odds are the reader will sit up and take note simply because you're trying something different with your style.

PRODUCTION:

Primary cast of 6. Ancillary cast of less than 15. Extras around the 200 mark.

Locations less than 3.

No VFX. 

This scripts is a no brainer. Easy low production cost. Blume would knock this out of the park in his less than 5 mill range of horror winners.

SUMMARY

The concept is fresh enough, the dialogue snappy, the writing lean and mean, the twists fun and unexpected. This was a pleasure to read and definitely something I'll keep an eye out for when it gets made - which I'm sure it will. 

Not a perfect script, but a fun fast ride.

OVERALL RATING 7.5/10