Wednesday, 17 February 2016


LOGLINE: A team of mix-match military investigators are charged with the mission of investigating a decommissioned radioactive missile silo. What they discover within will change them forever.

WRITER: S. Craig Zahler.

SCRIPT BIO: A spec script that has not yet been green-lit. Mahler wrote and directed Bone Tomahawk.


One major problem with this screenplay is just how unfocused it is. In fact, this setup would work really well for a TV show. We spend the first 15 pages meeting all the players.

First there is a zombie like man that gets run over by a woman - this woman never appears in the screenplay again.


Then we meet a band of specialist army folk who decommission defunct nuclear missiles for a living.

But the thing is, they're not very good at what they do. They're kind of winging it.

Check this killer dialogue out direct from the script for proof...

SOLDIER #1: The silo door is open. On your command, Sir.

BODELL: Did you remove the ballistic actuators?

SOLDIER #1: No one told us to, captain, Sir.

So, you have a team of army specialists de-arming nuclear missiles, who don't know what they're doing. 

That's great. That's just great. Very realistic. (Sigh).

After we meet this band of specialists, who I won't name individually as there's no real point, we then meet ROBERT (37) - a military psychologist. 

We are introduced to him by one of his patients who has a 2 page speech.

Yep, that's right. A two page monologue from a character, and you know what that monologue has to do with the story?



Not a thing.

You might think that if a character has 2 pages of dialogue in monologue form that would be an important character.

Not here. You would be wrong, sir, very wrong.

We never meet that character again. 


Robert - it turns out is the 'main character' - I won't say hero, as he spends the entire film being passive, so there's nothing heroic about him at all. 

Robert's wife cheated on him a year ago, and while they're trying couples therapy, it's not really working. 

SO there's our character with a flaw. Robert is in a relationship he should get out of.

Well if that's his flaw, surely that flaw must play out in relation to the rest of the story.


Not here.

Here, Robert's journey has nothing to do with his flaw.

Yay, let's keep going, this is great. (Sigh.)

For some reason unknown to me, or anyone with a rational mind, Robert is swooped up by the heads of the military to join a crack team to investigate a defunct silo where that zombie from the opening scene emerged from. 

Robert joins the crack team of army specialists who don't quit know how to de-arm missiles, and their commander of the mission - an evil man called Gonnenson (50s).

With their team assembled, they soon locate the silo and descend into its murky depths.

What do they discover within? 

A slew of zombie like folk who have been locked into the silo for the last 30 years and who have been exposed to 30 years of radioactivity.

This radioactivity didn't kill them, like, you know, radioactivity does. 

No, here a set of twin babies have been born in the silo who have tendrils that extend from their head out into and around the silo. 

They have telekinetic powers and are hell bent on ruining the lives of anyone that comes into their lair... 

Du, du, duuuuuh!



This script is a great lesson in how not to write a screenplay. 

Firstly the writing (while good) is waaaaaaay too detailed. The opening scene takes 5 pages for Mahler to describe, It could take 1 page. 

The entire screenplay comes in at 112 pages.

The story it tells could be told in 50 pages.

That's half a script. 

When you have half a script being padded and stretched out to the full 112 minutes (remember 1 page is one minute of screen time)  then you get a thing I like to call, boring as fuck scenes.

They are scenes that are as boring as fuck to watch. Just in case there was any confusion there.

I mentioned that there is no singular POV in this script. 

And that the main character's flaw has nothing to do with the story.

The logic of this story is also just plain stupid.

You're telling me that when Bush decided to de-arm a handful of nuclear missiles, a couple of them got lost in the mix?

I mean seriously?

You can imagine that conversation.

Commander: So, did you get all the missiles done?

Soldier: Yeah, I think so.

Commander: You think so?

Soldier: Yeah, we did like a bunch today, and Tommy's team did a bunch yesterday, and I think Mike did some the other day, so I'm pretty sure we're done. 

Commander: How many nuclear missiles have you done in total?

Soldier: Hmmm, hard to say. I mean, we done at least, what, twenty something? The other guys musta done like double that I think? So like, 60 - ish. We mighta missed a couple, but, hey, you know, no biggie if we did, they're just nuclear missiles, not important.

Commander: Okay, that's cool. Thanks for your outstanding work soldier.

You see where I'm going with this.

Let's get this over with...


Good horror idea, going into a silo that has radioactive monsters in it. Only the setup and execution here are beyond stupid.

So the base idea is great. That base idea gets...


The execution of that idea gets...



Coming up with a great idea is half the battle of writing a screenplay that will sell. When you do hit on a cool idea, don't ruin it with a terrible execution. Think through every beat of your story. If it's a feature film you're writing focus on one main character. Tell the story through their eyes, and try to learn even just the very basics of structure. It will help you a lot.


Mahler is a good writer, that's for sure. But his writing style suits the novel form. In a screenplay the idea is to get story told in the simplest way you can. Mahler does the opposite, he takes as much time as he can to convey what's happening. 

This script is like reading 100 year old lava.

That's right. It's as fluid as rock. 


FORM TIP: There are only about 50 formatting rules all together. The main ones are less than 10. it's easy to learn them. Yet you'd be surprised how many people think that so long as they're putting words on the page they're writing a great screenplay. Do yourself a favor, learn the rules - THEN start writing. 


What structure?

No that's not entirely fair. 

There is an ordinary world of sorts - where we meet all the players.

Then they're all gathered to gather to go on this stupid mission.

So, that's act 1. Sorta.

Then they're in the silo for the rest of the film.

So that's act 2. Kinda. 

Then some shit happens and the surviving characters try to run out of the silo.

Which is act 3. Ish.

But typically in act 3, the hero over comes their flaw and goes and defeats the villain. Being that Robert's flaw is that he's in a relationship he should get out of, that flaw has nothing to do with killing radioactive babies, so it's a kinda muddy ending. 

The structure here is waaaaay off. 

With no flaw to structure the script around, it's basically -- a hodgepodge of people go into a silo. Shit happens. Only a couple make it out. 

Boom that's it.

With that in mind...



Read the books about the hero's journey. There are many great books out there. Find them. Read them. Understand them. THEN write a screenplay.


The best character here was a chauvinistic pig. 

Seriously. He was the only one that stood out. 

That says a lot about this script right there.



Keep main players to a minimum. We'll care more about them. Sure, Alien had a large cast, but in that film all the characters were really well drawn and unique. We also cared about them all. Here, we don't care about any of them


Again, the only character that had well written dialogue was the misogynist. 

All the other characters read like cardboard.


DIALOGUE TIP: Think through each of your characters. Where they come from, why they speak the way they speak - before you write their dialogue.


Zahler has a voice. This is why he has traction in tinsel town. He's one of those love him or hate him writers. 

I think he's a talented writer, if only he'd focus on writing novels. 

I'd have more respect for him as a screen writer if he'd even bothered to read one book on how to write a screenplay. 

You can tell he has no idea how to structure a screenplay. No idea about empathy. No idea about POV. About the flaw. etc. etc. 

To this end I'll give him 2 ratings... 



VOICE TIP: Voice goes a long way. Zahler is well read by a lot of people in hollywood. His voice is what got him there. It sure as hell isn't his understanding of story in the screenplay form. 


If shot on less than 5 mill with an okay cast this could make money.


The concept is strong enough. You can see the poster. It's easy to sum up when mentioning to a friend.

What's silo about?

A radioactive silo where there's all these weird radioactive monsters and shit.

Problem here is - when people see the film - word of mouth would kill it - why? because the story doesn't deliver on the promise of the concept. 


A great idea executed poorly.