A surprisingly kick-ass movie about friendship that was almost as fun to watch as the original!
Premise: 20 years after Renton abandoned his heroin-junky friends for a drug-free existence, he comes back into town to try and make things right again.
About: The original Trainspotting launched the careers of director Danny Boyle and Ewan McGregor. But when Boyle went Hollywood, choosing Leonardo DiCaprio to star in The Beach after promising the role to McGregor, it destroyed the friendship instantly, which is the reason why it’s taken 20 years to make this film. Ironically, T2 is a film about mending broken friendships.
Writer: John Hodge (based on the novel by Irvine Welsh)
The original Trainspotting was part of a revolution in screenwriting and filmmaking that rocked the 90s. Writers and directors were sick of how studios had turned the business into a mathematical formula, and visionaries like Tarantino, Stone, Rodriquez and Boyle were more than eager to bulldoze that formula and erect an aggressive anti-structure in its stead.
Some say that’s the last time Hollywood took chances. After “indie” went mainstream, every potential product had to hit pre-determined checkmarks to get a green light. That’s changing, with Netflix giving directors huge budgets to do whatever they want.
But that hasn’t resulted in the kinds of voices we got back then. Even when a popular filmmaker does make some noise (Cary Fukunaga – Beasts of No Nation), a clear voice doesn’t come with it. In other words, I don’t think you’d know you were watching a Cary Fukanaga film unless someone told you you were.
That was the great thing about writing and directing in the 90s. People were trying to distinguish themselves and stand out. Let’s see if Boyle still has the desire to innovate, or if he’s simply been hit by the nostalgia bug.
When we last heard from Renton (Ewan McGregor), he’d ditched town to find a better life. Well, maybe he found that life and maybe he didn’t, but 20 years later, we see him flying back into town to give his best friend, Simon, the money he stole from him before he left.
Simon is attempting to turn his bar into an upscale brothel and asks Renton if he’ll help. Renton’s not interested but things are bad enough back home that he decides, what the fuck? I’ll stay for awhile. Renton also reconnects with his other best friend, Spud, just before Spud commits suicide. For 20 years, Spud still hasn’t kicked his heroin habit, and he’s ready for one final glorious high.
Renton convinces Spud to choose life, and recruits him to help on the brothel project. What they don’t know is that Begbie, who’s like a bar-hopping Scottish Hitler, as well as someone Renton fucked over 20 years ago, has just escaped prison. And when he finds out that Renton is back in town, he vows to find him and put him six feet under.
I’ll tell you what my big worry was going into Trainspotting 2. And it’s something that all screenwriters should be aware of. I thought Boyle was using this movie as an excuse to work with these actors again.
Why is that bad? Well, the best movies come when you’re passionate about telling a story. That’s how the original Trainspotting was born. Boyle read the book on a plane and he just had to make it his next film.
Once you start writing scripts for reasons other than wanting to tell an amazing story, that’s when you get in trouble. That’s not to say you can’t write something good unless you come at it that way. It’s just less likely to happen. And through the first 30 minutes, that’s what I thought had happened with T2. The over-reliance on nods to the previous film was the tip-off.
But then something happened. After we set up the rather convoluted plot, we were able to focus on these characters’ personal journeys as well as the film’s theme, and that’s where the movie began to shine.
You see, you may think that the reason the original Trainspotting is still relevant today is because it was flashy and bold and had a great soundtrack. But the reason Trainspotting lives on while similar flashy movies at the time (Natural Born Killers) have faded from memory, is because it had something to say about the world. Its theme was slammed into our faces throughout the film’s 2 hour running time: CHOOSE LIFE.
And Trainspotting 2 follows in those sprinting footsteps. Its theme is that while life takes you in different directions, and you get older and things don’t pan out the way you planned them, the one constant you always have is your friends. They’ll be there to pick you up. And that’s why Trainspotting 2 isn’t just another nostalgia trip. It actually has a reason for existing.
And if I’m going to leave you with anything to think about today, it would be that. The script you’re working on now? What are you trying to say with it? What do you hope people leave with when it’s over? If you’re just hoping they have a chuckle or that they enjoyed some cool action scenes, you’re not doing your job. If people want a fun ride, they can go to fucking Disney Land. They come to movies because they want to feel something.
And while I will always preach that entertainment comes first, if you want a story to stay with someone, you have to say something about the world, about people, or about our plight as a species in it.
The most powerful moment in this film was when Renton is asked, “What’s Choose Life?” The catch-phrase that became the marketing voice over for the original trailer. And Renton goes on a modern day “Choose Life” rant that resonates so hard, I found myself squirming in my seat (it’s much longer than in the trailer). You’re asking yourself, “Am I this person? And if I am, why the fuck am I allowing that to happen??”
I don’t know. I feel like writers are afraid to challenge audiences like that these days. Or when they do, they do it all wrong, like Moonlight or Machester by the Sea, where they bury their messages under layers of melodrama and overwrought unimaginative dialogue.
That was always the genius of Trainspotting: it could make you go from crying to laughing within a millisecond. They didn’t lose that here (don’t believe me? wait til you guys see the Spud suicide attempt).
I expected this movie to be a time-waster. It was more a wake-up call to remind me what good scripts are capable of.
[ ] What the hell did I just watch?
[ ] wasn’t for me
[ ] worth the read
[ ] genius
What I learned: Passion comes through on the page. When you’re passionate about something, the reader feels it (and when you aren’t, THEY FEEL IT EVEN MORE!). For that reason, write about things you feel passionate about at this moment in your lives – passionate good, passionate bad – it doesn’t matter. As long as it’s gnawing at you, it will come through on the page. Trainspotting was constructed around this idea of mending broken friendships, which is what Boyle and McGregor had to do to work together again. And it’s for that reason that everything here feels so authentic and truthful. If these guys were just going down Memberberry Lane, this film would’ve sucked.
We’re back like a Shamrock milkshake, baby. For how long, I don’t know. So enjoy it while you can taste it!
To submit your script for Amateur Offerings, send a PDF of your script, along with the title, genre, logline, and finally, why your script deserves a shot, to: Carsonreeves3@gmail.com. Remember that your script will be posted. If you’re nervous about the ramifications of a bad review, feel free to use an alias name and/or script title. It’s a good idea to resubmit every few weeks so your submission stays near the top.
The rules of Amateur Offerings are as such: Read as much of each entry as you can, then, in the comments section, vote for your favorite script. The script with the most votes gets reviewed next Friday. If that script is really good, there’s a chance the review will kick-start the writer’s career.
And with that, here are this weekend’s entries!
Logline: A team of Victorian monster hunters must save the universe from their biggest threat yet, themselves.
Why You Should Read: I’m a Benihana chef, mandolin player and a broke as a joke screenwriter living in LA now for two months shy of a year and I’ve written about 10 screenplays. I’ve got about thirty dollars in my bank account so there’s not much there to submit this screenplay to a formal contest which sucks, but I’m living the dream…which is cool. It would be very helpful if you would review it so I could know if I was heading in the right direction and if my diet of peanut butter jelly sandwiches in front of my computer monitor is paying off.
Title: The Keepers of the Cup
Premise: Two die-hard New York Rangers hockey fans steal back the Stanley Cup from vengeful Russian terrorists and travel across the country to deliver it in time for Game 7.
Why You Should Read: When you read this, I can promise you one of two reactions: either you will laugh and enjoy the ride, or you will find this a big swing-and-miss — such is life as a writer. Oh, if it helps, I graduated from USC’s screenwriting program, was named a finalist for Universal Pictures’ Emerging Writers Fellowship for this script, and was mentored by the writers of “Top Gun” and the famous unproduced screenplay “Smoke and Mirrors.” I can also bench 250 and avoid my mother’s phone calls. Honestly, who cares? An entertaining story is an entertaining story. I hope you enjoy “Keepers.”
Title: All Rise
Logline: ALL RISE follows a reprobate judge sentenced to a prison populated with convicts whose lives he’s destroyed.
Why You Should Read: I won the FinalDraft Screenwriting ages ago with a script called “8Track”. My writing partner – Gary Waid – did 8 horrible years in prison for smuggling 19 tons of marijuana. We were both involved with an international smuggling ring. Meanwhile, Gary and I wrote a script a few years ago entitled “Goliath”, sent out by UTA. It’s now a novel, selling at Barnes and Noble and around the world. Great reviews from best-seller authors (including Frederick Forsyth) as well as a covered STARRED review from Publisher’s Weekly. We have another novel coming out in June. “GITMO” is also adapted from my original screenplay which was sent out by APA. Edel Rodriguez is designing the cover this week. Google EDEL RODRIGUEZ NEWS, it’ll blow you away.
Title: Beyond The Front Lines
Logline: Two American spies pose as Nazi Officers to track a German train from the Belgian Congo to Germany’s border in order to discover the whereabouts of Hitler’s secret nuclear program and destroy it before the Nazi’s most notorious female Officer, Belinda “the beast of Berlin” Von Halder discovers their plot.
Why You Should Read: The best way to describe this script is Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid meets Indiana Jones. Like those two films, the script is funny at times but also gives way to some great action-packed sequences. I’ve always wanted to write a WW2 script, but every attempt got bogged down in needless details and maintaining historical accuracies; which always led me back to writing Sci-Fi. So I decided, “to hell with it,” I’ll just write a fictional story, one that would address a very simple theme; a single question to be precise. Does the end justify the means? Will our heroes, US spies, shoot at US soldiers to continue their mission? Will they sacrifice one another if it means “Mission accomplished”? Will they overlook the atrocities of this war and press forward to their destination? I hope you’ll consider reading and I look forward to the feedback… Good Luck.
Title: Stand Tall!
Genre: romantic comedy
Logline: A Vegas waitress, made 16 feet tall, falls in love with the scientist who accidentally enlarged her. She sacrifices her size and fame to save him when he’s kidnapped by a blackmailing mobster.
Why You Should Read: I’m a journalist-screenwriter, a fan of romantic comedy and classic Hollywood. I’ve run the site Carole & Co., named for my all-time favorite actress Carole Lombard, for nearly a decade. “Stand Tall!” blends romcom and sci-fi in a retro yet feminist fashion, with vivid, fun characters — as our oversized heroine says, she would “rather entertain people than attack them.”
I was looking through the top 10 movies of the year so far and realized that almost all of them had great screenwriting lessons embedded in them. So don’t write your next script until you go through these breakdowns!
1) THE LEGO BATMAN MOVIE ($160 million so far) – Animated films from major studios always make at least 150 million dollars, so I’m not sure if any lessons can be learned from Lego Batman. I will say this though – this film would never have existed without the original LEGO movie doing so well. And that movie did well because it took chances – such as breaking the fourth wall, so to speak, and ending in the real world. You have to take some chances in your writing or your scripts won’t stand out.
2) LOGAN ($160 million so far) – Logan contains the biggest lesson on this list because we live in a box office world of spectacle. Industry types have been predicting the downfall of the comic book film for a decade now and they’ve only grown stronger. What Logan teaches us, like Deadpool before it, is that audiences are looking for new ways to enjoy a flooded genre. Aging a well-known superhero and making his story more personal and character-driven ended up being exactly what audiences wanted. For some perspective, Logan is predicted to make 100 million more domestically than the last Wolverine film, and some 250 million more globally. Find the fresh take in a superhero premise and you can cash in.
3) SPLIT ($120 million so far) – This movie proves that not only is horror still the best bang-for-your-buck genre out there. It also reminds us of the importance of the “strange attractor,” that sizzle component that makes your idea stand out. The “standard” version of this concept is a normal kidnapper who kidnaps three women and holds them hostage. Night’s “strange attractor” was giving that kidnapper multiple personalities. I have to give it to Night. I thought he went too far here (too many personalities). It goes to show that taking chances (see Lego Batman) is necessary to get that big payout.
4) GET OUT ($115 million so far) – I don’t think people realize how big of a surprise this movie’s success is. This is NOT a traditional horror picture by any means. And it teaches us a couple of screenwriting lessons. First, take a premise from another genre and see if you can add a horror spin to it. “Get Out” is “Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner,” with a horror twist. Go ahead, do it now. Think of some of your favorite non-horror films. What would they look like with a horror spin? Get Out also reminds us of the power of triggering. If you can trigger your potential audience, you can get them to come see your film. Racism is click-bait. And this whole concept is built on top of it. There are lots of things that trigger people these days. Ask yourself, is there a movie idea that can take advantage of them?
5) FIFTY SHADES DARKER ($113 million so far) – The only lesson I can take from this is that the bored middle-aged housewife is underserved in their box office options. Remember, this is the demographic that used to have a romantic comedy thrown at them every other month but doesn’t anymore. So they’re desperately looking for something to rally behind. Anyone have ideas?
6) JOHN WICK: CHAPTER TWO ($88 million so far) – This is the most exciting entry on the list for me because it proves that if you write a spec script inside a well-known genre (in this case, “Action”) you can create an entire franchise out of nothing. As a nobody writer! Also, this is THE spec script to be writing at the moment. Guy-or-Girl-With-A-Gun action specs. Make sure you find a new angle though! I don’t even think changing the lead to a woman is enough anymore as half-a-dozen of those have already sold in the past 2 years. We’re getting our first with Charlize Theron’s “Atomic Blonde,” directed by… the same director of John Wick! (bonus lesson: Write and shoot a short film focused on something you’re an expert in. What made John Wick such a success were its bad-ass stunts. Who directed the movie? Two stuntmen. Whatever you’re good at, write and direct a short film that features that).
7) KONG: SKULL ISLAND ($88 million so far) – While it’s not a definitive failure, Kong did way lower numbers than WB had hoped. Remember, they were using Jurassic World as their comp, which made $208 million its opening weekend. Kong made $61 million. The truth is nobody was clamoring for this movie, yet I can’t put my finger on why. My lesson here would be “check the temperature in the room.” When they announced this as a teaser two years ago at Comic-Con, people were like, “Eh.” When you tell your friends your idea for your next script, what’s their buying temperature? If they react with, “Eh,” you probably shouldn’t write it.
8) A DOG’S PURPOSE ($62 million) – Man’s best friend ensures that any dog-centered script will make a decent return on its investment. If all I cared about was money, I’d write a Benji-Lassie team-up film. Or maybe Benji vs. Lassie. Hmmm, that could be a funny short film.
9) XXX: THE RETURN OF XANDER CAGE ($44 million) – I don’t think it’s a good idea to highlight the return of someone when nobody noticed that he left. Xander Cage is the result of a studio that’s so out-of-touch with the mainstream (Paramount) they’d greenlight a Steven Seagall sequel. They have zero clue what people want to see. Which is probably why they’re getting a new head of production. With that said, XXX is doing pretty well overseas and there isn’t a studio in town who doesn’t want to get their hands on a fresh new big-budget action franchise (for the very reason that you can suck balls here in the U.S. and still come out in the black). So you’d do well to write in this genre. Just try to be a little more original than this piece of garbage.
10) THE GREAT WALL ($44 million) – Thank God this maiden China-U.S. major co-production voyage bombed. I’ve been terrified that major U.S.-China collaborations were coming where even more artistic compromises had to be made and the movies became even more homogezined and vision-less. The truth is, while China is open to mainstream American films, China’s sensibilities don’t work over here. We’re too different. Hollywood will paint this as a bad thing since it shrinks potential revenue streams. But for us moviegoers who care about, you know, enjoying films, it’s a very good thing. Screenwriting lesson? This may be the best example ever of when you try to please everyone, you please no one.
Premise: (from Black List) When a hard nosed liberal lawyer who has been fighting the good fight while others take the credit assumes the role of his crusading firm’s front man, he discovers some unsettling things about what they’ve done, resulting in an existential crisis that leads to extreme action.
About: Dan Gilroy wrote and directed the amazing “Nightcrawler” starring Jake Gyllenaal. He also wrote the just released, “Kong: Skull Island.” Inner City is his latest writer-director project. It will star Denzel Washington and Colin Farrell.
Writer: Dan Gilroy
Details: 100 pages
There are some who believe that Dan Gilroy wrote the best spec of the last half-decade in “Nightcrawler.” It’s the closest thing we’ll ever get to a modern-day Taxi Driver. So you’d think that anything he wrote next, I’d be tearing down the internet to read. Well, check out that logline above. That’s why there was no tearing, and no reading.
This is why concepts are so important in screenwriting. They are your screenplay’s sales pitch and they need to sell on every level. Writer to agent, agent to producer, producer to studio, studio to director. In every stage, your idea will be pitched by someone who isn’t you to someone who’s never met you and if your idea sounds like it could be boring, they say no thanks before they’ve even heard what your main character’s name is.
Of course, the rules are different if you’re Dan Gilroy. People will read your script if it’s about the Mildly Strenuous Oklahoma Half-Drought of 1978. But I got some sad news for you. You aren’t Dan Gilory. You haven’t written the next Taxi Driver. Not yet, anyway. And until you do, you have to think about that chain of command your script will be put through and if your script sounds good enough and marketable enough that every person on that ladder will want to pass it up to the next guy.
Now let’s all hold hands and pray that this script is more entertaining than its logline!
Roman J. Israel is the legal world’s #1 idealist. He’s been working in a small 2-man criminal law firm his entire career. He and his partner, William Jackson, have the perfect arrangement. William goes into court and fights the system while Roman stays back and does the clerical work.
And then William has a heart attack and dies.
A sharkish lawyer named George Patel who worked for William comes in and clears out William’s side of the business, essentially closing the firm down. But when he realizes that Roman is actually a brilliant law mind with an impeccable memory, he hires him. What George learns is that Roman’s intelligence comes with a price – he’s borderline autistic, a social justice warrior without social skills.
Due to Roman’s condition, he can only see black or white, right or wrong, and he’s preconditioned to always do the right thing. So when George loosens Roman’s leash on a murder suspect they represent, Roman can’t help himself from trying to get the man off, something he has no authority to do.
As Roman looks deeper into the case, he realizes that this man, a gang member, didn’t murder the victim. His gang leader did. He’s just taking the rap. When some family members of the victim put up a reward for the killer’s name, Roman discreetly gives them the name of the gang leader and collects the money.
But everything comes crashing down when that gang leader hires Roman’s firm specifically to defend him. But defense was never on his mind. He just wants Roman to know that he knows he turned him in. And that he’s coming for him. Roman responds by collecting all his things and making a getaway. But is it too late?
If you would’ve told me at the beginning of the week that after reading a Friday the 13th reboot script and a Dan Gilroy script, that I’d give the higher rating to Friday the 13th, I woulda told you you lost your skull spaghetti. But that’s screenwriting. It’s not always the best writers who come up with the best scripts.
One of the problems top-tier veteran screenwriters have is that they try to be great. They try to write a classic film. And when you’re statue chasing, you lose sight of what a good story should do. Which is simply to entertain the audience.
Don’t get me wrong. Gilroy gets credit for taking a chance here. But I couldn’t make heads or tails of that chance. I mean, I was 80 pages into the script before any sort of plot emerged (the gang leader threatening Roman). Before that it was Roman literally stumbling and bumbling around, muttering incoherent legalese to anyone within earshot. He reminded me of Mel Gibson’s character in Conspiracy Theory coupled with a John Grisham hero with a sprinkle of Forrest Gump for good measure.
The script is also bogged down with tons of legal inside baseball. There are a lot of lines like this one: “Fisher’s first offense. Could have been reduced to a misdemeanor with precedents and persistence but you plead him out to felony conspiracy and possession. That became your M. O. Take a retainer, waive cleints’ right to pre-lim then dump them on public defenders when they complain.” I felt like I needed to pass the BAR just to understand the conversations.
But the biggest problem is that I didn’t understand Roman. I didn’t understand what he wanted. The brilliance of Nightcrawler was that you always understand what he wanted. He was a capitalist. He wanted to become great at this thing so he could cash in. I never knew what Roman’s objective was. He kind of joins George begrudgingly and then bounces around like a pinball between fellow associates and clients, helping and chastising in equal measure, to varying degrees of success. Every time I thought I knew what Roman wanted, I fell down a chute and got sent back to the beginning.
The thing is, there’s a plot here. It just develops too late. Roman turns the gang leader in for the cash reward, then the gang leader ignorantly hires Roman’s firm. This would happen at the end of Act 1. Roman keeps the secret as best he can, but we know, at some point, it’s going to come out. It’s the old Hitchcock bomb under the table. With Roman’s money grab being the bomb.
We’d then focus the second act on this case as opposed to jumping around to 20 different cases, none of which are interesting or even become important to the story, and when the bomb is finally pulled out from under the table, the third act becomes about Roman’s survival and escape.
My guess for why Gilroy didn’t do this is because he wasn’t interested in plot. He was interested in this character. I just wish the character that was in his head was the same one who was on the page. Cause I still don’t know what the message was with Roman. I suppose it was: Don’t do good to the detriment of one’s own well-being? I don’t know. Roman’s going to be a fun character for Denzel to play, no doubt. I just hope there’s more of a point to the plot once it’s all said and done.
[ ] What the hell did I just read?
[x] wasn’t for me
[ ] worth the read
[ ] impressive
[ ] genius
What I learned: You have to understand what your character wants. Because that will dictate their goals, their pursuits, their actions, and their choices throughout the screenplay. If you’re wishy-washy on what your hero wants, all of those things become wishy-washy as well and the movie gets messy. I mean what does Ben Affleck’s character in The Accountant want? He wants to be a good accountant. He wants to kill people for money. Like, what the fuck?? Clarify the want, which clarifies the character, which solidifies the plot. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen here in this draft of Inner City. Hopefully it does in future drafts.
Premise: The reimagined origin story of everyone’s favorite slasher hero, Jason Voorhees.
About: Aaron Guzikowski broke onto the screenwriting scene eight years ago when he wrote one of the hottest specs of that year, Prisoners, a sale that would net him 7 figures (and even more once the movie got made). The Friday the 13th folks have been keen to re-jumpstart the franchise. And Guzikowski’s deranged nihilistic voice seemed like the perfect fit for that universe. It’s unclear where this project stands at the moment. It’s been on, it’s been off, it’s been on again. But if it’s off, the producers may want to take another look. They might be sitting on a hit.
Writer: Aaron Guzikowski
Details: 96 pages
One of the frustrating things about breaking into Hollywood as a screenwriter is getting your balls chopped off the second you walk through the door. Here you were – your broke in with this hip offbeat screenplay or came up with a fresh take on an old concept – showed the world why you were a screenwriting boss and took Hollywood by storm – then the second you wiped your shoes on the mat, the powers that be said, “Okay, here are 5 of the blandest projects in the world. Choose which one you want to write.”
Of course, all writers want the assignments that show off their creativity – the Benjamin Buttons, The Martians, the Wolf of Wall Streets. But only the A-list screenwriters get those jobs, leaving you to elevate stuff like Power Rangers, Taken the web movie, and Friday the 13th.
And you better get ready for those bland horror offers, guys. It continues to be the best return-on-investment genre out there so there’s lots of assignments. The problem is, it’s hard to make horror fresh. That goes double for aging horror franchises like this one which usually go one of two ways: uninspired straight-to-digital drek, or a reimagining of the series that’s so fresh it catapults you up to the next level.
Shall we see where Mr. Guzikowski’s take landed?
The year is 1977, which was a creepy year to begin with. But to add hockey pucks to injury, we’re at Camp Crystal Lake with a bunch of teenage counselors more focused on doing drugs and fucking than counseling.
Well, except for Annie Christie, an Olympic-level swimmer who seems to be the only counselor with a head on her shoulders. For now. When Annie’s bitchy younger sister, Mary, bullies another girl, Annie assigns her the ultimate punishment – give teenage Jason Voorhees a swim lesson.
Besides being the world’s worst conversationalist, Jason Voorhees also wears a medical mask to hide his deformed face, which he got from his psycho father repeatedly beating his mom while she was pregnant. So he’s not exactly the funnest student to teach.
When Mary doesn’t show up for the lesson, Annie is forced to take Jason with her and her friends on a previously scheduled booze cruise. But Jason eventually goes unattended and tries to swim back to shore, a swim he never completes. Even worse, when Annie tells her mother what happened, her mother tells her to lie, to say that Jason never showed up for his swim lesson that day.
Cut to 3 years later and Annie hasn’t recovered from that day or the lie she’s been forced to tell. Unfortunately for her, karma is a bitch, especially in horror franchises. Jason’s mom, Pamela, finds out what happened that day and goes on a fucking rampage, determined to kill everyone who was on that cruise.
But that’s small potatoes compared to the other person who’s stalking Annie and her pals. That would be Jason Voorhees, back from the dead and all grown up. He’s even replaced his medical mask with a more stylish hockey version. Jason is so out for blood, that when he’s finished with these kids, Crystal Lake is gonna run red.
Let me start by saying it’s been a long time since I’ve seen a Friday the 13th movie so I don’t know which choices should be credited to the original writers and which to Gusikowski. So if I give Guzikowski props for something he didn’t come up with, feel free to correct me in the comments.
I knew from the start there was something different about this script. It begins with a great teaser that has two teenagers in the woods climbing one of those endless ladders to a fire tower (used to see forest fires). After they get up to the top, we see a mysterious ranger at the bottom of the ladder start to climb after them.
I mean, is there anything more horrifying than being 500 feet in the air with your only escape route being blocked by a blood-thirsty forest ranger? This kind of writing is a bigger deal than you realize. Scripts that capture readers right away are much more likely to keep them engaged. It’s extremely rare for a script to start with a boring or bad scene and recover.
I mean, yes, it happens occasionally. But, usually, good writers realize how important immediately capturing the reader is, so they come out firing.
But the real accomplishment of this script is how much character development went into it. When you throw on one of these slasher flicks, you expect to see mindless slashing for 90 straight minutes. But Guzikowski makes sure that before any real blood starts flowing, you know Jason Voorhees. And not just know him, but experience this shitty horrible hand he’s been dealt. Those swim lesson scenes alone turned Jason into a sympathetic figure.
And that approach extended to Annie as well, who had this whole competitive swimmer backstory, which may seem insignificant, but when you give characters things they’re pursuing outside of the confines of the plot, it makes them feel more like real human beings.
And I loved how Guzikowski made Annie’s pursuit organic. A lot of amateur writers give characters bizarre pursuits that exist in some parallel universe to the story they’re telling. Like they’d have Annie pursuing a singing career or something. But where does this story take place? A lake, right? So it make sense that you’d tie Annie’s pursuit into that. She’s a swimmer.
And Guzikowski extended that into all corners of the script. In fact, this is a great screenwriting lesson for aspiring screenwriters. The “mask” your slasher wears is a very common trope in horror films. So I’m going to ask you to imagine your own personal slasher concept right now. Go ahead. Think of one. Now what mask would you give your villain?
Got your answer?
Well, you’re wrong. You blew it.
The mask should be an organic extension of the character and the story. So here, Jason Voorhees wears a hockey mask. Why? Well, when winter comes and this lake freezes over, the local kids play hockey games on the ice. Sometimes stuff is left behind. A skate here, a hockey mask there. And that’s how your villain, who drowned in that lake, started wearing a hockey mask.
Details like that set you apart as a writer. They show that you’re really thinking about the story you’re telling and not just dumping whatever comes to mind on the page.
If this script has a weakness, it’s that it devolves into more predictable patterns as it goes on. But, overall, it still had me guessing more than accurately predicting, and that’s really hard to do with a horror film, much less a well-known horror franchise.
This script is an important reminder of the bar horror writers should be aiming for – prioritizing interesting characters with real lives over inventive slasher kills.
[ ] What the hell did I just read?
[ ] wasn’t for me
[xx] worth the read
[ ] impressive
[ ] genius
What I learned: For a great horror scene, find an inventive way to place your characters in a location where there’s no way out and the bad guy is coming. I’ve seen a thousand scenes with characters inside a cabin or a closet with no way out and the killer coming. But I was so much more scared during this opening because the room was 500 feet in the air with only one way out (the ladder) and our killer steadily climbing that ladder towards our helpless victims.