Can it be true? Has a new amateur screenplay sliced and diced its way to an elusive “impressive” ranking?

Genre: Drama/Horror
Premise: (from writer) A secluded boy’s way of life is threatened when he befriends Rose – the girl whom his parents have imprisoned in the family attic.
About: I’ve started to include 5 amateur scripts a week in my mailing list, telling readers to read as much as they can of whatever they wanted, and to give me their thoughts afterwards. “Rose In the Darkness” has gotten a nice reception, so I added it to the Friday slate.
Writer: Joe Marino
Details: 107 pages
Status: Available

Black Friday. What the hell does that mean anyway? I heard it means that it’s the day that all the stores in America “enter the black” because it’s the biggest shopping day of the year? That’s a fine explanation but do you think they could name it something a little more upbeat like… “Fun Friday” or “Fantastic Friday” or “Kip Kalamahama It’s Time To Shop!”

I bring this up not to contribute to the marketing of a day designed to strip you of your 2012 savings, but because today is a great day. It’s only the second day in Scriptshadow’s history that I’m giving an amateur script an IMPRESSIVE! “Say whaaaat?” That’s right. And you know the last time I gave an amateur script that prestigious rating. A little script called “The Disciple Program.” Now “Rose In the Darkness” doesn’t have that perfect combination of elements to make it an easy sell like Disciple (a strong male adult lead, a good hook, and the easy to market “Thriller” genre), but this is still a movie that could be made for a cheap price with an easy-to-market horror angle. It’s kind of like Scriptshadow-fave Sunflower, and almost as good.

“Rose In the Darkness” starts with a great opening scene. It’s Mississippi in the year 1994. A young boy, Micah (13), is having dinner with his parents, Lily and Judah. While the three casually pass the potatoes around and say grace, there is a horrifying screaming going on above them, in the attic. It’s relentless, loud, violent. And yet nobody acts surprised or concerned.

Finally, however, wanting to eat in peace, the mother casually walks upstairs, and after a moment, we hear something (someone?) being beaten badly. Then silence. The mother comes back down, a huge bloody handprint on her dress, and the family resumes their dinner.

Over the next few days, we learn a couple more things about this odd family. First of all, Micah has never gone anywhere. He’s lived his entire life on this property. In fact, there’s a line of chalk that extends around the edge of this rural farmhouse that he’s never walked beyond. Second, the grounds are littered with dug-up holes, holes where, presumably, bodies have been buried. It turns out that whoever’s in that attic hasn’t been the first.

Religion’s also a big deal in this household. According to his parents, his family is the last of the righteous, and everyone else out there are demons. It is their job, then, to take down the demons one by one. That’s why his parents go out and capture people, put them in the attic, torture, then kill them. It’s the “right” thing to do.

Now up until this point, Micah’s gone with the flow. If his parents said the sky was purple, he believed the sky was purple. But Micah’s growing up fast, and he’s starting to get curious. So, when his parents accidentally drop the attic key, he snatches it up and goes into the attic for the first time. It’s there where he meets Rose, a beautiful 14 year-old girl who looks like she’s been through hell. She’s locked up in a cage and she’s terrified.

But after talking with Micah for awhile, Rose starts to cheer up. Micah goes upstairs to read to her whenever his parents are away. They form a friendship, and it’s through this friendship that Micah starts to learn that the world his parents have told him about may not be the one that really exists. According to Rose, there are good people everywhere, and it is Micah’s parents, in fact, who are the evil ones.

This is a lot for Micah to digest, and he’s not sure who he believes. But when his parents start becoming suspicious about his newfound curiosity, and he overhears them saying that they’re going to kill Rose within the next few days, he’s going to have to make a decision soon, a decision that will drastically change the rest of his life.

We’ve heard it all before and yet I continue to read scripts that don’t apply it. Hook us with your opening scene! Give us something interesting/exciting/mysterious so that we’re lured in right away. This opening scene where a family is casually eating dinner while someone screams above them let me know right away that “Rose In the Darkness” was a contender. Especially because it’s a slow-build type of script and Marino didn’t start with a slow boring scene. See, that’s the mistake a lot of writers make when they attempt the slow-build. They make it slow and boring from the very first page, not giving up the good stuff until at least page 40. Unfortunately, by then, the reader has already given up.

With “Rose,” of course, we not only have this great opening scene to keep us reading, we have a mystery that’s been set up, one we have to keep reading to get an answer to (“Who’s up in the attic??”). I don’t see anybody opening this and not wanting to continue until they find the answer to that question.

But I liked how Marino didn’t stop there. He created an entire history for this household. We have the newly dug up holes in the backyard. We have the chalk outlined border circling the property, the one our main character refuses to go beyond.

And then Marino creates this really creepy mother and father. The way these two manipulate the bible’s teachings, doing so as a way to push their own hypocritical agenda is enough to get you revved up for hours. You’re thinking, “How could they be DOING that to this kid?” That’s when I know I’m reading something good. When I’m getting emotionally amped up about one of the characters, and not the writer.

Then the script has this nice little midpoint shift where we finally meet the girl in the attic, Rose, and the narrative shifts into a sort of “Let The Right One In” love story. I loved watching these two together and wondering if Micah was going to be able to save her. And of course, I loved the internal battle Micah had to go through himself. Who does he believe? His parents, who are the only people he’s known up until this point, or this girl who, up until a few days ago, was a stranger? I could actually feel that choice eating away at him. And it’s not easy to make an audience FEEL an internal battle going on inside a character. In fact, it’s damn hard!

And there were other moments that just screamed, “Good writer!” For instance, there’s a scene early on where Micah’s mother tells him a bedtime story about a princess. But as she tells it, we flash back and realize she’s really telling a story about her childhood. Not only was it a clever way to reveal backstory, but the story of abuse actually made you sympathize with her, which was essential for her character development later on.

But these stories only work if they have a good ending. You know? Because the whole point of a slow-build is that it’s all going to lead up to something big. If we’re going to allow you to take your time telling your story, it better have a damn good payoff. And “Rose In the Darkness” does! I won’t spoil it. You’ll have to read the script yourself. But, in short, it was cool!

If the script has one negative, it would be the dialogue. It didn’t quite work for me and I’m not sure why. It was a little too simplistic but, more importantly, the kids spoke like adults most of the time. Here’s an exchange between Micah and Rose near the middle of the script. Micah: “So that’s why you’re so resigned.” Rose: “We didn’t do anything to deserve what happened. But it didn’t matter. Not with them. And now not for me.” Does that sound like a 13 year old and a 14 year old talking? I guess Micah’s only ever been around adults. But Rose is a normal teenage girl. Why is she talking that way?

However, this weakness is only evident in spots. The scene construction was so strong (there was always tension or suspense) that the dialogue didn’t become much of a factor. That’s why I say, learn to construct scenes correctly. If you do, the reader’s more focused on what’s going on in the scene than they are the dialogue.

I really liked this script a lot. I’m in contact with Joe Marino as we speak. Check it out yourself and share your opinion in the comments section!

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

What I learned: I don’t know if there’s a specific lesson I learned, but my favorite part of the script was the late arrival of the police officer. 9 out of 10 writers would’ve stayed with Rose alone up in that attic. But adding a police officer to the mix gave the third act a fresh unexpected feel. I always love when an ending develops in an unexpected way, and you rarely see it, so kudos to Marino for coming up with that inspired late-story choice.

  • klmn

    You asked, “Black Friday? What the hell does that mean anyway.” The term has been used a number of times. The earliest reference I could find was to the 1869 financial scandal when Jay Gould and James Fisk attempted to corner the gold market. According to Wikipedia, “It was one of several scandals that rocked the presidency of Ulysses S. Grant.”

    I imagine when they met the conversation went like this.

    President Grant: Dude! You really rocked my presidency.

    Jay Gould: Awesome, man!

    James Fisk: Far fuckin’ out!

    They slap high fives.

  • Poe_Serling


    Wow, I wish I had the energy to do a lengthy write-up on this script because it deserves

    But right now I’m riding the Tryptophan Express … and I’m about one exit from Slumberville.

    Just some random thoughts:

    Writer Joe M. sure knows how to craft a story with a dark and foreboding mood. Isolated setting. Creepy as hell parents. Sinister religious undertones.

    Then to that mix —

    How about throwing in a few screams and odd noises from the attic. And on top of that, add some fresh mounds of dirt in the back yard…

    Yeah, you got my full attention now. A topnotch AF submission from start to finish!!

    One final note: Certain elements of the story reminded of the Flowers in the Attic series, Frailty, Parents, etc.

    • carsonreeves1

      Yeah, I’m barely able to move. Pumpkin pie’s made me want to pumpkin die.

      • Poe_Serling

        I hear you… see you on the other side.

  • kidbaron

    It gets off to a good start. The mood/tone is well set and such.

    Then it bogs down.

    Hope I’m making sense– from the first scene it’s seems that the lead character, Micah, has been growing up around the scenario that is being established for us the reader for some time, but for some reason it’s written as if it’s new to him. His approach to the weirdness seems odd then. His curiosity regarding what is in the attic seems out of place for a character who has grown up in the house.

    The storytelling gets clunky because of the conflict/disconnect between what the character should already know and what the writer has to estblish for the reader who is experiencing this for the first time.

    • Joe Marino

      Hey, kidbaron! Appreciate the read! The only response I can give is that, yes, Micah has grown up in this world for as long as he can remember. But he’s older now. And with age comes an inherent curiosity of the world around us. Just like anyone who grows up in a household with a religious or political slant, there comes a time in adolescence where we don’t just accept the given truth. We must explore for ourselves. The scene I attempted to convey his changing attitude towards that truth was the second scene – his attempt to go past the chalk line. He didn’t do it, yes, but the fact that he TRIED portrays that curiosity and subtle rebellion he has inside of him. And that makes his decision to disobey and grab the key a bit less sudden and odd.

      • courlo

        joe, i think your script, and your writing abysmal.

        • Joe Marino

          well, I’m sorry to hear that, courlo. To each his own. It’s unfortunate that you feel a 21-year-old’s writing is so abysmal that you feel compelled to comment more than once on your opinion of that fact. It’s that type of generic condemnation I’d expect from YouTube, not on here. Would you like to be more specific?

          • carsonreeves1

            courlo the troullo has been cut off. He can’t comment anymore. :)

          • Victional

            Not worth it, believe me. I made the mistake of soliciting a script from this person. Suffice to say you’re an infinitely more talented writer and, in all likelihood, a much nicer person.

            I really enjoyed your script but I probably couldn’t add much that hasn’t already been covered. Good luck, methinks you’ll do okay for yourself.

          • Yellomamba

            Courlo is not Grendel, is he?

          • courlo

            joe, here’s why. when i read the introductory pages, right away, i asked myself, had those noises which were coming from inside that attic just begun, or were they a recurrent part of the family’s daily routine? as i read, it became clear that the noises were not the first to have interrupted the family’s supper. so, to that end, i had a problem early on. my problem follows, weren’t the adults, who were also captured, tortured and, subsequently slaughtered, even more rambunctious than was the young girl — the last of those to be set for dismemberment, who had very recently witnessed both her parents sent to their deaths in a most undignified and brutal manner? and had those even more severe, and, i’d presume, more violent objections to their deprived freedom, not resulted in a great enough impetus to push the young man up those steps into that attic to kill his curiosity? but, reserved judgment, and i read further. so when i got to the pages where the mother reads the son a bedtime story, a story that she’d been recanting to him for some years, though, not regularly of late, i instantly knew that the story was anecdotal. i mean, i saw right through the conceit to the core of it. that said, i gave the read more time to grab my throat. so, when the young man spots the fox, or maybe it was another small animal, wrestling a humanoid bone from underneath one of the tumuli, i, again, paused to ask myself another question: hadn’t he seen this unearthing happen many times before at some point? had not his wonderment gotten the better of his id and compelled him to go searching inside of at least one of those burial mounds by now? i mean, he was of the age where, naturally, boys will be boys, is he not? i wondered…and the last point that dissuaded me was the time when the father barrels in bleeding from his neck. now, having seen blood on the mother’s smock, and having seen the bone being dragged away by the fox, i knew that the father was a kidnapper and had, somehow or another, just been injured by his next victim who may or may not have just successfully fought him off. add to the fact that the mother seemed to know exactly what to do, and the young man had a very composed reaction to seeing his father in such a strait, and that scene made little sense to me, a cold logician. also, with the part of the parents’ conversation about whether or not the cut would be okay by dinner or something to that effect, and that the mother did not appear to be moved very far at the sight of her, face blasted me with another cold dose of logic, if you know what i mean. so, we followed that up with the father, a very austere and exacting man with a cruel and domineering affect who definitely presides meticulously over his home with an iron fist, allowing his very well guarded, and extremely important cage key to, incredibly, just slip right out of his possession. i then moved on to the end and read about glen and the big contorsion in the script — i read it and said “oh no”. and it was at that point that i gave in to the cold winds blowing across my face and headed for warmer climes, joe. so, for those reasons, and perhaps, a few more, this fan of siskel and ebert was forced to turn both of his thumbs toward the floor.
            now, i caught some flak for my blunt expression of dislike toward your spec yesterday, so, in the spirit of that big catch, i’m changing my screenname from courlo to troullo! nice, right? i think it is. but, here’s the deal, joe. my opinion is just that, my thought. it does not matter at all. i do not make deals, and i hardly ever read spec anymore because i do not feel as though i can learn anything else by reading them. that is the reason why i prefer scriptshadow to other, similar sites. carson always delivers really good, and even great pro scripts from which a guy like me is able to read and feed, versus undertaking the great adventure reading and feeding from, and about, specs. that said, i read yours because i overlooked the fact that it was up for amateur friday review in this week’s amateur slot. if my loose change roiled, joe, i apologize to you. i suppose that i was way too harsh on a twenty one year-old such as yourself. i will steer clear of making that mistake going forward, joe.
            i am of the mindset, concerning screenplay writing, that the writer accepts all criticism, no matter how harsh because that have the utmost confidence in what they do. that supposition must be modified, apparently. moreover, the script lacks that binding connective tissue, the fascia underlying its delicate surface which serves as the paste, in a screenplay, that holds the story firmly in place, therewith making it a freely and smoothly flowing unit of elegantly composed symmetrical writing, which, for me, would be the adverbs and adjectives that either modify or hint at the lines of dialogue, as well the action, which went before and is to follow said leading words. those words broaden the aspect of the read into a nearly visual spectacle, which, for a guy such as myself, who thoroughly enjoys a good visual, makes a huge difference. at any rate, the spec felt uninspired to the point of having been haphazardly written.
            all the luck, to you, joe marino. troullo out!

          • Joe Marino

            Thanks for going into more detail, courlo. I can appreciate what you’re saying. It doesn’t “hurt my feelings” or the like when someone dislikes my work – it just took me off-guard to see that type of negativity against me and my work without further evaluation. It felt like the trolling one would expect from YouTube. But now that I see you had logical reasons for finding my work and me in general abysmal (plus the fact that I can clearly see your vocabulary is vastly superior to mine), I can’t say anything more. Thank you for your time reading the script and I thank you for sticking with it until the end. Good luck in your own writing endeavors. – Joe

          • courlo

            joe, tried to reply to your comment on the other thread, wouldn’t take, so i’m leaving it for you here. drop me a message courlo_74@hotmail. i’ll zip you “the event” if you’re interested.

          • Joe Marino

            Already got a copy, man! It’s “Red by Courtney Love,” correct?

          • courlo

            it sure is, but that effort lacks luster. i’ve since rewritten it. moved a scene up, rewrote the ‘logue. i was going to send you the updated copy.

          • Joe Marino

            Will do!

          • courlo

            it sure is, but that one lacks a bit of luster. i’ve since rewritten it; moved a scene up to add some tension/excitement to the intro, and i rewrote the ‘logue. i was going to send you the updated copy. i left this same message a few minutes ago, though it seems to have vanished…let me know if you’d like to see the update, joe.

          • Pugsley

            As we all know, courlo’s sold a dozen scripts, of which ten have been made into box office gold, and in fact agent’s often refer to him as “Aaron Sorkin meets Quentin Tarantino,” so yes, we’d all best take his advice (good or bad).

            On a much less sarcastic note — courlo, I dare a troll like you to upload the first three pages of any script of yours here. I’m laying odds they suck the meat off the bone.

          • courlo

            THE TROLL
            No genre
            A cantankerous lady wastes her precious time ragging on some dude whom she’s never met.
            FADE IN:
            INT. DARK BEDROOM – DAY
            The windows are draped in black. We hear typing, fast, furious fingers flying over plastic keys. This person’s in a hurry.
            We pull back and see a tiny little dog, the kind of canine from Men In Black, whatever kind that is…sitting in the middle of the bed nosing through a pizza box.
            The keys clack clack clack at a sonic pace. Then, the sound stops, and we hear a frustrated HMPHH! A moment later, clack clack clack…more STROKING…
            Whoever this person is, they really mean business. The little dog jumps down from the bed and runs over to the window. It bites a mouthful of black drape, yanks and then the room is awash in CURSES AND LIGHT.
            The typist, a TINY WOMAN, let’s call her LEIGH, slams her fists down hard against the small table she’s sitting at, HUFFS, then she gets up and crosses the room the window. She SNATCHES the black drape from the little dog’s teeth. The dog YELPS and scurries underneath bed. Perhaps this isn’t their first such encounter?
            You stupid little bitch, why can’t you just behave yourself?
            She pulls up a chair sitting nearby and re-hangs the black drape over the window. And we’re back in BLACK.
            There, much better. Now, back to what I was doing.
            She crosses back to her seat, sits and lets her fingers fly over the keys in a dazzlingly deft display of digital dexterity.
            WE move in over her shoulder and zero in on the screen.
            ON SCREEN: “Courlo’s the second coming of Aaron Sorkin and Quen” — She hits Backspace, and those words disappear. Her fingers activate anew. “Courlo’s the biggest loser in the entire universe.” Satisfied, she sits back and sips her soft drink and daydreams about her soon to be new status as the best one line scribe on earth…
            Then, BOOM BOOM BOOM. There’s a banging at the door. Leigh springs up from her chair. She moves around the dark room like a chicken — with it’s head cut off.
            BOOM BOOM BOOM!
            MOM (V.O)
            Leigh? Are you in there smoking marijuana and eating pizza and wings alone again? Open this door!
            Mom! Whatta you want from me? I’m a writer, okay? This is my life?
            MOM (V.O)
            Well, when are you going to get a job? Your father and I are starting to worry about you. You’re forty five years old, for heaven’s sake.
            BOOM BOOM!
            Leigh squirts a heavy layer of Febreze into the air. She looks in the mirror, her hair is unkempt, her glasses full of chicken grease and her clothes are pajamas. She smiles at herself and opens the door.
            Why does it always take you so long to open the door?
            I was busy, Mom, all right?
            Busy doing what? Were you pleasing…
            No, I was not doing that.
            Well, your father and I are going out for a few hours. We’ll be back around five.
            Okay, just go, I’ll be fine. In fact, I was just finishing up. So maybe I’ll come with you guys.
            Mom takes her measure. Then she reaches into her pocketbook and pulls out a few bank notes which she gives to Leigh. She pats Leigh’s hand, in a comforting, motherly way…
            That’s okay, dear. You stay here and do whatever it is you do in this room, all right?
            Leigh looks crestfallen. Mom turns and walks away. Leigh SLAMS the door, leans on it, her eyes coming to tears. Then, there’s a knock at the door. She brightens up, throws the door open wide.
            Mom, with a big smile on her face, holds out a lottery troll, the one with the crazy Don King hair…
            I got this at the flea market this morning. The lady said it’s supposed to bring luck. I thought it looked like you.
            Her teeth gleam in the sunlight. Leigh’s face sinks.
            Good luck with your writing, dear. See you later.
            And she turns and walks away laughing to herself. Leigh stands there, dumbfounded.
            THE END

          • JimmyZappa

            I don’t know what courlo is talking about. I’m 5 pages in and I really like what i’m reading so far.

      • kidbaron

        Hi Joe. I forgot to say congrats on the positive review from Carson. And just congrats on getting the damn script done. (I went through the Carson ringer a while ago with my script, Mad Dogs.) Thanks for the explanation and good luck with the script’s future.

        • Joe Marino

          I’m pretty sure I read that script! That was the werewolf one, right? It was a while ago, but I remember liking it!

          • kidbaron

            Yup that’s the one. Glad you liked it. Thanks.

  • Ken Glover

    AWESOME JOE MARINO. I loved it through and through! Very great writing if I may say so myself, the tension was … intense! The twist was DOPE! Great job. Hope to see it on the big screen! Congrats!

    • carsonreeves1

      This is exactly how I felt. :)

      • Ken Glover

        Hope you can take it all the way! Rootin’ for ya Carson!

        • Joe Marino

          Ken, thanks so much for all your help and support! And glad you still love it as much as you did when you read it on Zoetrope. Without you pushing me and convincing me this was something special worthy of sending to Carson, I doubt it would have happened. You’re the MAN.

  • Jeremy O. Harris

    I’m about to check out the film but getting heavy dogtooth vibes from the abstract. Did anyone see the film who’s also read this script?

    • rocse22

      The script is not as deadpan or bizarre as Dogtooth, despite the fact it deals with a similar type of scenario. That film plays out as more of a sparse, twisted social critique while this, to me, plays out as more of a thriller. It fits more readily into a genre than Dogtooth does.

      • Jeremy O. Harris

        Thanks for the reply man.

  • ElliotMaguire

    Sounds very interesting, and the sort of script that’s getting attention these days, the upcoming ‘Stoker’ being one example. Will have to read when the wife eventually let’s me out of the basement.

    • carsonreeves1

      heh heh.

  • Avishai Weinberger

    Damn, I was so busy this week with school and writing that I never got a chance to read this. I really wish I had- not just from the review, but I love the idea. I’m always interested in stories about people whose world-views change, and stories about religious extremists. From the looks of things, this script uses both concepts well.

    A question for Carson: The first 10 pages are key, yes, but what does a reader look for right after them? Can the story afford to slow down and rest on the laurels of its opening? Does it need to amp up?

    • Malibo Jackk

      First off, you are an unknown. You can’t rely on your name.
      (This would suggest that you have to be better than the pros.)

      How strong is your concept? How strong is your opening?
      How strong is the rest of your script? And how strong is the ending?
      If you want to sell your script, keep in mind that you are competing with the pros.
      There are some tricks that can better your odds. But keep in mind that the pros know those tricks.

      Here’s the answer that shocked me. I heard one pro (one of the best in the business and a friend of William Goldman) say that his fear was — that the reader would not turn the page. Keep in mind, this guy is TOPS IN THE FIELD, ALREADY HAS A NAME and has even HELPED WILLIAM GOLDMAN with his scripts. And he’s saying — he’s afraid that the reader of his scripts won’t turn the page.

      That should be your fear if you want to market your script.

      It’s not the first ten that’s the problem. It’s the first page. And the pages after that. And many times, it’s the one or two lines of your log line.

      Here’s something else you will hear the pros say– If you want to make money, find some other line of work. Write screenplays if you have the passion. But don’t expect to make a living from it.

      And here’s a final thought. No one wants to hear this.
      No one wants to hear how tough this business is.
      Only the million dollar sales make the headlines.

      • Todd

        You know what?

        Everything that is worth it, is difficult!

        Being successful in business, say making coat hangers, is HARD! Being a Molecular Biologist is harder. Stop the pessimism; we all know how hard it is to be successful in anything.

        The script that was up the other day, Hibernation, was flawed, good concept but flawed and for some reason it got to the right hands. the script that sold the other… was… blah blah blah…

        Just write and put your work out into viable hands. Many in the this thread dislike the script in-hand but Carson loves it. What does that mean? It means that carson loves it and many others didn’t think it deserved his impressive nod.

        @Avishai Weinberger, what I’m saying is not to find yourself PARALYZED as you analyze your work. When you believe it’s ready, put it out there and you’ll find readers that will want to change your conceit or the path of its plot and you’ll find others that love the characters enough to disregard story flaws.

        It all depends! But don’t let people throw statistics at you as a way of saying “hey, this is hard as shit cause so and so, who is a master pro, is even questioning himself.”

        So WHAT!! Writers for the most part are creatives, self-doubt creeps in and out of the their world.

        • Malibo Jackk

          “And here’s a final thought. No one wants to hear this.
          No one wants to hear how tough this business is.”

          • Todd

            I think this business is more of a social animal.

            I would think anyone that is smart enough to write scripts is smart enough to know that it takes time. Like I said before, success is tough no matter how you cut it, just don’t dwell on the stats cause it’ll paralyze you. Stick with it and fight the fight.

          • Malibo Jackk


      • Avishai Weinberger

        I’m a little confused… All I asked was whether or not a story can afford to slow down, why did I get this in response?

        • Malibo Jackk

          Thought I was being helpful. (Maybe not.)
          First of all, I was not the one who used the down arrow. Don’t know but that may have to do with the religious statements. (Chose not to enter that debate.)

          You are saying — “All I asked was whether or not a story can afford to slow down…”

          Here’s what else I read from you post:
          “The first ten pages are the key…”
          “… what does the reader look for right after them?”
          “… rest on the laurels of its opening?”

          There is a difference between how people will react to a script — and the movie.
          Let’s suppose that your script has been made into a movie. And people are watching your script, enjoying it, loving the 3D IMAX format. And then your script slows down. What can the audience do? They’ve already paid their $15. (It becomes a mad rush to the rest rooms.)

          Now let’s suppose it not a movie yet. Only a script. Sitting on a producer’s desk. One of twenty sitting there for consideration. He picks it up. Loves the opening. Then the script slows… What’s he going to do? He has nineteen scripts to look at. A hundred come into the office every week. What’s he going to do?

          Your job is to keep him turning pages.

          Hope you found something helpful. If you did, you can thank me.

          • Avishai Weinberger

            I was only asking whether a story could slow down early on from a structural standpoint, not whether or not a screenwriter should slum it. I understand your reply, and while it’s not really an answer to my question, I do appreciate what you’re saying.

          • Malibo Jackk

            Here’s to the best of luck in everything you do.
            Enjoy the upcoming season.

    • carsonreeves1

      In a spec, as an “unknown,” you should try to keep things moving all the time. However, the better a writer you are, the more time you can afford to take. Like here, Joe took his time, but that’s because he knew how to build suspense and conflict into every scene. So the slowness was actually working *for* the script.

      • Avishai Weinberger

        That’s a good answer.

        I remember watching The Woman in Black and thinking what a great opening scene that was. Three kids just put down their toys and, in unison, jump out a window! We’re hooked. Why did they do this?

        And then the story slowed down and I got pretty bored for half an hour. Not much happened. We got the set up, but I felt like the story was relying on that first scene.

        By the way, I disappear for a day and look how many responses my question got! And… I’m not really sure if they’re in response to my question. You’re the only one who actually gave me a straight answer.

  • nawazm10

    A really, really good effort. Agree with Carson on the dialogue between Rose and Micah, it really took me out of the read but besides that, I enjoyed this.

    Funny thing is, I wasn’t planning to read this until I went on Carson’s twitter where he mentioned if you’re bored, give this a look. I just thought I’d just check the first page out and read it tomorrow but it grabbed me. Really well constructed and pulls you in straight away.

    I loved the creepy feel here, one of the best things about the script.

    It read fast, really fast actually, Some good writing here.

    A worthy entry for AF…

  • FD

    Oh boy, again I can’t understand Carson. Shows how little I know about scripts.
    This starts off really spooky, I’ll give it that. REALLY spooky. But there are a few issues I had with it:
    When Micah starts talking with Rose he suddenly knows all about the outside world, although he’s never been there, watched telly, heard radio, been to school… How does he suddenly know all about those things?
    They repeatedly touch the bars of the cage but then there is a scene where Micah shows the electric cables that run to the bars that should electrocute you if you do. This is a quick fix though – just cut that scene with the cables.
    I found it very coincidental that when Micah visits the church the pastor is doing exactly that bit of the bible that is relevant for Micah’s situation. The bible is a big book. That was too convenient for me.
    There are hacksaws and all sorts of weapons in the attic. Why doesn’t Micah give Rose some and let her saw her way out at night?
    And the way Rose shoots the breeze with Micah. wtf? She’s in a cage waiting to become a steak and she’s like: “No Micah, don’t be like that. Life is different…” Little tip for those in a cage: Lie like a politician to get your sorry tuchus out of there! Don’t disagree with the person who can save you!
    In fact, the whole religious thing seems unnecessary for the story. It doesn’t add anything. The parents could just be crazy without the bible, and the film pissing off half the Christian world for painting them so black. The Village didn’t need bible bashers either.
    Micah reads The Odyssey? Why the Odyssey? And in that household reading a book about false Greek gods and heathen shit? I don’t think so.
    And then suddenly there’s a telephone in dad’s bedroom?! wtf2? And Micah knows how to plug it in to the wall socket and use it! And dad’s been paying the phone bill all these years! Now that’s just silly and an obvious cheat because the writer didn’t know how Micah could contact the police.
    Why lock Glen up in a cage? wtf3 He could just sit up in the attic and wait for Micah and catch him red handed. And after Micah’s first visit, why don’t they confront him then? Makes no sense that Glenn spends another couple of days in the cage voluntarily, especially after he almost gets a dart in the eye.
    In the fight scene the cage door opens, then is closed, then is suddenly locked, then isn’t ???
    How does torching the house get rid of all the evidence? The garden is full of mounds filled with the bones of people!
    Then at the end, this oh so religious father starts using words like F..k and C…t. Come on. Just ditch the whole religious angle. It’s unnecessary.
    Glenn comes at a good time, but he is exactly the same character as the father. His whole character is totally unnecessary for the story. And why do the parents react so violently against their own son? I mean, they could just take him aside and pray with him or something, without beating his head in. I mean, all parents know that puberty is a tough time and their kids need help through it, no?
    Then there is the question of how they live there without anyone ever – I mean EVER – coming by the house. I mean, girl scout cookie sellers, the phone guy, hikers? With all those people going missing in the area, wouldn’t someone get a little suspicious about that strange house with the mounds?
    Then at the close, Micah and Rose come out and its like – happy end. Everything’s going to be fine. Micah has spent the first 13 years of his life eating people and only learning from his sick parents and their edited bible. How normal is this kid going to be?
    But anyway, for me this was a (x) Needs a lot of work to make sense.

    • Melanie W

      Excellent review. You’ve identified many of the concerns I had as well. Great notes, which I hope the writer seriously considers.

      I especially wish to highlight this part:

      In fact, the whole religious thing seems unnecessary for the story. It doesn’t add anything. The parents could just be crazy without the bible, and the film pissing off half the Christian world for painting them so black. The Village didn’t need bible bashers either.

      Exactly. Now, I’m as much of an atheist as the next person, so I have no dog in this fight, but for me, the endless Christianity-bashing in movies is really getting old, both as a plot device and as “Instant theme, just add water.” Look, I’m not a pagan either, but if every second film were bashing paganism, I’d be really, really sick of it by now too. It’s just too clichéd by half.

      Do something different. Make the parents crazy obsessed Marxists, like Jim Jones. Or obsessed hippies, Or something, anything new. Or turn it around and have the crazy parents be right after all, and the rest of the world genuinely zombie-nuts or something. Anything to subvert this tiresome cliché.

      • GYAD

        I’d just like to say that the ‘parents being right about the world being overrun by demons’ ending would be a great final twist. I also think that the crazy Marxists idea is quite neat too; groups like the Revolutionary Workers Party were certainly pretty cultish.

        • Joe Marino

          I actually seriously considered that type of ending – where the parents had been telling the truth the whole time – but it just felt too cheap and nihilistic considering all the character had gone through to get to that point.

          • Melanie W

            I don’t think it would have been cheap or nihilistic at all. Rather, quite original. It’s good that you considered it. You might wish to see if you can still work in some sort of twist like that, especially given the genre.

          • carsonreeves1

            Also, a movie already did that. I forgot the name of it, but it was with Bill Paxton I think? It came out about 8 years ago. Did well on the indie horror circuit. I was hoping you weren’t going to end it that way for that reason.

            But what I liked about your ending is that you still did kind of prove the parents right in that the policeman was evil. I thought that was a neat way to prove both sides “correct.”

          • Jim


          • garrett_h

            A recent spec also had a similar thing going for it, the “Campbell/Stuecken Thriller” which was a lot like Sunflower and Hidden. I’ve seen it a couple other times too. So yeah, the reversal is becoming cliche now lol.

          • Danny Gordon

            Glad you brought up Frailty, because the similarities are glaring. It kept me from enjoying the script. Well-written though.

          • Brandon Dumas

            That movies was called Frailty. Now THAT was a creepy ass movie!

      • Citizen M

        I never got the feeling it was bashing Christianity. In fact, the one time we meet a conventional religious person he is shown to be a much better person than the parents. I would say the religious elements are essential to this script. They add depth and mood, and make it much more memorable.

        • carsonreeves1

          Yeah, I usually see religion and the bible sloppily slapped into screenplays. Here I felt it was deftly woven in.

      • A H

        well the writer is affiliated with…. John Carroll University, a Jesuit institution.

    • Joe Marino

      This story in no way vilifies or bashes true Christians. Christianity is only used as a platform for these parents to warp for their demented purposes. The whole focus of this story is to show how evil people can twist a religion to not only justify their evil actions, but advocate them. In that sense, it doesn’t matter what the religion is. All religions are susceptible to being manipulated by dark intentions. I’ve always found it fascinating how many times during history we’ve witnesses Christianity used for nefarious reasons. I wrote this not to bash. I wrote this to explore.

      • Melanie W

        Perhaps, but the thing is, it’s always Christianity that is shown being twisted. One hardly ever sees films in which other religions are “twisted to not only justify evil actions but advocate them.” Hence the cliché.

        Therefore, break the cliché: use another religion instead. Or use a cult-like political belief. Don’t rehash a trope that’s been plowed into the ground to the point of self-parody. Or, if you’re going to go with the cliché, subvert it at the end.

        • Short of Stories

          That becomes a matter of visibility and reach. I bet Christianity is the most common religion in US. Unless he started bashing Cientology, but then it would actually be a strike.

          • The_Hopeful_Pessimist

            “Unless he started bashing Cientology” you say. Good idea.
            Like you, I’d start by kicking it’s S

        • RayFinkleLacesOut

          That’s because the news already vilifies Islam. And if you’re going to use an example of a religion you need to use a familiar one.

      • Chris

        I agree, the story vilifies violent nutcases but Christians are not violent nutcases. Christianity has been used to justify all kinds of evils but it’s the people with the dark intentions who are the problem, not the religious beliefs they claim to hold.

    • carsonreeves1

      I was so pulled in by the characters and the situation that I didn’t focus on these things. That’s the power of strong characters, a strong compelling situation, and a well-written story. They can hide smaller problems. I admit that Rose’s initial reaction of not caring about escaping was a little odd, but when we find out her parents had been butchered in front of her, it made a lot more sense that she’d given up. Also, Micah doesn’t give her a saw to escape because when the parents heard a sawing noise upstairs or saw cuts in Rose’s cage, they’d have a pretty good idea of who gave her the saw. However, that could be a cool story addition – he does give her a saw, and she does try to cut her way out, then must come up with a reason for why she has the saw when she gets caught.

      Also, I think you’re right that it needs to be clearer that they are out in the middle of nowhere and nobody knows they live there.

      I don’t agree with all your points, FD, but I’m glad you pointed them out. :)

    • cjob3

      I agree that I don’t see the connection between the Bible and Cannibalism. Though I’m not sure why everybody is so shocked the father has been paying a phone bill. Why not?

    • Brandon Dumas

      100% Agreed! This script starts off promising but gets worse and worse. Don’t get me started on the dialogue… sheesh. For a kid that hasn’t seen other people he sure has a pretty big vocabulary as well as being pretty smart. Given that this kid hasn’t been outside the parameter of the house he should actually be a barely functioning human. Almost like a dare I say… retard. This script was bad, bad, bad!

  • Rocky8

    Very lean and mean – fast read! I enjoyed the way the story unfolded. Great concept/plot.

    The dialogue was okay – but yes needs polishing. Very solid characters. All the best to the writer! Well done!

    Another success story for SS! :)

  • TGivens

    This is really an impressive script. And yes! The opening scene is awesome! And I have no doubts this script will sell. Yes, it’s not a thriller with a strong male lead, but it hooks you up. It has tension, it reads like a thriller. It has a great story that we’ve never seen. Plus it’s cheap to make and has a potential to become an award winning film. So a smart producer won’t miss it.

  • Elvis D.

    Okay, I’m sorry but I’m not buying the Impressive on this one.

    Yes it is dark, yes it is creepy, yes there is a fair amount of dread conveyed through the writing.

    But also,

    The writing is overly flowery and not always grammatically correct.

    That late character introduction is not a good one. Carson is always chiding people for bringing characters in too late into a script and this time it’s okay because what, the character count is only up to five at that point?

    Also, Micah is too all-knowing. I realize he is a teenager and they know everything but come on! How did he not know the term ‘church’ but understood the term ‘arch’?

    Why did his parents allow him to know Mozart and Tchaikovsky? Modify Biblical teachings but be sure to cite your sources while teaching music? Come on!

    Why didn’t Mother simply say it was music she had written herself? It’s not like they weren’t lying to him about other stuff.

    Also Mother’s little fairytale does not explain why she and Father do what they do.

    And that ending: It. Just. Doesn’t. Satisfy.

    Nope. Sorry. I cannot get on board this one.

    • A H


      If you put your mind to it, I know
      you’ll find a way. Just do what you
      think is right, Micah.

      But how can you be so sure about me?
      You don’t know me. How do you know
      anything when I don’t even know myself?

      She looks at him and, finally, gives a small smile.

      It’s your eyes. They… remind me of my
      You’re not like them, Micah. You are a
      good person. You can fake a lot. But
      you can’t fake the eyes.

    • carsonreeves1

      Fair point. I usually hate late-arriving characters. But I always say that any rule can be broken if it serves the story well. I thought the introduction of the policeman was a seamlessly integrated plot point (that’s what this family does – they go out, kidnap people, then cage them). So it didn’t feel forced or artificial for me, which is why I typically hate late-arriving characters.

  • fragglewriter

    I totally agree with you Carson. I liked the story and concept but a few points:
    – I agree with the children talking as adults because I had to flip back to the script numerous times to confirm their ages. I think writers need to act like actors when they write their characters. They need to get into “method writing.” Put yourself into your characters shoes & have the writing mimic their mannerisms.
    – I knew the cop at the end was part of the plan but what tripped me up was how was he able to carry the two kids back upstairs and put Rose in the cage and confide Michah? I think the writer needed to give a vivid description of the cops and the kids as I was thinking the cop was quite enormous or the kids were thin and fragile.
    – why was the mother saved as she was just as much to blame as the father? I understand that she is an a victim but having her perceived as an angel wasn’t deserved even though she killed someone to save her son

    I thought the descriptions of the father was perfect, the use of flashbacks was superb, the containment within a containment (chalk outlined house) , the preacher even though I hate characters who only show up to help the main character.

    {xx} Worth the read

    • Joe Marino

      The mother wasn’t saved in the end, though. She saved her son, yes, but that doesn’t mean she won’t answer for her crimes. In my mind, she’ll be separated from her son and never see him again. She doesn’t get a happy ending – she just got a moment of redemption.

      • fragglewriter

        I think if she would of gotten injured in the attic with all of the commotion, it would of made me feel as though she received punishment for her behavior instead of assuming that she would get punishment in the end.

  • The_Hopeful_Pessimist

    Not an impressive for me either, I’m afraid.

    Also (SPOILER ALERT), the ending is pretty much unequivocally happy, which doesn’t work in the horror genre and would negatively affect word of mouth — I wanna leave the cinema on shaky legs after my horror fix, please.

    • Joe Marino

      This isn’t the type of story meant to give you “a horror fix,” though. This is a drama about a VERY damaged family whose actions are borderline horror. But this isn’t a horror – if it was, it’d be a pretty bad one. No constant gore or ingenious kills. No scantily clad women who randomly have sex before they’re killed. No memorable psycho with a mask and a chainsaw. Far too much talking. This isn’t a horror. I’d hope you wouldn’t judge the story because it doesn’t fit within the traditional horror genre, as it was never meant to dwell within that category.

      • The_Hopeful_Pessimist

        Hi Joe, don’t get me wrong. I liked the script — it’s a good, well-written script and I sincerely wish you the very best of luck with it. But please don’t presume the few examples you have given above coincide with my own (or the average Scriptshadow reader’s) personal proclivities for what consititutes good “horror”.

        Also (and I think Carson would agree with me here) if your intention is to sell your screenplay and get it made and seen by the highest number of paying viewers, I would embrace this
        genre-ification rather than denigrate it. Horror comes in many shapes and forms and what you have written is a very fine example of “psychological horror” (a mouth-watering term, for myself and millions of others) and it should be marketed thusly.

        Oh, and lose the bit where the father beats the son’s face with his fists — instead, let him scar the boy psychologically, using the awesome power of words — even if it’s just a menacingly whispered ‘We do not love you anymore, child. God does not love you. You are alone”

        • Cfrancis1

          so if horror comes in many shapes and forms then who’s to say a horror film can’t have a happy ending? I, for one, am getting tired of the false happy ending trend in modern horror movies. There are plenty of horror films, pre 2000’s that have relatively happy endings. At least, endings where the protagonist actually lives even though he, she might be scarred for life.

          I also think that we need to see the father physically abusing Micah. He’s a sadistic monster and I think Micah needs to experience that first hand to help give him resolve.

      • Guest

        The traditional horror genre doesn’t have any of the things you mention, though. See Brittish authors of gothic/horror stories from the early 1900’s and you’ll see your story has many elements in commom with them, which I think is great, because not only it’s a genre that needs more people writing movies for, but it’s also much more complex on an emotional level than the sort of Hollywoodian horror movies you speak of.

        With that in mind, I do think your script needs a better (i.e. worse) ending. Spec dramas are notoriously hard to market, and you’ve already got all the mistery and imagery typical of a great horror thriller laid out for you on the text. I’m no script wizard or hollywood producer, but I think your story has everything it needs to be the next Woman in Black, as long as you change the ending accordingly.

        • Yuri Laszlo

          That was me, by the way. Apparently clicking “collapse” by mistake removes one’s authorial rights to one’s comment.

  • ripleyy

    Perfect. I’m not exaggerating by any means: this was bloody perfect (no pun intended).

    I read scripts sometimes and I’m like “I want to direct this so bad!” The story was exciting, the characters were brilliant and there is tension and mystery every second the page goes by. And you know what? At the end, during the ending of the script, I was so riled-up with frustration and anger because of the “antagonist” that it was there I realized I was reading something truly amazing. I was absorbed.

    This is a script that bites you and never, ever, lets you go. Not for one second, not for one moment.

    Micah and Rose were perfect, too. I loved how Micah coached her out of her fear and loved her. But you know what else was genius?

    Conflict. Micah’s inner and outer conflict was just…so spot on. Who do you side? Who do you believe in? In fact, Micah’s conflict with faith was very, very exciting to read that I could literally FEEL the nerves biting into him.

    When the outside world is said to be a lie, you build into that, you become that. But when everything begins to fall apart, MIcah truly discovered that not everything was the way it seemed.

    When you have a character battling faith and conflicts with it, there is enough there to make the reading almost automatic.

    The funny thing was, is that I write almost the exact same way Martino does so I was like “Wow, I would have handled this the same way!” – almost jarring to be honest, so that was nice, also.

    [x] Genius

    Battling conflict, through faith, through inner conflict, and outer conflict, while rising the tension steadily, while keeping the mystery there and then throwing us the unexpected Third Act twist? With brilliantly developed characters and an antagonist that made me hate [antagonist] so much I wanted to go through the screen to finish him off?

    Genius. Give me 3 Million and I’ll direct this myself if I have to, even if I’ve never directed a single thing in my life.

  • GYAD

    I thought that “The Disciple Programme”, despite its faults, was a professional piece of work that felt like a film. I think this script is a very mediocre piece of work that feels like a film. Sometimes I think Carson just likes finding scripts that are movies-in-waiting, and so forgives them their faults.

    Straight off the bat: this script takes the easy choices over and over again. Despite America supposedly being diverse and multi-cultural, what we have here is the same old traditional white Christian American family who act creepy and are hiding a dark secret (amusingly, this same set-up is used in both straight dramas and horror films). Why not set this amongst ultra-Orthodox Jews or amongst black Christians for freshness? Of course, the father is the root of all evil and the mother is simply scarred by her childhood experiences (criminal parents, abusive foster parents). Again, it would be fresher and more interesting if the father was the abused one.

    Of course, the back story doesn’t matter too much because the psychology (and therefore the language) is all wrong. The dialogue, aside from being quite flat and lifeless, doesn’t sound traditional at all. When Micah says, on p.27, “God, it’s weird. To talk. To really ‘talk’ to someone” he sounds like a modern boy, not like someone raised by traditionalists. The language should be more archaic and formal. Nor, for supposedly religious people, is there much reference to God outside of Bible discussion and a few references to demons. I’d expect very religious people to ascribe a great deal of their life to God – but when Father talks about the branch that nearly killed him (ostensibly) he only says that it, “Could have. But it didn’t”. Similarly, although the family read the Bible together, they never quote or refer to the Scriptures, not even when debating with Micah.

    Micah’s behaviour is also baffling. When he breaks the rules (for the first time in his entire life!) and finds a girl in the attic, his first response is to talk to her, then to offer her food, then to read to her. He quickly evolves a routine based around her. It is only in the 3rd Act that he really shows any doubt or misgivings. Rose meanwhile simply talks shop with him, rather than say…asking him to help her escape from the cage she’s locked in! I didn’t believe in Micah’s internal struggle, nor in Rose’s character. Micah is essentially in a cult – it should take Rose a long time to win him over. I also thought it was unusual that, in such a traditional family, Mother seemed to spend hours outside each day. If she’s a traditionalist housewife then she ought to be working in the house. Or, if they need her to help hunt or farm in order to survive, then Micah ought to be helping his family in the fields. It seems like it is just a convenient way to allow Micah to talk, read and play the violin to Rose without being discovered.

    There are a lot of these little oddities that seem to exist only to make the story more convenient. Why does the family have a telephone, which is still linked into the network, and still runs? Do the family pay their phone bills? Where does much of the food come from? I can accept that the cheese on p.35 comes from cows or goats (who are never seen) but where do the family get crackers from? Do they raid the houses of their victims for additional foodstuffs? Again, on p.79, Micah leaves the house with a windbreaker after telling his mum he’s going for a walk. But isn’t the chalk line quite close to the house, making a walk that doesn’t breach it impossible? Or does he regularly walk around the house, inside the chalk line? When Rose asks Micah to get her out of the cage he points out that it is connected to an electrical current – but a few pages later (spoilers) Glen throws him against the bars with no effect. Are the cages electrified or not? Indeed, the whole (major spoilers!) cop-is-a-cannibal twist lacks any explanation of how such an unlikely state of affairs came to exist. Much of this sounds like nit-picking but audiences often pick up on little details. A story needs to be air-tight or utterly convincing to work.

    I also spotted one weird mistake. On p.41, whilst they are outside, Father pulls out a pair of shotguns and offers to take Micah hunting. He agrees and in the next scene we see them hunting…with a rifle! Did they go back and swap weapons?

    Throughout the script is overwritten – the very first paragraph calls the house “classical” before calling it “traditional” a few lines further down – even down to describing the non-story essential gestures, looks and postures of characters. There are also a few grammatical errors. I think with some editing this could easily be a much better 90 page script. The lack of mystery is also surprising. Within the first few pages we know – and more importantly, Micah knows – that the family are cannibals (a human tooth in the food on p.4 and a leg being dug up by a coyote on p.7). All that leaves is the question of whether Micah will summon up the courage to investigate the attic and, once there, whether he will turn on his family. I’m not sure it is enough.

    Still, as Somersby so rightly pointed out recently, in Hollywood premise is often all – and this has a good premise. This script would be cheap to make, has an obvious hook to grab audience’s attention and would, I’m sure, make a profit. I think there is also real potential here. However, the hackneyed choice of villainy, the lack of psychological depth in the characters, and the number of plot holes and oddities need to be fixed. Good luck!

    • Melanie W

      Great notes.

      I strongly agree with this:

      Despite America supposedly being diverse and multi-cultural, what we have here is the same old traditional white Christian American family who act creepy and are hiding a dark secret (amusingly, this same set-up is used in both straight dramas and horror films). Why not set this amongst ultra-Orthodox Jews or amongst black Christians for freshness? Of course, the father is the root of all evil and the mother is simply scarred by her childhood experiences (criminal parents, abusive foster parents). Again, it would be fresher and more interesting if the father was the abused one.

      Indeed, that’s the key problem with the script, for me. It conforms to the clichés so much that it’s basically theme-by-numbers. Each of the above inversions would make it far more unique and distinctive. As it stands, it’s just too much of a retread of things we’ve before, again and again.

      • klmn

        Both Jews and Blacks are protected classes, with justification. It’s kind of hard to trash people who have experienced the Holocaust or slavery.There is no way that Hollywood would cast them as villains.

        Germans and Southerners are the most acceptable groups to trash.

        • Melanie W

          “Acceptable”? Acceptable to whom? If we’re going to take this politically correct attitude, then at least let’s be principled about it and say it’s not “acceptable” to trash any group.

          I’m not even going to get into a debate about the political aspects of this or the blatant reverse-racism that such an attitude creates. However, strictly from a story perspective, such beliefs simply perpetuates clichés into infinity.

          • klmn

            ‘”Acceptable groups to trash”? Acceptable to whom?’

            The industry. These aren’t my preferences- in fact, I’m of mostly German descent with a German name- but I see no point in writing something unmarketable, unless it’s an ultra low budget movie you’ll film yourself.

      • courlo

        i think the script sucks.

    • courlo

      i agree one hundred with your assessment of the work in question. i sort of feel as though folks began to pile on me because, although i hated the script; not saying that you do, and lodged the sentiment, my pronouncement was a lot more literally vituperative. you would have thought, though, that i had unilaterally destroyed all of the hopes and dreams of all of the spec writers on ss or something. agree with you, gyad, completely, about your feelings toward the script, plus i think that, perhaps, the spirit of the holiday may have work to boost its favorability (the spec) factor by a few.
      to everyone who was, somehow, negatively affected by my personal assessment of the script, i have a quote: “at the bottom of enmity between strangers lies indifference.” a cat named kierkegaard gave me that one, and i, you.

  • Jovan Jevtic

    Great script. But not impressive. The pastor part was too long. Just get the Bible and go. And the religious angle, I just didn’t see it. So I have to agree with FD on what he said. Worth the read- as it was very creepy, but still needs trimming. And how come Hibernation didn’t get the impressive. At least!

    • Glenn Devlin

      Jovan – I came across that scene..I think it needs to be shortened but not omitted. At the begining, Mikas father had ripped out passages from the bible and was only teaching Mika about “hate” and “violence” – he had stripped out portions of God’s love etc..when Mikah went to that church, the pastor preached God’s love which Mikah’s father did not teach. This presented a more conflicted Mikah when he went back to his parent’s farm.

  • thomasripley


    Got to read this. I liked the title, I liked the concept,…I wasn’t drawn in though. It depends too much stuff that I didn’t believe in like how in the opening scene, Micah just finds a tooth in his food and treats as if it’s nothing. lol. I would have loved to hear how the parents explain hat and the weird shit that goes on in here. Religion can go so far in explanation.

    I think that’s another problem. The reader’s more concerned about “what the f is going on?” rather than Micah. I understand that the writer created this whole thing in order to show the character arc for Micah but, I would like to know some more history behind why this family does what it does. Yeah, Micah’s mother was a prisoner. But, wouldn’t she not want other girls or women to be in the same predicament as she was? She’s just traded one prison for another one. And how did turn into being a cannibal? lol. So many questions that I don’t think gets answered.

    I also don’t believe Rose will give up entirely on trying to escape. She may for a time being…but once Micah shows up, that’s her opportunity to use that kid to get the hell out of here.

    So, I would have to disagree with Mr. Reeves here. I see this as a Texas Chainsaw Massacre movie that’s more focused on character rather than killing.

    Mr. T Ripley

  • Cody Pearce

    Congrats on getting the review. Overall, this was a good script though I wasn’t quite in love with it as much as Carson. Full disclosure, this genre isn’t really my cup of tea. I liked most of the script, but there were a lot of familiar elements and I didn’t like that we had YET another evil Christian family. That’s become too big a CLICHÉ. Another thing that bothered me was the formatting. I feel like this script is trying to cram more words per page than the average screenplay.

    Below are some page-by-page notes. Hope they help.

    Page 1: Right off the bat, I’m wary of this much black. Be careful about over description in the beginning of your script. While this opening is interesting, I’d try to shorten it a bit.

    Page 2: Good use of rising tension with the continual Banging and screams during grace.

    Page 4: A thirteen, I’d assume Micah’s knows what a human tooth looks like. Though it seems he’s oblivious to the cannibalism going on here.

    Page 6: Is there some reason this is a period piece? Why set it in 1994? This element seems totally unnecessary.

    Page 8: TYPO: Mother looks back at her with a worried expression.

    Page 11: There’s some good creepy atmosphere building with the Bible stuff, but the story isn’t moving forward.

    Page 13: I think Father should come up with a better excuse than an oak tree. Perhaps he says that a demon attacked him, feeding into Micah’s religious views of the world outside.

    Page 23: I’m surprised Mother and Father wouldn’t gag their victims to keep them from screaming or talking.

    Page 32: It’s cliché to have the evil cannibal family use Christianity and God’s will to justify their actions. We’ve seen the evil Christian family before. Perhaps if they adhered to some other religion or cult, something made up or ancient like an Aztec or Norse religion, it would be more interesting.

    Page 37: I kind of like how Rose has seemingly given up on escape. However, I think she would only feel that way if it had been over a year into her imprisonment. Certainly more than a few days.

    Page 44: I really like the Fear discussion.

    Page 51: If Micah is familiar with literature like Charles Dickens I have a feeling he would know what the word “police” means.

    Page 55: I’m still not quite buying her resignation to death. If she’s seen how caring Micah is, she should be able to at least chance an escape through him. I wonder if she really is a demon and we’ll have a huge third act reveal.

    Page 63: I don’t quite believe Micah would be so open with his father after the beating he gave him.

    Page 66: The stuff about Micah’s determination should be shown through actions rather than through Micah’s facial expressions.

    Page 70: I really like the booby-trapped cages, though I wish details like this were introduced earlier.

    Page 73: We know so little about Rose it’s hard to really feel for her. I wish there was more specificity to her character.

    Page 79: TYPO: Micah goes passed (past) Mother…

    Page 82: The priest scene is getting too preachy. Another reason to DITCH the evil Christian angle.

    Page 87: I thought Rose already knew when she was going to die? Also, her willingness to leave probably should have happened sooner.

    Page 88: I really like the conversation between Glen and Micah.

    Page 96: Good reveal of Glen being in cahoots with the baddies.

  • Citizen M

    Well written but uber-creepy. Maybe a Halloween movie. Sometimes the talk was a little grown-up, and I wonder what they did for toilet breaks. Not for me because I’m not a horror fan, but I kept reading to the end.

  • Glenn Devlin

    I’m reading it and liking it so far. It’s a bit bloody for my taste :-) A few thoughts as I was reading but minor. I’m not sure about an attic door going up to the attic from a dinning room. Most houses built a long time ago were two story farm houses unless this is a one story house? Is there a staircase that goes all the way up to the attic? Just a thought….

    Caught this and I think Joe should fix it on the next draft:

    Lilly collapses into Judah’s arms, sobbing and yet smiling.
    Relief and freedom overpower her.

    MOTHER (V.O.) (CONT’D)
    Lilly collapsed into his arms, sobbing.
    She didn’t know how to react, what to
    say. Nothing but gratitude that she
    knew she would never be able to repay.
    But his face said there was nothing to

    The dialog..Lilly collapsed into his arms, sobbing…this is redundant because we’ve already seen this in the action portion so that line can be taken out.

    Congrats, Joe!

    • carsonreeves1

      I thought that was strange too, how the attic door was in the dining room. I thought I was misreading it, however.

      • Glenn Devlin

        All right. Have a meeting with the set construction and go over the wood budget and see what you can do about squeezing in a few more 2×4…:-)

  • Cfrancis1

    Pretty much in agreement with Carson on this one. Dialogue needs some fixing but overall a very quick and engaging read. Because of the conaind nature of the story, this feels more like a TV movie to me. This is not meant as a slight against the script.

    Someone else mentioned this as well but I couldn’t help thinking of Frailty when I read this. I’m glad the writer didn’t go down the real demon route.

    Kind of wanted Dad to be a bit more developed. Why did he believe what he did. Did he really believe it or was it completely manufactured as an excuse to kill? And why consume the “demons”? Maybe tat was explained but I missed it, why not just live out in the middle of nowhere and eat regular meat? How did they choose their prey? Why was Rose chosen?

    There were no real character surprises, either. Everyone was who you thought they were except for the cop. But he seemed like a carbon copy of the Dad. I would have liked more character turns in the story.

    Overall, though, very good.

    • carsonreeves1

      Yeah, Frailty’s the one I was thinking about. What does “conaind” mean?

      • klmn


  • Cfrancis1

    BTW, where is the Alien: Engineers review? I don see it here or. On the old site?

    • carsonreeves1

      I need to port the last couple of weeks reviews over to the new site still.

  • Glenn Devlin

    I just finished reading this…what a creep fest and suspense filled script. The only caveat I have is that I think that Glen the cop (not me) should be brought in earlielr – ie, perhaps Glen visits the farm and questions Micah’s father on the disappearances…this raises the tension even more and solidifies the twist again…Glen visits the farm on inspection…he’s captured..and he is not what he actually is…also, I think that Glen should be a member of perhaps the church that Micah visited…all the more for suspenseful setup and pay off…

  • the french guy

    A very long comment for a very attractive script, I hope it can be useful :

    Strong concept here, an horror/religious movie, great situations/tensions, great
    narrative inventions, doesn’t need A-list actors, uses only two locations, goes
    really far in the horror genre (could be shot by a french new horror wave
    director like Alexandre Aja). Exactly the kind of good contained horror story
    you would dream to read in an amateur friday. Obviously a possible movie!

    Il really liked the first thirty pages,the opening scene, and all the family
    introduction (I loved the original flashback fairy tale/real mother’s life). I
    began to slow the reading around the second meeting between Micah and Rose. And
    then it became harder for me to read because of a reader feeling I
    couldn’t put a word on.

    Then the words came : the first major issue for me is Micah’s character, I can’t totally buy him. He must be… different. Even if I can’t imagine what a child raised like him him would be, I
    know he would be… different. We know that people who grew up in very difficult families (poverty, drugs, religious isolation) devellop particular psychologic diseases. Micah is a boy
    like all the others, we could meet him in the street. I can’t imagine a child
    raised in a single house within a forest, restrained by a chalk circle, eating
    human flesh, reading shits about the Bible, hearing people screaming in the
    attic, I can’t imagine this kid would be just like mine (even if I don’t have a
    kid yet…). He must be different in the way he acts and in the way he talks.
    He must have strange reactions to things around him. He must be a question for
    us. What’s in his mind. An example : what if…when Micah sees the tooth in his
    plate, he looks at his father and laugh…? Could bring more tension in Micah’s
    reactions to events.

    I began to feel this during the discussions between Micah and Rose. I didn’t
    believe these two were real : the resigned girl waiting for the butcher’s
    day, and the nice little boy reading Dickens to make things less hard for her.

    I can’t buy the dialogues between this two (a few examples : “no confronting
    reality” “Not with that reality staring us both in the
    face”,”You think giving up has been easy?”, ” You made me
    see what I’d been missing by giving up.!!!! You made me want life”,
    “You want to humanize me, you want to make me real enough…” ). This
    sounds like adult discussions for me.

    A last example : Rose : “I won’t blame you if you choose not to save
    me!!!”, how can a fourteen year old girl even think like that?

    Actually the problem with Rose is a character problem : how could she resigned? How
    could she analyse so cleverly the situation she is in, when she just witnessed
    the slaughter of her family a few days ago???

    I can’t believe she became resigned after her parent’s death. I can’t even
    imagine what a child would be like after witnessing her parents slaughtered
    slowly for hours. Maybe she became completly mute after that. Unable to speak anymore. Could bring us a new situation where the mute terrified girl is in front of a strange
    acting/talking boy.Then we also have a new tension : How the strange little boy
    will act after that ?

    Last major issue with the story : The final big character surprise. I don’t buy it, it’s such a new
    element in a very tense story. I actually think it must end with a final stand
    between Micah and his parents, something as horrible as what Joe wrote but
    around Micah and the parents. That’s THE problem of the movie, the theme (how
    can we fight against the people who raised us… or something like that), Micah
    has to manage the end in front of what was is major problem for all his life
    ; his parents.

    Some logical questions, I have noted : the holes in the garden that everyone could see (even if
    they are far from everything), the parents let Micah read unreligious books,
    how did he learn to play violin (just by earing, must be explained). Micah
    never heard the words police and church (he has read Dickens), the electrified
    cages that are not really electrified, Micah aims blindly to the man in the
    cage and puts a dart right in his neck,the telephone still working, Micah still
    wants things to stay the same at page 89

    I loved the possible great horror script Joe gave us here. I hope it’s gonna be made

    • carsonreeves1

      Great breakdown. :)

      • the french guy

        thanks boss!

  • Mb

    Oh, shoot. I was hoping to continue with my Thanksgiving food-induced-coma laziness and not read anything this week, but once I saw the headline, then skipped to the actual “impressive” rating at the bottom (while not reading the review, lest I be “spoiled”), now I feel I have to be productive. Congrats Amateur Friday writer Joe! Now I can’t wait to read it.

  • bruckey

    on balance i have to go with ‘worth the read’

  • CKirich

    This is not myfavorite genre, but horror is timeless. I’ll focus on the beginning as in any
    story, that’s the most important part for me.

    I follow the rules of “by page 5 and by page 10.” The beginning scene needs to take place by page
    5. The Disciple Program, which seems to be the measuring stick for description,
    brevity and creative wording, is essential. By tightening up the loose and unneeded
    description with a thesaurus, adding more flavor and creepiness to those first
    5 minutes would pull us right in. This allows for page 10 to end with Micah
    falling asleep. 10 minutes in and we have complete understanding of the situation,
    characters and their relationships. Reading the blocks of description I feel
    that some have been perfected and others left loose and amateur. For me the
    start is everything, not only for the reader but the audience. Others have
    covered the script in more detail but the description issue carries through the
    pages. I do like how the story section is handled.

    I like the story and it does keep moving forward. Way to many “show not tell” descriptions but
    all this is what re-writes are about. Congrats on the script and getting Carson’s attention.

  • Zadora

    Big horror fan here, so after reading Carson’s review, I guess I’ll have to go back and continue to read this script.

    My first try only got me to page 16. At that point, I felt slightly bored, but also annoyed at some of the writing so I decided to quit. Mother, Father, Mom…italics…and there were other things too that irritated me.

  • courlo

    you remind of carson, dude.

  • blueiis0112

    One man’s zealot beliefs feeds another’s cannibalism really does not make for a good cover with so many little plot holes. It was not for me.

  • courlo

    i never made it past page 14 on this one. it began sort of like another script the one in which the little girl has grown up inside a decrepit home under abject conditions. the one where we hear thumping before we see that it’s actually the little girl’s shoe being smashed against the ceiling. this script seems as derivative as they get. it doesn’t take much to impress those who have no idea how to write their own scripts i see.

    • Joe Marino

      Fair enough. I don’t quite see how that example makes my opening derivative, but sorry you feel that way and hope you find something more to your liking in another AF script.

  • MaxNorm


    In other news, this screenplay was extremely solid. Don’t have time to comment further, and I don’t think my opinion is important enough to expand on here… anyway.. I enjoyed it, that’s all I have to say.,

  • ElliotMaguire

    Finally got some time to read this today, and it got me. It
    snuck up behind me for 45 pages, and then spent the next 100
    cutting my throat. That’s my way of saying I really enjoyed

    On the first page, when I opened up I thought “oh no, there
    are a lot of 3-4 lines if description here, and there are a
    lot of big words, this guy us educated!” But after the first
    few pages discipline kicked in and you understood that the
    descriptions were necessary and the big words just sort of
    suited. And I was not prepared for the cannibalism going down
    in this house. But I liked it.

    The little lesson about not going in the attic felt odd, like
    it was there for the audiences sake rather than what the
    characters would actually discuss at this moment. How much
    creepier would it be if the attic was not even mentioned in
    that scene, and realistic, as this is just day to day stuff
    for this happy family.

    I loved the symbolism, even if a little on the nose with the
    rose, but the use of chalk to keep this kid put, instead of a
    fence, just made it more psychologically scarring. I’m
    thinking the use of a chalkboard in school, lessons to be
    learnt, detention, I’m rambling, let’s move on.

    The use of “we” throughout was distracting, I’ve had it
    drilled into me do much not to use it.

    It reminded me of a twisted little British film called “Mum
    and Dad”, we get little to no backstory to them, we just know
    they are fucked up because of the little hints and reminders
    of things.

    I agree some of the dialogue felt off. I think it was
    intentional but it was still tricky to be engaged when every
    character had a similar voice and used words that would not
    be used in an everyday situation. I think more emphasis on
    Rose being normal, speaking like a real teenager, could be
    made, for contrast and for drama.

    Although the story didn’t call for much urgency, I
    appreciated the point on pg 45, where suddenly Rose is given
    3 days to live. As a reader, you’ve been so absorbed in the
    day to day life, you suddenly see this building to something.
    Works well.

    After that, I stopped taking notes. It had me, and I just
    wanted to see this thing out, I was that invested. I tend to
    explore religion in my scripts and always end up painting it
    as evil, good to see its not just me!

    I honestly didn’t see the twist coming, and then even with
    all the foreboding, the events leading to the last image all
    moved and surprised me in different ways.

    A little sprucing of the dialogue, and this could be amazing.
    Great find, hope it gets made.

  • carsonreeves1

    I took care of that. :)

  • Heitor Aires

    Being lazy, I found myself on Wednesday night with only left was Rose In the Darkness – which logline didn’t really caught my attention. I open up the pdf: first page FULL of text. “Oh, boy.” I think. Is this going to be one of those scripts?

    I’m so glad I was wrong. After reading the first page, I was completely onboard. Congrats, really! The way you setup the scene gives the impression that you really mastered that story. I can really see the strange, desolate and creepy house they are in, Micah hanging close to the chalk line. Also, really good how you’ve increase the creepiness surrounding the house with the chalk, with the holes, showing how broken the parents were, everything. I’m a fan of the very lean script, but Joe here used the overtext to his advantage, in my opinion.

    I do believe the script has some shortcomings, yes. Many pointed out here. I though Micah sometimes was too knowledgeable or too adult. The dialogue sometimes doesn’t click, the feel and flow of it… it just doesn’t feel very crafted as the sequences, as the beats the story go through. It sometimes feel too… I don’t know, placeholder.

    But I just liked it so much, it completely grabbed me, that those things at the end didn’t matter at all. As the script was ending, I was just waiting to see HOW things were going to go down. I knew it was going to get ugly, I just wanted to see how Joe would handle it – glad I wasn’t let down.

    Congrats, this was really great. Has some things that could be tinkered with, but I agree with the Impressive from Carson.

  • Writer451

    I’m surprised nobody has mentioned comparing it to FLOWERS IN THE ATTIC yet.

    • cjob3

      Never heard of it. But yeah, Flowers/Rose, Attic, seems like its paying tribute.

      • Poe_Serling

        Great observation… perhaps Joe M. will chime in. It’s always interesting to see what sources inspire a writer.

      • Joe Marino

        Actually, I hadn’t heard of Flowers in the Attic until this comment. From the bit of reading I just did on it, sounds like a great story, though!

    • Poe_Serling

      Yeah, that book Flowers in the Attic by V.C. Andrews was the Twilight of its day. I remember my older female cousins were batsh*t crazy for the whole series … Petals on the Wind, If There Be Thorns, Seeds of Yesterday, and Garden of Shadows… am I sensing a theme here. ;-)

      They were so popular in fact “that, after her death, her estate hired a ghost writer, Andrew Neiderman, to write more stories to be published under her name.”

      Also, I vaguely recall seeing the film version of the novel. Not so good… it was written and directed by Jeffrey Bloom. Horror fans might be familiar with his name… he was the writer of Blood Beach and Nightmares.

  • Keith_Moten

    First up, congrats on the launch of the new site, Carson.

    My only issue here is the very end – regardless, this is a very strong script.

    Micah is an active character and he always has a goal – obtaining a key from his parents, hiding it once he gets it, accessing the attic, spending time with Rose, and preventing her death. He is a little passive at the end in the final showdown – while he does shoot the police officer in the head, it is the officer that then shoots and hobbles Father as he falls, slowing Father enough to allow Mother to stop him, before he kills Micah.

    Everything up to that point told me this was Micah’s story – he should be the one who overcomes Father. The conflict between Father and Mother does hint that she could play a part in saving the kids, but if she is to be the one who does, that conflict should be punched up, and Micah’s role as protagonist should include more of him being an ‘agent of change,’ bringing his mother round to his way of thinking, rather than just his own arc of learning about the outside world, falling in love with Rose, and rejecting his parents’ values. Quick example – Micah could leave his ‘new’ bible lying around by accident, and Mother picks it up, surprised, but is shocked and compelled by what she reads. That’s just one weak example, but there are plenty of opportunities there. The beating by Father being the best example. Mother should see him for what he truly is at that point – he has become almost like what her own father was.

    Reading this made me think of an excellent recent series of posts on GITS by Scott Myers – the ‘Theology of Screenwriting.’ It wasn’t about putting religion into screenplays, rather exploring the meaning of life – as any decent script/film will tackle some theme or part of the human condition. Some of the themes Scott discussed included ‘sin’ – a protagonist with a flaw, living life in a state of ignorance or imbalance; doubt – the conflict within a character grappling with external and internal conflicts; conversion, resurrection and salvation – if you think about it, these are themes, or sometimes even plot points, occurring within many screenplays. How many films have we seen where a main character, even metaphorically, ‘dies’, experiences resurrection or rebirth, conversion, and either saves themselves or others? I can’t do the series of posts justice in a short comment but I’d encourage anyone really interested in digging deep into their screenwriting to check it out, in conjunction with their other studies and screenwriting resources.

    I think Rose in the Darkness clearly touches on a lot of these and I think it’s one of the reasons why it’s so good. Just need to clarify and flesh out whether Micah should actively achieve the ‘salvation’ or whether he converts his Mother, enabling her to do so.

    [X] Impressive

  • cjob3

    The script is living up to the hype for me so far. Reminds me (I’m sure it’s been said) of Frailty (highly underrated) and Wes Craven’s The People Under the Stairs.

    Just came across one false note though, IMO. After Rose tells the story of what happened to her and her parents (axed to death by his dad) Micah says “So that’s why you’re so resigned.” Very odd, on-the-nose reaction to the horror she just explained. And then his next line is “You shouldn’t give up on life so easy.”Easy?! It’s not like she just got laid off, her parents were killed in front of her by an axe murderer! I’ve been totally on board up to this point but this reaction seems a little off.

  • Paul

    I enjoyed the story quite a bit. Some unexpected moments, like Rose’s parents and Glen were great. Really good stuff here.

    My main issue was with the dialogue, particularly between Rose and Micah at times where it felt a little forced and unrealistic, especially considering Rose’s position and the things she’s seen.

    Also, I think you can probably trim a good 5-10 pages and still keep the beats.

    That said, congrats, Joe on a great script! “Impressives” are hard to come by!

  • Joe Marino

    I love “Let Me In”! Definitely my favorite vampire film.

    • the french guy

      If you both love “Let me in”, take a look at the original piece : “Let the right one in” by tomas Alfredson…

      • Joe Marino

        Seen it. It was good, but I like “Let Me In” better. I just thought the writing and overall execution was better (and it definitely helps that Chloe Moretz was absolutely fantastic).

  • New_E

    Carson, do you have a fetish for gruesome basement deeds? Thought I’d seen the last of it with FATTIES.

    Didn’t intend to read this, but since it garnered an IMPRESSIVE, I just had to.

    It read fast. Very fast. Good writing, but too many adverbs in -ly & some typos (i.e. “past” not “passed”).

    Religion / parenting / difficult childhoods / rural life – these are all themes that are interesting to me, which is why I liked FRAILTY and other films like that. This made me think of WINTER’S BONE and THE VILLAGE too, in that they depict an ecosystem that is so alien to us normal folks within the larger environment we live in. This had it all, the situations were suspenseful, the transitions were good, it kept me reading.

    This didn’t show Christians in a bad light. It just exposed bad people who happened to be false/fake Christians.

    I agree with FD, GYAAD, and the_french_guy though about the plot holes, the dialogue, and the problems with characterization, but I’m sure most of it can be fixed and / or edited out.

    One of the strongest films with a child lead I’ve seen was PAN’S LABYRINTH and that wasn’t for the faint of heart either. If the writer works on Micah, his character, his dialogue, etc… this has the potential to be a good indie horror pic and rack up some dough.

    It’s only [x] WORTH THE READ for me though because of the “flaws” above and the fact that I’m not a big fan of the horror genre. I guess I would’ve liked it more as straight up drama/character study without the cannibalistic angle, but that would have defeated the purpose.

    Come to think of it, why were they eating humans? Because they liked human flesh, because they were sadistic serial killers, or because it was the only thing they could “hunt” without being noticed? (Though how that could happen for at least 13 years in one spot without Clarice Starling or Alex Cross on their tracks by now needs to be answered.)

    I’ve seen some of the goriest, bloodiest pics in my time and looking back, I wonder why I did. Don’t think I’d see SAW IV or THE DEVIL’S REJECTS again. Not that I’m old, mind you, or belong to the Temperance League. I’m not and I don’t. Most of the times these films say nothing about the human condition. There’s nothing to glean from them but cheap thrills. Don’t know why people seek out such ugliness on screen. Guess they haven’t had enough in their own lives and NEED to see exploding heads, severed arms, and blood trickling. Don’t get the attraction really.

    In spite of their relative qualities, recent, well-reviewed projects like FATTIES, A BULLET FOR MY BFF, and to a lesser extent, this, are definitely an acquired taste.


  • MatthewJRogerson

    It’s days like this that give faith to amateur screenwriters, and show what an important service Carson does here at scriptshadow, especially the way he gives amateur scripts a fair chance to impress.

    Joe’s written a good script here. In my humble opinion it isn’t perfect, but it’s a great story with interesting characters you can invest in, and the way the suspense and tension builds throughout is impressive…I think these are the attributes which makes it a winner.

    Well done (again) Joe, and thanks to Carson for the good work you do with amateur friday – long may it continue.

  • Simon Lund Larsen

    I always love it when an amateur script gets a high rating. I truely hope the script gets made in some form so that the screenwriter gets a chance at being a working screenwriter with all the attention that usually brings.

  • Thomas A. Schwenn

    Very surprised by Carson’s love for this. It does have a few good things going for it. 1) It’s a creepy, intimate story 2) the writing is pretty good (action/description).

    But that was the thing for me: I only noticed the writing, because it was overwritten, there’s very little conflict, and things do not really add up.

    -Rose has been there for 4 days and has already given up her will to live?

    -It was pretty easy for the boy to get into the attic.

    -by page 60, nothing has happened besides the boy took the key, and went into the room. No conflict.

    I think this has a lot of potential. The writing could be drawn down.

    • cjob3

      She didn’t give up just because 4 days had passed- she gave up because she watched her mother and father slaughtered in front of her by an axe murder who still holds her prisoner. She just accepted her seemingly evident death. Didn’t think it was overwritten at all. Pretty tight IMO

      • Joe Marino

        My thoughts exactly, cjob3. Thanks!

        • cjob3

          No problem, Joe. Congrats – Good job and good luck!

  • m_v_s

    WTF have I just read? This started out brilliantly, a little over-written in places but very promising and then….it just collapsed. The dialogue killed it tor me and as the story went on, I knew where it was headed but any semblence of twist or orginality was countered by a very loud WTF. Carson says 9 put of 10 writers would’ve stayed with Rose in that attic..I think there’s a good reason for that! I’m so dissapointed with this read. This can be so much more.

    • carsonreeves1

      Was is it all dialogue? Or something else?

      • m_v_s

        I’ll write up some proper notes and post them up, it started off so well! :(

        • Joe Marino

          Appreciate the read and the notes, m_v_s! While I am – and will – go through a few changes, I’m sticking with the cop-and-real-world ending. I feel like making the demons real would be more of a cheat and impede on the rules of the story that drew me to write it in the first place. I understand what you’re saying, but I must be true to myself and trust my instincts. Also, making the demons real would make it far too similar to other things that have already made. The realism is my stamp on this type of story.

          • m_v_s

            Fair enough and good luck! I’d like to read some more of your work. Not to go all Reservoir Dogs on you but you have a very cool sounding name, will keep an eye out for you.

          • Joe Marino

            haha I like my name, too. :P And I’m planning on diving head-first back into my writing projects as soon as this college semester is over. I really haven’t had much time to be freely creative for a while (having economic exams looming over you tends to do that haha), so I’m looking forward to it.

  • cjob3

    minor quibble but on page 71 Rose asks Micah “Do you still look at your dinner the same way?”
    But how does she know what his father is doing with these people? Most axe murders don’t necessarily EAT their victims (Not the ones I know, at least.) so how did she make that leap? Did his Father explain to her that her parents were going to be his dinner? That would be a little out of character for him, no?

  • Anthony Filangeri

    Joe, ignore these people who are saying the “Christianity” aspect is weak. It’s the main focus of the movie — it’s what these villains use to justify their actions. You did a lot of research obviously with it too. So don’t change it because a couple people don’t like it.
    Now the other issues people are bringing up — well, great! Take the feedback and make some solid changes. Because feedback’s always great.
    But DON’T change the Christianity side of it. Is the remake of Carrie changing that? No.

    • carsonreeves1

      I agree. I think the Christianity aspect works for these characters and for the movie.

    • Melanie W

      That doesn’t actually address Renata’s point, however, that if the script had attacked a different religion, the writer would be absolutely denounced. Double standard in play.

      • Joe Marino

        There’s no double standard. I needed a religion to use, Christianity fit the best with what visuals I wanted to work with. It helps that it’s also the religion I know the most about. I don’t think any religion shown at its worst makes a statement of the religion as a whole. We don’t judge Christians as a whole based on the actions of the Klu Klux Klan or the Westboro Baptist Church, do we? We don’t judge Islam as a whole based on the selective extremist who use their religion as an justification for terrorism. But that doesn’t mean these evil people don’t exist. And if something exists, why should I be limited in writing about it? I fail to see your problem, Melanie. :/

  • cjob3

    Just finished- a few thoughts on the ending.

    Really liked the twist with Glen (and the script overall)- however – I was really hoping to learn more about what Father believed. Like in Frailty, Bill Paxton believed he was visited by an angel and was helping to kill demons disguised as human. This father mentions demons, and believes in certain parts of the bible, but which ones? I wish I knew his motivation and his warped belief system. Why does he believe the outside world is so evil? What exactly does the think he’s protecting his family from? And what does eating people have to do with it? I wanted answers at the end and I didn’t get any. Why does Glen do this? Because he just enjoys human flesh that much? Is that the whole family philosophy and their only purpose in doing all this? If so, what’s that got to do with the Bible?

    Really great script but I was a bit unsatisfied with the end.

  • Sandragale

    Very readable.
    The story works, takes us into his world and makes us care. Good job. As far as all this Christian discussion – I thought the script was pro Christian. Almost a bit too much – but overall works fine. The parents are not Christian. They’re demented. They use religion as an excuse. They are going to use what they were raised with. The script chose to also show the other side which made it very balanced. (Small note – why did the pastor not comment on his bruised face?).
    The 2 notes I have for future rewrites echo other comments made.
    1. Some of the dialogue with Rose & Micah did not feel real. If it were me, I’d grab a couple actors and spend a few days work shopping the scenes.
    2. The late introduction of the other character. That felt off. We just spent the entire story learning the #1 characteristic of the parents is that they are isolationists. And then suddenly they work with a 3rd wheel. Feels off.

    Suggestion – what if he were the brother (Micah’s uncle) or maybe step brother. That would tie it in better to the same family crazy. Then you would need to explain why Micah doesn’t know him – but I think that’s doable. Or he could be in disguise. No matter who he is there needs to be foreshadowing.

    I don’t think the ending is too happy. In fact – I got a little whiff that Micah was going to create his own strange world. That could be a way to go – that he’s going to do the same, only his own version.

    Good luck!

  • rl1800

    The setup reminded me a lot of the old Simpsons Treehouse of Horror episode where Bart and Lisa hear strange sounds in the attic during dinner, while Homer and Marge pretend to ignore the noises. Then they discover Bart has a twin brother chained up in the attic, whom Homer periodically feeds with buckets of fish heads. And the similarities to Flowers in the Attic and Frailty have already been analyzed. So, this certainly isn’t the freshest concept for a horror film, but I think it’s one of those cases where a producer can say it’s “just different enough.” Good luck to Joe with this and congrats on the review.

  • edw1225

    I liked it, but not as much as Carson. One thing I really liked that he didn’t mention was Father’s theory that fear added to the flavor of meat, which made him and future events creepier for me. I agree on the dialogue. In addition to sounding too old, it seemed too relaxed for the situation.

  • A H

    let the right one in…

  • Martin B

    Congrats Joe.

    My favorite Amateur read to date.

    Lots of suggestions for your next rewrite here – just remember to trust the intuition that brought you this far.

    Hope this script opens some doors for you.

  • Sherif001

    Carson did indeed let the right one in. I just finished the script after hearing of the news. I’m still awe. I guess the dialogue could have been a little authentic for kids that age. But again, Micah’s upbringing would suggest he’s well versed in teachings of bible and knowledgeable enough to speak that way. As far the girl… Mr. Reeves made it quite clear. This was the only red flag in the script. Congrats com padre!!!

  • Pugsley

    Agree, this is a good idea. However, I agree, some of the dialogue is clunky, and at times it breaks the sacred rule: don’t tell your story through dialogue. Still, I can see how this could be made into a thriller that wouldn’t cost much.

  • Dane Purk

    Okay, so I haven’t finished this script yet, I’m about half way, and I agree with most of the compliments so far, but I have to completely disagree with Carson saying that it’s okay to have bad dialogue as long as the scene is constructed well. Dialogue is PART OF scene construction. And a script is like 75% dialogue. That’s a fairly big thing to screw up. There are many times so far in this script where the dialogue sticks out like a sore thumb and I can’t “get past it” because it pulls me out of even a well constructed scene.

    What I learned: dialogue is key in screenwriting. People who say it isn’t are usually people who write shitty dialogue. If you can’t write dialogue, haven’t figured out how to balance the text/subtext with precise language, then you shouldn’t be a screenwriter. You should write a novel, where dialogue doesn’t matter, because you can have someone say “hello” followed by an entire paragraph about how exactly they said hello, and that makes it interesting. I think in screenwriting, you have to come up with ways for characters to put that paragraph into the actual words they say. It’s tough, but very necessary.

    I’ve gathered that this writer is young, so I suggest that he never stop teaching himself how to write great dialogue in the next 5 years, and he’ll have a shot. In any case, I can’t wait to finish the script. :)

    • Joe Marino

      Good advice, Dane! I totally agree, screenwriting is an ongoing process. Each script is a learning experience. I am young, yes, but while most of my ilk spent their time playing video games or social trips to the mall, I spent the last 5 years honing my craft. I doubt you could have found a 16-year-old with more determination and narrow focus on a life goal back then. And it served me well, as I was able to learn how to effectively become a storyteller. I do have much to learn (dialogue, admittedly, being one of the elements I still need to perfect), but I’m dedicated to the craft, for better or worse. And with each passing day, I get a little better. Hope you like the script!

  • kent

    I don’t know how Carson does it. I read 1/10 the scripts he does, but if I get a whiff of amateurish writing in the first few pages, I turn off. Completely. Rose could be a great story with memorable characters, but I checked out after 10 pages because of the bland writing. The writer did not earn my respect. It’s my bad, I know. Scripts don’t have to be well-written, they don’t have to have a “voice”; but it’s the price of entry to get my personal attention. When I put this one down I picked up another script called St. Vincent de Van Nuys — and got absolutely sucked in. The writer was completely in control. Amazing word choices. Amazing dialogue. Because of the quality of the writing I figured he could tell me a great story. I don’t know if it’s better than Rose, but if you want to read a script written by a writer I suggest you find it and check it out. Again, I know scripts are all about content over style, but I’d rather read a synopsis of a story/structure/characters in reviews like those of Rose found here — and spend my time immersed in quality writing.

    • Malibo Jackk

      It’s a problem.

      Readers want to read a well written script.
      Movie audiences want to see a well crafted story.

  • ispunaweb

    This is probably my favourite amateur script I’ve read since discovering ScriptShadow. Out of the two Impressives I preferred this, I don’t know about about anybody else (and I don’t think my vocabulary is terrible), but I was leafing through the dictionary on a regular basis when reading The Disciple Program.

    I liked the visual imagery that Joe used and though his writing in general was quite evocative. It’s definitely suited to the Gothic, slow-building atmosphere he has going on here. There was a paragraph describing the school room that I absolutely loved in particular (I’m just jealous I can’t write description like that).

    One problem I had with the script were the mounds of dirt. While this was great for the contained visual aspect, if anyone had passed by in a car that would have been extremely suspicious. It couldn’t have been anything but dozens and dozens of graves surely.

    Good touch with bringing in Glen near the end. I really believed he was a good guy and that they had good chance of getting away. The dialouge was a little clunky, but to be honest I only noticed it a couple of times and not in a big way. The story had sucked me in big time.

    Congratulations and good luck with this. I hope it goes somewhere. I’d really like to see something a bit different on the big screen :) Especially from a Scriptshadower!

    • Joe Marino

      Thanks, ispunaweb! On your question, I’m taking it the critical element of their situation wasn’t clear – they are in the middle of nowhere. Imagine one of those long stretches of road in Iowa. NO ONE knows this house exists. No one has seen this house other than the victims who are brought there. It’s not like this house is hiding in plain sight.

  • Jaco

    Just saw that Brooklyn Weaver liked this script – well done Joe! Energy has been killing it lately with projects – so hopefully they’ll take you on. Cheers.

  • urbanguy

    Solid. Great command of craft. Some pacing issues but overall this is a polish away from greatness.

  • Yuri Laszlo

    Considering I can no longer find the link to the script in the main post, I can only assume that Carson’s review did help Joe afterall, in spite of all the critics Rose in the Darkness received from some of us. What’s going on, Joe?

    • Joe Marino

      Interest is growing at a rather joyous pace. We’re just seeing what happens from here on in, but it’s definitely posing some exciting prospects.

      • Malibo Jackk

        Like your attitude Joe.
        I think you’ll be able to work well with people.

        • Joe Marino

          I like to think so. :P Thanks, Malibo.

  • Cactus

    Great read. The dialogue was a bit touch -and- go, mainly between Rose and Micah when he seem to know a bit too much about the outside world. Glen felt a bit too “twirly mustache evil” for me and the fact that he waited in the cage for several days just to make a point doesn’t make sense. But at the end of the day, there’s nothing that can’t be fixed and I agree with the impressive status.

  • TJisnotaDJ

    WOW! excited to read this!

  • Joe Marino

    They didn’t inspire me in terms of me studied them to learn how to approach my story, but they did have an direct impact on how I view adolescent relationships in cinema. Up until that point, I HIGHLY disliked films where a child was the protagonist. It always felt forced, trite, and boring outside a VERY select few – and even those were a trial to get through. And trying to base a story on the relationship between two kids? No way. But when I saw “Let Me In” (and right after that, its predecessor), I realized just how utterly odd and fantastic an adolescent friendship can be if placed in the right setting between two very fascinating child characters. If it wasn’t for those films, I probably would have blown off this idea entirely due to my previous view on such protagonists.

  • Joe Marino

    LOVE your name!

  • JNave

    I just got around to reading this and have to give my two cents. I don’t get the Impressive
    rating. It’s a Worth the Read for me and I wouldn’t argue if someone gave it a Double WTR, but Impressive is going too far. It was a good read, a good story. I enjoyed it.

    But there are lots of issues I couldn’t get past and it puzzles me about what Carson is willing to look past and what bothers him in a script. Maybe it has a lot to do with the mood at the moment, maybe tapping away to Gangnam Style when he picked up the script.

    Up to the midpoint, this was a little slow to me. I wonder if this would have been read all the way through at an agency or production company. If not for Carson being committed to finishing it for a review, would he have stuck by it if he had a hundred other scripts waiting to be read.

    The conversations between Micah and Rose sound too adult-like. An example that struck me:

    (V.O.) (CONT’D)
    My mom’s wracking sobs made it worse.

    Then, as she talks to him about his reasons for wanting to visit her and breaking her out (p. 71), it all seems so unnatural. And they just got boring to me. I only kept reading because of all the raves.

    Several unfilmables that would work better in a novel. An example:

    Micah skitters slowly on the floor, looking for the tranquilizer.

    How do we know what he’s looking for? Stick to what we can see and hear.

    Maybe the biggest thing in the first half for me is that I just didn’t buy Rose not caring about dying.
    Aside from her parents being killed, she seemed full of life. Then, when she comes around and wants to live, it didn’t feel genuine.

    I like the scene at the church, but here Micah has gone all this way, literally risking his life by his father’s hand, and he doesn’t ask for help. I don’t know, but it sure seems like that would be the logical thing to do given what he has been through and the revelation he has had.

    I like the twist, but a COP? What is his motivation and how did this partnership begin? And his brutality and language don’t jive
    with that of Micah’s parents. I’m having a tough time with this.

    p. 96 – too much exposition without really telling us anything about why things are the way they are.

    The whole premise just doesn’t make much sense to me. Yes, we know about religious nut jobs. But ones who brutally kill with an array of savage weapons? And partners with a cop to get it done? I have a hard time with this. You’re gonna have to give me a really good explanation for this. And there was ZERO.

    To me, this feels like a movie on the Sci-Fi channel, one of the better ones. I liked Hibernation more.

    But congratulations and good luck to Mr. Marino.

  • PaknSave

    Good script. Provides a great dilemma. But Ithink the character twist with the policeman in the cage dilutes the dramatic question – will Micah stand up to his parents anddo the right thing?

    • Joe Marino

      I think his decision to open their cages and release them fulfills that dramatic question. Everything occurring after that (the entire climax with the cop) is a consequence of that choice.

  • Maggie Clancy

    Due to traveling, etc., I didn’t get a chance to read the script while it was still up. It sounds pretty fantastic, though – congrats to Joe and fingers crossed!

  • Joe Marino

    To everyone who has had something positive or negative to say about “A Rose in the Darkness,” I thank you so very much for all your time and attention. It’s been a great honor to have the famed ScriptShadow comment community so graciously focus on my work to such a detailed degree. Everyone went above and beyond the call of duty and each of you has given me something to think about. I couldn’t have asked for a better experience. Happy writing to you all! – JM

  • Joe Marino

    One problem – I’m a terrible director. haha Tried it a couple times. I just don’t have the eye for it. Not all of us do.

  • PaknSave

    I’d argue that the cop softens the ending and dissipates the conflict between Micah and Mum and Dad…Yes he opens the cages…but real conflicit is between him and the family. It would have been the more difficult ending but I believe stronger…. still I enjoyed the ride until then…

  • Scotty Davis

    Well, after reading the negative comments/reviews, I eagerly await the same concerning the use of Christianity in SCION. Whether one is a christian or not, it’s an 800 pound gorillia in the room, and not only in this country’s 200+ years, but across the pond(s) as well. We are all touched by Christianity, directly for indirectly “Write what you know”… and I know how christianity has been used sincere and honest intentions, and for manipulation of others for personal gain. True: My grandfather called my mother a jezzebelle in the 60’s because she wore “red” shoes. He was one of those “holy roller, snake handling, speak in tongues”, preachers. Now compelled to read Rose In The Darkness

  • sweepsteve

    Wouldn’t say impressive but worth the read. The characters are traditional and are always the type used in any horror production in a rural setting. So what. The audience connects with this stereotype. Introducing them as something else is just shoehorning in a twist and would be spotted a mile off. The story is not really original though and the writing a tad cluncky in parts – the tedious religious passages also – and with stereotypical characters and more than a few spelling/grammar errors and implausible moments it should do okay at the box office. If Carson is willing to push for this to be produced then there is hope for us all. Thumbs up.

  • Poe_Serling

    ‘Movie did not do FITA justice.’

    Yeah, that was pretty much the consensus among my cousins at the time.

  • kubrickfan01

    This was as impressive of an amateur screenplay as I’ve read. Marino does a great job with set-up, execution and payoff.
    Aside from how good the characters, setting, dialogue and mood were, I was really taken back, in a good way, as to how quickly this script read. Reminds me of reading one of Walter Hill’s scripts. He is the master of simplicity and seeing mostly white on the page. Marino must have studied Hill, but then again, which aspiring screenwriter hasn’t?
    I think my favorite things about this script was Marino’s description of emotion. One of the things I’ve learned from other screenwriters is that you want to keep it basic when describing

  • Rick McGovern

    Okay. Finally read this thing.

    So, after reading a couple comments, I will leave mine.

    First off, yes, Rose spoke like an adult and it actually took me out of the story. Micah felt like a kid to me, except a couple times. It was like he was in a relationship with a 30 year old woman.

    I didn’t think it was Christian bashing. In fact, he got a Bible without ripped pages and without passages blacked out, so now he can see the truth of God for himself.

    I liked that he added the cop. I also don’t like the reason he was there. And he was an exact copy of the father. If we covered the names, we wouldn’t know who is talking, the father or Glen. Easy fix though. He doesn’t have that much dialogue.

    The father was believable except for the scene outside when he is talking to his son. With his temper, he would have been besting his son within the first two or three lines. The father has no patience. He explodes at the drop of a pin. He needs to be kept fluent throughout. Unless he’s bipolar. But I don’t think he is.

    Some of the dialogue was too on the nose in some places. And some of the dialogue back and forth between Micah and Rose was, sorry to say, dumb and unrealistic.

    And I agree. The phone was too convenient. Though I can make sense of it. Though I don’t have any idea how they make money to pay a phone bill lol

    I don’t give it an impressive but do give it a double worth the read, mainly because it was easy to read and went by quick. And it does have some potential with just a little work and could make a good profit. Could probably be made with 35 million. Much less without using an expensive a-list actor.

    I say good job. Even if it would have sucked, how many people talk about writing but never do? Finishing a script is a huge accomplishment! :)

  • salad_fingers

    Wow, really great premise, I loved it until the third act…


    I didn’t like the idea of a cannibal cop sitting in the cell for a couple of days (no one would notice him missing?) just for the sake of exposing a disobeying 13 year old. How about this – Micah sets Rose and Glen free and then Glen suddenly starts acting different. He forces Micah to give up his gun and openly states that he’s going to kill his parents. Is he a cop tired of a 13-year old being in charge? Or is he… a demon? Major slaughter ensues, everybody dies except for Micah who is left to decide – were his parents right? Or were they crazy? Should he leave the house?

    And, drop the cannibalism, it makes the whole story a little bit over the top.

    Anyway, just my two cents. Great, great script, I hope to see it as a movie one day. Good luck, Joe

  • Froman

    Where can I find the script?

  • Joe Marino

    Contact me via twitter, I’ll get it to you. Joe_N_Marino.

  • Craig Paulsen

    I didn’t like this as much as everyone else, but I did like the first half a lot. There was great tension. I really wanted MIcah to get Rose out of the attic. It reminded me of a book I read a long time ago called ‘Flowers in the Attic’. It was great when the cop Glen came into the story and I agree, it added another layer to it. But when Glen turned out to be in on the plan, I laughed. It just got ridiculous after that.

  • BennyD

    Does anyone have the link to download this script??

  • Joe Marino

    No problem. :)

  • Mad Chad

    Where can I get a copy of the script? I would love to read it

  • Joe Marino

    So sorry for missing this response until now, David. I don’t check my Disqus account very often. Glad I got it to you! :)

  • Lucid Walk

    I really want this script. Does anyone have it, please?

  • Lucid Walk

    Wow. Just…wow.
    A real page-turner of a script. Beware of SPOILER ALERT!
    The Good:
    -the opening scene
    -the hero Micah was easy to root for
    -Mother’s bedtime story also being her backstory, nice touch
    -every scene between Micah and Rose
    -Mother constantly struggling between Father and Micah
    -the third act twist, and just, the ending overall
    The Bad:
    -it’s a little slow until Micah first meets Rose
    -Micah running off to the church came out of nowhere
    -Glen suddenly became the main villain in the end when it should have remained Father
    I read this faster than I’ve read any other script. I suppose the 95-page length helped with that, but really it was just because I couldn’t find a reason to put this thing down. The story was enough to keep me reading, and I think this would make an excellent movie

  • Joe Marino

    Do you have an email I can send it to? Or a Twitter account?

  • Lucid Walk

    If anyone needs a copy, just let me know

    • brock

      Can I have a copy too? email — thecraftsman at outlook dot com. Many thanks.

      • Lucid Walk


    • Randall Alexander

      Can I get a copy?! Ralex75 at yahoo dot com

  • Lucid Walk