Tuesday, 5 April 2016

LAST ONE ALIVE - HORROR

Logline: The lone survivor of a masked-slasher massacre attends a remote post-traumatic stress disorder clinic where she meets four other girls who have also survived similar attacks and must fight for her survival when all five of their masked slashers converge on the isolated clinic to kill each other’s “last one alive.“ 

WRITERS: Shane Krause & Shayne Armstrong

SCRIPT BIO: Spec script sent out in 2016 from Management 360. Adam Marshall, Evan Silverberg.

STORY:

We open on JAMIE FINCH (18) in the throes of horror cliche - she runs through a forrest, chased by a horrific serial killer dressed in a demonic way. 

She finds a cabin in the woods (cliche #2) where she battles the demonic serial killer to the end. Or so she thinks. 

We cut to some time after the attack and find that Jamie was the last one alive. 

But here's the thing, she isn't the only teen to have survived such a horrific serial killer. There's a bunch more girls at a remote clinic that are all 'healing' together after having been the sole survivors of other masked serial killer's sprees. 

It's decided that Jamie join them at the clinic to see if she can truly get over the horrors of her past. 

We spend some time getting to know the four other girls who describe their own attackers, each more horrific and debauched than the last. We also meet the head doctor - Dr Hill - a beautiful woman, and her assistant - REID (26) - a bookishly hot young man.

There are a series of challenges the girls have to go through as part of their recovery process - mostly they involve confronting their fears, which means confronting life sized effigies of their serial killers. 

As you can imagine, things soon gone horribly wrong when not one but ALL of the serial killers turn up at the clinic and start hunting the girls down. 

The question becomes - who will survive - who will be the Last One Alive?

INITIAL REACTION:

This one is batshit crazy. Mostly in a good way. It's by no means a perfect script, and there are definitely bullet holes and story execution problems - but for the most part this is a really solid script. 

The main thing it gets right is understanding CLICHE.

I reviewed a CIA thriller set in a US embassy recently that was nothing but cliche after cliche. It was as though that writer had no idea of what other films had come before.

Here, the writers use every cliche in the book, but they are AWARE that they're doing so.

Take the trope of The Last Girl Alive. That by its self is a cliche. But when you have 5 girls all together in a clinic who have all been the Last Girl Alive - that's no longer cliche. That's poking fun at the trope of The Last Girl Alive. 

I've never seen or heard of a horror story that had 5 Last Girls Alive banding together to fight off their five serial killers. 

I haven't even mentioned the twist ending - and out of respect to the script and the writers I won't - other than to say it's great - and although I was quietly hoping this particular twist would be there - it wasn't telegraphed - like some twists are.

Take Shutter Island as a great example of a twist that's telegraphed from the opening scene. It was so obvious what the twist would be that the person I went to see that film said just as we were sitting down - 'God, I hope he's not searching for himself. That would be so lame.'

Before the film had begun, knowing only what we did from the trailer, he had guessed the twist. 

CONCEPT:

Knocked it out of the park. 5 Last Girls band together to fight off their 5 serial killers. 

That's high concept and just what Hollywood wants - it's something we've all seen before -  something we're all familiar with - but there's a fresh angle as there's 5 of them - not just one. 

Sooooo simple. 

CONCEPT RATING: 9/10

CONCEPT TIP: Take something we've all seen before and find a unique way of looking at it. 

FORM: 

Form was this scripts weakest point. The writing here wasn't A grade. It was densely written. There were also a lot of things in the script that can't show up on the screen - i.e - what people are thinking or feeling. 

It's not good enough to say that Jamie is sad, or angry, or she's thinking unhinged thoughts - you need to SHOW us how Jamie is feeling or SHOW us that Jamie is having unhinged thoughts.

How do you do that? By Jamie's actions. If she's nervous, show her being nervous, show her making nervous mistakes. Don't just say she's nervous. 

The script comes in at 111 pages - with some cleaning up it would easily come in at 100 pages.

But here's the thing about form - if you have a killer concept executed in a killer way - form is the first thing agents and producers forgive. 

FORM RATING 6/10

FORM TIP: Don't let form hold your script back. Unless you've proven yourself with produced films that have MADE MONEY - don't give readers ANY excuse to dislike your script. The cleaner your writing, the leaner your writing, the less spelling and form mistakes you have - the better your chances of impressing your readers.

STRUCTURE:

This is the second weakest area of this screenplay. 

Until the mid point when the killers turn up and cause chaos - there is no goal. 

When a film has no goal - it will move slowly. 

Here's an interesting thing - while you can READ a script with no goal and be engaged - you'll find that same story when made into a film - will drag like an anchor - why? 

For what ever reason, when things are in the written form we have a longer patience than when things are in the visual form. 

The second major fault with the structure of this screenplay is the POV.

You would expect or hope to spend around 90-95% of the time with Jamie - but alas - as the script goes on we move more and more away from Jamie.

Now there are times when it's IMPERATIVE that we DON'T see Jamie for the sake of certain reveals and plot points, but there are a lot of times when a moment is happening and it COULD have been from Jamie's POV, but it's not. 

Thirdly - I'd need to read the script again - but I'm pretty sure there are some logic inconsistencies. 

Take The Nightmare for instance - this is one of the other girl's serial killers - but he moves with super human speed in some scenes. 

That's a problem two fold. 

One - I thought we were only dealing with humans, no supernatural elements.
Two - consistency - if The Nightmare moves super humanly fast in one scene - then why doesn't he move that fast in another scene?

STRUCTURE RATING: 6.5/10

STRUCTURE TIP:

The more I review scripts the more I notice that heroes often don't have discernible flaws, and scripts often have POV problems and lack goals.

When outlining your next script focus on these three things. 

POV - Always have the scene viewed by your hero - UNLESS you HAVE to go away to another character for the sake of story. As a rule, 90% of your film should have your hero in the scene. 

GOAL - Always have a goal. It's okay to change the goal. It doesn't HAVE to be one goal from the start to end - in fact it's often better to establish a NEW GOAL around the mid point. 

Even if you have to have mini-goals - like in Back To The Future - we all know the opening scene to that film - then Bam! Marty's late to class. He's got to get there on time - it's a goal that drives only a few minutes of the film - but imagine if he didn't have to get to class on time? That opening sequence wouldn't have popped the way it does. 

FLAW - Read the Hero's Journey books - understand what a flaw is and why it's important. 

CHARACTERS & DIALOGUE:

Dialogue was fast, fun and snappy. It wasn't perfect by any means - and there was some straight up unapologetic expositional dialogue late in the piece where the twist is openly explained to us by a character. 

Characters were all pretty well defined. When you have what is essentially an ensemble film - 5 main characters - it's easy for those characters to blend into each other.

Not the case here - they all had their own personalities and really felt well thought out. 

Some of the ancillary players seemed under developed - but that's small fry and an easy fix.

CHARACTERS & DIALOGUE RATING: 7.5/10

CHARACTERS & DIALOGUE TIP: If you have a large character count - be sure to differentiate your characters. Lesser writers would have made all the 5 girls seem like cardboard cut outs of each other. 

VOICE:

Voice is bat shit crazy here. But it works for what it is - a self aware horror.

Voice could have been better if --

-- The writing were better. 
-- Structure issues were fixed.
-- The script were trimmed back.

VOICE RATING: 7/10

VOICE TIP: You can see the way I break down scripts on this blog. Do the same process with your script/s. Give yourself honest ratings in each area, then work on the areas you think are lacking. 

A strong voice comes from every aspect of your script being written the very best you can. 

PRODUCTION:

I'd put money into this. I'd want a director who cares about the script to direct. I can see this failing if the director just hashed it together.

But if you got a decent talent on board to direct and did another couple of passes on the script fixing the problems I've mentioned, and if it was brought in at the $5mill mark - then this script will make money.

SUMMARY:

A strong concept executed fairly well. 

OVERALL RATING: 7.5/10