LOGLINE: In the vein of The Sixth Sense and The Others, the story is about a young woman who, after her family dies in a tragic accident, immerses herself in the world of psychics and mediums. This soon leads her to a unique academy designed to develop the gifts of students like her. However, as she attempts to lift the veil between the living and the dead, she finds herself brought face to face with a mysterious and terrifying entity.
SCRIPT BIO: 2012 spec from the man who gave us the awesome OCULUS.
WRITERS: MIKE FLANAGAN & JEFF HOWARD
ELLIE (20s) shares a unique ability with her brother. For choice of a less corny word, she is a medium. She is able to see events before they happen and connect with the 'other side'.
She saw her family's fate in a vision, but failed to act on it. Thinking that it was nothing more than a hallucination. When it came true and her family died in a horrific car crash she realised she has a power.
At the crash site, Ellie found her brother, who's dying words were, "Stay....away.'
Didn't mean a lot to her at the time, but some years later those two words would make sense.
In the years that followed her family's horrific deaths, Ellie searched for other mediums with which to refine her ability. She encounters nothing but charlatans, until one day she meets KAITLYN. Another 20 something who shares Ellie's ability.
Kaitlin encourages Ellie to enrol at the little known but highly prestigious Brautigan academy - a university for people with their abilities.
At Brautigan, Ellie meets many other 'mediums' - those worthy of note are two guys VAL & BENTLY and the head of the school - MR ABBOT.
Ellie quickly becomes well known at the college because of how well developed her powers are.
At a visit to the school LIGHTHOUSE, Ellie has visions of a horrific fire. She soon learns that in 1880 there was a vast fire that all but destroyed the lighthouse, killing two female students at the time.
Ellie also encounters what she believes to be a ghost that takes the form of an EMBERED WOMAN - a woman that has been burnt all the way through.
Ellie and her cohort of fellow mediums, Kaitlyn, Val and Bently, begin investigating this Burnt Woman and the history of the lighthouse.
What they discover changes their lives for ever.
Okay, so today's story summary leaves you on a cliff hanger. But I feel it's worth it, as this script is great, really worth the read and I don't want to ruin the ending for you. It has a twist - not quite as big as the Sixth Sense - but it's definitely up there.
I did not see it coming and it was very satisfying when it did.
Flanagan and his writing partner really have a great grasp of the horror genre.
They're creating stories that chill you, keep you on the edge of your seat, but aren't anywhere near torture porn. Which is wise, as the lower the rating you can get on your horror the more money you will make.
That's the good - now for the bad...
This script reaches very high, but it falls slightly short of what it wants to be.
For example, after the twist - which shall remain untold - there are 2 pages where one of the characters explains what just happened.
It's not necessary. Either the audience gets the twist when they see it, or they don't. I can buy into a little clarifying, but when you literally have a character lay it out in bullet point form it detracts from the story.
Concept here is great.
A person with psychic abilities trains at a special school so she can make contact with her dead brother who died before he could tell her something very important.
There's nothing new about a person with psychic abilities, but the school for psychics is a relatively fresh angle.
Adding the mystery angle of 'what did Ellie's brother want to warn her about' was great. It's the third element that helps to lift this concept above average.
CONCEPT RATING 7/10
If you're working with a concept that's run of the mill, then you add another element but it's still not a really new angle on the idea, try adding a third aspect to the mix. I'd advise against adding 4 aspects as anything more than 3 would get murky.
Form was good, but not perfect.
CAPS were over used a bit in the descriptions. And they used BOLD. Never use bold in a script. Ever. Use CAPS for OBJECTS that are important. Use underlines for actions that are important.
FORM RATING 6/10
FORM TIP: I've said it before, I'll say it again. Buy How Not To Write A Screenplay. It's the best book on screenplay formatting.
Structure was okay here. Not as good as it could be. Ellie didn't really have a flaw. She was interested in developing her psychic abilities so she could get in touch with her brother. But she wasn't reckless about it. If I were to develop this script I'd suggest that Ellie were obsessive about developing her abilities. And that obsessiveness gets herself and others into trouble.
Then we have a flaw that we can develop. As it stands there's no flaw. So structure isn't as guided as it could be.
Then we have a MAJOR POV problem with this script.
It starts off from Ellie's POV. Then when we get to the college, it starts to jump between all the characters, Val, Abbot, Kaitlyn, and Bently.
There's even an entire scene toward the end where Ellie is missing from the story.
When you move the POV around in a script you severe the connection between the audience and the HERO. If we've spent 30 minutes with one character, following their life, then we suddenly start following other people's lives, we're no longer experiencing the film vicariously through that first main character.
This script shifted POV so much it almost became an ensemble film.
Ensemble films only work when ALL of the characters have flaws. Go and watch Paul Haggis's CRASH.
Every character has a flaw that they either do or do not overcome by the end of the film.
Those that don't overcome their flaw end in a really bad way. Those that change, end in a really good way.
STRUCTURE RATING 6/10
STRUCTURE TIP: Focus your screenplay. Find your main character and stay with them until the end.
Characters here were good, but not as good as they could be. None of them had a flaw, so none of them were very deep.
Ellie had a horrific past, but none of that seemed to affect her day to day living. She seemed relatively fine with having had her family die in a horrific car crash.
CHARACTER RATING 6/10
CHARACTER TIP: Develop your characters before you write them. If you figure them out as you write they'll come across as cardboard cut-outs.
Again, like characters, the dialogue here was good, but not exceptional. None of the characters spoke very differently to the others. There's room for a lot more differentiation between the way they all speak.
You've got characters at a college - you've got people from ALL different walks of life, which could play out well with the way they speak.
Voice here is great. And as I deconstruct this script, I'm noticing that each section of this screenplay is rating lower than I felt the overall rating would be. I'm realising that's because of the strong voice and the surety of the writing style.
VOICE RATING 8/10
Clean and confident writing goes a long way. If you haven't quite developed your characters, the way they speak or your structure, you can still deliver a solid script if you're voice is strong.
That said - a strong voice - WITH well developed characters, structure and dialogue will make for a killer script.
With a little development, I'd definitely put money into this script.
It'd be a $10 mill production. And would almost certainly return money.
Having the great director Mike Flanagan at the helm will only guarantee that.
A great concept executed in a so-so manner. Some screenplays that are good but not great are hard to move up that next rung on the ladder - but this screenplay wouldn't take very much to get highly polished,
OVERALL RATING 7/10