Genre: Holiday/Horror
Premise: After the arrival of a mysterious Christmas present, a troubled young woman finds herself trapped inside her apartment building with three ghastly spirits hell-bent on forcing her to confront the horrors of her past, present and future.
Why You Should Read: Believe it or not, horror fans really love Christmas! Sure, Halloween is our big day, but there’s just something liberating about the holiday season that nicely offsets our darker sensibilities. Unfortunately, there aren’t too many movies out there that successfully bring those disparate aspects of our personalities together. GREMLINS and THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS are kind of the gold standard in this arena, but both of those are family films and don’t exactly qualify as horror. We need more good Christmas horror flicks that we can revisit each year, damn it! — ‘DO NOT OPEN’ started out as a short script. But, thanks to the November writing challenge that a few of us took part in, I’ve expanded that set-up into a modern day, horror re-imagining of a certain Dickens holiday classic. The result is basically ‘A CHRISTMAS CAROL’ meets ‘IT’. — Thanks for taking a look. I can only hope that it’s as much fun to read as it was to write!
Writer: Nick Morris
Details: 84 pages (micro-script! – Nick’s pressing all the buttons today)

Christmas 2017 may be over. But I’m already on to Christmas 2018. Which is why I’m reviewing the WINNER of December 15’s Amateur Offerings, “Do Not Open,” a Christmas-themed el special from perennial Amateur Friday threat, Nick Morris. Gotta get this in shape for the end of the year!

I have to say, before I start, that I admire the layered approach Nick took to titling the screenplay. What’s the first thing anyone does when they see the words, “Do not open?” Yeah, duh. I opened. Here’s what was inside…

24 year-old Holly, who lives in a small one-bedroom apartment, is a heavy proponent of the no-pants rule. That means, once you’re in your apartment, no pants allowed. This made me an immediate fan of Holly.

Unfortunately, Holly’s got issues that go well beyond her pant-dislike, starting with a severe case of agoraphobia. Even simple errands can become a battle. Luckily, Holly finds something outside her door this morning to distract her. A box that has a simple message on it: “Do Not Open.”

Holly kicks the box inside and places it under her Charlie Brown Christmas tree, choosing to abide by the box’s rule. After her girlfriend, Marlene, stops by and forces Holly to open the box, they’re disappointed to find out there’s nothing’s inside.

After Marlene leaves and midnight hits, everything goes to hell, as the building becomes eerily still. Holly checks out the hallway, which is also too quiet. It’s like the world has… turned off. She tries the elevator. Nothing happens. Tries to take the stairs. The door won’t budge.

Eventually, Holly finds her way down to the second floor where she sees her dead sister who perished in a fire as a child standing in the hallway. Seeing dead sister. Always a good sign. We then transport back to that fateful fire, after which Holly’s parents join a cult to deal with the pain.

Holly reemerges from the “dream” on the second floor, where she’s able to find her way down to Floor 1. It’s here where Holly sees herself in the present. A lonely scared girl who stays in her apartment all day. Oh, and every tenant on the floor turns into a demon and she has to blast them into black goo with a bat.

Finally, Holly makes it down to the ground floor – what we now know as Christmas Future – and it’s here where we learn that Future Holly is a drug addict at the end of her rope. And that she’s got to kill more demons, of course. After Holly emerges from her demon-slaying Christmas nightmare, she’s able to acknowledge her metaphorical demons, and finally commit to a life of growth instead of one of stagnation.

It’s been awhile since I read Nick’s last script so I don’t remember it well. But I know I like this one better. It takes a while to get going as its 25 page first act could arguably be condensed into 10 pages. The word “filler” kept flashing through my mind as I was reading it.

For example, there’s a whole 10 page section where we’ve got this box sitting there that says “Do Not Open” and Holly’s not opening it. Technically, this is suspenseful. But there’s a difference between technical suspense and real suspense. I didn’t feel real suspense because the only reason Holly wasn’t opening the box was because the writer didn’t want her to. Any person in their right mind is going to open that box. Or, if they’re not, we have to be convinced why.

Suspense only works when it’s invisible. Not when the writer is clearly pulling the strings.

There also seemed to be too much sitting around. Too many pages going by that were either repeating information or not giving any information at all. Holly lives alone in this apartment that she hates leaving. I understood that by page 5. Why am I still being told that 20 pages later with the only additional information being that she has a girlfriend?


However, once we hit the second act, where our concept emerged, the script became considerably better. I loved the scene where Holly tries to work her way down the trash chute to escape the building and then some freaky ass monster’s arms appears below her. Haven’t seen that scene in a horror movie before!

I also liked the ghost of Christmas Past scene in the church. I was surprisingly affected by how intense the family confrontation was and 100% believed that they’d really lost their daughter. That was the hook moment for me. Before that scene I was like, “Eh, I could go either way here.” Which goes to show, it isn’t the flash (the scares) that pulls the audience in. It’s those human moments. The ones that help us connect with the characters.

The Christmas Present stuff was okay but could’ve been better. It relied too much on gore (this is the section where Holly must beat everyone to a pulp with a bat) as opposed to character development. There was a moment in this section where Holly walks into her apartment and is able to see herself in the 3rd person and it freaked me out. How would you react if you watched yourself all day? What would you think of that person? It got kinda trippy. I wanted more of that. But instead we got more gore and scares.

The Future Stuff needs more development as well. The idea is good. If Holly continues on this path, she’ll die. But that wasn’t set up very well in the first act. And as I pointed out, it’s not like you don’t have plenty of time to explore it. If we could see a hint of her turning to drugs due to not being able to overcome her past or her condition, then the Christmas Future stuff plays out much better.

I also have a suggestion for Nick. Stop using scares from other horror movies. ESPECIALLY generic horror movies. The people with the dark faces and the beaming bright eyes – I’ve seen that a ton. And people turning to our protagonist and screeching with a high-pitched noise. Come on. I can find ten IFC Midnight films right now that do the same thing.

I say this kindly but I’m a little upset about it. Nick reads this site all the time and one of the big things I hit on is that you got to do the hard work and go beyond the obvious choice. If you’ve seen a particular scare in two movies, don’t use it. Or only use it if you’ve honest-to-God spent five hours trying to come up with a new fresh option and you couldn’t think of anything. Because every obvious choice like that makes the reader think “generic.” And it takes fewer generic choices than you think it does before a reader labels your entire script “generic.”

So anyway, I thought this was fun. But due to its repetitive first act and the work it still needs on the Christmas Present and Christmas Future sections, I can’t give it that ‘worth the read’ label. But it was close!

Script link: Do Not Open

[ ] What the hell did I just read?
[x] wasn’t for me
[ ] worth the read
[ ] impressive
[ ] genius

What I learned: Your first act is going to have the most information in it of all the acts. This is where you’re laying out your characters, your world, your plot, and providing setups that you’ll later pay off (such as the potential addiction to drugs I wanted a better setup of). If your first act is thin and breezy, you probably aren’t utilizing it in the correct way.

  • Citizen M

    “Suspense only works when it’s invisible.”

    Actually, we need to be able to visualize what might happen, e.g. with a bomb under the table, bad guys hidden around the corner, etc etc, we have a pretty good idea of what is about to happen. If we have no idea, as in the box, it’s asking too much of the reader/viewer to do the work of imagining a bad result of opening the box.

    Plus… first, bitches.

    • moog

      There’s a nice look at suspense and it’s various forms in the latest Scriptnotes podcast.

      Congrats Nick!

      • Nick Morris

        Thanks, moog!

    • Nick Morris

      Thanks for the insight, Citizen!

      • Citizen M

        I feel we need to know there’s something off about the setup. The script actually starts with quite a light-hearted tone. Nothing to hint at anything paranormal. At least if it’s a haunted house you have a creepy house or creepy paintings on the wall or a creepy book or something.

        Suggestion: When she first sees the box she reads “Do Not Open” and throws it down the garbage chute (setting up the garbage chute), then next time she’s in the corridor, the box is there again. Cue creepy music. But of course, she’s curious, and brings it into the apartment instead of giving it a wide berth.

        • Nick Morris

          I like it! And I actually had her throw it down the chute in an earlier version. Can’t quite remember now why that changed. I’m sure there was some kind of valid reason! ;)

          Oh yeah! Now I recall. She didn’t open it originally. Just threw it away. But I wanted her to get locked inside seemingly as a result of having opened the box. Your suggestion solves that issue. I’m definitely gonna do that. Thanks, Citizen!

    • JakeBarnes12

      That’s not what Carson means, M. Read it again, including Carson’s next sentence.

      “Suspense only works when it’s invisible. Not when the writer is clearly pulling the strings.”

  • Ashley Sanders

    Congrats to Nick on the review.
    I think Nick admitted that this was understandably rushed a little to hit a Christmas slot, and maybe still feels a little first drafty as a result – but I read about half of it and it certainly felt like it had potential to me – it feels like the idea has firm foundations to build a Christmas horror around. A few more drafts to fix some of the issues Carson raises above and this could become a viable Christmas horror. I hope Nick isn’t put off and uses the feedback for the next draft, because I think he has something here.

    • Nick Morris

      Thank you, Ashley. Certainly not put off in the least. If anything, I’m just inspired to fine tune this concept into something that’ll really sing. Appreciate you checking it out!

  • Midnight Luck

    Congrats Nick!
    Great review, and even though you didn’t get a “Worth The Read”, many many people liked it and even Carson had a lot of good to say anyways.

    I really like the “DO NOT OPEN” idea, but I think it is a bit too small of an idea and the way it is used.
    It is interesting to turn it into a retelling of A CHRISTMAS CAROL, but I’m not convinced that’s the best way to go with it.
    Films that have broken out recently in a big way, (mostly Blumhouse) have a pretty simple storyline, but a strong, easy to understand central idea.
    From IT FOLLOWS, to GET OUT, to even HAPPY DEATH DAY, each has a pretty simple, easy to grasp concept.
    Well, I think you have that, you just need to weed out more of the interesting aspects of what DO NOT OPEN really means.
    To me it would mean, whatever that person’s worst fears are, they become realized when they finally open this damn box.
    Or it is a central theme running through the whole movie. The DO NOT OPEN written on the box, is a reflection of what everyone in the movie is dealing with, or going through. Maybe someone has troubles opening up to others, or someone is TOO open and it is detrimental to everything in their life constantly.

    I think there are a ton more ideas and things you could do with this concept of a DO NOT OPEN box.
    Again, congrats on the review, and I hope you get the script figured out and rewrite it to the point, everyone will HAVE TO OPEN IT! to read what’s inside.

    • andyjaxfl

      Great points about the nature of the box. Shifting it to a personal Pandora’s box (instead of the typical impersonal and world-ending use that we often see) might be a really addition to the concept.

    • Nick Morris

      Thanks so much, Midnight, for all of your thoughts and ideas both here and during its AOW appearance. Plenty to think about as I keep hammering this this concept out. Cheers to you!

    • Shane_Blade

      I think you nailed it, Midnight Luck. Personally, I find horror movies much scarier when they’re psychological and explore the protagonist’s worst fears and flaws. In this case the title/concept promises so much. Pure gore just wears off too quickly. @Nick congratulations + you’ve got almost a year to make DO NOT OPEN perfect.

      • Nick Morris

        Thank you, Shane!

    • Citizen M

      I also had a problem with the theme. If the note says Do Not Open and you open, what are you doing? Could be any of:
      – Giving into temptation of satisfying your curiosity.
      – Breaking an explicit command.
      – Looking into something that doesn’t concern you.

      That sets up a theme that doesn’t seem to have much to do with Past Present and Future. Maybe there should be more of a time element connected with the box.

  • Avatar

    Nice premise.

    • Nick Morris

      Thanks, Avatar!

      • Avatar

        Yeah, it’s super cool. Plus, I’ve never seen anyone try this classic in horror form. You’re probably inventing a new genre–holiday/horror.

        • Nick Morris

          Not inventing it exactly, but it sure would be cool to take it to another level! :)

  • Lucid Walk

    I’m curious to read this, regardless of the review. My only fear is Carson may have spoiled the ending by discussing the Christmas Future section.

    • Nick Morris

      A little maybe, but I hope you do get a chance to take a look, Lucid!

  • Nick Morris

    Hey, all! A million thanks to Carson for the review and to everyone that took the time to check out DO NOT OPEN!

    This is my third AF review so, naturally, I was hoping the third time would be a charm and I might finally snag that elusive [X] Worth The Read. But honestly, I was prepared for an absolute evisceration today so it’s a relief to know that this one came close! :) Admittedly, I kind of pushed this one out the door a little undercooked so its appearance would coincide nicely with the holidays.

    In any event, I’m thrilled to have run the AOW gauntlet again and to have so much feedback from this amazing community. You guys make this place truly special and as I’ve said before, there’s just nothing else like ScriptShadow out there for amateur writers. Thank you again for all you do, Carson, and to you guys for always being here to encourage and inspire each other.

    Now let’s go slay us some 2018!

    • Paul Clarke

      Nice work, Nick. Keep ‘em coming.

      • Nick Morris

        Thanks, Paul!

    • Stephjones

      Congrats on the review to one of the nicest guys ever!

      • Nick Morris

        Aw, thanks Steph! You’re too sweet. :)

      • PQOTD

        Hear, hear!

        • Nick Morris

          ;)

      • klmn

        Hey Steph, have you submitted for the upcoming AOW? (maybe tomorrow, but who knows with Carson time?)

        • Stephjones

          Yes. A script named Missed The Boat. It’s a fish out of water, buddy comedy. Two rednecks have to move a boat on the canals and rivers of France. Hope Carson picks it, I need a SS reality check.

          • klmn

            Very good. Anyone else reading this submitting?

    • CJ

      Congratulations on the review, and for coming close to WtR. It sounds like an interesting take on A Christmas Carol that would become an annual Christmastime watch for horror fans.

      • Nick Morris

        Thanks, CJ!

        I really love A CHRISTMAS CAROL and usually consume several different versions of it each year. My favorites being the 1951 Alastair SIm iteration (just can’t beat that performance) and the 1988 Bill Murray SCROOGED re-imagining.

        This year alone I skimmed through the novel, caught a live stage adaptation and watched the first 1938 Reginald Owen movie, Sim, George C Scott, Albert Finney, Bill Murray, Jim Carrey and even some of the Muppets version with Michael Caine on TV!

        But I also love horror and find good Christmas horror movies a little harder to come by. So I’d obviously love for this to some day become a holiday staple for horror fanatics like me. :)

    • ScriptChick

      Hey Nick! Congrats on the review. Just thinking about the way the monsters are portrayed with the lights and all (which actually reminded me of at World’s End), what if they sounded more like broken Jingle Bells? Something that keeps it holiday and special to your story? I can imagine the broken rusted tin jangling sounding like a death rattle of sorts.

      • Nick Morris

        Interesting idea! Thanks, Katherine, and thanks again for your notes over the holidays. They were particularly helpful. :)

    • shewrites

      Remember, Nick. People in the industry visit this site. No getting a “worth the read” does not mean your script isn’t worth turning into a film with the proper tweaking and that it won’t be grabbed. Focus on the positive!

      • Nick Morris

        “People in the industry visit this site. No getting a “worth the read” does not mean your script isn’t worth turning into a film with the proper tweaking and that it won’t be grabbed.”

        You are 100% correct about that. ;)

    • ThomasBrownen

      Congrats, Nick! Great way to start off the new year!

      • Nick Morris

        Thanks, Tom! Agreed. ;)

    • jbird669

      Congrats on the review! And for once, I think Carson has a great castng idea: Alexandra Dadario for the win!

      • Nick Morris

        Absolutely!

  • Adam McCulloch

    Carson, would you mind reviewing Daddio from the 2017 Black List? I’m completely befuddled by it’s high ranking and feel I’m missing something that better readers than I must have seen and loved.

  • Mrl72

    Does setting your story around a holiday like Christmas time help or hinder sales of your script?

    • Nick Morris

      Here’s hoping it’s option A. ;)

    • Scott Crawford

      One of the most popular movies on Netflix UK (they say, anyway its listed as such) is KRAMPUS. I think Silent Night Deadly Night and a few others are on there too… thing is, there’s always room for a bit of DARK Christmas.

      Settings that might harm your script: Easter. NATIONAL TREASURE 2 takes place around Easter (it features the White House easter egg hunt) but any script SOLD on Easter might have problems.

      • klmn

        I wonder – do Australians reference the Easter Bunny, or do they have an Easter Kangaroo?

  • urban.spaceman

    Are you still taking submissions for the SUPER-BREAKDOWN?

    I keep sending a script for Amateur Offerings but it never gets featured….

    • Scott Crawford

      Sorry, usual boring question… what’s the title? The logline? Genre and “Why You Should Read.”

      Carson’s pretty thorough when he comes to selecting AOW entrants (he’s looking for the next MEAT!), and he HAS previously listed loglines that KEEP being sent to him, so if you’re sending him the SAME logline, the chances are he HAS seen it but has skipped to the next one.

      Assuming your script is mega-something awesome, it could be your log isn’t selling it.

  • urban.spaceman

    PS Happy New Year everyone. Hope 2018 brings us all (especially me) a renewed enthusiasm for writing!

  • Randy Williams

    Congrats to Nick for making it on AF!

    Is this the same logline that was attached to the script on that AOW weekend?
    I was one of the first to comment on it then. I usually just read the loglines. The WYSR
    often include things like, “This script was on the Blacklist in 2007″ and things like
    that make me want to reconsider what I’m saying. Like, I must be dumb not to
    recognize the masterful presentation of this script.

    So, after reading up to page 49 of “Do Not Open”, I commented. Later, reading
    other comments I was struck that I did not get the “A Christmas Carol” framework
    of the story that everyone was talking about. I didn’t recognize that backdrop
    while reading.

    I remember focusing on the box and her agoraphobia. I was looking for clues to tie the two together as the story went along. Nick’s scripts are for me a master class in one thing
    or another. First the energy of the writing always sets such a high bar. That’s a given with his stuff. Then, there’s the imaginative takes on horror scenes. This has that. I, too, LOVED the garbage chute business. Although, I think, one should always make it difficult for a character as much as possible in action and consequences and Holly should have ripped off the Christmas lights of someone else’s door and not her own. For visual fun, I thought she had on the wrong pajamas for visuals on blood on them. Blood against something like stuffed animals or reindeer would have more impact than blood against christmas trees? UNLESS, everything is a clue. Again, I was looking for clues as to the box and the agoraphobia. My mind was not on “A Christmas Carol” and an examination of her life at that point.

    I’m currently expanding one of my shorts contest entries into a feature. It has a character that sees things that others don’t but the consequences of seeing those things for the story’s sake must impact her and especially others to the maximum consequences for it to work. That’s the challenge for me. In “Do Not Open”, what, for example or the consequences of the claw ripping her pajamas and drawing blood? After that, her ripped pajamas are forgotten and there’s no mention of her concern for her leg or the blood. She’s transported quickly into another “realm”. I assume then that the pajamas have become magically whole again and the blood has disappeared? At that point, I was losing my footing as to the parameters of what she was seeing. Even, if I had started with “A Christmas Carol” in mind, I still think I would have felt adrift.

    I already with just one line of dialogue early on that her family was ultra religious and probably found her homosexuality a sin and shunned her. So, with the extended family scene, I was a bit impatient. What was the point of this? Where was the box? If there was a scene with mom finding her in the closet with her Christmas present and commanding her, don’t open that until Christmas, then I would have felt we’re on the right track. But, I felt at that point that the family scene was overdone. That, plus Holly’s flippant comments after experiencing so much horror, that maybe she got a bad batch of mushrooms or she had dropped into a bad version of “Groundhog Day”, made me stop there on page 49. I would have been a basket case. She’s shrugging it off on tainted Portobellos?

    So, after learning I had failed to make the “A Christmas Carol” connection to begin with, I started reading again. In retrospect, the family scene had more sense for me, but the agoraphobia then felt off. Scrooge was a known Grinch and I could anticipate the arc he’d experience by being led through his life this way. What of Holly? She already had the Christmas spirit. Was this all to get her out of the house? And what did the box have to do with that?

    I believe if I had kept on reading the first time, the first indication for me that this was tied in to “A Christmas Carol” would be on page 69. Okay, I’m a slow learner. I LOVED this scene in the homeless shelter. Visually, it’s very striking. The combination of Holly seeing her future self in a horizontal position and helpless, others taking advantage of her weakness and the monster looming nearby. (Oh, my, that reminds of the ghost of Christmas future?!) Suddenly, it would have rung a bell for me, I believe.

    This has lot of potential, I believe. Personally, I prefer a straightforward mystery box. What’s in, or behind that box and why is Holly the one to never open it? But, the allure
    of Dicken’s framework for a Christmas Horror certainly makes sense. But, relying too much on Tiny Tim’s crutches only gets you so far. The imaginative mind of Nick Morris obviously already knows that.

    • Nick Morris

      Thanks so much for sharing your unique and comprehensive thoughts on this, Randy!

      That is indeed a new logline. Does it express the idea better? I think using the term “agoraphobic” in my first version of the logline was probably a mistake and may have conjured up the wrong idea of what I was going for with this script. I mean, she’s definitely anxiety ridden and has more-or-less confined herself to her apartment. But I’m not sure putting that fine a point on her personal issues initially did me any favors in terms of selling this concept. Loglines are so tricky.

      So glad you decided to read on and that the Dickens vibe started to come through a little more for you. And thanks so much for the kind words! You rock, dude. ;)

      • Randy Williams

        Yes, the new logline does express the idea much better. If I had this to begin with, I don’t think I would have been upset about the protagonist explaining everything on bad digestion and stopped reading there. Scrooge did the same thing.

  • brenkilco

    Not a horror person. Or at least not a modern horror person. So take this for what it’s worth. At page 29 the protag asks why is this happening.? Base on Carson’s review it doesn’t sound like any particular answer is provided. She’s opened this unexplained Pandora’s box and bang. How, why, what? Hey, it’s horror. But it’s also a Christmas Carol. So it’s as if instead of Marley appearing to Scrooge in that unforgettable scene, explaining Scrooge’s spiritual predicament and his own despair, he’d sent him a letter, an anonymous letter, a blank piece of paper in an envelope that said beware on it. Not the same.

    • Nick Morris

      It’s a loose adaptation obviously, but as you noted, it’s also horror. I did find find the two elements (horror vs Dickens) clashed a bit harder and more frequently than I’d initially anticipated. And I did grapple with the idea of having someone/something appear and spell it all out to her like Marley did but ultimately feared that might detract from the horror of not knowing what’s coming next. But I may revisit that in the next rewrite. Thanks for chiming in, Bren! Most appreciated. :)

  • Poe_Serling

    DO
    NOT
    OPEN

    I’m glad that C ignored the above warning and finally took a peek into the box.

    Also…

    A big jump scare to Nick for getting another ride on the haunted AF carousel at
    the abandoned amusement park located on the outside edge of ScriptShadow.

    All kidding aside…

    What makes Nick the perfect writer for this type of forum: his active/positive
    participation in the discussion phase and willingness to sort through the
    suggestions/make the changes to put his project into a better position to
    be produced in the future.

    • Nick Morris

      Thanks for saying so, Poe! You’re too kind and definitely one of, if not THE most supportive force in this great community. Please stay awesome. :)

  • ripleyy

    Hmm, I remember this was discussed in the comment section a while back. I like the idea, but I’m a little confused as to what the present has to do with anything other than it’s set in Christmas?

    If anything, if the slant here is to make Holly want to live more, then maybe have it she gets a phone call from Marlene who needs help, and this propels (throws, drives, etc) her to fight three floors of craziness in order to do it, with the final scene being her stepping outside.

    That’s just an on-the-spot idea, but still. Anyway, congratulations, Nick! It’s always a pleasure to see your scripts on here!

    • Nick Morris

      Thanks, ripleyy! The “flaw” that I was going for with Holly was the need to take control of her life in several different respects but particularly in her relationships with others as well as with herself.

      Similarly to Scrooge, she’s largely shut out other people but with her it’s more out of fear than contempt. So she has a different personal issue(s) to resolve than Scrooge, but they both manifest themselves and impact their respective lives in similarly negative ways.

      But that’s an interesting idea with Marlene or someone needing her help somehow. I’ll take a look at that in rewrites for sure. Cheers!

  • brenkilco

    Suspense only works when it’s invisible. Not when the writer is clearly pulling the strings.

    I’m not sure suspense is ever invisible. It’s the opposite of I didn’t see that coming. The writer normally must provide the reader with more knowledge than a character has so that the reader can anticipate the consequences of some possible action or event. There’s always some degree of contrivance involved.

    I think what Carson may have meant was that the suspense must be organic. The decisions a character makes must be rational and/or consistent with personality. Why are those stupid teenagers always wandering off by themselves even when they know they’re threatened? So we can have more gory, teased out, murder scenes. That’s bad suspense.

    That said, even the great ones cheat. Why does Tippi Hedren go up those stairs at the climax of The Birds? I mean, it’s just so f@%$ing stupid. Beyond stupid. But Hitchcock wanted to do that Bird attack scene in the attic.

  • JakeBarnes12

    Good horror is established by, among other things, atmosphere.

    Atmosphere in a script is established through one or two specific details.

    Dude, describe the freakin’ apartment hallway and lobby.

    What am I supposed to be seeing?

    • Nick Morris

      Haha! Noted. I’ll definitely amp up the atmosphere and description in the next round. Thanks, Jake!

  • Justin

    Congratz on the review!

    Based off Carson’s review/thoughts on the script, it almost seems to read like a psychological horror, which I think might be of great benefit to the script (unless it already is, that is, since I hadn’t gotten past the first act).

    Also, for some reason I thought of the ending of KRAMPUS while I was reading through the review. No idea why, just thought I’d mention it.

    • Nick Morris

      Interesting observation about KRAMPUS. I just recently re-watched that one as well. Maybe it’s just the overt Christmas/horror vibe. I wish I liked KRAMPUS more than I do. It’s decent but needs more Krampus!

      • Justin

        True. I was really hoping for more of him/it — they really held back on that.

  • http://insideechenrysbrain.typepad.com/inside_the_brain_of_ec_he/ E.C. Henry

    OFF TOPIC. I was wondering what my fellow scribes who use index cards put on them? I’m currently “carding up” a new spec script and am finding that my initial round of index cards are pretty scatterbrained. Kinda caught the initial “flash of inspiration”, but most of them are going to have to be re-written. Soooo…

    I was wondering what other writers put on their index cards as the endeavor to plot point up a story that they intend to write into a script. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/b655f2b398cd0a6bd8e1cc7d8d2104669967fbdded598490698b7b65d5340e2d.jpg

    • scriptfeels

      There were some good examples of using index cards in the book, the screensriters bible if i remember.

      Just had the slugline, list of characters, and what happened in the scene to progress the story.

  • Shawn Davis

    Congrats, Nick on the review.

    I’ve been gone a while but am now back. I hope to tag up with a few of the writers I once chatted with.

    …crazy year for sure

    Take care,

    Shawn…….><

    • Nick Morris

      Thanks, Shawn, and welcome back! Hit me up anytime.

  • Citizen M
  • shewrites

    Congrats, Nick! I really liked “Do Not Open” and agree with some of Carson’s notes.

    I really would have liked a shorter first act as it felt it was dragging in many places. I would have introduced her gilrfriend much sooner and added conflict there with perhaps the girlfriend feeling that Holly enjoyed wallowing in her “condition” or that the GF was ready to break up with her unless Holly “snapped” out of it.
    You could have then hinted that Holly had a big backstory that caused her to be agarophobic. It would have spiked our curiosity.

    I also felt that the tone was a bit too light-hearted/mundane in the first act. I love the suggestion made by Citizen M that she first chucks the box. Yes, it could then appear at her door and we think that it is creepy until we find out that perhaps her girlfriend retrieved it because she is curious. THis way, you diffuse the threat only to bring it back later, and it would add more umph.

    I thought the “ghosts” of her past and future was very clever. Well done.
    I hope we get to read the script after your rewrite. Good luck with it!

    • Nick Morris

      Thanks, shewrites! I’ll certainly take your ideas into consideration for the rewrite and would love to get your thoughts on it when it’s ready to go. Cheers!

  • Erica
    • Scott Crawford

      Do we get the day off? Thought not.

  • Biju B

    First of all, a big congrats to Nick for the review. That’s some consistent performance getting your third script qualified for AF. So Hat’s Off!

    And talking about consistency…

    OT: Since Scott has not posted his daily update today I will start the thread and those who wish to share what they did today (in terms of writing of course) may do so.

    Was hoping to maintain yesterday’s count of 6 pages today.

    Finished 6, barely. Tiring day today. Almost gave up at 5 but a spark lit up when I least expected. Hope tomorrow will be easy.

    This is January 2018 – 5 days down, 26 to go.

    • Nick Morris

      Thanks, Biju!

    • Scott Crawford

      Sorry, I thought people might be sick of it! Also, things are going a bit slower for me… I haven’t even started the script. BUT… I haven’t stopped either. TONS of ideas, too many really, need to focus.

      Anyone else in the same boat?

      Fortunately, help is at hand. You see, what Carson said today about the first act is really interesting. Thhe first act is (arguably) not as important as the other two. You need get t right, hone it, but that ca can be done in the rear right. The first act really is the log line played out, that is the main character is what happens to the main character but ups turns their lives and what the euro wants to do which is the goal and what is stopping the character from doing that which is the conflict .

      What you got this done the first act then you can think about me more creative in the second obviously the third act but at the moment my main focus has to be on getting a first that done. Hasn’t started the screenplay yet and isn’t sure where to start up Just focus on getting act one done because the other two actually, after that.

      • Scott Crawford

        P.S. I started typing that comment on my iPad but I have trouble with the keypad since the update (and since smashing the screen) so I switched to using dictation. As you can imagine, it is less than perfect. BUT a quick rewrite when I brought the page up on my other computer and I could fix what I had written in about a minute.

        I’m not sure I’d fully advocate dictation when writing a screenplay, although from Dosteyevsky’s The Gambler to Larry Ferguson’s Beverly Hills Cop2, there is a glorious history of dictating art. And, obviously, if you NEED to dictate that’s another thing.

        The danger of dicating, outside of those who HAVE to, is that the translation of your words may not be accurate and when you come to fix it you MAY have forgotten what you intended to say/write.

        I don’t know. Caveat lector.

        • Angie

          P.S. Shouldn’t you be sleeping? Please don’t be insomniac like me.

          • Scott Crawford

            I’ve got work this morning, so yeah! I had a lie in this morning, my day off, so my clocks a bit off (sleeping is a problem for me, not insomnia as such, I just don’t sleep so well and am tired a lot of the time). Also, working ALL day tomorrow, so wanted to get as much writing work done as I can before then.

      • Angie

        “TONS of ideas, too many really, need to focus.

        Anyone else in the same boat? ‘

        Usually my problem which shows up in many inconvoluted, needlessly complicated scripts. Not this time. I’m really trying to stick to whatever is theme related.

        My first act is going to be a bit longer as I’m also world building. So, no rush. This time, I’m taking going step by step.

        • Scott Crawford

          Last comment before bed! Last year I did a lot of studying of SIMPLE stories, what they are and why they work. I’ve become obsessed with HOW simple a story can be, and it’s amazing how simple a story can be (and still work).

          Not enough time to go through all my research, but suffice to say… fewer th8ngs happen in great movies than you might think.

          And with that… airplane mode.

    • Angie

      “First of all, a big congrats to Nick for the review. That’s some consistent performance getting your third script qualified for AF. So Hat’s Off!”

      Yes, Nick is on the cusp of success, no doubt about it. Congrats to him.

      • Scott Crawford

        He’s got a strong work ethic. And he’s got a big heart. You need both to succeed in this business.

        • Nick Morris

          Too cool of you, Scott. Thanks, brother!

      • Nick Morris

        Appreciate the vote of confidence, Angie! Thank you!!!

    • Angie

      “Finished 6, barely. Tiring day today. Almost gave up at 5 but a spark lit up when I least expected. Hope tomorrow will be easy.”

      Somebody or maybe everybody said writing begets writing. So tomorrow may be easier for you. Hope it is. Goal of 6 pages met is great.

      Though I do now have initial first scene ready, my page count goals are less ambitious at this point. I’ve taken Carson’s suggestion to double the time and find it works much better for me. I’ve finished the initial outline one day early. It might need more scenes down the line but at least I know where I’m going. I’ve also started the character bios one day earlier than I expected. Am happy with my progress.

  • Nick Morris

    Thank you, mxm!

  • Nick Morris

    Hey, Cypher01. Just click the link below the review. Thanks for your interest!