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Genre: Horror
Premise (from writer): When an outlaw biker, and soon to be father, attempts to leave the sins of his old life behind, he is pushed by a vengeful Sheriff into the arms of an ancient cult of disease worshiping sadists.
Why You Should Read (from writer): The Devil’s Hammer recently won the Top Unproduced Screenplay Award at the Hollywood Horrorfest, Bloodlist Approved, a finalist in the Famous Monsters Film Fest. The Devil’s Hammer is a horror fan’s horror movie. It’s a throwback to the days of Craven, Barker, Raimi with the modern flair of Roth and Zombie. It preys on the primal fears of loss of control and disease. It’s visually gut wrenching, suspenseful and action packed.
Writer: Craig Walendziak
Details: 96 pages

devil's hammer

The Devil’s Hammer got a lot of love from the Amateur Offerings Audience a couple of weeks ago. And the fact that the writer went to Harvard didn’t hurt. Those Ivy League credentials are enough to get someone to at least OPEN your screenplay. But that’s not the only thing noteworthy about today’s writer. Craig claims this is his first script! And while I haven’t read it yet (I will start as soon as this intro is over – I like to get kooky occasionally), I’m already impressed. You’ve got to have some pretty raw talent to get this many people excited over a first screenplay.

The best news is I’m in the perfect condition to read “Hammer.” It’s 3 in the morning, I just watched the first episode of Catfish, this is my fourth script read of the day, and I’m pretty sure when I asked for shrooms on my pizza, they didn’t include the kind you get at the grocery store. So I’m a little bit wired at the moment. On nights like this, scripts can turn into fried cheese balls with wings.  Time to fly away!

The Devil’s Hammer is not that original (even the writer concedes this). It starts with the traditional horror teaser, where a couple of characters (in this case, bikers) get in an accident out in the middle of nowhere, and are soon surrounded by a bunch of dudes in hooded robes. Unless someone is saying “the force is with you,” dudes in hooded robes are NEVER good. I repeat: NEVER take candy from dudes in hooded robes.

After that, we meet a big biker gang. They ride around a lot, doing a bunch of unsavory things. I haven’t seen Sons of Anarchy but I’m guessing these folks cover the same territory. Today, however, they’re just enjoying themselves, drinking some brews at the bar. The key players are Jimmy, who’s planning to leave the group for the straight life, Davie, a huge man who doesn’t think Jimmy should leave, “Wheels,” the young player of the group, “Blitz,” packed with energy, and Maggot, the long-standing vet.

As the men drown themselves in nature’s yeast, the Sheriff and his deputies show up. A little backstory here. The sheriff thinks this gang killed his brother (they didn’t, he’s the one taken by those hooded men in the opening scene, which he shouldn’t have done, because, say it with me, “You never take candy from men in hooded robes unless they can teach you the force.”). One thing leads to another, a huge gunfight ensues, and our core bikers make a run for it. With Maggot injured and bleeding out, they need to find help for him quickly. And where do they end up? An old mining town deep in the forest up in the mountains.

It’s not long before we learn the occupants of this town are those hooded jerkhead jedi impersonators. And that the reason they wear hoods is to hide their horribly diseased faces (which contain boils, tumors, warts, pox, lesions, you name it). So yeah, they’re not e-mailing headshots to the latest America’s Top Model cycle in their spare time.  Or if they are, they’re getting a very low response rate.

Before our gang realizes these diseased wackos are bad, most of them are tied up and helpless. Around this time, the sheriff infiltrates the town as well, but figures out quickly that once Merriwhether and his band of Black Plague pals get you here, you’re at a severe disadvantage.

From there, things naturally descend into chaos. In one scene, one of our men is tied up on a basement hospital gurney, thinking he’s about to be stabbed with a knife. But no. The diseased dude reaches up to his face and slits the knife through all his boils and tumors and lesions, collecting the drooling pus into a glass and inserting it in our biker’s wound, ensuring he’ll be diseased as well (I thought he was going to make him drink it actually – now THAT would’ve been a scene).

It then becomes a life or death situation where our guys have to not only get the hell out of here, but get out of here without getting infected. The chances of that happening are about as good as James Franco posting a fully-clothed selfie.

BikerGang“Excuse me. We’re looking for a run down town of pus-filled rotting sadists.  Is that up past the Waffle House?”

The truest test of a script is, would you pass it along to someone else? Do you care about it enough to go out of your way and recommend it to others? Here’s the thing with The Devil’s Hammer. I’m not sure I would recommend this to others on the strength of the script. But I would recommend it to producers who want to make a good horror movie. I’m 90% sure somebody will option/buy this and that it will get made. It’s just a slam dunk from a marketing perspective. It’s familiar (a Chainsaw Massacre meets House of Wax setup) and it has something a little different going for it that’ll keep the kids squirming in their seats.

And it’s got some really memorable scenes as well. There’s a scene where two of our players are tied up in a room full of children who play a game of “jack-in-the-box” torture, winding the jack-in-the-box one rotation at a time. Whoever gets the jack out of the box gets to torture one of their captives, usually via something like pulling off their finger nails with a set of pliers (That’s a lot different from my game of jack-in-the-box, which consists of trying to figure out why the meat inside the 2 tacos for 99 cents is so soupy).

There’s the fucking grandma character, who absentmindedly plays a creepy endless tune on the piano. When we get close enough to her, though, we see that her body is covered in huge tumors. The one on the left side of her face is so big, it weighs her head down in that direction. She doesn’t even have eyes because the tumors have pushed them closed.

And the church. Wow. I’m not going to spoil it here, but I’m not sure I’ve ever been as horrified by an image on paper as what’s in that church. That’s going to leave a lasting memory for all who witness it.

But what about the STORY! Well, it’s not bad, but it’s not as good as it could be. The thing with this kind of movie is, the script doesn’t have to be perfect. I hate saying that, but as long as you’re inventive with the terrifying world you’ve set up – which Craig is – that’s what matters most. It’s not the same kind of horror as, say, The Ring, which requires clever pacing, solid twists and turns, and well-drawn characters. This is more shock-horror.

I definitely think Craig could do more with his characters though. There’s nothing really going on with any of them. And the ones where there is something going on, it’s not clear what that “on” is. Like Jimmy and Davie. Davie was really mad at Jimmy, but I couldn’t figure out why. It was either because Jimmy was leaving the group or because of something Jimmy did in the past.

Also, I didn’t understand what this biker gang did. Were they a band of criminals, or just really rowdy bikers?

Then there was the Sheriff’s pursuit of them. The Sheriff is informed by the bartender that the bikers are at the bar, which seems to imply that this is the only chance the Sheriff will have of catching them. Except this is the year 2014. All you need is Google to find out where people live. How come he has to wait for them to come together at a bar before he can find them?

Then there’s his plan. The best thing he can think of to catch a band of armed bikers is wait for them to get into a bar, barge in, start a shootout, and hope he’s able to kill them all? That not only seems illegal, but really dumb.

Then, once our bikers get to the town, something was off. It took me awhile to figure out what it was, but I eventually realized I wasn’t scared for our characters. And the reason I wasn’t scared was because they were all so capable. These were tough bikers with guns. They were used to handling themselves.

That’s why horror movies usually center around physically weak protagonists. Young women. Mothers. Mothers and their children. Teenagers. These are people who are up against a stronger enemy, which is why you’re afraid for them. With bikers, even when they were caught, I figured they’d get out of it. They were all just too strong.

With that said, I’m not sure I’d switch the bikers out for weaker protagonists. The biker angle is part of what makes this unique. But maybe try to be more convincing on how these weak diseased dudes are able to so casually defeat the bikers. Maybe they’re smarter than the bikers. They use their intelligence and home field to trick them. But if it comes down to blunt strength, come on. The bikers are going to win every time.

Finally, there isn’t a clear-cut hero here. Not that that’s a requirement, but it sort of is. We need to know who’s leading the charge. At first I thought it was Jimmy, since we start with him, but Jimmy’s actually pretty boring. It’s Davie who actually gets the most screen time. If I were Craig, I’d look to make Jimmy the clear-cut hero and give him the depth that a clear-cut hero needs in a story. Leaving a pregnant girlfriend at the beginning of the script isn’t enough. He needs a flaw, something he’s fighting on the inside. Maybe it’s his fear to commit to this woman. He’s struggling with whether he wants to settle down or not (instead of it being a foregone conclusion). I don’t know. Maybe some of the commenters can give you ideas. But if you’re going to play with the big boys, you gotta learn to create depth in your characters.

With all that said, I think there’s more good here than bad. And I think the good things are so good, that they make you forget about a lot of the mistakes. Don’t get me wrong, I’d like for those mistakes to be fixed as well. But The Devil’s Hammer delivers what its customers want. And if you have that, you have a script that can sell.

Script link: The Devil’s Hammer (latest draft)

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

What I learned: Every scene here was a fresh variation on scenes I’ve seen before. Where genre writers get it wrong is they write COPIES of their favorite scenes. Don’t copy. Start from the same place, but then challenge yourself and look for ways to make the scene yours. I’ve seen basement hospital scenes before. I haven’t seen one where a guy cuts his sores and lets the pus drip into a glass and then pour it into our character’s wounds. I’ve seen the creepy woman playing the piano from behind before. I haven’t seen it where the woman has tumors the size of basketballs all over her body. I’ve seen freaky kids scenes before. I haven’t seen one where pus-filled diseased looking kids play a jack-in-the-box torture giggle game. It’s when I see these variations on scenes that I know the writer is above and beyond the typical amateur.

What I learned 2: You probably shouldn’t tell somebody this is your first script (or 2nd, or 3rd). They’ll be looking for first-time mistakes throughout, and rarely give you the benefit of the doubt. Trust me, you want as much benefit of the doubt as you can get in a read.

arancini-oozingFried cheese balls.

  • Matty

    Nice! Congrats to Craig on a [x] worth the read!

    I haven’t read this yet, but the review makes it sound very intriguing, with some memorable scenes for sure. I’m not a huge fan of gross-out entertainment, whether comedy or horror, but it sounds like there could be some merit to some of that in here. If anything, it definitely sounds like a very marketable, easy/cheap-to-make script.

    I actually kind of like the idea that there isn’t a clear cut hero here. These types of horror films almost always have a main character (or two) who are clearly, from the beginning, going to survive at least until the last scene. So I like the idea that we don’t have that kind of character to count on, and everyone is potentially disposable. Once again, haven’t read it, but that’s the way the review made it sound.

    And also, huge props on this being your first script. That’s beyond impressive. I wouldn’t even think about posting a single page from my first script. But, as Carson said, I wouldn’t tell people that, merely because I’ve maybe only seen one or two other first-timer scripts that were worth reading. No point in automatically attaching yourself that stigma.

    Anyway, nice job, Craig, and I hope this gets you some attention! Going to check it out when I have some time!

    P.S. Carson – “That’s a lot different from my game of jack-in-the-box, which consists
    of trying to figure out why the meat inside the 2 tacos for 99 cents is
    so liquidy”……..


    • carsonreeves1

      You know, I’m starting to think you may be right.

      • Matty

        Don’t worry, though, if you’re drunk it doesn’t matter. Actually, if you’re drunk it makes a lot of sense. Somehow.

        And if you’re really looking for the most bang for that buck, use the Taco Bell Hack that tells you what to order to maximize caloric value for X number of dollars:

      • WB

        I think “soupy meat” is a great basis for another horror movie.

    • Craig Mack

      Matty- thanks! I appreciate the advice.

      The ‘this is my first script’ is DEFINITELY not in my query… I was sharing amongst friends.. :)

      I think Carson was spot on in the review — story could be better, I could dive more into characters, the bikers are a conundrum.

      • Matty

        Be careful lest you get accused of “making excuses” ;-)

        But seriously, congrats. I’ve read the first ten pages, and this is head and shoulders above almost any first script I’ve read. Some people will likely complain about your use of camera directions – I don’t personally mind them, and your occasional use of “CUT TO,” for example, has an arguable purpose.

        Good writing! Keep it up!

    • leitskev

      Good points.

  • Bifferspice

    congrats Craig :) two worth the reads in a row! maybe there’s hope for us amateurs after all :)

  • fragglewriter

    Congrats to the writer. I haven’t read the script as horror is not my thing.

    • Ange Neale

      Not my thing, either. I’ve studied international relations, and the shit people do to each other in real life during wars and what-not is horrific enough.

    • Craig Mack

      The artwork is from a very talented friend of mine…. he draws comics (and a few of my album covers!). I put together the promo poster myself.


      • Ange Neale

        I wasn’t game to read TDH at first, Craig (1/ ‘cos I’m a big sooky girl’s blouse, 2/ because the last ‘horror’ movie I watched all the way through was ‘Aliens’ when it was first released back in the Cold War, and 3/ because I don’t know the genre or what’s expected (except that it should be scary) so I can’t really offer constructive criticism), but I took a deep breath and dived in for the first 15.

        I thought your writing itself was really good with lots of great visuals — apart from the bloody alarm clock! I did threaten last week to stop reading if I stumbled onto another hand on an alarm clock scene. But I didn’t. Kudos to your writing for that. And very few typos and what-not — appreciate that! Harvard paid off.

        Cheers, mate, and good luck with it!

  • Writer E

    I read the first 15 pages and enjoyed it, good writing. Congrats on the [x] worth the read!

  • Ange Neale

    Congrats, Craig! Wish you well with it!

  • UrbaneGhoul

    I haven’t read the script so I don’t know if this is present in it, but maybe the pregnant girlfriend wants him out of the club so she could be his wife and not his old lady. An old lady could be passed around the club members and so we don’t instantly get turned off by Jimmy, he says he wouldn’t let that happen, but she doesn’t want that on the table anymore. He can hang out with his buddies, ride his bike, but his family comes first and not the club like before. It would be a challenge to his ideals and do a little soul-searching on what he wants. That’s how I’d approach it.

  • Eddie Panta

    Re; The lack of a true lead hero.

    Yes, the script does play a game of hide the lead. But that has become a necessity for a contemporary horror thriller.

    Leads don’t die. In twisted tale like Devil’s Hammer the reader/audience needs to feel like anyone can go at any minute.

    If you create the more traditional hero lead, well if they die, it’s a real bummer. So there’s that to deal with too.

    • Matty

      Agreed, exactly what I said. Pretty much every horror film these days, even while starting out with a group of people, makes a protagonist clear from the beginning. And it causes the entire film to be devoid of any tension, because you at least know that person will survive (until the end, anyway… if they die, they’re the last to die). I thought YOU’RE NEXT did a decent job of sidestepping that when I first saw it, although when I rewatched it, it was pretty evident from the beginning who the main protagonist was going to be.

      While not horror, a film like THE RAID does a really nice job of making sure every character is vulnerable in our mind.

      The best recent horror example of that would probably be THE DESCENT. All of the characters in that film are treated fairly equally, and you really have no idea who could die next.

      • ArabyChic

        I’d say it was pretty obvious here who the main character was. The main problem was that unlike say, Alien or Aliens, where are there are many characters doing their thing until it boils down to a few, of which Ripley is always the leader, here the main character never took control of the situation. He got the introduction of a main character, but not the follow through.

        • Eddie Panta

          You are correct. But JIMMY is still no where near the lead hero that some producers, actors, or readers would demand.
          The lead would be someone who is every scene. This is more typical of the antagonist vs protagonist story theories laid out in SS advice columns.

          • ArabyChic

            Exactly. That’s what I’m saying. Or tried to say :)

      • drifting in space

        The Descent is creepy and unsettling because of that very reason. Enjoyed that one even though it creeped me out.

      • Eddie Panta

        I’m going to check out THE RAID and The Descent, good picks.

        • NajlaAnn

          The Descent is one scary movie.

        • Matty

          THE RAID is some fucking balls out hardcore go-for-broke shit-hits-the-fan action. It’s good.

          I haven’t seen the sequel yet, but I hear it’s on an entirely new level. Can’t wait.

      • pmlove

        I love The Descent. But the protagonist is clear from the beginning. It starts with her. Her husband dies. She’s in hospital. She gets convinced to go on the trip.

        If anything, she’s just an inactive protagonist for a good section of the plot, which probably leads to the ambiguity you feel over who the protagonist is. It’s not her flaw that causes the set-up of them being trapped down there. She doesn’t lead them deeper into the caves.

        You have no idea who could die next – except her.

      • Poe_Serling

        Speaking of The Descent…

        I also like how it plays around with the idea of perhaps there are different levels of reality during the course of the film. The Sarah character, who lost her husband and child at the beginning of the story, downs a bunch of medication before entering the caves. Then one of other expedition members casually mentions that auditory and visual hallucinations are common problems often experienced during spelunking.

        To me, this sort of hints at the notion that quite a bit of what the characters are seeing down there (creatures and such) might just be in their mind, especially the drug-popping Sarah.

        One of my favorite films from the ’80s The Hitcher really had fun with this dual/multiple reality angle:

        If you remember the scene in the diner, Rutger Hauer’s character puts coins over C. Thomas Howell’s eyes and says, “You’re a smart kid… figure it out.”

        Again, hinting that C. Thomas Howell may already be dead and moving through some nightmarish afterlife scenario.

        • Matty

          I love that you mention that moment in THE HITCHER. I’ve always liked that a lot… something that could easily slip past most viewers, but I always thought it was a great little moment. The entire film itself is pretty damn good…. fucking abysmal remake though (however, I did think Sean Bean was fairly compelling in the role… so it wasn’t entirely without merit, just mostly).

          • Poe_Serling

            Back then, screenwriter Eric Red really had a nice string of edgy and intense projects being produced: The Hitcher, Near Dark, Blue Steel… and don’t forget Body Parts.

            And I’m pretty sure that last one would’ve got a double worth the read from Carson based on its logline alone: “After losing his arm in a car accident, a criminal psychologist has it replaced with a limb that belonged to a serial killer.” ;-)

  • Craig Mack

    RE; Protagonist

    I think what Carson was getting at was; I intro Jimmy Breslow as the main protagonist, but as the story unfolds Jimmy is marginalized to a certain extent. The movie shifts into more of a ‘group protag’… I think it’s the shift that throws readers off… it’s something I’ve thought about addressing..

    BUT– another problem I have is the ‘anti-hero’ nature of the bikers… I kind of needed that main protag to be SOMEWHAT like-able… So I picked Jimmy out and ran with him.

    Finally, I think Carson made a great point about ‘why the bikers’ and not the college kids… Again, trying to mix things up. I wanted to put the ‘American Badass’ in an uncomfortable situation and ratchet it up… Besides– if it does get optioned/made the college kids will make for good targets in sequels….


    • Ange Neale

      Ooh, ooh — instead of college kids, what about the wanker Wall Street types who rip off investors, from yesterday’s book. They could be on their way to a convention or something in their lamborghinis and the disease guys could put down road spikes.

      You’d have us all rooting for the disease guys. Inflict some pain and suffering on those who richly deserve it.

  • leitskev

    Excellent review. Nothing interesting to say on my end. Fortunately I’m able to recognize that today, so I’ll stick with…excellent review, congrats to the writer!

  • Nick Morris

    Here is a guy that clearly knows and loves horror and that passion bleeds from every page.
    THE DEVIL’S HAMMER is a quick read that (literally) oozes with sick ideas and twisted imagery. I really dig the biker angle and the fact that these characters aren’t all that developed doesn’t bother me in a script like this. Chaos and havoc are the stars here and Craig knows it.
    Confession: The sick/shock/torture subgenre isn’t my favorite type of horror, though there is certainly an audience for it. But I think too many horror scripts and indie films out there today come off overly dour and just put too much emphasis on shocking their readers/audiences with the most vile and repulsive crap they can come up with, all in an effort to be taken “seriously”.
    But Craig understands how to handle this kind of material. THE DEVIL’S HAMMER executes its cool and unique concept in a way the avoids falling into that trap by maintaining an assured and gleefully excessive tone throughout. It doesn’t want to punish. It wants to entertain and it definitely succeeds.
    Congratulations on the great review, brother. I thoroughly enjoyed TDH and I can’t wait to drag my wife out to see it, haha!

    • Craig Mack

      I have your screenplay on my docket for this weekend. I’m knee deep in another script so its been tough to break away.



      • Nick Morris

        Cool, man. Can I send you a revised draft?

        • Craig Mack

          Yeah, please do…. thecraigmackATgmail

  • Poe_Serling

    A big congrats to Craig for getting a worth the read. Along with The Harvester by Nick Morris, it’s been a few fun weeks for some great throwback horror here on SS.

    Just recently I discovered an old screenwriting article that I tucked away in one of my desk drawers. And since it’s a chills and thrills day here, I thought I would share it with the SS faithful.

    I think the advice below can be used in a couple of ways: A sort of very general template for those writers about to tackle a horror script, and as a basic checklist for those writers who already have a few scary scripts under their belt.


    A horror movie has certain rules. If you break too many the audience will be disappointed.

    1) THE HOOK

    Start with a bang. Step right into a suspense scene.

    2) THE FLAW

    Introduce your hero. Give him a flaw. Before you can put your hero in jeopardy we must care for him. We must want our hero to succeed. So make him human.

    3) THE FEAR

    A variant of The Flaw. The hero has a fear. Maybe a fear of heights, or claustrophobia.

    4) NO ESCAPE

    Have your hero at an isolated location where he can’t escape the horror.


    Tease the audience. Make them jump at scenes that appear scary — but turn out to be completely normal. Give them some more foreplay before bringing in the real monster.


    A couple of times during the middle of the script show how evil the monster can be — as it attacks its victims.


    The hero investigates and finds out the truth behind the horror.


    The final confrontation. The hero has to face both his fear and the monster. The hero uses his brain, rather than muscles, to outsmart the monster.


    Everything’s back to the way it was from the beginning — but the hero has changed for the better or for the worse.

    10) EVIL LURKS

    We see evidence that the monster may return somewhere… somehow.. .in the future.

    • leitskev

      Thanks, Poe.

    • Matty

      This is definitely a solid list, though some of these have been worn to death and frankly, I’m tired of seeing them.


      “Make them jump at scenes that appear scary — but turn out to be completely normal.” Ugh. What happened to building suspense through atmosphere and the suggestion of evil and bad things to come? Rather than… ooooh… scary noise…. protagonist investigates…. WHOA TURNS OUT TO BE A CAT THAT A PA THREW AT THE ACTOR. Carpenter’s “Halloween” didn’t do that nonsense – it built up an atmosphere of dread by showing us glimpses of the evil lurking around the corner.

      “We see evidence that the monster may return somewhere… somehow… in the future.” There’s nothing inherently wrong with this, it’s just tiring to me. You can pretty much count on it in most horror films these days. Protagonist seems to have won, and then BAM, the evil is still alive or something. I mean, “Jaws” didn’t have to show us a second shark waiting to pounce.

      Those are my main gripes. Nothing wrong with either per se, they just feel really really overused to the point of exhaustion. Especially that first one.

      But still, good list all in all.

      • Nick Morris

        “WHOA TURNS OUT TO BE A CAT THAT A PA THREW AT THE ACTOR. Carpenter’s “Halloween” didn’t do that nonsense – it built up an atmosphere of dread by showing us glimpses of the evil lurking around the corner.”

        No, but Carpenter’s HALLOWEEN II features one of the best psycho-cat-jump-scares EVER, lol!

      • Magga

        At one point Spielberg apparently considered ending the movie with a whole bunch of shark fins moving towards the island. Can’t remember the source, but it was a screenwriter who had trouble working with Spielberg as he was playing with toys and listening to his “think music”, the James Bond soundtrack.

    • drifting in space

      Great list.

    • Kosta K

      Every rule on that list would make a pretty good horror movie title.

      • A Tribe Called Guest

        Go Habs Go!

  • Eddie Panta

    Congrats on the Worth The Read! Well deserved…

    I would go a step further than Carson and recommend this as must read to amaetur screen writers, even if you are not into horror movies.

    Horror writers should definitely read because DEVIL’S HAMMER shows you that you’re horror concept isn’t enough, you need another concept. DH has a whole biker movie/ action film plot line, the horror element is another layer on top of that.

    Here a a few things I think DEVIL’S HAMMER did right that other amateur script avoid or get wrong.


    Character backstory really bogs down the read, the action. Scenes that are simply about the character’s past would slow down this type of script. DH has a solid hour of non-stop action.

    DH handles the back story visually, also the writer is doing two or three things at once, We’re getting backstory at the same time as character intro’s about 5 characters at the same time. There’s not a lull in the story to go to a backstory scene.

    In DH the backstory is handled by showing us VISUAL TOKENS such as: the mushroomed bullets, the tattoos, the heroine tracks, the calendar on the wall, these indicate the backstory visually. These are tokens of the past the reader can remember going forward, they stick in your head.

    It’s not a scene solely devoted to a dump load of backstory with a ton of dialogue, where the character has to go meet someone from their past, so that they could tell us who the lead is.

    So is there conflict during the set-up/ intro scene where we meet the all characters?Answer: Yes.
    Every time a character is intro’d a new conflict arises. While we still don’t have a strong hold on who Jimmy really is, we know who he isn’t when he’s contrasted with the other bikers.


    in DH we know LENNY the bartender is up to something. It’s NOT a “mystery box”. Knowing adds to the suspense. It doesn’t take away from it. The scene when LENNY pulls the rifle is not a surprise twist. It adds tension to the entire scene while the conflict between Jimmy and Davie takes place. The clock is tick, tick, ticking, LENNY is going to do something. Again, here more than a few things are going on at the same time.

    Look at how the suspense is dealt with in DH. Why is this movie still suspenseful if we all know the biker gang is going to end up in that crazy house we saw in the cold open.

    The audience knows more than a few things the biker’s don’t know. The lead needs to catch up the audience. We know occultist lurk behind the gate, that the sheriff is after them, that Lenny will betray them, that the first biker we met in the woods is actually an undercover cop.


    At the Sheriff’s office the exposition, is in the form of a visual college – the wanted Biker’s on photographic display. The exposition of the missing person, a biker, to be revealed as an undercover cop is handled with an accidental spill of a file folder containing the exposition. Again a visual statement is made here.

    The legend, all great villains need a LEGEND, essentially the how was this evil entity created? Why does it exist? Here its leaked out slowly, through various scenes that include action. Some of the exposition is handled in book form. But we’re piecing it together little by little through action and visual descriptions of objects.


    It’s not a script where the evil creature lurks in the shadows, remains hidden under the cloak, only to be revealed with utter disappointment at the end of the movie.

    A lot of horror writers desperately hide the identity of their evil entity for way too long, using wordy mystery adjectives for 50 pages, in an attempt to hide the fact that there is no visual concept, no real IP to copyright, only a broad, illusive, descriptions in which they’re hoping YOU will impose your imagination to achieve some unique “idea” solely through innuendo.

    The RULES of the EVIL BEINGS have been established. We know what they want, need, how they operate,and eventually we find out what their weakness is. It’s nailed down here. Fully realized. The writer has something to copyright, to sell.


    While this is a horror movie, The first act is story of betrayal and revenge is played out
    without the assistance of the horror concept. You get the feeling that this
    could be an entire movie unto itself.

    In DH the bar scene has three forms of betrayal going on at the same time, hence a mexican standoff, but not just because guns are pointed.

    . One – Lenny turns on his patrons, the bikers. Two – Davie feels betrayed by Jimmy, who is leaving the gang. Three – the Sheriff betrays Lenny, he’s set him up to take the fall, letting him do the dirty work.

    REVENGE – The sheriff’s motivation for action is to avenge the death of his fellow officer.

    Every great movie needs revenge of deception, even comedies. Most movie are about revenge. If I were to pump up a lead in this story, I would make them have a motivation for vengeance.

    • Craig Mack

      WOw, Eddie… this is fantastic. Thanks so much for your thoughtful review. I really appreciate it.

    • ArabyChic

      Well said. I agree — the visual elements are used very well to both explain and heighten tension.

  • tobban

    Is that Michael Madsen on the left side in the biker picture?
    He would love to do this film.
    “Excuse me. We’re looking for a run down town of pus-filled rotting sadists. Is that up past the Waffle House?”

    • Craig Mack

      I just sent Madsen a old query for shits and giggles… Ill let you know how that goes.

      • tobban

        Yeah, Madsen would be perfect for Jimmy.
        I hope you get it made, it has a lot of potential.

  • Stephjones

    Congrats, Craig! I don’t read horror ( sissy) but happy you rec’d a worth the read. That’s gotta feel good.

  • ThomasBrownen

    Congrats Craig on the [x] worth the read! I hope we’ll hear more about you in the future!

  • drifting in space

    Fuck sendspace. Congrats to the writer!

    • Eddie Panta

      I second that!

  • Randy Williams

    I felt on AOW this would cheer up Scriptshadow and prompt him to write a glowing report so I voted for it. Wasn’t my favorite though. Remembering back, I bailed when they first got to that mining town. I looked back to see why and these lines probably did it. ..”I know it’s late, our friend needs help”… “Can we crash till morning” .”Davie annoyed. He’s not used to taking orders”

    When I think “annoyed”, I think that feeling you get when your waiter keeps passing your table when you want him to bring the pepper mill. For me, these gun toting alpha males suddenly turn milquetoast. Took me out of the read.

    Still, after this review, seems I missed out on some good stuff. Will have to finish it.

    Congrats for a great review!

  • Eddie Panta

    Two things that shocked me about the SS Review;

    1) Carson didn’t recommend taking out at least one character. I thought for sure that would be a issue. I thought for sure Carson would advise losing a character to focus more on a lead. I’m glad he didn’t.

    2) The COLD OPEN – Not a word about it in the review, this the second script in a row with a cold open that got a worth the read, but there’s never any comments in the review in terms of the story structure in regards to setting up a cold open. After all these AOW scripts, half of which start with cold opens I would think that Carson would have some serious advice as to whether to use them as an opening sequence or not.

    I think many writers believe that without the cold open that readers wouldn’t understand the genre. Hence, they turn the COLD OPEN in their horror script into something like a preview that primes the audience/reader, essentially a mission statement as to the genre.

    COLD OPENS in horror scripts set up a warning or a legend in either past or future.

    But a true COLD OPEN should be more like a dreamscape, in the case of DH, a nightmare. But dreams don’t have any exposition, their visual and illusive.

    The cold open is an not the start of page one, but an opening sequence in which you have the a moment on the page to be directorial. A chance to show us the theme through a visual icon.

    But what if there wasn’t a cold open in DEVIL’S HAMMER.Would it be more suspenseful not knowing that an Occult is coming? Why the warning?

    I would argue that it would be more contemporary for DEVIL’S HAMMER not to give us any info or knowledge of the occultist ranch until the Bikers arrive there.

    Think of it this way, it’s kind of like knowing what’s in the basement of the pawn shop in
    Pulp Fiction prior to the two characters getting trapped down there.

    If you look at scripts like SEED and EXTINCTION the genre is not revealed until about page 30. Besides, everyone wants two stories crammed into one movie now anyway.

    Two AOW review California Dreaming and Savage South start with cold opens that steal a moment for ACT II and put the future first then move into the present.

    Effectively done, Cold Open’s shouldn’t steal any suspense from ACT II or give away the inciting incident.

    Perhaps it is because the writer is afraid the reader would think that this is a biker action -thriller without it. But I would argue that there is a way to write any story and still have it have a horror vibe through tone, scene set up, and style.

    Here the inciting incident isn’t the oculists. It’s the drama and action between the Sheriff’s Dept. and the Bikers. A story about revenge.

    In the opening sequence of DH – I didn’t know why Emma’s arm was bleeding exactly. I assume she grazed the goat’s horn or a tree branch But really I don’t care, or I shouldn’t care.

    The idea is not to answer these questions, but to stylize the sequence in way that makes
    sure the reader isn’t asking these types of questions in the first place. Why did she go out to pee in the woods. Why did the biker pull a gun? etc… All of this shouldn’t matter. The
    visual description, characters names should be more elusive or not given at all!

    So after the first sequence in DH, the audience is two steps or three steps ahead of the Bikers. When the lead, and the gang get to the occultist ranch, they’re just catching up with the audience.

    I’d really like to know what Carson’s thoughts are on all these cold opens.

    • S_P_1

      I didn’t read Savage South, but it appears Carson is being overly generous lately in his amateur review rankings. Especially after he would state numerous reservations about a particular script. Since the score sheet rules aren’t clear, I read certain scripts without regards as to whether it might review positively on Friday. More power to the writers that do review positively.

    • Michael

      Hey Eddie,

      Sorry, but I’m a little confused by your use of the term COLD OPEN, I’m not sure you are using it correctly. For me, COLD OPEN is any scene that precedes the credits. It has no other connotation and it doesn’t matter what the content of the scene is or what the genre is. Today, COLD OPENINGS are most commonly used by television. One show ends and they COLD OPEN into the next show so the viewer is hooked and doesn’t get the chance to tune away during the commercials. Feature films do use this technique, most notably horror films, but it is more in line with the TEN STEPS in Poe’s post, it is step 1) THE HOOK.

      I agree, a discussion of “opening scenes” and the HOOK and how much to give away would be an interesting discussion. If you are making a horror movie that centers on a biker gang, I think Craig made the right choice for his opening hook.

      The other questions you raised about the opening scene are the bigger issue for Craig. I asked all the same questions about Emma’s bleeding arm, peeing in the woods, etc. Your answer was: “The idea is not to answer these questions, but to stylize the sequence in a way that makes sure the reader isn’t asking these types of questions in the first place. …All of this shouldn’t matter. The visual description, characters names should be more elusive or not given at all!”

      Stylizing is something that takes advanced writing skills and what we have here are rookie mistakes. Agreed, this shouldn’t matter, but most writers stumble on these small things and they always end up mattering.

      Maybe I’m misinterpreting your answer, but for me Craig’s problem is that he is being to “elusive” to begin with. My biggest problem with reading amateur scripts is that they are always too elusive when they should opt for clarity. Something as simple as the “Emma’s bleeding arm” description, put a kink in the read because Craig didn’t add to the line of description about the motorcycle avoiding the goat, something along the lines of: “the motorcycle crashes through branches along the side of the road.” Craig went from point A to point B without connecting the dots. Sure, it’s an easy fix, but one worth pointing out. Now, to be more elusive as you say, you could argue to loose the bleeding arm description all together. I’d agree with that, as it doesn’t play any part in the scenes coming action.

      I guess my long drawn out point here is that these seemingly insignificant descriptions or dialog or actions or whatever, have to be perfectly constructed beats that make the reader subconsciously go “I know exactly what they’re getting at,” and keep the reader focused; clarity does that, elusiveness only raises questions and stopping to ask questions pulls the reader out of the script.

      Eddie, your earlier post has some really good insights about the script, but I’ve only read the first 20 pages, so I’ll hold off on commenting further before I hopefully finish it.

      Overall, though, Craig’s got some good writing skills for his first effort, he should be very proud. Congratulations Craig.

      • Eddie Panta

        Yes, I see the confusion, I was really trying to talk about opening sequences here on AOW in general. I was using the opening of HD as an example since it is the latest in a long line of AOW scripts that have this “hook” or suspense, cliff-hanger opening.

        But you’re right, it’s not technically a cold open, but it give us an unresolved scene.

        Simply put I was asking a WHAT IF question. What if you took away this opening? OR What if the names of the characters were left out? How does this affect the story structure? I was asking that question in terms of a story structure exercise.

        I didn’t mean elusive as to forsake clarity but rather to tease and illicit emotion over exposition.. I do think that mystery should be very clearly described.

        Instead of EMMA or TIM LEHAN — what if it was more “elusive” A BIKER — A GIRL, also leather clad, on the road, at night etc…

        I was suggesting to experiment with a more directorial omniscient point of view as opposed to the character driven viewpoint the opening currently has. What this sets up is an expectation that the leads are going to be EMMA and TIM. Perhaps that is desirable, a red-herring in away.

        For me, EMMA and TIM’s name were long forgotten by the time I got to page 25. Especially since there was a lot of characters in the script.

        The reader needs to be reminded who they are anyway. So, I didn’t think it was necessary to name them in the first place.

        To me, it’s still kind of a cold open, because we, the audience, are being told something that the other lead characters do NOT know.

        We know what happened to Tim and Emma

        We know what lurks behind the gate.

        IF the respective leads/families had the knowledge we have, then there wouldn’t be any story. The Sheriff wouldn’t blame the bikers. And the bikers wouldn’t go into the house, unless they went in – intentionally.

        Being elusive is about how much to reveal.

        In the script it already says: Something or someone is watching, waiting.

        “Someone grabs him from behind”

        That counts as clear enough, if that is all “we” can “see”.

        IN a true COLD OPEN the killer would remain hidden in the shadows.
        Because the Killer remains hidden in shadows that doesn’t make the writing less clear, it makes the killer elusive.

        Neither the cops nor the audience know who the killer is.Only the victim would know. But whose viewpoint are we on, and which one would reveal the least.– The killers.

        Here the viewpoint is from the VICTIM, the bikers, I believe we are still on Emma’s half-conscious viewpoint when we see “The Hand” and “the sign”.

        So this does boil down to the main story, and the question of the lead. The person who intentionally seeks revenge would typically be the lead.
        But the Sheriff’s intent on revenge is misguided.
        Eventually, this is corrected, at some point they do combine forces and have a mutual intent on revenge / survival. This does happen in the story, but not at the point we expect, not at the point of the Sheriff’s realization.

        I think that’s where the story strays, trying a bit to hard to “pull the rug out from under us”. Not give us what we want, expect.
        But that is the decision the writer made, and it’s a choice.
        That’s the way Craig decided to go with it. It gives the story a much darker, harder edge.

  • Chris Mulligan

    The tumor talk leading right into the fried cheese balls image…

    Yep. Skipping breakfast.

    • witwoud

      I thought they resembled festering, pus-ridden sores rather than tumors.

      What are you having for lunch?

  • Kosta K

    Congrats on the review, Craig.The second I finished the script I knew I was up against some tough competition. Hopefully we can have a rematch soon ;p

    • Craig Mack

      Hopefully the BRUINS take the series in SIX……

      • Kosta K

        Habs in 7! It’s gonna be (appropriately) a bloodbath!

        • drifting in space

          Since the Avs got booted I am rooting for the Habs. Love to see them win it all.

  • S_P_1

    Read from start to finish mainly based on the writers contest placement. I was interested to see did the writer recapture the magic of A Nightmare on Elm Street, Hellraiser, or Scream. In my opinion – no. The greatest upside is the script does read fairly quick and there are some interesting scenes. There were a few misspellings not enough to derail me.

    I’ve mentioned in previous reviews setting your script in modern times your wriggle room for skirting reality is virtually nil.

    First off if Tim is a law enforcement officer he completely forgot. Whether you’re an off duty LEO or on – you’re always a cop. The offense the cultist committed was blocking the roadway. That is not a crime. That also is not justification for shooting unarmed men. The cultist didn’t behave aggressively until after they were shot at. In order for me to buy into the premise of the script, you can’t make up rules governing regular society.

    Mental note Tim fired a .45 caliber gun no damage.

    The DMHC and the story now fall into a cliche.

    Jimmy is on one last drug run = hitman on one last job = cop’s last day before retirement.

    The DMHC does stereotypical things associated with outlaw biker clubs. I’m familiar with both crowds crotch rockets and hog riders. I don’t know about motorcycle clubs in other states but in Michigan, motorcycle clubs rent or buy buildings and hold their meetings in PRIVATE.

    In the script the DMHC conduct illegal business in a public bar – the Squealing Pig. Again that rang as a false note with me. And we still haven’t even approached the supernatural aspect yet.

    The DMHC was setup by the bartender who allegedly was a friend of the club. Everything goes to hell fast in a massive shootout. The wounded survivors disable the sheriff vehicle and hit the road. Because of rainy conditions, wounded and being on a mountain roadway they were forced to take shelter.

    At this precise moment is when my suspension of disbelief was halted. These allegedly bad ass bikers rang this bell alerting the cultists they wanted safe shelter through the night and would leave in peace by morning.

    In all the horror films I’ve seen, the protagonists were always a victim of circumstance. These bikers sought peaceful safe haven in a colony of lepers. From this point on movie logic took precedence.

    Jacob was far too chatty to be the leader. Literally it like he couldn’t wait to tell everything that was going on in their hidden society.

    This script reads like the girl running from Jason in Friday the 13th and trips over a small rock. At that point she deserves to die. I felt the same way about the choices the DMHC made. They deserved their fate.

    The positives
    The collection of abandoned possessions in the barn. Gives the impression this has been going on for a while.
    Abraxis – He wasn’t just a mindless brute he actually thinks.
    Sarah’s will to live. Although it wasn’t fully explained how she escaped Abraxis in the barn.
    The image of Erobos.

    My final $0.02.
    First have the cultist physically threaten Tim before he goes Rambo. Paint a clearer picture why the bartender betrays the DMHC. Have the bikers hydroplane and wipe out on the road. Have the cultists find them unconscious and take them back to the colony. Have them separated and feed them lies as they individually attempt to infect them. Keep the one scene where Davie and Jimmy have the enough is enough fight for their lives p.47-50. Use this as the branching point to find the rest of their biker buddies. Be consistent as to when bullets do damage and when they don’t. The bullets were only effective when they were trying to escape. Be clearer as to where all these cultist were coming from in the church. Literally its like they appeared out of thin air or the walls. Make this one night of hell instead of carrying this into the next day. Make the white goat metaphorical instead of physical. There is no way you could have one uninfected animal in a colony of disease and pestilence. Explain the mythology of Erobos where it makes sense. I understand you’re going for the gross out factor with the lesions and tumors. But it makes absolutely no sense in terms of terms of people worshiping a demon who brings long life in the form of disease. Explain that they lived longer but at the end of their natural life their flesh decayed or something to that effect. Because even if I was a mindless cult member I would have enough sense to see the trade off SUCKED. Why look like a leper up front just to live longer. Also in regards to the kids once it was found out they were demented demons treat them as adults. Don’t have outlaw bikers attempting not to do them harm. Keep your bikers outlaws to the end. Keep your cultist secretive and perverse. People will root for one of them to survive someway somehow.

    In its current form its a weak consider bordering on pass from me.

    • Craig Mack

      Fair enough, Thanks for the input. I think you missed a few key points, but I guess as a writer it’s my job to drive them home. I appreciate the ideas– some are worth consideration.

      All the best,


    • Eddie Panta

      I understand the issues that you point out here. There’s some question to the logic.But it wasn’t anything that I felt couldn’t be easily tweaked into place.

      I think what you’re pointing out is the fatalistic element.
      It’s fate that brings them to the house at the end of the road, behind the gate.
      A car breaking down and a couple seeking shelter in a spooky house is almost a sub-genre unto itself.
      I my opinion I thought the script played up to that element and showed an awareness of horror movies.

      After all, if it weren’t for fate or bad decisions you wouldn’t have half the horror classics we know.

      DH is entertaining, I didn’t think it was trying to reinvent the wheel. I never got the impression that the script was trying to be anything other than what is was; a fun horror movie. I never felt compelled to subject it to strict logic.

      At a certain point, this becomes a question of tone, I didn’t think the script was trying to be campy like grind house’s PLANET TERROR or the upcoming WOLF COP. Those horror flicks don’t make any sense.

      There are elements of DH that are fast and fun, other parts of it have darker, more nihilistic horror vibe. After all, this does not end well.

      So while I can understand a lot of your comments, I think the real issue is with the vibe and tone of the film, not the specific logic.

      That said, I wouldn’t mind seeing some more intention from the characters and less fatalistic moments. I didn’t think the exterior of the occultist house/church needed to be so odd dreary, maybe from the outside, it just looks rather plain.

    • witwoud

      Sorry, some of your points may be valid, but most of them just sound like nitpicking for the sake of it. I mean, are you honestly saying it’s implausible for bikers to go to a bar? Ever? Like, for instance, when they’re giving a friend a send-off? Would they really rent a warehouse on such an occasion?

      Then there’s this: “In all the horror films I’ve seen, the protagonists were always a victim of circumstance. [whereas] These bikers sought peaceful safe haven in a colony of lepers.”

      Hard to know where to begin. In what sense are they not the victim of circumstance? They’re on a treacherous mountain road. It’s pouring with rain. One of them is so injured he is rapidly losing consciousness. Another has just lost his bike. They have the police on their heels. It’s hardly ‘movie logic’ for them to seek shelter, it seems entirely natural. They don’t know they’re in a horror film, after all. Your alternative suggestion of having them simultaneously wiping out on the road and losing consciousness and getting kidnapped by the cultists is far weaker. It’s more implausible, for one, and it also loses the irony of them seeking sanctuary in the last place they’re going to find it.

      • S_P_1

        Up until the point of ringing the bell they were hardcore survivalists. Maggot was hurt in the shoot out. Blitz just got hurt wiping out on the roadway. The key point is they were just in a shoot out. For them to be concerned about trespassing doesn’t ring true. If anything they should have barreled into town and took their chances. Now you have a different dynamic. Outlaw intruders demanding help from satanic cultist. But instead they ring the bell and asked for help. Granted they weren’t self-aware of the cultists motivations. But they PASSIVELY entered into a situation. Versus being taken unaware in my suggestion or charging in finding out life the hard way. Ripleyy’s suggestion of making the church less foreboding would lure them in unsuspectingly.
        Also I didn’t nitpick the script. I didn’t say bikers don’t go to drinking establishments. I said conducting illegal business in a public bar. I was mentioning that point to emphasize illegal transactions normally occur behind closed doors.
        I didn’t bale on the script. I gave it a soft consider in its present form.

        • Craig Mack

          Eh, I disagree (naturally)….

          They are injured, bleeding, and on the run. They can’t go BLASTING into a town for multiple reasons.

          1. What if the town had a phone and called the cops?
          2. What if the town had guns? or 50 people?
          3. It’s Jimmy’s “last run” (no matter how cliche that is)… he is avoiding conflict the whole time… trying to get back to his wife in one piece.
          4. Jimmy makes the choice to enter the town- leave the old world — and BREAK INTO ACT II.
          5. They need to get off the road, they need to lay low… they dont need any more problems.

          Separate– they were just drinking at the bar. The bags were ‘noticeably missing’….

          But that’s just how I see it…

          • S_P_1

            I’ll buy reason number 3 & 5. Reason 5 makes a lot of sense. I guess I was emotionally vested in the characters. Having the DMHC having to chuck their pride and ego by ringing the bell, made me think of alternative ways they could still save face and their lives.

  • Craig Mack

    Just means Kailey gave notes on the script, and will hopefully be one that is voted on during the next cycle.

  • ripleyy

    I was under the impression this was a lot more…dramatic, at first, than an actual horror. I haven’t read the script, but going off the review alone, there are a few things that stand out: Firstly, the angle. Pretty unique but I do agree that bikers need a much stronger opponent.

    This is very much a “The Hills Have Eyes” scenario, and it seems to me like Craig was going that route. “The Hills Have Eyes” still remains to me, to this day, the most disturbing, gory and downright disgusting horror movie I have ever witnessed, so I usually judge scripts and compare it to that one. This doesn’t compare, but I do think it’s interesting that Craig is going that route.

    Shock-horror is an easy one, it seems, because it’s about thinking of the worst way to die and imagining them in even gruesome and disturbing ways. “The Devil’s Hammer” can still go the route it’s going on, but personally I would do it differently.

    Like I said, I haven’t read the script (I’m foolish enough to write this first) but I plan to do it right now. I just wanted to get feeling down on screen first.


    These are just personal alterations I would do. First, I would make it that Jimmy is our main protagonist and that I would completely get rid of the entire gang. That needs to go, in my opinion.

    Jimmy, who is about to become a father, is still a biker and has already left the gang. He’s on his way to meet his wife, who is about to go into labour in a major city and he’s going to be there.

    If you’re reading this far down, I want you to look up “The Bender Family”. They’re pretty insane, so I think you could go that route. Boils, tumours – that can all stay and the whole children thing can stay.

    Make this a personal journey with enough punch. Jimmy has never had a family, he’s been a foster kid. It’s why he was in a gang, and when he was forced too far and forced to kill someone, leaving his family – his Gang – isn’t nearly as hard as realizing he’s going to be forced – and committed – to one. This is his flaw. He’s not a committed, family person at heart but he wants to overcome that flaw.

    So, when he’s forced to go through the insanity that this family is giving him, Jimmy must realize the power of family, and through the hell he’s given, must survive one last family before he’s given his own. That will be theme.

    I understand this is dulling down the script, but I think this is an interesting way to go and one that will give it more depth than any other.

    • Craig Mack

      Thanks for the ideas, they are good but somehow it seems like it would drain the energy from the movie.

      On a side not “The Bender” family is a great idea for a movie.. I’ve toyed with it in the past!



      • ripleyy

        I realized that, but all the best though on the future :)

  • Craig Mack

    EH, I see some of your issues…. but a couple things:

    1. They are surrounded by cultists, maybe I should make this more clear.
    2. I never state he doesn’t hit anyone… just that they keep coming. I don’t think its necessary to describe where every fired bullet winds up.
    3. she is exhausted because she is terrified… maybe I should say “she collapses, terrified”.



    • mulesandmud

      A thought on point #2, the rounds that Tim fires. Several times now, you’ve resisted the note to clarify whether Cultists are hit by any of the bullets or not. I think you should reconsider.

      Of course you don’t have to describe where EVERY bullet lands. However, you need to ask yourself: are you intentionally hiding the answer to where those bullets go? If so, toward what end? As written, multiple readers have have found themselves distracted from the scene wondering where those bullets went. You need to weight the confusion you’re creating against your other intentions, whatever they may be.

      In addition to controlling the audience’s attention, you’re also skirting an issue of character. Grendl and others noted during AOW that Tim’s character, an undercover cop, shoot at the robed cultists before they charge or give any sign of open hostility (he also gives the odd line “We don’t want any trouble.” before having any reason to believe that the noises he hears are human in origin). Whether or not Tim is shooting to kill is quite relevant to who he is, and hence worth noting.

      Good character writing means using action to illustrate personality, ideology, temperament, etc, even if the audience won’t realize the full implications of that behavior until later. You can use the appearance of the cultists to teach us much more about Tim and Emma than you currently do. Maybe Emma shouts “Kill’em, baby!” (she’s a tough biker bitch, right?), but Tim just fires into the air, suggesting there’s more to him than merely a hair-trigger biker (this is where he would say your “don’t want any trouble” line). Then, instead of the Cultists charging, they advance slowly, telling us that they aren’t scared of his bullets. Then perhaps, truly scared now, Tim shoots one, but they keep coming, and overpower him.

      Just an example, of course, but it gives Tim and even Emma a bit more dynamism that the stock movie characters of girl-who-screams and guy-who-shoots-at-bad-guys. Those added dynamics teach us about your world, and hint at the story to come.

      Each bullet you fire is an opportunity to learn something about your story; don’t squander that resource.

      • Craig Mack

        Oh, Im not ‘resisting it’ by any means… its a simple fix if need be… I’m just stating why I don’t feel its relevant.

        IF and thats a BIG if… this ever gets optioned, I suspect I will be making A LOT of changes. Its a fluid document– nothing is set in stone.

        I like the idea about the ‘slow moving cultist’ thanks.


        • mulesandmud

          Glad to help.

          My questions weren’t rhetorical: I’d love to hear the specific rationale that made you decide not to pinpoint the effects of those gunshots. If, however, your thought process is really as simple as “I don’t feel it’s relevant”…well, it’s relevant.

          Don’t shortchange yourself. The BIG IF of a spec sale gets a little smaller every time you make a smart fix.

          • Craig Mack


            It could be taken in two directions.

            1. He missed on purpose — because he was cop — and he was looking to just scare them away and keep his cover. If this is the case I would/should call it out more…

            2. He actually HITS the cultists– and they keep coming. Like they do in the rest of the screenplay. I could explicitly point out that BOOM BOOM BOOM but to no effect… But kind of gives away the supernatural aspect of them. Although it might ratchet up the tension?

            3. Or I could leave it open ended. Its a whirlwind… An undercover cop is scared and surrounded by cultist… he fires, and they club him and take him away. ALA a zombie movie…

            As for the a cop wouldn’t shoot– maybe I should push the tension a bit. If it seems like he ‘jumped the gun’ (heh) then he probably did. I’m just visioning it different then the reader– which is bad.

            Cops shoot first all the time. So did Han.

            Thanks for your post, I do appreciate the advice.


          • mulesandmud

            I would say that #1 or #2 (or even better, a combo of both) is a vast improvement over keeping it vague.

            It’s very valid that you don’t want to give away their supernatural aspect. On the other hand, they’re cultists in robes in the woods at night in a horror movie, so audiences sort of assume they’re supernatural already; you may get more mileage teasing us with their true nature up front than you do be revealing it later.

            I haven’t read most of the script, so can’t really advise on bigger picture stuff, but good luck with it man!

          • DavydSC

            This was a sticking point for me as well – and one that took
            me out of the story – as it was for many others. So I’m glad Mules eloquently followed through on it and initiated this discussion. I
            assumed all along that, as the writer, you knew that the bullets DID hit them but you didn’t want to reveal that the bullets had no effect. But those bullets clearly need some explanation. Otherwise the assumption is that Tim is incompetent and missed – which he isn’t.

            I’d suggest option 1: he fires a few quick warning shots over their heads, then they overtake him. That would stall the reveal and still keep Tim looking proficient and tough, and even add a mystery – why would a badass outlaw biker fire warning shots? Which of course is explained when we find out he’s undercover

      • JakeBarnes12

        Great notes, mules.

        I appreciate how you take the time to clearly set out WHY something isn’t working and even have the patience to press a point when the writer lacks the experience or insight to see the obvious problem.

        We need a lot more commenters like you offering constructive criticism.

        • mulesandmud

          Thanks, Jake.

          It’s the same game on these boards as with our scripts, right? I’m just trying to say exactly what I mean, and hoping that readers will take the time to hear it.

  • PoohBear

    I voted for this one last week. What I liked was everything was very visual and you have some striking, memorable images. I was drawn in initially but when we got to the sanctuary I couldn’t get over the fact that the bikers were so darned relaxed around these diseased town folk. That’s not normal and I wouldn’t have stuck around. I started to get disinterested after that but I trudged through. Yes, you have some innovative torture/horror scenes so I applaud you for that. A lot of this is rehashing of the familiar… Wrong Turn, The Hills Have Eyes (remake) and anything Rob Zombie. You’ve changed it enough for a production company to run with it. The practical make-up effects will be a big cost or CGI, however they roll with it. I think it’s changed enough to stand out for a worldwide audience. My biggest suggestion is add some gratuitous non-boiled/pox nudity at the beginning, hey it sells. Have Tim get Emma’s shirt off…boobs! then have the robed guys surround them.

    Congratulations on the worth the read.

    • Craig Mack

      Hahahah. Very good. Boobs do sell…..

  • Casper Chris

    A hearty congratulations, Craig. I’m glad I voted for it. Like I said back then, this is not my genre, but still, I thought it was a solid read (what I did read). Not groundbreaking, but not trying to be either. Just solid for what it is. And sometimes that’s just what need you need to land a sale. Nothing more, nothing less.

    Good luck!

    • Craig Mack

      Thanks! Like I’ve stated many of times… I’m not going for ‘character arc this, character arc that’ I’m just trying to kill people. Citizen Cane this is not.

      It is what it is!

  • Robin the Boy Wonder

    Craig Mack! Where ya been, man?

    • Craig Mack

      Ha! I did get this a lot… I actually grew up in the Hardcore/punk scene… So more like this:

      or this

      • Robin the Boy Wonder

        Ha! Yeah, he was massive for five minutes. Then just disappeared after his second album. Must’ve pissed off Puff or whatever name he goes by now…

  • NajlaAnn

    “NEVER take candy from dudes in hooded robes.” Okay. Good point.

  • Citizen M

    I read no further than 25 pages on AOW, so feel free to ignore these comments.

    It seems to me the hero should be the undercover policeman Tim Lehan. He’s on the side of the law. The biker Jimmy could be a young gang member that Tim takes a liking to and advises to get out of the gang because he knows the gang’s going to get busted.

    Have the first scene be the biker party in the mountains. We follow Tim as he circulates and establishes who has drugs etc, and whispers to Jimmy to get out. At some point Tim takes his leave and rides out. He has established himself as the bikers’ look-out guy and he is leaving with their permission to scout that the road is clear before the main pack makes their run.

    On the way he stops for the girl to take a pee and phones the sheriff while he waits. During the call the hooded guys attack him. The sheriff hears the attack over the phone, adds two and two together, and gets five. He thinks the bikers are attacking Tim and heads out to the mountain pub. Then follows the scenes as before.

    Leave out the cliche scene of Jimmy at home and the barman Lenny phoning the cops. Maybe the other bikers can mock Jimmy that he’s a wimp who wants to be with his widdle little wifey and widdle little baby not with the big bad bikers. It seems that the gathering in the mountains is a regular affair and it is never made clear why Lenny would rat on the bikers that particular day, nor why he would do something to lose good customers. Ratting on them is not in his interests. Maybe he’s an ex-biker who started a bar and depends on their clientele. Rewrite the shootout so he tries to shoot the sheriff.

    • Craig Mack


      I really like the story you set up here. Great ideas.


      • ElectricDreamer

        Perhaps you can come up with a reason why Lenny rats.
        Does he have a DARK PAST where he owes the Lehans for something?
        They know some nasty thing he did back in the day.
        That “something” would get him killed by the gang if they ever found out.
        He’s caught in between a rock and a hard place.
        Get put away for some heinous charge, or be a SNITCH.
        In the end, he makes the coward’s choice and will pay for it.
        I think something like that could work and boost his character.

    • Casper Chris

      I approve of this idea.

    • Eddie Panta

      I like the idea of the WOODS, this brings them closer to the action. It’s more realistic as well. But the issue of he oculist purposefully attacking or intentionally attacking doesn’t feel right to me.

      Also that one amongst them is really an undercover cop. OR that the drug seller is really undercover. It’s not easy to become a member of one of these biker gangs.

      In my mind, the most traditional approach would work the best.
      Have the biker gang journey, go on a road trip. Jimmy leaves his wife for one last run.

      They leave town.
      You get the open road scene with all the bikers.
      This puts them in a place that is less familiar.
      Like many horror films, there is always the journey to the creepy town.
      Once the bikers are out of their element it relieves a lot of logic issues.
      They could be a scene of a drug buy or party in the woods.
      Twists of fate seem more realistic when they occur on a road trip.
      There’s always a fork in the road so to speak. A decision.

      To me it’s more realistic if the occultists secret town is not in the same area where the bikers are from.


      The idea that Lenny would betray his biker customers is the one logic issue I was most concerned with. However, I assumed the Sheriff has enough evidence on him to shut the bar down and haul him off to jail.

      The question is not really why LENNY does it, this can be answered, the harder part is to figure out where in this tight plot there would be room for Lenny’s backstory, also it would be less suspenseful if we knew. Traditionally the barkeep is the man who is not on either side, stays out of it.

      Anyway, I’m sure Craig will be able to iron this out. I look forward to reading any revisions. Good luck and keep us up to date.

  • andyjaxfl

    Predator is another (sort of) horror movie that uses a group of badasses getting picked off one at a time like high schoolers in a slasher flick.

  • deanb

    I think everybody’s missing the obvious here. If have the word “devil,” or any of its variations, anywhere in your title, a sale is assured. Devil’s Due, Devil, Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead, The Devil’s Backbone, The Devil Wears Prada, etc., etc., etc.

    BRB, renaming my salsa-themed ethnic romantic comedy Chance, Dance, and Happenstance to Deviled Devils: The Deviling.

    • witwoud

      The word ‘American’ is another winner, maybe you can work that in too?

  • ElectricDreamer

    I’m re-reading the first 30 since this is a new draft (v.12).
    Originally, I cracked open v.11 for the AOW.

    P. 2 LOL’d that you used my AOW suggestion for Emma’s opening line.
    Such classy first words for a lady. ;-)

    P. 3 Still loathe that wimpy “we don’t want any trouble” crap.
    I’d cut the line, go right to “get back to the bike”.
    Because the kind of trouble Tim’s sensing can’t be reasoned with.
    And his cop instincts should tell him that. This danger is far above his pay grade.

    P. 4 Based on Citizen M’s notes and my addendum…
    I think a call by Tim to his cop family would work here.
    There’s got to be something about the call that implicates the bikers.
    Some misunderstood tidbit the Lehans logically OVERREACT to.
    Make it believable that the family would jump to conclusions and saddle up.

    P. 11 Lenny’s chat with the Sheriff should be more of a TEASE.
    Lenny could FORESHADOW the impending danger…
    “What? He left hours ago. No. Everyone’s been here all night, I swear!
    Nobody knows about Tim. Except me and yours.”

    A line like that serves as a DUALITY.
    It sounds like it could be a CONSPIRACY that the sheriffs are the robed guys.
    But in actuality, there’s some snitching and undercovers to expose.
    Using the Lehan’s misunderstanding to compound the biker’s Fate.
    And Lenny must have a horrible death for betraying his biker family.
    The LOGICAL MISLEAD should keep readers guessing.
    ***Methinks Lenny should make it to the church to SUFFER more.***
    The bikers hate him, but even they feel remorse at the gruesome death he suffers.
    Horror affords such a great platform to toy with MORALITY. ;-)

    P. 13 Tim has a bag of drugs, right? And he’s an undercover cop.
    Maybe he bugged the drugs with a GPS TRACKER?
    That would VISUALLY TEASE in the opener the eventual reveal of his identity.

    The Lehan Clan can use that data to track down Tim’s whereabouts.
    They go to the Goat Site, find nothing but some blood and the drugs.
    Convinced Tim’s been exposed, they put a call into Lenny…

    P. 15 Still reads weak that Davie and Jimmy have a private chat.
    That kind of drunken dirty laundry tends to get aired in public at bars.

    P. 18 Lenny feeling conflicted here would be good.
    He can feel the noose tightening around his neck.

    P. 19 Why does the Sheriff not rush in when Lenny’s got the bikers covered?
    Can’t he tell from outside that Lenny’s exposed his part in the plot?
    What if the Lehans strolled on in FIRST? They expose Lenny right there.
    The gang stares daggers at him as they Sheriff gloats.
    ***Then take Lenny on the bike ride for some twisty human morality play.***

    P. 25 Surprised not one of the bikers has an adverse reaction here…
    Someone should be saying, “This town is seriously f*cked up.”

    P. 27 Reads very counter-intuitive that NO ONE is put off by the cultists.
    Someone should be the “mouthpiece” for the WARY READER here.
    ***Maybe Pariah Lenny could be that voice! He sees what their anger obscures.

    The bikers hate Lenny, so they ignore his wisdom and warnings.
    In fact… Let Lenny tell the gang some of the chruch’s local legend.
    He can be you SNITCH that cried WOLF and no listened. Fun turnabout potential.***

    P. 29 Jimmy’s line. Who’s Joe? The Lehans? Be more specific.

    P. 30 Is Jacob hooded the entire time he speaks? No physical descriptions.
    Looks silly on-screen to have someone like that talking for pages.
    Someone needs to say, “No offense, what gives with the hoods?”
    Jacob has a BIG REVEAL of his “condition”.
    People would not be down with all the hooded secrecy.

    P. 35 That’s one Hell of an anti-drug PSA you got there!

    P. 42 Very rewarding set pieces with Maggot and Wheels’ fate.
    You know, I think JIM MICKLE would knock this script out of the park.
    The theme of decay and disease would be fertile ground for him.
    He’s an up-and-coming indie horror director. Check out: STAKE LAND.

    P. 42 The old book slapping shut after the thighs open wide. Nice.

    P. 43 Why don’t the Hammers know about the lepers if the Lehans do?
    If they’re a local legend. That would get passed around at bars.
    ***This could be a great role for Lenny at the church.***

    P. 45 I’d cut the “Let’s move” line. Let Jacob UPSTAGE the chat.

    P. 48 Why would Jacob not have these two OUTNUMBERED with cultists?
    Bad planning by your villain to be just two on two with the bikers.
    Strength in numbers is the way of the church.
    I see Abraxis coming in, but Jacob looks dumb until the PAY OFF.

    P. 58 I never got that the Tim/Emma intro was much EARLIER than the tale.
    To me, they seemed to happen pretty close to each other.
    A few days, but I guess it’s much more?
    I still contend making it the same night with the phone call is much better.
    Emma calls the bikers, they get a garbled message.
    And/or Tim calls his family. It feels more VISCERAL if you SMASH it all together.

    P. 64 Feel like someone should say how much they HATE Jack-in-the-Boxes here.
    Kinda reminds me of Phoebe Cates’ uber-dark speech in GREMLINS.
    Someone here has a childhood trauma story related to J-i-t-B’s to share?
    It’d be a nice nod to a scene that JOE DANTE fought SPIELBERG to keep in the film.

    P. 68 Why isn’t Emma convincing the Sheriff of Tim’s fate?
    She knows ENOUGH to make for a COMPELLING CHAT to be explored here.
    It’s one the the few potential non-violent moments in this script for a WOMAN to SHINE.

    P. 83 The truck CRASHES in with the satisfying CRUNCH!
    You’ve nailed down the squeamish set pieces and bloody gunplay.

    P. 88 Fun CALL BACK to the Eenie-Meanies! Those little bastards.
    And yes, calling the rotting kids, The Eenie-Meanies, is my GIFT to you. ;-)

    P. 94 Wait. Why didn’t anyone DESTROY the STATUE?
    That’s what Emma said must be done. The bikers just left it INTACT? Wtf.
    The statue can be recharged if it isn’t obliterated.
    A perfect time for someone to SACRIFICE THEMSELVES to take out the statue.
    Kinda reminds me of the resolution to John Carpenter’s PRINCE of DARKNESS.
    Someone has to pay the ULTIMATE PRICE for the rest to survive ULTIMATE EVIL.

    But just ignoring the statue reads pretty dumb.
    And as a result, undermines a pretty satisfying climax.
    I know you want to leave things open for further tales, but there must be a smarter way.

    Finished. I like the script quite a bit, it’s a curious beast.
    The writer’s talent actually overcomes a rickety first act.
    The second and third act are much stronger in almost every way.
    It’s rare that a script can survive a misfiring Act One.
    Finding the best way into last seventy-two pages is the key to supercharging your story.

    Good luck with the project. Hope the notes prove useful.
    I’d like to read the next big swing you take at the script.
    soleil dot rouge13 at gmail dot com

    • Craig Mack

      I’m running out– but I really appreciate this.. ACT 1 is my favorite part of the screenplay.. when Ill get back Ill try to explain why…. I guess I’m not clear enough on a lot of these things. It’s great advice from everyone.



      Eenie-meanies … PERFECT

      • Eddie Panta

        Hey Craig,
        This painting by George Brown reminded me the visual effects of the occultist characters in your script.
        They are on display now at the Gagosian gallery in nyc
        He’s got this unique and bizarre painting style.
        Check it out.

        • Craig Mack

          wow, that is pretty awesome.

  • pmlove

    Is this going to be another no-AO Weekend?

  • Lucid Walk

    Does anybody happen to have a copy?
    Please send to