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Genre: Horror
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

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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.

  • Scott Crawford

    Murder on the moon? Been done. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0097931/

    But who cares? I saw that film – it was shite. Everything gets recycled. Recently there was a script about Dracula’s ship The Demeter but there was the exact same script a decade or so ago. It all comes around.

    And I want to read Moonfall. Sounds good.

    • carsonreeves1

      That actually sounds like a cool premise. I like the idea of the U.S. and Russia both battling each other to investigate a murder on the moon. But any movie with Brigette Nielson that isn’t Rocky 4 or Celebrity Rehab 6 cannot be good.

      E-mail me. I’ll send you Moonfall.

      • Scott Crawford

        Thank you for the Moonfall script. You’re a great man and one day people will sit around the campfire and sing songs of your heroic deeds.

    • klmn

      In 1981, Sean Connery starred in Outland, set on Io, a moon of Jupiter. I remember he was a marshal investigating a series of murders. Hmm, I really should see it again.

      • Poe_Serling

        And Outland is considered a loose remake of High Noon.

        • Scott Crawford

          The ending yes, with Connery trying to recruit help to fight the bad guys. But I think it is unfair, and was unfair at the time, to simply call it a remake. There’s a lot of original ideas in there: if crime happens a long way from civilization, is it still a crime?; does turning a blind eye make you as culpable as the perpetrators of crime?; is justice worth sacrificing a marriage for? Strong, personal themes. I think it’s a more personal film – written, directed, AND photographed by one man as it is – than it’s given credit for. Terrific film.

      • Scott Crawford

        Outland one of my favorite films, and Peter Hyams one of my favorite directors. I managed to read the screenplay and, man, it’s all there, on the page. Probably more than one would expect to find nowadays, you know, THICK pages of text with every nuance and emotion, but – as Alan Moore puts it – “if you don’t write it, they won’t draw it.” even if, in this case, Hyams was directing his own screenplay.

        And. . . if you want to write a strong female character, you could do a lot, lot worse than watch Outland and watch Dr. Lazarus, played by the wonderful Frances Sternhagen. That’s how to write a strong female character. And the way exposition-heavy scenes between them are shaped by character conflict and leavened by snappy one-liners.

        O’Neil: Give me a report of all of the incidents happening over the past 6 months. I’d like it soon, or I might just kick your nasty ass all over this room. That’s a marshal joke.

        • Poe_Serling

          Yeah, I’m a fan of Peter Hyams’ output from that late ’70s to mid ’80s era too…. In no particular order:

          Capricorn One
          The Star Chamber
          Narrow Margin
          The Presidio
          Telefon (he was one of the writers on the Bronson film)
          The Hunter (another co-writer credit on the McQueen film)

          Hyams was great at taking those exciting/appealing concepts and directing them with flair and gutso.

      • Ange Neale

        Pretty sure ‘Outland’ is on youtube these days, klmn. Terrific movie still — watched it again recently. Btw, most of the deaths weren’t murders – more like accidental suicides as the addicts’ brains fried from the amphetamine they were taking. Like thinking it’s a good idea to open one’s helmet’s faceplate in a near-vacuum…

        Oh, and congrats on the AF review, Nick! Sorry, but I’m just not gonna get past the first few pages at this point. I do wish you well though, mate! Some nice images in what I read.

        • Casper Chris

          Good to have you back, Ange. I was afraid you had disappeared for good.

          • Ange Neale

            Hiya Casper! No, no – no imminent danger of me vanishing permanently into the cyber-wilderness. Just on a tight-ish deadline for the draft literature review for Ph.D. Once that’s out of the way, I’ll have more time to read scripts for the sheer delight of them and to toss my two cents’ worth in. Cheers, mate!

        • Nick Morris

          Thanks, Ange!

  • Nick Morris

    Whoa! Thanks for this, Carson! I gotta take my kids to a puppet show, lol, but I’ll be right back!

    • ElectricDreamer

      Congrats on nabbing the AF spotlight, Nick!
      Is the draft Carson reviewed the same I read on 6/22 and gave you notes on?
      Or is this a new iteration I should read through for you?

      • Citizen M

        This version appears to be identical to the AOW version.

      • Nick Morris

        Yeah, this is the AOW draft. But when the new version is done, I’d love to get your input on it!

        • ElectricDreamer

          Count me in. I want to ride the Harvester Express!

          • Nick Morris

            Yeehaw!

    • carsonreeves1

      Not blowing smoke here, Nick. You have the talent. We just have to get you more focused. :)

      • walker

        Not blowing smoke either. But, hey, it’s early.

      • Nick Morris

        Thank you, sir. I’ll do some serious Karate Kid breathing.

    • Linkthis83

      Hey Nick! Congrats, brother. Sorry I didn’t chime in earlier. I was on the road for almost 12 hours today. Can’t wait to read the next draft ;)

      • Nick Morris

        Thanks, Link! I’ll certainly send the next manifestation of it your way. Cheers, bro!

  • walker

    Congratulations to Nick for harvesting an Amateur Friday slot. The script is a lot of fun. And apparently you have balls of energy!

    • Randy Williams

      Carson probably has it in his head, now, to serve some balls this weekend.

      • klmn

        Damned cannibal.

    • Nick Morris

      Haha! Balls of energy can’t be entirely bad, right?

  • Poe_Serling

    Hey Nick-

    Glad to see The Harvester finally snatching the coveted AF spot, and I look forward to reading your next scarefest.

    • Nick Morris

      Thanks, Poe. And big thanks to you for all the support and for keeping THE HARVESTER alive in the comments for past few months!

  • Randy Williams

    I always try to imagine what the seats would be like in a movie theatre after the movie was over if the script I’m reading made it to the big screen.

    Would they be left pristine as the audience found them? Or, would they be littered with Kleenex and drying tears? Covered in snot from explosive laughter? Reek of the smell of desire?

    The first time I read “The Harvester”…. the seats… ….soaked in sweat, snot, reeking of desire, littered with popcorn, carved by nails and pocket knives with graffiti of moviegoers yearning to state they’re still alive.

    I think Nick Morris is well on his way of becoming every usher’s nightmare.

    • Nicholas J

      What does desire smell like?

      • klmn

        I think it’s a streetcar.

    • Nick Morris

      Thanks, brother. I really appreciate your support for this thing and I hope you’re right about the poor ushers! ;)

  • https://thebarkbitesback.wordpress.com/ Jim

    OT: shameless plug for another new article (you guys are a good audience, though!): “Cracking A Beautiful Mind’s Inciting Incident,” where I challenge some perspectives out there on the web. http://wp.me/p4Q6fC-1I

  • carsonreeves1

    And the wind said, look to a future newsletter. A newsletter that shall whisk your way this evening.

    • Dan J Caslaw

      Has the newsletter gone out already? I think I might have missed it, if it has (have checked my spam folder too).

  • carsonreeves1

    One of the most underrated factors in being a good screenwriter – having a great attitude.

    • Scott Crawford

      Screenwriter’s rule #1: Don’t be a dick.

      • klmn

        Rule #2. If rule #1 doesn’t work, go into a kickboxing frenzy.

  • Nick Morris

    OK, I’m back. The puppet show was ambitious and the stakes were clear, but I found the plot to be a bit meandering and lacking a strong, narrative thrust. Characters were pretty one dimensional too. :)

  • Paul Clarke

    I haven’t read it all, but from what I did read and what Carson says – it sounds like it would be much simpler if we just followed Sasha.

    Make her spoiled. She lives off the money her parents left when they died. They had plenty because the resort bought their old house post-death. Maybe they threw in a annual free room for a week. She goes there, parties with her friends (rebelling as a reaction to being an orphan).

    But something’s not right. She stumbles across evidence that not all may have been as it seems. So she starts an investigation. The primary story engine is the mystery as to what happened to her parents. The Harvester starts killing people, she manages to survive (we later find out why).

    When she eventually finds out it was murder she goes after them, but they’re big and powerful. Plus there’s a maniac killing people. Except both worlds collide in the finale and the Harvester saves her/kills them.

    As long as you keep it from her point of view and slowly reveal all that info (rather than opening with a back-story dump) – then you’ll keep our attention. Character + Crazy Killer.

    Well that’s how I would do it anyway. Congrats to Nick for getting through.

    • Nicholas J

      I like this approach (following only Sasha) and it’s what I suggested during AOW. I think by showing so much of death and the harvester and relaying to us their plans, you are completely taking away the mystery and the horror of the unknown, which is what 95% of “scary” comes from.

      • Nick Morris

        Good point, NJ. I think this is probably the key to making it all work.

    • Nick Morris

      Thank you, Paul! Some very interesting ideas to explore here. I’ll try to look at some ways of keeping her more central as the mythology unfolds. Much obliged!

  • Nick Morris

    Thanks again, Carson. I’m thrilled with this review and I’m deep into rewrites now. Your observations are extremely helpful and I think I have a clear sense of what needs to happen going forward. But I have to take this opportunity to ask you and the SS community for your opinions on something.

    I’ve been developing a series based on this concept with a reworked version of THE HARVESTER serving as the pilot (or possibly the first 2 episodes). I’m hoping that this approach will allow a lot of these story elements to breathe and unfold at a more natural pace. The show will follow a semi-procedural format with the Bergman character as the focus as he dispatches new ‘Harvesters’ at various places and points in time. And we occasionally revisit Sasha and the original ‘David’ Harvester, who has grown so powerful, Bergman will have to fight to rein it in and regain control of it.

    Do you guys think this concept could fly as a series (or miniseries) given the current popularity of original horror-based TV/Netflix programing?

    Again, I can’t say thanks enough to Carson for his time and invaluable insights and to the ScriptShadow community for all of the amazing notes and support. This experience has been phenomenal!

    And I’d also like to say that I really hope TUESDAY’s GONE gets its day in the AF spotlight too at some point. That script was a helluva lot of fun and the race between us extremely close.

    Please stand by. I will reply to everyone as soon as I can. You guys rock!

    • Matthew Garry

      >Do you guys think this concept could fly as a series

      Yes, “Death and the Maiden” is a great concept, and “Harvester”‘s approach is a good one.

      >And we occasionally revisit Sasha

      No. Bergman obviously has special plans for her (and the transformed David) at the end of Harvester. I really want to learn what her purpose is in his greater scheme. Bergman’s plan for Sasha was the mystery box that made me want to see the next episode; just Bergman raising Harvesters wasn’t that interesting by itself for me.

      (Also, I’d like Sasha to meet really nice guys every now and then, only to have them become collateral later on. That was refreshing.)

      • Lennox Snow

        I agree… The concept is strong and could definitely hold a TV Show, but only occasionally visiting Sasha seems like we’d lose a really interesting part of the story.

        Congrats on the review.

        • Nick Morris

          Thanks, Lennox!

      • Nick Morris

        Oh, yeah. Sasha’s role is integral to Bergman’s plan and to the overall story. By “occasionally” I mean that she wouldn’t necessarily be in every episode. The story (as I’ve currently conceived it anyhow) requires multiple Harvesters operating at once. But I might look at keeping things from her POV throughout. I’ve got big plans and revelations for her.

    • Craig Mack

      Nick–

      If I were to set this up as a TV series, I would focus on Bergman. Have each episode be different type of “harvester” and a different enemy in each episode. Honestly, this story can be told in 60pgs. Shoot for that. Kind of how X-FILES used to operate before all the boring SMOKEY MAN conspiracy hi-jinx. Or you could have Bergman have a stable of 4-5 DIFFERENT harvester that he unleashes on communities. BERGMAN and the HARVESTERS are your anchors.

      • Nick Morris

        That was essentially my vision for it too. Each episode would function as its own slasher story, with the more elevated concept tying them together. But would people keep coming back for more blood? I mean, I know I would, but perhaps I should try casting the net a little wider, lol!

        Thanks for all of your advice and support, Craig, both here and on Twitter. I will no doubt continue to harass you for more going forward.

        • Malibo Jackk

          “That was essentially my vision for it too. Each episode would function as its own slasher story, with the more elevated concept tying them together.”

          Am not an expert.
          Serious questions: Why is NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET not a tv series? Why is FRIDAY THE 13TH not a tv series?
          (Not sure. Are there any slasher shows on tv?)

          • Nick Morris

            There is actually an F13 series in development now, as well as a SCREAM series. And while not a “slasher”, apparently Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell were teasing an EVIL DEAD series at Comic-Con yesterday. ANOES can’t be too far behind!

            I’d probably pitch this as something like SUPERNATURAL or SLEEPY HOLLOW vs FRIDAY THE 13TH or HATCHET. But I haven’t really worked that out yet.

            Thanks for the great question, MJ!

          • Dan J Caslaw

            Friday the 13th WAS a TV-series (back in the late 80s). Only instead of following Jason Voorhees, it revolved around a brother and sister who inherited an antiques store from their deceased uncle, and found that most of the items sold over the years were cursed in some fashion, so they took it upon themselves to track the items down.
            David Cronenberg even directed an episode, about a glove that healed (the catch was that the disease then had to be passed on to someone else, lest it consume the glove’s wearer)

          • Nick Morris

            I remember it, but as you said, it was F13 in name only. The new show is supposed to correct that.

            And there was actually a very short-lived ANOES series in the 80’s too. Most have forgotten about it or are still trying to, lol.

    • http://vimeo.com/adamwparker Adam W. Parker

      For some reason my comment didn’t show, but to sum it up:

      I’d focus on making this a good story.

      For it to be a series it has to be BURSTING at the seems with depth.
      Fill the apartment before you buy the mansion.

  • Nick Morris

    Thanks for the kind words, Rachel!

  • Nick Morris

    Thanks, Adam! I know what you’re saying about character “space”. And obviously, my original intent was more “hack-n-slash” but the longer I worked on it, the bigger the story became. Maybe too big for a single film. Getting all of the ingredients working together and striking the right balances is challenging, but I’m up for it!

  • Nick Morris

    “When people become aware of the killer they can pretty easily just leave or call for help.”

    Exactly.

    “So obviously Death had plans for Sasha but what those plans were was left hanging in the air. And what was up with Vargas bursting into flames? He was a demon, a vampire, something else? And what was the war Bergman was talking about?”

    All of these questions do actually have answers, but it’s been tricky trying to find ways to address them within the confines of a single script, at least as it’s currently structured.

    Vargas bursting into flames is supposed to demonstrate the Harvester’s newfound power having amassed so many souls in a short period of time.

    As for the war, that is Bergman’s driving motivator. He’s misappropriating energy (or “souls”) from the powers-that-be and stockpiling them within the Harvester in an effort to impact the outcome of the looming Armageddon. He believes he can tip the scales, but which way is a mystery.

    Really appreciate you reading it in its entirety and sharing your thoughts, Patrick! Great stuff here that I’d love to discuss further with you.

  • Nick Morris

    Thank you!

  • Nick Morris

    Thanks, Adam! I found Carson’s review really encouraging.

  • Tom

    This script has two cool set-ups that I haven’t seen before: “Sympathy for Jason Voorhees” and “Jason Voorhees’ daughter goes looking for her dad.”

    If you can squeeze all the potential out of those two plots, and expertly juggle them without letting your “balls of energy” drop, then you have the beginning of a franchise on your hands. But as it is, neither story packs the punch it should.

    So, let’s look at them both:

    “Sympathy for Jason Voorhees”

    This storyline just didn’t pop like it should have. For comparison sake, I’m going to pull from ROBOCOP – a decent man is killed by baddies and is reborn as an unstoppable machine of death.

    David’s death is strangely bland. I’ve seen cars crash into ravines in a dozen movies. There’s nothing shocking about it. There’s nothing that filled me with a rage that this man deserves justice. Our villain is a run-of-the-mill corporate slimeball (essentially spouting “I’m an evil asshole” to his assistant at every opportunity). The motivation is that David was the last hold-out in a real estate deal? That was the motivation of The Brady Bunch Movie. Yeah, it sucks that David was killed. But his death wasn’t so horrible and so shocking that there’s a cathartic NEED for justice.

    Contrast that with Alex Murphy. We watch him get blasted apart by shotguns. We watch OCP man-handle his fresh corpse with zero respect for his life, body, or family. This man has been WRONGED, and thus his revenge (against the criminals and the corporation) is especially satisfying.

    David hasn’t earned that level of redemption. This also feeds into Carson’s note of “Why David?” What’s special about him? Why does Bergman need THIS guy? In essence, there’s nothing special about David. David is closer to the Alex Murphy from the Robocop reboot – a bland death at the hands of an evil-for-evil’s sake villain. He’s not filled with rage, he’s filled with angst.

    I would advise that you take Act I out of the static boardroom setting and really show us David being wronged. Get us on his side. We cut back and forth to Bergman laying out exposition (without really explaining anything) about 4 times. We watch David get upset by being told things, instead of actually experiencing them. There’s nothing shocking about those first 30 pages. There’s nothing that justifies the sheer sadism of the killing spree.

    We need to feel for David more.

    As for the other storyline…

    “Jason Voorhees’ daughter goes looking for her dad”

    Sasha’s entire Act I is undermined by her father’s Act I.

    By cutting back and forth to the boardroom, you essentially give us the answers to Sasha’s quest before she finds it out herself. This means that you’re actively enabling the reader to stay ahead of you. It results in Sasha being very passive. What’s she figuring out that the audience doesn’t already know? She’s just wandering around, chatting with Jay, and getting all teary-eyed. There’s no mystery in her search, and therefore no discovery. We’re essentially only rooting for her to catch up to us.

    After Act I, she’s avoiding the meat grinder like everyone else, so she doesn’t really come alive there either.

    Bergman seems to have a higher purpose for her, but, again, she doesn’t feel special enough to justify it.

    It’s a question that should be answered early – “Why this family? Why are they special?”

    Death himself has chosen this family to be his emissary of devastation upon the world. That’s a big-fucking-deal. And a choice that I assume Bergman doesn’t make lightly. It would be great to know why. I may have missed the explanation somewhere, but it sounds like Carson did too.

    In another comment, you say that you’re trying to conceptualize this as a series. I think that’s causing you to pull your punches on revealing your mythology. It’s fine to set things up for sequels and such, but a horror franchise requires the movies to be self-contained. Instead of pocketing your cards, lay them all on the table and then force yourself to one-up them. Make the mythology so rich that by the end we’re thinking of the possibilities of this world instead of thinking “Wait, why did that happen?”

    But overall, it’s good writing and TWO good concepts. Whenever you can squeeze two great concepts into one script, you have a winner on your hands. There are immense possibilities with this one. Great work!

    • Nick Morris

      Thanks so much for the insightful comments, Tom. You’re truly speaking my language with the ROBOCOP (one of my all-time favs) comparison and it illustrates your point re: David’s fate beautifully. I’m looking hard at Act 1 and I’ll see what I can do about giving his murder more impact out of the gate.

      And you’re absolutely right about my “pulling punches”. As I pointed out elsewhere, this thing started out as a straight slasher but has grown (and continues to grow) into something else. Which is what got me started on the series approach. Too many questions, not enough time for answers.

      Really awesome comments, brother. I’ll keep it all in mind going forward. Cheers!

    • gazrow

      Great notes, Tom!!

  • Citizen M

    I was underwhelmed previously when I read the first few pages on AOW, but I pressed on and started enjoying it once the action started at the golf club. The good writing and cracking pace carried me through to the end.

    I have no suggestions because this is not my favorite genre and I have no idea if it’s a good or bad example. But I do have many of the same concerns Carson raised.

    First, a digression. I gather from comments this might be a pilot for a series, or a satnd-alone movie. I judged it as a stand-alone movie, and it falls short in terms of not wrapping things up neatly and explaining what’s been going on. If I saw it in a theater in its current form I’d feel cheated, like I’d only seen half a movie, or maybe three-quarters.

    As Carson asked, why Vargas? Why David? Why now? Was David chosen for this mission twenty years ago prior to his accident, or was he selected at random?

    I never quite worked out Death/Bergman and Harvester/David. Is Bergman a manifestation of Death in one plane, or is he a separate entity? (I’m presuming Death = Grim Reaper.) Is Harvester a manifestation of David in the real world, and “human” David his existence in a spirit world that includes Bergman and Hell? What is the relation between the cell David is in and the Hell that he visits? Are they in the same geographical location? And who gains the benefit from the souls the Harvester creates? I thought it was Bergman, but it seems to be the Harvester itself gaining strength. Anyway, by what right can Bergman or the Harvester just kill people? There have to be some rules for selecting victims. Why don’t they just cause famines or wars and create souls on a mass scale? There has to be a reason why the killings need to be done personally.

    How does David switch between his cell and being Harvester in the real world. Does Bergman send him or does he transport himself? Is he aware of what’s happening on Earth while he’s in his cell?

    As you can tell, I really battled with the rules of the world. If it’s a series we’ve started watching I could trust that all would be revealed later, but in a movie you need closure before the lights come on.

    p. 65 – Golfers hold the putter up to gauge the line. How much to the left or right of the hole they should hit so the ball will curl around and go in the hole.

    • Nick Morris

      You’ve raised a LOT of great questions, Citizen. And I know you aren’t alone in finding some of “the rules” unclear. Something I need to work on going forward. But for better or worse, I’m gonna try and address each of them here individually. Please bear with me.

      “Is Bergman a manifestation of Death in one plane, or is he a separate entity?”

      He is indeed a manifestation/personification of Death.

      “Is Harvester a manifestation of David in the real world, and “human” David his existence in a spirit world that includes Bergman and Hell?”

      Bingo.

      “What is the relation between the cell David is in and the Hell that he visits? Are they in the same geographical location?”

      Not exactly. The cell represents David’s corporeal body, into which his soul/spirit/ethereal energy has been forcibly reintroduced by Bergman. So as the Harvester kills, the souls of his victims begin to occupy the same space, diluting his consciousness and effectively overtaking him. They become incorporated into the entity that is The Harvester. This is why his own personal reservations and motives slowly begin to fade as he turns more and more into a mindless, soul-consuming killer. He’s losing control of himself. Basically, it’s a heavy-handed corporate metaphor, lol!

      Hell is, like everything David encounters posthumously (including Bergman), a representation that his feeble, human mind can process. It’s also a threat / fear tactic.

      “And who gains the benefit from the souls the Harvester creates? I thought it was Bergman, but it seems to be the Harvester itself gaining strength.”

      Bergman/Death explains on pg 67 that he needs “souls” to influence the impending Armageddon. Though I was admittedly cagey with the amount I disclosed here. “Pulling punches” as Tom put it, in the interest of future installments. Gonna fix that.

      “Why don’t they just cause famines or wars and create souls on a mass scale? There has to be a reason why the killings need to be done personally.”

      I don’t think Bergman is capable of this. He says on pg 39 that he can’t kill. Only deliver souls of the dead to their final destinations. And he’s operating under the radar. Trying not to attract the attention of the powers-that-be (God and/or Satan). That’s why the need for a more personal touch when stealing souls from Earth.

      “How does David switch between his cell and being Harvester in the real world. Does Bergman send him or does he transport himself? Is he aware of what’s happening on Earth while he’s in his cell?”

      Think of David in his cell as “the mind” and The Harvester as “the body”. He is aware (up to a point, anyhow) of what The Harvester is doing and how he’s losing control of it. He doesn’t really switch places, per se.

      “As you can tell, I really battled with the rules of the world. If it’s a series we’ve started watching I could trust that all would be revealed later, but in a movie you need closure before the lights come on.”

      And I probably haven’t helped to clarify the rules here very much, lol! Sorry about that. This is why I think an episodic series approach could be the way to go with this.

      Thanks so much for deciding to read on, Citizen! I glad you found some things to like further on and, again, I apologize if I’ve only made things more confusing here. :P

      • Citizen M

        Thanks for the comprehensive reply. I see things a bit clearer now.

        I was wondering whether future Harvesters would be clones of Two-scythe — “Half as dead, twice as deadly” ;o) — or have their own distinctive styles and killing methods. But I’ll wait for the sequels to find out.

        Just one point. This version of the script reads like an origin story, presumably of The Harvester, hence the title. But from your comments elsewhere it more a setup for a sort of underworld Game of Thrones. I think you need to clarify exactly what the purpose of this script is, because I have the feeling it has fallen between two stools. Not enough on David for a Harvester origin story, nor enough on Bergman for an Armageddon origin story. It needs to focus on one or the other.

        • Nick Morris

          “Two-scythe — “Half as dead, twice as deadly” ;o)”
          Lol! Nice.

          Definitely their own distinct styles, look, weapons and methods. “Two-scythe” (or “Harvester Prime” as I’ve been calling him) being the first out of the gate would be the most powerful and would even clash with other Harvesters from time to time, absorbing all of their victim’s souls too. He’s gonna get out of control fast.

          And I think you’re right about this script needing to focus one way or the other. That’s my new mission.

          Thanks for discussing, Citizen!

          • Citizen M

            Or you could call him The Biscythicle ;o)

  • Bluedust

    Congrats on the review, Nick(finally!) After reading the first 30 again, I still think you could drop the boardroom scene entirely, as it’s too expositional, and just cut right from the crash to David’s awakening as the Harvester, currently on page 23. I think the boardroom scene answers too many questions too quickly(the time jump, why Vargas killed David and his wife, David’s new role as the Harvester, Sasha’s fate). These are facts that David has to earn.

    I plan on finishing this script over the weekend, but Carson’s review tells me how David quickly becomes a skilled and ardent dispatcher of souls. That seems out of character for him. He’s a decent man, so imagine his horror if he was compelled to take innocent(or not so innocent) humans from the mortal coil. Seems like a hellish sentence that he would fight with every fiber of his being.

    Just an idea, but I wonder if you could keep Sasha’s identity a secret until the end. Neither we nor David know who she really is. Might make for a nice twist.

    Anyway, looks like you’ve received a ton of good notes here. Good luck on the rewrite.

    • Nick Morris

      Yeah, the idea was that David loses more and more control of himself as the souls of his victims start pouring in. He becomes more ‘Harvester killing-machine’ and less ‘decent man David’ with every soul he absorbs. But that doesn’t seem to be coming across in the script as it’s currently written, so I’m working on that.

      Keeping Sasha’s identity a secret is something I toyed with in an earlier draft, but I think you could be onto something there and it could be worth revisiting.

      Thanks for your thoughts, Bludeust! Hope you do decide to read on.

  • Scott Chamberlain

    Having read Carson’s review, the comments, and, taking into account Nick’s aspirations for this as a series, I suspect the main “problem” is that it’s not possible to tell both David’s story AND his daughter’s story about finding out what happened to David within the same movie.

    Shouldn’t this be David’s “origins story”? Isn’t his daughter coming to town a different story within the same universe?

    If this was David’s origins story – how and why he became the Harvester – it would allow you to make his death worth avenging as commenter Tom points out. What would happen if a wrongly murdered man was reborn by the Devil to seek his revenge as an unstoppable killing machine.

    From that story would arise a deeper conspiracy leading to a longer list of people who need killing, fuelling the series. That list would be organised in such a way that it appears limited, but in reality to get to those people and awful lot of other people – a lot more than david bargained for – also need to die (death ad revenge leads to more people seeking death and revenge), thus driving the Devil’s goal of amassing souls. By the time David gets to the final death – the ultimate bad guy who really needs killing, David’s success would also both bring on Armageddon AND make the Devil invincible.

    Just a thought.

    • Nick Morris

      “I suspect the main “problem” is that it’s not possible to tell both David’s story AND his daughter’s story about finding out what happened to David within the same movie.”

      Yes, that seems to be the big issue here. I’ll sharpen my focus and try to give each the attention they need during revisions.

      And just to clarify, Bergman = Death or the Grim Reaper. He’s not “The Devil”.

      Lots of great ideas here, Scott! I’m so glad I decided to bring up the series idea. Getting tons of great stuff from you guys! Thanks so much for taking the time to share your thoughts.

    • Nick Morris

      “Shouldn’t this be David’s “origins story”? Isn’t his daughter coming to town a different story within the same universe?”

      That’s it! The rebels are there…

    • Nick Morris

      Going through all of these notes again this morning, I just had to say that I think your suggestions are the proverbial droids I’m looking for. (these Star Wars references doing anything for you?)

      This nails exactly what I’m struggling the most with at this point. Not the what or why, but the how – the execution.

      I think this is the answer. I didn’t really see it the first time around.

      Awesome! Thank you, Scott.

      • Scott Chamberlain

        Happy to have helped, Nick. All the best with the Harvester

  • Nick Morris

    A million thanks to everyone for offering their thoughts and ideas. This has been so helpful for me as I hammer out the series concept.

    For anyone that’s interested, please have a look at my website for THE HARVESTER, aka UNDEATH. Will be taking it down soon for an overhaul as the series comes together.

    http://www.UnDeathScript.com

    Thanks!

    • Poe_Serling

      A very cool site. Some scary imagery, a bit of background info, an opening sequence teaser, and contact info… a smart and effective way to promote your project(s).

      **All future AOW contenders should take note. ;-)

    • Casper Chris

      Awesome! So UnDeath was the original title of the script?

      • Nick Morris

        Yes. May still be. Which do you prefer?

        • Casper Chris

          I like both. Though I feel ‘Undeath’ might work better for a series.

          • Nick Morris

            Me too. :) Thanks!

          • Poe_Serling

            I agree with Casper. Undeath has a nice ring to it for a potential TV series.

            Plus, it would put some creative distance between The Harvester and the similar titled Canadian supernatural show The Collector.

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Collector_(TV_series)

          • Nick Morris

            UNDEATH was the title for months, but some seemed to subconsciously associate it with zombies. So I thought I’d try something else for a while. But I always preferred it. THE HARVESTER will probably be the pilot’s title.

          • Midnight Luck

            I just wanted to post a thought, not sure if anyone else has brought it up.
            There was a show called DEAD LIKE US where multiple people were called upon to become Death. I know your idea is much darker and Horror focused than that show (it had more comedy angles).
            However, if you haven’t seen it, you might want to, just so you have knowledge of what has come before.

          • Nick Morris

            You’re right, Midnight. It was called DEAD LIKE ME, but it’s a different beast really. Thank you for the heads up! I’ll definitely revisit it.

          • Midnight Luck

            Yeah, you are right, i was writing to someone else at the same time, and inserted the wrong word into my reply on your post. DEAD LIKE ME is right, not US.
            I know it is different, but having the central idea of it be about calling on, and having multiple “Death’s” , just sounds like it has similarities to your TV version of the story. Not saying yours can’t work, just wanted to point out a similar storyline if you didn’t know about it.

    • klmn

      Undeath reminds me of the Guess Who song, Undun…

  • klmn

    OT. Has the newsletter gone out? Or has Carson come unstuck in time again?

    • Poe_Serling

      Unstuck in time again.

    • Citizen M

      It’s called a newsletter because it’s news when we get a letter.

      • IgorWasTaken

        Or as they say in Germany, leider.

  • Franchise Blueprints

    O.T
    Just saw Purge 2.
    The most disturbing part is the vast void there was at the Imagine movie theater. I counted exactly 14 people on a Friday night. This isn’t the first time I’ve observed the huge vacancy in theater seats. Seriously in my opinion this will lead to studios strictly going in-house when it comes to green-lighting scripts. If I wasn’t invested in the screenwriting side of the industry it wouldn’t matter. WE as screenwriters have to self-sustain our own industry or there may not be an industry to break through. This is either a sad continuation of 2008-2009 or something more indicative is going on. I’ve noticed the same dismal turnout on other major film releases.

    On to the actual movie.
    If the movie had stayed true to its own tone and story universe it would have been a solid [x]worth the view. Tonally this movie was all over the place. SPOILERS
    The first movie laid the ground rules and played in a predictable fashion. A rich family barricades itself in with the best technology has to offer. Their impregnable fortress was penetrated when the sympathetic non-purge participating son let in a homeless black vagrant. This in turn brought out the highest quality sub-conscious Klu Klux Klan mentality of some rich preppy purgers. But since this is the legal 12 hour right of anybody participating it isn’t a hate crime against poor black vagrants. The preppy purgers break in and become the hunted while they weaken the family for the ultimate climax. The next door neighbors come to the rescue. But here’s the killer twist. They came to personally kill the family themselves because of financial jealousy. The tables get turned once again and the neighbors become hostage until the purge deadline is over. End of movie.

    Purge 2 begins with hispanic characters which will ultimately become the minority that needs to be saved. A hispanic mother, daughter, and grandfather are the initial victim protagonists. We’re also introduced to a young white upwardly mobile couple who become targeted before the Purge officially begins. Last we have a depressed vengeful father set on revenge on the night of the purge. His character is very similar to the Denzel’s character in The Book of Eli. A character who has a specific mission but chooses to involve himself in the lives of others. The main villains are a skateboarding black twenty-something, and a butcher driving a semi-truck with a chain-gun in the trailer with black armor-clad soldiers for backup.

    The grandfather sacrifices himself to rich people for a $100K payoff to his daughter. The mother and daughter are early victims of an failed rape attempt. They become victims of the butcher’s men. The Frank Castle type dude intervenes and shoots the butcher in the face. The mobile couple on the run from the skateboard purger hide in Franks car. The punisher type dude escorts the two hispanic women to his car. He finds the other couple hiding and after showboating he reluctantly allows everyone to stay. During this time the butcher gets up mans his chain-gun and shoots the punisher’s car with armor piercing rounds. Time to abandon the car, walk on foot, and get the exposition background on our party of five. Personally I would have shot everyone in the car except myself becuase if you’re a man on fire, I mean a man with a mission you don’t have time for some bullshit “why you gotta be killing people conversations”. This continues all the way to the end of the movie. Special moments to take notice of: the mother trips over a piece of lent in a subway tunnel and lays down for five minutes while a four wheel riding flame gun toting purger is riding down the subway tunnels. The fact that you have cars and motorcycles travelling down an active subway tunnel. I can forgive the motorcycle but anything else is BS. The ungrateful talkative daughter who constantly gives away their position because its her right as a human being to express her feelings at the most inopportune moments. The Punisher dude giving the daughter his bullet proof vest. The fact that none of the party of 4 actually took the inititive to pick up any weapons from the dead people on the streets. They only needed weapons when the Punisher dude gave them weapons or gave them permission to pick up weapons. The bitch of a mother who dare lied to the punisher dude to save her daughter. The punisher dude who still felt compelled to still escort the party of 4 on his mission of revenge. The skateboard dude who expertly tracked the upwardly mobile couple and the hispanic women and the Punisher and held them hostage in his own battle wagon to be be sold into white slavery for rich people to participate in a indoor hunting club for the purge.

    Yeah almost finished. Punisher dude eliminated the majority of the rich hunters but runs outta bullets. I think the theme song to dudley do-right started playing because a black militant who knows the purge is meant to eliminate minorities for profit saves Frank Castle and company. As a reward the militant allows the Punisher and the two hispanic women to continue their mission. The Punisher still feels indebted and tells his backstory. His son was killed by a drunk driver and the guy got off on a technicality. So that guy has a debt to the Punisher that must be re-payed. But he forgives the drunk driver who he was destined to kill. But the butcher who was an goverment agent doesn’t forgive. He shot the Punisher 3 times but not enough to kill him. He tells him why it was necessary to track him down. Its important to keep the kill numbers high because poor minorities don’t kill themselves off fast enough. Plus it was a throw-back reference to Battle Royale when the kids tried to wait it out but they had a subtle reminder to keep it moving. Anyway the two hispanic women get into a Mexican standoff and demand drunk driver to drive them and the punisher to the hospital because he still had a debt to pay. Nevermind he shot the butcher in the center of his head. FADE OUT

    I hope this was a useful review to help you decide on whether or not to go.