Wednesday, 10 February 2016

BEFORE I WAKE - HORROR

LOGLINE: When a young boy falls asleep his dreams manifest in real life, bringing with them the murderous Canker man.

WRITER: MIKE FLANAGAN & JEFF HOWARD

SCRIPT BIO: This script has already been turned into a feature film. I haven't seen it yet, but Mike Flanagan's films Oculus is one the best horror films out there.  

STORY:

Jessie and Mark are both 30 somethings who recently lost their son Sean. He accidentally drowned. We meet tham as they adopt Cody, a young boy who has been in and out of foster homes since his mother died. 

At first everything is as you would expect from a new family of the adopting variety. Mark and Jessie are learning how to be parents to a stranger, and Cody is learning how to be a son to strange new parents. 

The first inkling that something isn't quite right is when we find Cody downing sachets of sugar right when he's supposed to be sleeping. This isn't a midnight feast, this is Cody sugar-dosing himself so he won't sleep. 

But soon the fatigue catches up with him and he falls asleep one night.

That's when the butterflies come. Jessie and Mark find their living room filled with butterflies. Hundreds of them. But the weird thing is they're not perfect like a normal butterfly - these butterflies lack detail. It's as though they have been imagined into being by a not quite yet fully developed mind.

Boom -- then all of a sudden the butterflies vanish. 

That was weird. 

Things get weirder. Soon, at night Jessie and Mark discover their son Sean, standing in their living room. But this version of Sean is very strange. He's dressed identically as the photo of him in the hallway. He looks exactly the same.

Then boom - he vanishes.

Jessie and Mark are confused as hell - but they soon piece it together.

What ever Cody sees during the day, he will dream into real life later that night.

Jessie tries to take advantage of this unique ability and she shows Cody video footage of a Xmas they spent with Sean before he drowned.

Sure enough, that night when Cody sleeps, that same Xmas manifests in real life, bringing with it Sean. 

But with these dream manifestations comes the murderous Canker man. 

The Canker man is a devilish monster with a huge mouth that can eat anything... in particular it has a penchant for eating people.

The question becomes - will Jessie, Mark and Cody survive the Canker man, and will they be able to figure out the 'root cause' of Cody's unique abilities?

INITITAL REACTION:

I did not know that this was a Mike Flanagan script. Despite reading his name before I went into it - I didn't piece it together that this is the same writer/director/editor that gave us the incredible Oculus. 

I loved this script.

It's not perfect - but it is head and shoulders above the majority of scripts I've read this year. 

This horror film is a unique thing - it is the first BEAUTIFUL horror film I've ever read. Here we have scares, but they're things of poetry. 

I've never been scared of butterflies before - but here - they become a very clever horror device. 

And the fact that these horrific things are happening because a young boy wants to sleep - makes them all the more beautiful.

This is not Freddie Kruger in any way, shape or form.

in fact, had Flanagan tried to go that route, this story would have come off a corny rip off. As it stands it's exactly what Hollywood wants - The Same But Different. 

This is a proven horror trope - but executed in a fresh way. 

I won't ruin the twist ending, but it's brilliant and beautiful. 

I'll try and stop using the word beautiful from here on out.

CONCEPT:

The concept here is great. As I just said - it's something we've seen before - but it's executed in a fresh new way. 

A young boy's dreams manifesting and bringing with then a murderous creature is a fantastic base for a horror story. 

CONCEPT RATING: 8/10

CONCEPT TIP: If you're writing a horror, try and involve a child. For what ever reason, horror films that have a child at the story's core work really well.

FORM:

The writing here is superb. The form is also. Very clean and clear writing. Very well formatted.  The metaphors and similes are almost non-existent yet there is still a very rich sense of setting and the characterisation is vibrant. 

The one detractor from this script is that it's a little over written. It comes in at 115 pages - the same story could have been told in 100 pages. 

FORM RATING 9/10

FORM TIP: Take a read of this screenplay to see good clean writing that's well formatted. 

STRUCTURE:

The structure here is pretty good.

It opens with a fantastic hook. The one thing about this opening hook is the first time you see it you think X is a really bad guy - but later on you come to learn that X had really good reasons for doing what he was trying to do.

X is a character, but I don't want to ruin it for you.

There's a very clear ordinary world.

The call to adventure is not so clear, but when weird shit starts happening you soon forget about traditional structure and enjoy the ride.

The second act plays out really well and there is a clearly defined third act.

The one thing about structure that does not work is POV.

There isn't one clear POV in this script. And I'm thinking that's why this film only has a 6.8 on IMDB. I haven't seen it yet - but films with a clear, singular POV - i.e the story unfolds through the eyes of ONE MAIN character - tend to do better than films that split up the POV.

If we're jumping between points of view then the film is not a VICARIOUS experience, it becomes SPECTACLE. 

Vicarious is when we identify with the ONE MAIN CHARACTER and we essential BECOME that character for the film.

Spectacle is when we're watching from the outside - when we watch many characters doing things, but we NEVER actually feel like we ARE any of the characters.

If you want to see a film that NAILS POV PERFECTLY watch MY WEEK WITH MARILYN.

The story is from a young man's POV. I won't get into specifics of the story, but he comes to meet Marilyn Monroe and spend a week with her. 

The film is careful to stay with the Young Man at ALL TIMES. Even when the important action is happening between other characters, we SEE THAT ACTION through the eyes of our main character. 

Because we spend the entire film with him, viewing the world through his eyes, there is a very unique connection between the audience and the character. 

STRUCTURE RATING: 6/10

STRUCTURE TIP: Understand how to use POV. It will increase the success of your film manifold. 

CHARACTERS:

Characters here are good, but not great. Another reason the film sits below the 7 mark on IMDB.

The characters are perfunctory. There is a little bit of depth to Jessie, in that she is a doctor - and later in the film goes looking for the 'root cause' of Cody's 'illness.'

Mark doesn't seem to have much going on. Cody is sweet and quiet, but doesn't really pop off the page. He's incredibly passive. 

Active characters explode off the page. Active characters are interesting to watch. Passive characters become dull quickly.

While I was never bored here, there were times I wanted Cody to be more pro active. 

CHARACTER RATING 6.5/10

CHARACTER TIP: Flesh out your characters before you write them. Mark feels one dimensional here. Jessie only has her doctor thing going on, and Cody doesn't really do much. He only reacts, he doesn't instigate. Create characters that are doers, and give them depth by giving them quirks. Things that make them feel real.

DIALOGUE:

Again, dialogue is perfunctory but does little more. There's no depth to the dialogue. Perhaps this is another reason why it's sitting below the 7 mark on IMDB.

Everything that is said here, is surface level. People in real life don't state things, they very often infer what it is they want to say. 

If you can add some dialogue where a character seems like they're talking about ONE thing on a surface level, but when you think on what they're saying, you realise they're actually inferring something else - that kind of writing elevates your script. 

VOICE:

The voice here is interesting.

It's a very clean and clear voice - but it doesn't really stand out. Everything here is done well, it's just not done exceptionally well. 

The voice is good, but it's not bad. 

One thing I just realised about voice - it is (among many other things) partially the sum of how well you execute the various aspects of your script. 

Here I'd give the voice a rating of 6/10 and that's pretty much the average of all the elements of the screenplay. 

VOICE RATING 6/10

VOICE TIP: When you have all the elements in your script working well. Do a pass and try to make each area of your script POP. This will add to your voice. It will help it stand out.

PRODUCTION:

This is already a film.

I would put money into this.

I'd guess it'd be around the 15 mill mark.

NOW LET ME GO AND HAVE A LOOK ON GOOGLE...

Okay, so it hasn't come out yet! It's set for an April 8th 2016 release. 

Can't find the budget online anywhere either. 

Mike Flanagan's last horror film Oculus was only 5 million. So maybe 15 mill is too much.

Perhaps it'll be a 5 million dollar horror film. 

Either way, with the skill of Mike Flanagan behind it as director it's sure to be successful. 

Oculus made 44 mill world wide. That's just box office... you could add another 10-20 mill on top of that for DVD and VOD sales. 

That makes the 5 mill investment money well spent.

SUMMARY

A great horror film with a talented director attached. This will be a success that's for sure.

OVERALL RATING 7.5/10