Tuesday, 29 March 2016

THE BOY - HORROR - (Menear)

LOGLINE: (From IMDB) :  An american nanny is shocked that her new English family's boy is actually a life-sized doll. After she violates a list of strict rules, disturbing events make her believe the doll is really alive.

WRITER: Stacey Menear.

SRIPT BIO: Has just been made into the film The Boy (6.2 on IMDB).


GERTI EVANS (20s) has travelled to the remote English countryside to work as a nanny for the summer. She's to work here for 3 months being paid so much money she can 'start her life over' when she gets back to America.

She arrives at a HUGE estate miles away from everywhere. She conveniently has no cell coverage and there are no neighbors anywhere. 

The house itself is a fortress. The back of the house has windows that have been bricked up and the front windows are covered with bars. 

Gerti comes to meet the boy she will be looking after - and yes - he is a doll. A life sized doll. 

At first Gerti laughs at the absurdity of the situation - but when she sees that the parents of Brahms take this very seriously - she plays along. 

She's finally offered the job - (which is odd, as why would you travel all the way to England for a job that you hadn't secured in the first place?) and after a quick phone call home to her sister SANDY she decides that staying and earning money is the best thing to do. 

The parents of 'the boy' then leave and Gerti is left alone in this house with no one but Brahms the doll for company. 

Enter MALCOLM - a strapping young English lad who delivers food to the residence once a week. Malcolm is eccentric in his own weird way, but he's harmless and loveable. 

Gerti gets some inside information about the parents of the estate - supposedly there was a fire in the house some years earlier - and their son Brahms was killed - keeping the doll of Brahms is their way of dealing with their loss. 

Thing is - that fire happened over 20 years ago. The parents have been living like this for 20 years.

Left alone in the house - Gerti starts to experience strange happenings. Things of hers start going missing. The Brahms doll keeps moving. But Gerti never actually sees him move. 

These happenings continue to worsen until Gerti is convinced that the Brahms doll is real! 

I'll leave the story there as I don't want to get into spoilers. 


I can see why this film made money. 

It was shot on a $10m budget and made $58m. That's a solid return, even when you factor in P&A costs. 

It's a straight forward contained horror film with a slight twist. 

There's something very eerie about Brahms the doll - and how seriously the parents take looking after him. 

The script isn't perfect - there are some major bullet holes. 

Firstly - the no cell phone trope. Having lived in England for a decade myself, I know firsthand, there's almost nowhere in the UK that you can't get cell coverage. 

Secondly - why would a nanny travel from America to England for a job interview? Wouldn't you make sure that the job was secure before travelling all that way?

Gerti has no inner journey what so ever. There's nothing internally that Gerti is trying to overcome. She has no inner flaw. 

When a character has no inner flaw - the story becomes all external. And while external events can be interesting - it's emotions that we as an audience engage with. 


The concept here is pretty good. It's an idea we've all seen before, and thus can get our heads around - a young girl in a haunted house - but this time the haunting comes from a doll. 

All of that we've seen before. It's the nature of the setup behind the doll that is just unique enough to give this idea enough freshness to warrant the read/watch.

If the doll were just a regular child's doll that had a spirit attached to it - the concept would not have been original enough. 

But here, the doll is a substitute for a real child lost in a fire - and as crazy as that seems - I think there's a part in all of us that can empathize with this idea. 


CONCEPT TIP: Take a tried and tested trope and re-work it until you have just the right amount of freshness to the idea. 

When ideas are too grand and convoluted you alienate your audience. The Boy works because it's such a simple idea with a slightly fresh twist.


The form here was good. Not perfect. The script is well written. There are a lot of thick descriptive sentences which could use some breaking up. 

Also, the script comes in at 116 pages. This really should have been a 95 page script at the most. 


FORM TIP: Keep your sentences lean and clean. Don't overwrite. If your screenplay comes in over the 105 page mark it is overwritten. 

There's no real excuse to write over 105 pages. If you really try hard, all screenplays can be cut back to around 105 pages. 


As mentioned, Gerti doesn't have an inner flaw. With no inner flaw, the structure of the story becomes loosely guided by external events. 

It's the inner journey that gives your story structure. 

There's also no goal until late in the third act.

When a character is reacting to events that happen around her, that will only be interesting for a set period of time.

What focuses people's attention are goals, stakes and urgency. 

There was no goal here (until later on), no stakes, and no urgency. There was no ticking clock. 

If this story had managed to work in these three elements I believe it could have been one of the best horror films of the year. 

With all that said, Stacey does a good job of keeping the story moving. He uses the story driving element of mystery. 

Mystery will hold an audience's attention for quite some time. 

It's a shame, really, as had he used the mystery WITH the goal stakes and urgency, it would have really elevated the story. 


STRUCTURE TIP: Understand what it is that drives a story before you sit down to write. There are several ways that goal, stakes and urgency could have been worked into this story, but it's much easier to do so before you start writing.

Trying to go back over a script already written and inject goal, stakes and urgency is not such an easy task.


Gerti is an interesting character, she has a fascinating back story, but unfortunately she doesn't feel like she is developed enough. I LOVE that we find out that she has lost an unborn child herself. That makes her reaction to the situation all the more relatable. 

I wanted to know more about that. And I wanted to find out in ways that weren't just through an expositional phone call to her sister. 

It would have been great to SHOW Gerti mourning for the loss of her unborn child.

Dialogue was really just standard. You need to make sure that every aspect of your script zings.

When you have okay dialogue, it's not enough. You need to keep working on your dialogue until it's exceptional. 


CHARACTERS & DIALOGUE TIP: Don't settle for good. Always try to push the bar and write exceptional. 

Writing can get frustrating. You spend so long working on a project that you lose your objectivity. You can't see the forrest for the trees as the saying goes. 

When you get like this, step away from that particular script and start work on another script. Leave your first script for about 2 weeks - then come back to it. 

It can be tempting to send your script out for reads after you've finished the first draft. But that's not wise. Make sure you have truly worked on the script until you can no longer make it better without third party insight. THEN send it out for reads. 


Voice is okay here. Not as strong as it could be, but Stacey has a certain style that pulls you along. I only noticed one spelling mistake in the entire script.

Spelling mistakes detract from voice, just as much as overwriting and poor structure. 

If the characters and dialogue had been stronger, and Gerti had an inner flaw that would have helped with the structure and if the script had a goal, stakes and urgency, the voice of the script would have been much stronger. 

As it stands, the overall voice is good - but as we know - good isn't enough in the world of scripts.


This script has been made into a film.

As I said above, the budget was $10m and the box office was $58m. 

Without that knowledge I would have put money into this script.

The cast count if under 5 people. It's set entirely in one location, and it's genre so you don't need names to sell the movie.

If I were producing I would have addressed --

Lack of goal, stakes, urgency.
Poor character development.
Lacklustre dialogue.
Lack of inner flaw for Gerti.

I would have amped up Gerti's back story and got rid of the no cell phone coverage trope and the illogical notion that Gerti would travel to England for a job interview. 


Good concept executed in a fair manner. 

Could have been better - but the producers made money so what do they care!