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Premise (from writer): Murdered to advance the construction of an exclusive golf resort, a mountain man is resurrected by Death himself to take revenge as an undead killing machine.
Why You Should Read (from writer): I’m a lifelong horror fanatic and very much a product of the VHS generation. This is my sincere attempt at horror the way I lovingly remember it; gruesome and gory, but also imaginative, cinematic and, most importantly, FUN! THE HARVESTER is a high-concept, blood-soaked blast of old-school carnage with an ending so wild and explosive that it needs to be read to be believed. Hope you enjoy!
Writer: Nick Morris
Details: 97 pages
Much like the title character of its script, “The Harvester” came back from the dead after being passed over in its initial Amateur Offerings run. Like any good writer, Nick took the feedback he got from that initial post, made some changes, then tried again. The effort was enough to win him the week.
Of course, now he’s got to get past a sleepy Carson who’s eager to get a review up so he can start his weekend. Oh, that pesky reader – never in the mood you need them to be in when they’re reading your script.
I’ll say this. I stayed wide awake during the entirety of The Harvester. But was Nick’s love for VHS horror enough to steal my attention away from why the hell Zack Snyder is tweeting Jedi Superman pics at Comic-Con? May the Kryptonian force be with me as we find out.
We meet 35 year-old David (“a rugged-looking mountain man”) on the verge of death. His car’s just been pushed over the side of a cliff. His wife died in the fall. And he’s minutes away from following her. But before he does, the original scythe-wielder, Death himself, shows up to send him off in style.
Cut to the board room of one of the richest men in the world, pharmaceutical kingpin and all around hell-raiser, Bob Vargas. Turns out Vargas is talking to David. But how can that be? David is dead, isn’t he? Enter Bergman, Death’s disguise in the human world. Bergman freezes Vargas and asks David what he thinks about becoming his own personal killing machine.
Cut to 20 year-old Sasha, who we’re going to come to learn is David’s daughter. She was a toddler when David and her mom disappeared, and she’s coming home to finally figure out what happened to them.
You see, her town has been overrun by a giant resort owned by whom? You guessed it: Bob Vargas! And there are some suspicious connections between Vargas and David, such as the fact that David was the only person who wouldn’t sell his resort-blocking property to the billionaire. Wouldn’t you know it, a few months later, he disappeared. Problem solved.
While Sasha infiltrates the resort to find out the truth about her parents, David’s brought back to life by Death as someone called “The Harvester.” His only job? Kill as many people as he can. Why? Because that’s what Death wants!
Eventually, Sasha’s investigation and The Harvester’s killings intersect. Will the two figure out who they are before it’s too late? Read The Harvester to find out!
The thing I love about amateur scripts is they’re these giant balls of boundless energy. You can feel the excitement exploding off every page.
The bad thing about this? Those balls can become so out of control, that they shoot off into space without ever letting you know why the heck they came into existence in the first place. Which was kind of my experience with The Harvester.
I’d say for about 10 pages, I loved this. It felt different. It felt fresh. I liked this dual-narrative of following our dead father while seeing his now-grown daughter looking into his death. At that point, the narrative felt focused and strong.
That didn’t last long though. The ice started to crack once David transformed into The Harvester. I never understood why David was supposed to kill people. Death was always so vague about it. He’d say something to the effect of, “That’s for me to know and you not to worry about.”
Which is okay. I’m all for a good mystery if there’s going to be a good payoff. But unless I missed something, that payoff never came. I’ll tell you what did come, though. Confusion.
Why, for instance, with David being so reluctant to do Death’s bidding, did he become the Picasso of killers? Why did he have to stab, slice, decapitate, chop, and mow every person down he killed? Death never said anything about, “You need to kill them as magnificently as possible.” His only stipulation was that David had to kill them. So you’d think a reluctant David would perform his killings as mercifully as possible.
Once the reader senses that things are happening in a script not because that’s how they would really happen, but because that’s the way the writer wanted them to happen, the suspension of disbelief is ruined. Every choice must have a purpose, a reason to exist. Even if you’re writing a fun 80s-type slasher film.
Which leads us to my next issue. Was this an 80s horror film? Sometimes I’d say yes. Other times I’d say no. One of the most interesting things about The Harvester was that we got to know our “movie monster” on a very deep and intimate level. We watched him lose his wife, lose his kid. We see him begging for his life back from Death. This led me to believe that we were going to explore the horror genre on a much deeper level.
But then, once Sasha becomes an employee of the resort and starts partying with all the other 20-something employees, it basically turned into an 80s slasher flick. I just couldn’t wrap my head around what The Harvester wanted to be.
Yet another problematic area was the late emergence of the resort storyline. We didn’t really start meeting all the resort employees until the halfway point (Employee Graham and his wife Portia, page 43. Asshole Jock Mike, page 48).
I’m always nervous when characters don’t get introduced until halfway through the script. Obviously, there are cases where late-arriving characters are necessary. But usually, it’s because the writer didn’t work hard enough to get those characters established early.
I mean I’d read half the script. There had been no mention of this character, Mike. Then Mike’s introduced, and all of a sudden he’s on every page! It became the Mike Show. If he was going to be this important, why wasn’t he in here earlier?
On the plus side, Nick is a really talented writer. I mean, if you open up this script and start reading, you can easily imagine the scene as he’s telling it to you. That’s not easy to do and something most amateurs struggle with for a long time. He’s got a clear, crisp, and visual writing style.
But as I’ve stated a million times before, one of the most frustrating things about screenwriting is that that’s supposed to be a given. Nobody gives extra points to Olympic skaters because their costumes fit. Those things are simply expected. And a clear, crisp, visual writing style, even though that puts you ahead of a lot of amateurs, doesn’t mean diddly squat on the pro circuit, where everyone’s able to do that.
In the pro circuit, it’s all about your ability to tell a compelling story. And right now, The Harvester is too unfocused as a story. If I were Nick, I’d figure out what I wanted this to be. Do I want it to be a weightier character-driven horror flick like the first 15 pages hint at? Or do I want this to be an ode to 80s horror classics like Nightmare on Elm Street and Friday the 13th? Because I don’t think you can be both.
Personally, I’d be more interested in the first option. But it feels like Nick’s partial to the second. Which is fine. But, if you’re going to go that route, I’d look for a new way to freshen up that genre. Just doing what they did back in the 80s isn’t going to be enough. I wish him luck. I see a lot of promise in Nick’s writing. Just remember to control that ball of energy. The second it gets away from you, there’s no getting it back.
Script link: The Harvester
[ ] what the hell did I just read?
[x] wasn’t for me
[ ] worth the read
[ ] impressive
[ ] genius
What I learned: One of the things people in the entertainment business will tell you is to write something “different.” I see a lot of amateur writers take this advice the wrong way. They take it to mean that any kind of different is good. And it isn’t. There’s “different good” and there’s “different bad.” The main difference between the two is focus. The “good different” stuff still has a focused story, whereas the bad different stuff, while definitely different, is all over the place. I can write a movie about a man who paints himself orange and moves to Antarctica, but if there’s no point behind the story, who cares? Write a story about the first murder investigation on the moon though (Moonfall – the hot new spec that just sold) and you’ve managed to write something different that still feels focused.