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Genre: Contained Thriller
Premise (from writer): After two friends leave the bar after a night of drinking, they discover their car missing from the parking lot, an RV in its place, and a woman trapped inside.
Why You Should Read (from writer): Coming from a fiction background has been challenging. But, I have worked with Victor Miller to find my voice in terms of saying what I want, and saying what the audience wants to hear. I think there is so much more that a story can tell that goes beyond the page and beyond the stage.
Writer: Justin DiSandro
Details: 85 pages
It’s the end of the week and Christmas is fast approaching. Which means DEALS folks. It means everything must go! Go grab the Scriptshadow Secrets book on Amazon. It’s only $4.99 and makes a great digital stocking stuffer. It also means notes and proofreading deals which you’ll see later tonight in the Scriptshadow Newsletter. Remember that the newsletter sometimes goes to SPAM (and in Gmail, it sometimes slides into the “Promotions” tab) so always check to make sure you’re getting your weekly dose of Newsletter fun.
Speaking of Christmas, let’s talk about blood. Red is a big color in the holiday season so naturally there’s some crossover there, right? Actually, “A Lot of Blood” may be a misleading title. There’s not THAT much blood here, and I actually think the title does the script a disservice. “A Lot of Blood” sounds like a bunch of cheap thrills. There are some cheap thrills here, but it’s a little more clever than your average Non-Contained Contained Thriller.
Wait WHAT did you just say, Carson? “Non-Contained Contained??” What does that mean?? Well folks, I think today’s script is the first of its contained kind. It’s a contained thriller where our main characters aren’t the ones contained. They’re actually on the outside of the containedness, trying to help the person inside. Are you following me? It might be tough cause I’m writing this review at 3 a.m. But contain yourselves. Because somewhere at the end of this screenplay rainbow is me, contained in my apartment writing up this post.
Kevin and Jared, both in their late 20s, are out experiencing life, man. They’re driving around the U.S. of A., doing the whole “Into the Wild” thing, albeit with a car. And on this evening, they’ve stumbled into some bumbleshit bar on a long winding forest road in the middle of nowhere. After the bar is closed up and the owner heads out, Kevin and Jared walk into the parking lot only to find that their car is gone.
Finally, they can do “Into the Wild” for real now! Unfortunately, Kevin and Jarod don’t share this same optimistic appraisal of their situaiton. Not only does it look like their car is stolen. But without a cell signal, there’s nothing they can do about it.
Curiously, there’s a huge RV parked in the middle of the parking lot, and when Kevin and Jared get close, they hear someone inside. A girl, Becky. Becky screams for help, explaining that she doesn’t know where she is or how she got here. She just remembers walking to her car after work. The boys commit to getting her out, but this isn’t any normal RV. The doors seem to be reinforced with steel!
Kevin decides to break into the bar and call for help while Jared stands guard at the RV. But back inside the bar, the power is out. Confused, Kevin walks back out to find Jared gone and a trail of blood in his place. He then hears Jared’s cell phone making noises… OUT IN THE FOREST. Yikes! So Kevin heads out there, looks around, only to turn back and see a man walking out of the RV with a giant bag. Ugh, this just got a whole lot worse.
So Kevin heads back to the RV, checks to see if Becky’s still there, which she is… WITH JARED! Yes, JARED is now stuck in the RV with Becky. Oh boy. After some finagling, Kevin’s eventually able to get Becky out. It’s a little trickier with Jared though, who we find out has been… modified in an unfavorable way. It becomes clear that someone (or someones) is out there fucking with them, and if they don’t find a way out of here before the night is up, they’re probably RV meat.
The key with contained thrillers is that they can’t feel like the writer is trying to fill up the time. They have to feel like the writer can’t possibly pack ENOUGH story into them because they don’t HAVE enough time. Typically, every contained thriller script feels well-packed (that’s a weird phrase) through the first 20 pages, and then we begin seeing signs of filler.
A Lot of Blood had a great first 20 pages, indeed. And it actually stayed packed for another 20 pages. But then the signs of not having enough story started to show. There was a lot more standing around, wondering what to do, repeating situations we’d already seen (here we go back into the bar!). Some urgency was lost. It just didn’t end with the same bang it started with.
Part of the problem was the mystery. What’s so cool about these scripts is the power of that initial mystery. That’s what excites us. How did this girl get in here? Who is this guy living in the RV and why didn’t he respond to our guys banging on the outside trying to help this girl? What’s in the bags this man is carrying? Where is he taking them? Who’s involved? Are they being set up?
The thing is, once those questions started to get answered, there were no new intriguing questions to take their place. So what started as a completely bizarre scenario became all too familiar. When you have such limited options (as is the case with most contained thrillers), mystery and suspense are your two best friends. So you want to draw on them as much as possible.
I also felt there needed to be more going on with Jared and Kevin. They were REALLY thin. HOW much more you want to add to them is up for debate. I’ve learned that you can actually BURDEN a script with over-developed characters, as their development starts to feel more like the result of a screenwriting class than reality. Since keeping your story real is a primary objective, you need to watch out for that.
You do this by weighing the situation (the setup, the setting, the genre) and determining if character exploration feels right. This is a light fun horror thriller, so you don’t want to develop the characters TOO much. Still, these two were so similar they were almost the same person. Adding a little conflict between them would’ve helped develop their characters, as conflict brings out your characters’ differences. Something as simple as one character being brave and the other being a coward could’ve led to some more interesting conversations and made the characters pop more. If you desired to give them even more weight, you could bring in an unresolved conflict from their past. Then use this problem as a catalyst for them to face and resolve it. But again, you then run the risk of the script feeling too “screenwriterly.” So it has to be done delicately.
I was also frustrated with a lot of the details in the script. Writers, don’t let the little moments sink you. Make sure you give them just as much attention as the big ones. For example, Kevin is out in the woods early on, looking for Jared’s cell phone, when he hears a man coming out of the RV. He turns around and starts screaming at the guy (who ignores him and keeps walking). Let’s take a closer look at this. It’s night. You’re in the middle of nowhere with no one else around. A man psycho enough to create a mobile killing machine has a girl locked up in his RV. And when you see him, you start yelling at him??? Alerting him to you? What???
OR: Early on we’re told that the gas station is forever away, which is why they can’t go for help. Yet later, Kevin runs to it, and we’re told that as he’s running down the road, he can see both the bar parking lot AND the gas station from where he’s standing. That’s how close it was this whole time??? Without question they should’ve gone there immediately then. That’s not far at all. There were 5 or 6 other moments JUST like this that didn’t make sense that need to be cleared up before this script is ready.
It may sound like I didn’t enjoy “Blood,” but I did. These notes come more from a place of frustration. As a reader, whenever those first 20 pages are great, you get excited and you start saying to yourself: “This is the one!” and you can’t help but dream about the writer getting an agent and the script being picked up and a movie getting made. So when it doesn’t keep that awesomeness going, it’s harder on you than if the script simply sucked to begin with.
But I do think something could come of this script. At the very least, it’s a million dollar film you shoot in 15 days that gets distribution on Itunes. Not the huge success story we all dream of. But a great start. Hope Justin cleans these problems up because I’d like to see that happen!
Script link: A Lot of Blood
[ ] what the hell did I just read?
[ ] wasn’t for me
[x] worth the read
[ ] impressive
[ ] genius
What I learned: Describe in detail your important locations! If you have a major location where a lot of stuff takes place, you have to give us a lot of details about that space, so we can accurately envision what’s going on. Here, in A Lot of Blood, 90% of the script takes place in the parking lot, yet we were never told how big the parking lot actually was. Sometimes, then, I imagined it as a tiny bar parking lot. But other times, it’s implied that the lot is vast. Why would a tiny bar have a huge parking lot? — Why is this important? Because the script relied so much on distance. Being a safe distance away from the killers. Being within yelling distance. Because I was never quite sure how big of an area it was, I was robbed of having the correct experience. You don’t want to over-describe small locations that don’t have any important action going on in them. But major locations? Yes.