Genre: Horror
Premise: When a father-son team performs an autopsy on an unidentified female found under mysterious circumstances, strange things start to happen inside the morgue.
About: The Autopsy of Jane Doe finished near the middle of last year’s Black List (it should be noted, however, that this draft is from a year earlier). The script was written by Ian Goldberg and Richard Naing. This will be Naing’s first produced credit, although he had an associate producer credit on Better Living Through Chemistry, which starred Olivia Wilde. Goldberg, on the other hand, has been around for awhile. He wrote on The Sarah Conner Chronicles, Criminal Minds, and Once Upon a Time. Probably the most interesting thing about this project is that it’s being directed by Andre Ovredal, who directed the amazing TrollHunter. Going from full-on wilderness, where you can shoot anywhere and include anything, to a tight underground room, is going to be a tough challenge. But if there’s anyone who can do it, it’s the guy who found and documented real live trolls.
Writer: Ian Goldberg & Richard Naing
Details: 91 pages – June 2012 draft

morgue

Something that will always be true through the end of screenwriting time: If you can come up with a fresh way to place a high-concept inside a contained location, and you can execute it adequately, someone will buy your script. It may not be for a ton of money, but it’ll sell.

The problem with the contained horror/thriller is that everyone did it to death three years ago and ran out of ideas. We were stuck in coffins, stuck in cars, stuck in ATM booths, stuck in ski chairs. There are only so many places one can get stuck in (Open Me – A man accidentally gets stuck inside a gift-wrapped box on Christmas.  The problem is, nobody wants to open him.).

But here’s where The Autopsy of Jane Doe was smart. While all these other writers explored their concepts through “what contained scenario haven’t we done yet?”, Goldberg & Naing approached it from the idea side. Come up with an interesting situation, regardless of place, then see if there’s a way to contain it.

When you look at The Autopsy of Jane Doe, it could’ve easily been a procedural thriller. A mysterious woman dies in the basement of a home – we have to find out who she is and how she died. The autopsy turns up some strange conflicting clues, and we follow a couple of cops who hit the pavement and try to find out what happened – a Silence of the Lambs or Seven type thing. In other words, this could’ve worked as a normal movie.

But once we get to the morgue, that’s where we stay for the entire running time. The script follows 50-something Tommy and his son, 25 year old Austin. Tommy has been in the autopsy business his whole life and loves working with his son. But Austin wants bigger and better things in life than… death.

That night, the two are delivered a strange “Jane Doe” discovered at a murder scene and get to work. But everything about the body feels off. The tongue is severed. There’s a synthetic strand of string in her mouth. Her lungs are blackened as if she’s been smoking for 50 years. And then it gets creepy. Here insides were slashed, yet her body has no indication of surgery. How could someone have gotten inside of her to cut her?

Complications arise when a bad storm moves in and starts knocking out the electricity. It gets so bad that one of the trees outside the morgue crashes up against the doorway, locking them in. Oh, and that’s when the shit really hits the fan.

After going back downstairs, they find that all the body drawers have been opened… with ALL THE BODIES GONE. They start hearing noises all around them. At first they go looking for the source of the noises, but once it becomes apparent that said noises may be … paranormal… they head in the opposite direction.

The problem is, there are only so many places to hide down here. And whatever spirit this Jane Doe brought into the morgue is, it doesn’t want to let them off easy. Flap…flap…flap. Those are the sounds of footsteps coming from bodies that shouldn’t be walking. One of the many bodies who follow the bidding of… Jane Doe.

This script does a lot of things right. Like I mentioned before, the writers created a high concept that could be shot cheaply. They set up a mystery immediately (grab that reader IMMEDIATELY!) when, in the very first scene, the cops find Jane Doe in the basement of a triple-homicide.

Then, once we meet our morticians, we see them doing their job, in detail. This is a very important but underrated part of screenwriting. Whatever the main trade or subject matter in your movie is, you have to convince the reader that you know more about it than they do. That’s because the moment you achieve this, the reader trusts you. Goldberg and Naing get into the itty-bitty details of an autopsy (order of procedure, tools, etc.), so that you trust them to tell this story.

I continue to see amateurs make this mistake and it’s a surefire way to know if a script is bad. If I know more than you do about the main subject matter you’re covering, then how much effort did you really put into this script?

But let’s be honest. When it comes to a horror script, one thing matters above all others. IS IT SCARY? Jane Doe is scary. There’s a moment in the morgue hallway where one of our previously dead bodies is walking towards us, a bell on his toe (put there earlier just in case he was still alive – ring-a-ling-a-ling), and with each cut-out of the lights, he emerges 10 feet closer. I needed a steady stream of “turn on all the lights in the house” after that one.

And I like stuff like this because it emerges directly from the concept. We’ve seen dead bodies walking around in a million horror movies before, most of the time with no explanation. But here, in a morgue, it wouldn’t make sense UNLESS the bodies were used. Why set your story in a morgue if you’re not going to utilize all the dead bodies?

I did have a few issues with this draft though. It rests a little too heavily on common horror movie tropes, such as the oldies song that keeps popping up on the radio. A lot of jump scares. Looking through keyholes and seeing scary eyes looking back. And there are only so many times you can run back and forth in a hallway before things start to feel repetitive.

Of course, this is the classic challenge of a contained horror film. You’re ALWAYS going to run into this problem and it’s never an easy solution. All you can do is run through as many options as you can think of to make sure you’re using the best ones.

I also thought the relationship between dad and son could’ve been better executed. The way it stands, Austin doesn’t want to be here, and the dad kind of knows this and accepts it. It felt to me like there needed to be a lot more conflict between these two – that the dad should’ve been more adamant about Austin sticking with the family business. You need that kind of thing because there’s a lot of downtime between scares in a horror script (always more than you think when you start writing it), and if your characters don’t have something interesting to hash out, the reader gets bored quickly. Always remember that a horror movie needs to be ABOUT PEOPLE FIRST. We won’t be engaged in the horror unless we’re pulled into the relationships.

I hope Naing and Goldberg have figured out solutions to some of these issues in subsequent drafts. With Ovredal at the helm, this could be really fun. From my understanding, this is in pre-production.  So with horror movies shooting and editing quickly, we’ll probably be seeing it soon.

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

What I learned: This is something I honestly have no answer for. How do you come up with new scares in the horror genre? Literally EVERYTHING has been done. As I was reading this, I’d read a scare that I’d seen before, but then I thought, “I’d have probably done the same thing.” I mean aren’t there only so many ways to scare people? I’m going to challenge you horror aficionados (Poe! Are you listening??). How do you come up with fresh scares? And I’ll go one step further. Give me some fresh scares you would’ve put into this specific script.

  • Panos Tsapanidis

    So, today’s “What I Learned” is “What I don’t know” ? It’s great question though. One that I don’t have an answer for.

  • Scott Crawford

    If you want the screenplay, e-mail me mr.scottcrawford@hotmail.com. I’ll try and send a MASS e-mail when I get a few replies.

    • OddScience

      Thanks! AGAIN.

  • Scott Crawford

    Having a kid can cost you $282,480! That’s an original scare!

    http://www.nbcnews.com/business/personal-finance/having-kid-itll-now-cost-you-much-raise-child-n183056

    Boo!!!

    • Sebastian Cornet

      I’d be less scared if I got a text telling me my family is being held hostage by a drug cartel than if I got one from a girl telling me she’s having my kid.

    • Awescillot

      So that one show where you follow that couple with eight kids. That probably got pitched as an extremely high concept horror.

  • Steffan

    The only way to create true fear in a reader is to first create concern and in order to do that you have to craft characters that we feel for. Scaring someone is never predicated on the senses–it’s housed within your emotions. Visuals and sound can only add to fear that has already been instilled in someone–they are not a substitute for the fear itself.

    Think about The Shining or Blair Witch. In those films not much at all is shown, but since we care about the characters so deeply we fear for them. And as I write that that’s the take away: a reader must fear FOR the characters and in order to do that the writer must first get the audience to care about them.

    • Scott Crawford

      Sixties icon Paula Prentiss in The Parallax View. One minute she’s alive, telling Beatty that someone has killed all the witnesses to an assassination, and now they’re trying to kill her. He tells her she’s being paranoid:
      http://img.rp.vhd.me/2383018_l1.jpg

      Smash cut to:
      http://parallax-view.org/wp-content/uploads/2009/08/parallax2.jpg

      Scares the CRAP out of me every time.

      • Casper Chris

        Not sure if that’s scary or funny.

        • Scott Crawford

          Watch the film. Scary.

          • brenkilco

            The enveloping sense of paranoia in Parallax is really great. A more subtle kind of scary than you’ll find in a typical horror film.

          • Scott Crawford

            Dapper William Daniels from The Graduate unshaven, bleary-eyed, afraid to go to sleep. As Steffan points out, if you care more about the characters, you care what happens to them, their deaths have more impact.

    • leitskev

      That’s true, and I think it is done effectively enough in this script. The son doesn’t want to be there, he wants to go out with his girlfriend. We can all understand that. But he stays to help his dad. That alone makes this character someone we care about. If the writers had dialed up the conflict too much with the father and son, we wouldn’t sense the bond, which would lessen our inclination to care about them.

      Conflict in drama does not imply that there always have to be great conflict between characters. Let’s say we have a romance, and both characters are insecure. We know they like each other, but neither one has the confidence to make the move. Meanwhile, things are happening in the story where if someone doesn’t make the first move they will lose the opportunity. This creates tension if the audience really wants to see them together as a couple. The conflict comes from there being an obstacle(the characters lack of confidence) to what we in the audience want to see(them together). Dialing up personal conflict between those two characters may or may not work, depending on the story. If dialing that conflict up lessons our desire to see them together, it’s harmful to the story.

      I’ve seen this in amateur scripts where people force conflict into the story and it defeats the overall dramatic tension that the story needs to create. Infusing excess conflict and tension into a scene should not be done if it lessens the overall tension in the long run.

      • sotiris5000

        This is a really good point. I don’t think crowbarring extra tension into the father-son relationship would make the film any better. That said, I had a different reaction to you on the way the son brushed off the girlfriend at the start – I actually thought he was a bit of a dick for doing that. If my girlfriend continually stood me up to work late, I’d think she was a bit of a bitch. Regardless, I still cared about the two characters and thought the script was really engaging. The best horror I’ve read in a long while.

        • leitskev

          Good point. It’s been at least a year since I read this. If memory serves me, is it possible that the brushing off of the girlfriend was in order to create some insecurity about that relationship? I don’t remember. In other words, does this put his relationship with her at risk, something which is used to create more tension later? Or is it just another example of how we writers try to force conflict into every scene? I don’t remember.

      • carsonreeves1

        For me at least, the father-son relationship was too bland. It needed something. Not conflict in the over-the-top sense, but more of a deep seated tension.

    • Randy Williams

      I don’t think we have to care about the characters to fear for them. I don’t care about a brainless babysitter alone in the house with a knife wielding lunatic or even a feelingless Scrooge in “A Christmas Carol” faced with three ghosts. What instills the fear in me is their VULNERABILITY because it is universal and unescapable, whether you are a poor teenage girl babysitting or an English businessman living in the lap of luxury while others are suffering on your doorstep.

      • davejc

        “I don’t think we have to care about the characters to fear for them.”

        I agree. It matters not whether we care, but the characters have to be real. If they’re not real then neither is there demise.

  • pmlove

    One thing that is sometimes missing is taking things back to basics. There doesn’t need to be a scare, tension is enough. Or rather, the work is in making you READY to be scared. Anticipate the scare, then you enjoy it all the more (or of course, the reveal that there is no scare). Colour, sound, direction; these are all key.

    Take Suspiria, for example. There’s a lot to learn from that film. I first watched it on a laptop and thought it was generally OK but not great. Then I had the chance to see it on the big screen – it blew me away.

    The opening scene is great – all it is a girl leaving the airport but the sound is overwhelming, the lights, the choice of shot, it all establishes a mood on unease. You’re ready to be scared.

    Then later, simple shot selection. It’s dark and windy outside and something’s on the loose. Then Argento simply positions his character next to a door and a window and has her look the other way. You know it’s coming, you just don’t know when or from which entry. But you get ready to be scared, the tension gets ramped up.

    Another great bit is a scene where the protagonist is just running around the corridors of the dorm. The lights blare red, the sound booms out and your senses are overwhelmed. It’s not really made clear if there’s anything chasing her but the culmination of the senses makes you so on edge watching it that it works. But it’s really just a woman wandering about some halls.

    Then, from the Shining, I think something that is overlooked is the SUPERs; they gradually reduce in timeframe until instead of months, or days it starts to tell you it’s 2:00pm – the increasing specificity drives us towards an inclination that something bad is about to happen.

    Attack all the senses you can. A good example recently that Carson picked out is the moving scene from the Disappointments Room. Increasingly quick cuts, focus on the sounds of the tape etc drive tension from a scene where there really isn’t any.

  • leitskev

    Read this script when it first appeared on blacklist. Enjoyed it, and appreciated its obvious market potential. Also enjoyed Carson’s review, but I would like to softly object to his trope complaint.

    Tropes(IMHO) are for script analysts and film critics to complain about…but for producers to cherish and utilize. The thing is, tropes work. Even more so in horror films, which target a younger audience.

    I mean reduced to an absurdity, if one is sensitive enough about tropes they end up demanding the scary movies take out the scares, scares being too tropish.

    There are only so many ways to scare a film audience. And every one of them will look familiar. We can avoid tropes by…stop making films; or by making films that don’t work with a general audience.

    I would absolutely not have recommended that the writers remove those cheap scare scenes. One can see they would be effective in film. And the audience paid $10 expecting scenes like that! It will be disappointed if they are not there.

    Last year, I enjoyed the film Out of the Furnace. However, the film was guilty of false marketing, so a lot of people were unsatisfied with it. They came in expecting a revenge movie filled with bare knuckle fights and what they got was dark drama.

    Audiences were disappointed in the film Drive because it was not the high octane film they expected.

    Look, there are certain tropes that do get annoying: the evil CIA agent, etc. But we have to be careful not to become too sensitized to them. In genre films, they are practically an audience expectation. And in every film, there are certain archetypes that are useful patterns within with to set the drama. Without these archetypes, the story often ends up emotionally flat. Also, using these very recognizable archetypes allows the story to avoid heaps of exposition because the story is on familiar terrain. And archetypes are tropes.

    I will also address the relationship of the son to the dad. Everything in story comes with a cost. The relationship could be better explored, but at what cost? For example, would you want to lengthen the set up to do that? Probably not. And once you ramp up the tension, you have to be careful not to let the air out with any distracting drama. I’m not saying not to explore the relationship, but the writers have to be careful not to lose focus on what’s most important here: intriguing set up that puts us in the shoes of the main character, followed by mystery and scares.

    I’m not critiquing the critique…just using it as a basis for discussion! Thanks for the review as always.

    • Scott Crawford

      Ted Tally didn’t want to write the final showdown between Clarice and Buffalo Bill in The Silence of the Lambs, but Robert Benton told the audience WANTED to see that confrontation, so Tally relented and made it as ORIGINAL as he could.

      • leitskev

        Great example.

      • Sebastian Cornet

        But Scott, isn’t the showdown lifted from the novel? I could be wrong; it’s been a minute since I read the book.

        • Scott Crawford

          Not sure. I haven’t read the original novel; this was from an interview with Ted Tally and Syd Field.

          In the same vein, Ridley Scott almost didn’t film the market shootout in Hannibal but he did in the end.

    • Randy Williams

      I wish the marketers of these films would be confident in the audience’s appreciation of those “cheap scares” to not have to include the truly original ones in the trailers and TV commercials.

      The sheet on the clothesline in “The Conjuring”, for instance. I must have seen that a hundred times in commercials before going to see the film. Why couldn’t I have been “blown away” by it, then?

      • leitskev

        Lol, yeah, good point. A problem with many genre movies, comedy, horror…they use all their ammo in the trailer! The movies that people like are the ones that have more of these than can be used up in the commercial.

      • Scott Crawford

        I try not to watch trailers anymore, unless it’s something I’m REALLY excited about.

        Fortunately, we don’t get BOMBARDED with movie TV spots here in Britain. I’ve been in LA and watched TV – it’s ridiculous, I think you see the same commercial thirty times before seeing the film.

  • ripleyy

    I highly, *highly* recommend “The Divide” as a fantastic contained horror. The way the characters are forced together, and survive, while being trapped in a bunker is a really great piece to study if you’re doing one yourself. It’s also a great movie to watch to study conflict, and how conflict can evolve. I also suggest “Hidden”, which is pretty good too.

    As for “Autopsy”, I remember reading it but never getting very far, but the review has made me think about re-visiting it.

    • Nate

      Even though I’m not the biggest fan of horror films, I keep meaning to watch The Divide, as it stars one of my favourites actors, Michael Biehn. The trailer was pretty intense and I’ve been told the film is the exact same.

      • ripleyy

        It has a really intense third act, but it’s also a really good study about people trapped in situations like the one they’re in (which, I would imagine, is the reason why the writers wrote it).

    • JakeMLB

      I’m not sure I would recommend The Divide or call it a “fantastic” contained horror. The first act plays pretty poorly. I’ll admit that it ends strongly and manages its tense tone well but the way the characters react don’t exactly make for a great character study since their actions are greatly exaggerated. If gratuitous shock horror’s your thing then you’ll like it but aside from the shock there isn’t much to hang your hat on. It didn’t exactly get glowing reviews. I enjoyed it but I wouldn’t put it up there with greats like Buried or The Disappearance of Alice Creed (another great contained flick!). Right at Your Door is probably a more conventional contained nuclear flick with a greater focus on story. Exam. Pontypool. Lebanon. The Cube series. A few other contained flicks. Exam is probably my favorite.

      • ripleyy

        The ending of “Buried” frustrated me so much that it killed my love for it. “Right At Your Door” and “Disappearance of Alice Creed” are also right up there in my personal favourite – “Right At Your Door” is such a great little gem.

        “Exam” is another good one, as is “The Cube”, but it has such horrible dialogue that watching it is such a grind, but I have to say, from one of the guys who brings us “Orphan Black”? I’m happy to overlook it. :)

        I heard some bad things about “Pontypool” though, but “Fermat’s Room” is another I have yet to check out.

        As with “The Divide”, I actually agree with you on the start. Mickey (Michael Biehn’s character) just annoyed the hell out of me, but there’s enough in it to make up for it. It is by no means perfect, but for what it is, it’s pretty good and I personally love it for what it is :)

        • JakeMLB

          Yeah Carson took some jabs at Pontypool but I think they’re undeserved. It’s a completely unique take on a contained horror and done quite well IMHO.

          Ooh, I almost forgot another British fave that definitely has flashes of The Divide:

          THE HOLE (2001)

          http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0242527/

          Definitely check this one out! Features a young Keira Knightley.

          • ripleyy

            I remember “The Hole”, a great film. It’s so weird seeing how young Keira Knightley is in that one. I’m glad I’m not the only one who liked it!

  • Randy Williams

    I like the anticipation of a scare, milking the tension and then releasing it and then hitting the viewer with something.

    For example. Going off the picture of the morgue above. The morgue worker has to slide a female body out of the vault but it won’t slide out all the way, something is stuck. The worker has to crawl in there, work himself over the body to reach into the back of the vault to find out what is catching. He finds the problem but has a difficult time getting it unstuck. Meanwhile the viewer thinks something is about the happen, the body is going to grab him with a start while he’s in there would be the obvious thing, but it doesn’t.

    The worker sees something moving, starts a bit, it’s just his I.D. on a lanyard sliding across the body as he moves. He gets the problem resolved, checks his image against the shiny steel inside of the vault. His face flushed, but fine.

    He scoots backwards out of the vault, turns to his co-worker, “Got it”
    All over his face, fresh lipstick kisses.

    • Scott Crawford

      Ewwwww, dead-lady kisses!

    • Logic Ninja

      Nice! I think this goes back to something in a Wordplayer column–when you write a scene, you have three options. You can do the thing the reader expects (jump scare in the vault), the thing the reader wouldn’t expect but wouldn’t enjoy (the dead lady kills the morgue worker immediately), or the thing the reader doesn’t expect, but enjoys thoroughly, like your example.

    • leitskev

      Yes!

    • charliesb

      Yes! Timing is everything. Both in the sense of setting up the scare and then giving it to you when you’re not expecting it (Like the hallway scene in Exorcist 3). Or setting up something small and seemingly innocuous earlier in the film that then comes back to creep you out later (like the standing in the corner thing in The Blair Witch).

      Because most people are familiar with the “tropes” of horror films, it actually makes it easier to play against the expectation. If you set up a few jump scares and don’t deliver on them, you can take a small scene later in the film and really knock it out of the park.

      I still think the scene in The Ring, when we finally see Samara(?) come out of the tv, was one of the best setups and payoffs in modern “mainstream” horror. We got to see the faces of the victims (in quick flashes), we saw the video, the well, the creepy bedroom, the horses etc, everything contributing to an overall creepy and uneasy feeling so that by the time we actually saw what all the victims saw, we, or at least I was thoroughly freaked out. I mean really it was just a girl with messy hair climbing out of a television, but damn if I didn’t make sure I didn’t fall asleep in front of the TV for weeks after that.

    • Franchise Blueprints

      I don’t know if it’s still on netflix but there was a short dealing with necrophilia. It was in spanish, unrated, and mentally disturbing.

  • Cfrancis1

    This sounds really good. Love hearing about good horror concepts. Too few good ones lately

  • brenkilco

    Not generally a big fan of horror films. Most seem to exist only to provide scare moments with little attention to plot or character. This seems to have a fairly original first act set up. But at the end of it we’re still left with people running from reanimated corpses. And we’ve been there a million times before. Is there anything particularly clever in the way this situation plays out? And are there truly only a limited number of ways to scare people? Seems in theory there should be as many ways to induce fear in an audience as there are to generate laughter or excitement.

  • Linkthis83

    My attempt at the WIL:

    One angle is going to be technology. When a person that likes to write horror is also supremely tech savvy, I think we will get some new generational scares (that will lead to tropes).

    Personally, I hate having to account for all this technology in a story. I think all of mine will be set in the 1980’s just so I don’t have to deal with it :) Plus, the emergence of this technology has really taken away from the true suspense of being alone, or on your own. There’s no more going to the library to research trope (unless it’s to get to the internet). Now there’s the internet trope. And information is gained and shared so fast, there’s not much suspense to it.

    When somebody figures out how to maximize some of these things, we’ll get some new “oh shit” scares.

    For example:

    1) I remember hearing a news report about criminals breaking into cars at pro football games and stealing the GPS device that was still in the windshield. They’d follow the placemark to HOME and rob it – because they new where the owners would be for the next 3 hours. That could be turned into something. But what it turns into, will probably lead to more familar tropes.

    2) About a year or so ago, I was watching my parents home while they were away. It was nighttime and I had just recently arrived. I was texting with my girlfriend when I heard something upstairs. It was one of those things that make you think “that sounds like somebody is in here.”

    I immediately sent her a text telling her that I thought someone might be in the house and if she doesn’t here from me in 10 minutes to call the police. A moment later, while I’m in the process of investigating, my phone starts vibrating from a call. I look at the phone and it’s my girlfriend. So I answer…

    There is a woman on the line who is not my girlfriend. She asks who I am and what’s going on. I tell her that I know this is a joke and to please put my GF on the phone. The woman is totally confused and getting shitty with me. I tell her I’m not buying it. She said she’s going to call the police on me.

    Now things are feeling really fucked up. I’m amped from the adrenaline of the first situation and now I just received a call from my GF who turns out not to be from her telling me they are going to call the police on me..

    I hang up and immediately call my GF. She’s wigging out because of my text and I’m interrogating her about fucking with me. She’s upset and doesn’t know what I’m talking about, meanwhile, somebody still might be in the house.

    I don’t if it elicits intensity from my writing, but living it sure was surreal.

    • Craig Mack

      The problem with ‘horror’ is stretching example 2 into a feature… It always almost becomes repetitive.

      If you can structure and entire story around the THEME of example 2, and use that specific scene at an important beat of the story… then you are onto something. But, what would be the Theme? More importantly, do you think you can write 95 pages of that Theme?

      • Linkthis83

        I don’t think I could – I’d have to do a shit-ton of research to figure out what’s possible.

        Although, I think it’s about telling familiar stories in unfamiliar ways as well. It depends on what the STORY is and how this new age audience would relate.
        I definitely think it’s possible though.

        I can’t remember which car company it was, but for a brief time a specific automaker was advertising a car with a heartbeat sensor that you could check on your FOB.

        And the way car technology is too. I hate that when I put a car in park all the doors unlock. Let me fucking decide when to unlock the doors.

        Plus the more dependent on technology we become, e.g. GPS, the less aware of our surroundings we become – I know that’s been true for me.

        So I don’t have the STORY right now that proves it can be done, but there’s no doubt somebody could do it, and do it well.

        • Paul Clarke

          I don’t like using GPS because I don’t like being told what to do! I prefer to use a Jason Bourne style glance at the map and plan my route in my head.

          I saw an ad on U.S. TV when I was over there (a while back) for the latest Dodge (or something similar). Some U.S. car which was proud of it’s lack of technology. It simply had headlights in a tunnel with Dexter doing the voice over. He listed all the latest features cars have – auto lights, self-parking, etc – then said he’d seen that movie before, when the robots rise up. Then he says – meet the leader of the human resistance – and a black dodge blasts out of the tunnel. Great ad, one of my favorites.

    • Andrew Parker

      Could you finish your story on #2 above? You kinda took us to the end of act two and then stopped. What caused the noise? Who was the woman that called you? Did the police ever show up?

      • Linkthis83

        If there was more interesting stuff to share, I would’ve. But that’s the point I guess. You can take familiar situations and make them interesting and suspenseful.

        With enough thoughtfulness, I believe we can still tell fantastically unique, interesting stories. TRIANGLE and THE PACT have proved that to me. I even watched something called CUBE recently that I thought was a cool concept. The opening scene was just great – although seriously lacking in the budget department.

        http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0123755/?ref_=fn_al_tt_4

        • ripleyy

          Triangle is so trippy, and so is Cube, though the dialogue in Cube is a horror all unto itself, it’s so bad, but the concept is really good.

    • sotiris5000

      —Plus, the emergence of this technology has really taken away from the true suspense of being alone, or on your own.—

      So the new horror is never being able to have any privacy, the madness of forever being connected. Hell is other people…

      • Linkthis83

        But this is something to maximize: People are now comforted by the fact that they feel like they can get in touch with anybody at anytime from anywhere. You take the teenagers of today and drop them in a situation where all of the comforts of technology are taken away, and they will be scared shitless.

        I mean, if you lost your cell phone, but had a landline to use, could you call anyone you know for help? How many phone numbers would you know? I remember the number to my parents HOUSE. That’s it. and 911. I don’t even own a landline. So if somebody doesn’t call my cell, they aren’t getting in touch with me. And so many people don’t answer unless they recognize the number – So if you are calling for help, make sure it’s from a familiar number :)

        • sotiris5000

          That’s so funny. A few weeks ago I had this conversation with my girlfriend and we tried to memorise each other’s phone numbers. I remembered hers for a few days but yesterday I realised I’d already forgotten it.

          Anyway, the point I was making was about some kind of existential horror. To me what’s more horrific than being alone is always being connected, is people being able to take my photo everywhere I go, track me everywhere I go, face recognition built into google glass, never having any privacy. The horror of the coming time is that we’ll never be alone, never have any privacy, living in a glass box our entire lives. That scares the shit out of me more than being alone, which I quite like. If I was a horror writer looking for inspiration, for something that hasn’t been mined for scares yet, I wouldn’t look at being alone for scares, I’d look at never being alone.

          • Midnight Luck

            I think there’s something seriously spooky about the constant connectivity. I really think someone could play heavily with that.

            I have property out near the Grand Canyon and I could be out there for weeks without ever seeing a soul (Cows often, but no Humans).
            Yet I get PERFECT cell reception. Huh? So, even out in the middle of serious BFE, I can be followed, tracked, and connected.

            I know people who can’t be away from civilization or connection for more than a few HOURS, let alone days or weeks. They start freaking out, getting scared and going through withdrawal. The wilderness, open spaces, no Starbucks, animals, bugs, lightning and thunder, all terrify people when they are out alone without society. So being out on property like mine would be the scariest thing they ever encountered. Mix that fear with the psycho-ness of always being monitored, watched and connected via cellphones / onstar and there could be a great story somewhere inside.

        • Midnight Luck

          We’re all going to have to institute some hi-tech warning signals for each other called:

          Smoke Signals

          In case we are trapped in the house with a crazed killer, light a fire and do some S.O.S’ing out the chimney….

    • charliesb

      Rubber is really crazy. I enjoyed it immensely.

      I feel like I’ve seen something similar to your second story in a movie… maybe V/H/S? or that one about receiving a message that sounds like your death….

    • Franchise Blueprints

      I’m real tempted to down vote that clip. And I’ve watched a lot of bullshit movies. I’m guess I’m more upset somebody bought that bullshit instead of mine.

      • Linkthis83

        This cracked me up. Thx.

  • Mr.j

    INT. HALLWAY

    Tommy’s SCREAM echos from the darkness.

    Austin rounds a corner — slipping and sliding on tile slick with blood.

    Retreats down the hallway – pushes through double doors —

    INT. EMBALMING ROOM

    Moves blindly through the dark — slides behind a cabinet, crouches.

    Peeks around the corner — eyes locked on two opaque windows at the center of each door.

    The SLAP of bare feet announce the approach of —

    A CLUSTER OF DARK FIGURES

    WHEEZING. GASPING. Sucking air into rotted lungs.

    They move past the room with quick steps. TIght formation. Like a herd of cattle.

    Group continues down the hallway — the SOUND of their breaths dissipates.

    Austin sits morbidly still for a beat. Until —

    A LONE FIGURE trudges down the hallway — lagging behind the group.
    His steps heavy and sluggish.

    The FIGURE stops at the door. Turns its head. Stares through the glass.

    For a moment that feels like eternity.

    Finally continues down the hallway. Austin exhales. His body trembling.

    He slowly peeks around the corner. As he does —

    A DROP of liquid falls onto his forehead.

    His middle finger swipes the bead of liquid from his skin — draws it in close to his nose.

    THE SCENT OF METHANOL burns his nostrils.

    He looks up. Into the gloom. Nothing but black.

    A second drop speckles his cheek. A third. A fourth.

    Until the PITTER-PATTER of droplets rain down from above.

    Austin removes his LIGHTER. FLICKS on the flame. Raises it —

    A DECAYED WOMAN HANGS FROM THE CEILING.

    Face down — mouth open — eyes shut. Y-shaped, stitched incision across her chest.

    EMBALMING FLUID LEAKS FROM EVERY ORIFICE.

    Her black eyes SNAP OPEN.

    As Austin opens his mouth to scream —

    A drop of methanol IGNITES. As does the pool of liquid beneath him.

    He bursts into flames.

  • Poe_Serling

    “How do you come up with fresh scares?”

    Excellent question, Carson. If I knew that exact answer, I just might be the next Stephen
    King. ;-)

    But here are a few things I think every horror project needs to get right before it can start generating any scares.

    >> Story, story, story. Every memorable horror film I’ve seen ALWAYS has a compelling story driving it. There has to be something to hang your hat on at the end of the day. You need to keep the viewer/reader invested from the beginning to end.

    >> Setting. I feel there are some locations are just plain scarier than others. An isolated hotel (The Shining) or empty back roads (Jeeper Creepers) So, it comes down to finding and picking the right one for your particular tale of terror.

    >> Creating the right atmosphere. Set the tone/mood of your story from the first page… begin to build tension and dread.

    A great example of this is the opening of The Sixth Sense in the wine cellar. Just creepy enough to get the goosebump factory working.

    >> Character-wise. Have a character with a fear/flaw that somehow ties in directly with the horror that he/she is about to face.

    “Give me some fresh scares you would’ve put into this specific script.”

    Unfortunately, I haven’t read this script yet.

    • Linkthis83

      Hmmm….how does my current project match up?

      STORY = check –> had the concept first, but spent a lot of time figuring out the story(ies) within it. Outline complete. I know what’s driving the story from beginning to end.

      SETTING = check –> The setting is isolated and familiar, but utilized to hopefully maximize the concept.

      TONE/MOOD = check/check –> This story’s tone will definitely be set on page one!

      CHARACTER = ???? –> right now, I don’t see the protag has having a fear/flaw that ties in, but a quality/trait he has to deny in order to accomplish the goal that ties directly into situation.

      Feeling pretty good at the moment ;) I will leave it to the writing to eff it all up :)

      • Scott Crawford

        Sounds pretty solid. Good luck!

        • Linkthis83

          Thx. I loathe the drafts to come. However, re-writing, I don’t mind so much.

          • jw

            Link, given our spirited discussions here, send your latest to my email and I’ll take a look: jwright226 at hotmail

          • Jarman Alexander

            I’d also love to look at anything you want to send/discuss. J.Jarman.Alexander at Gmail dot com.

      • Poe_Serling

        Hey Link-

        I’m digging your checklist so far.

        And remember, my post above is what I personally look for in a horror story/script/film.

      • brenkilco

        Dont want you to give too much away but could you put a little flesh on the bones here.

        • Linkthis83

          Man, I want to. The logline doesn’t exist yet and the title gives away the concept. The plan right now is to see if it makes AOW and what kind of feedback it receives. That way, if it sucks, I don’t have to claim it. Ha.

          • klmn

            Link, if you’d like, I’ll read it and offer my thoughts for whatever they’re worth. I’m coming to the end of my current project so I’ll have some time.

            You’ve got my email.

          • Linkthis83

            Oh wow. That’s a very generous offer. Thank you.

    • brenkilco

      Atmosphere and sense of dread are awfully important. I think there’s a lot lot of classic horror literature that would be horror screenwriters might profitably study. People like King and Poe and Lovecraft of course. But also short stories from the slightly less famous like M. R. James. There’s a short story called The Upper Berth that I think dates from the 1890’s that creeped the hell out of me when I read it as a kid. Timeless stuff. Even has a great last line. I’d recommend it.

      • Poe_Serling

        Hey Brenkilco-

        Is this the short story here:

        http://thenostalgialeague.com/olmag/crawford-the-upper-berth.html

        If it is, I’ll give it a read asap.

        My go-to horror tale for others to read: The Events at Poroth Farm by T.E.D. Klein.

        “A college lecturer, isolated in the countryside and reading horror
        literature for teaching in the next semester, gradually realizes that
        genuine supernatural horror is taking place around him.”

        • brenkilco

          There ya go. Guess everything out of copyright is online. Obviously klein’s stuff is not or I would look for it.

          How’s this for a piece of ultra obscure trivia. The grandson of the writer F. Marion Crawford was an actor. He’s the officer that slaps Peter O’toole at the end of Lawrence of Arabia.

          • Poe_Serling

            Just finished The Upper Berth… what a classic ghost tale! Talk about a contained thriller – traveling across the Atlantic on an old-fashioned steamship, stuck in a cabin, and sharing bunk space with a really unwanted guest.

            It would’ve made an outstanding episode on Boris Karloff’s Thriller TV show.

          • brenkilco

            You’re right. Odd it’s never been adapted for TV. At least as far as I know. Doubly odd since I first read it in one of those old Alfred Hitchcock story anthologies. But there is an unusual, animated version available on Youtube. Impressive in the way it generates maximum dread with minimal means. A bolt on a porthole, a smell, a drawn curtain. And the finish. “It was dead anyhow.” There’ll always be an England.

    • klmn

      One way is to emulate a nightmare. One common aspect (universal maybe?) is that the person is alone and in a strange situation.

      Carl Sagan in THE DRAGONS OF EDEN had some interesting speculations about nightmares. If you haven’t read it, I’d suggest checking it out.

      • Poe_Serling

        “Carl Sagan in THE DRAGONS OF EDEN had some interesting speculations about nightmares. If you haven’t read it, I’d suggest checking it out.”

        I will. Thanks for the tip.

  • dawriter67

    Any chance I can read this? gjdevlin(at)gmail dot com

    • Linkthis83

      sent.

      • klmn

        Link, could you send me a copy?

        kenklmn AT yahoo dot com

        • Linkthis83

          enviado.

          • klmn

            Muchos gracias.

  • ASAbrams

    I’m not so sure that the lack of “original scares” is the problem here. I mean, the comedy genre uses the same basic structures to illicit laughs–and don’t get me started on dramas. Fear is a basic thing, invoked in basic ways. It’s the context of fear makes the scare feel different, not the actual fear itself. So that would be the execution…the setup, the build up, and the pay off played out through specific characters. For example, Drag Me to Hell had a different kind of voice and viewpoint that made the situations the main character went through feel different. Intense but a little goofy. A gypsy curse is old hat, but the way it was executed in the movie–the choices and obstacles presented to the character–was fresh.

    The characters didn’t really zing for me and that means that some possibilities for scaring the characters and the audience weren’t developed. Like, in Drag Me to Hell, the woman is set up in the beginning of thinking that she ‘s justified for doing things that aren’t that nice–she has a high sense of self-preservation. The events of the movie proceed to break that down until she can barely justify her actions but still goes on anyway because her life is at stake.

    In The Autopsy of Jane Doe, I wasn’t sure if the “Jane Doe” was connected to the characters’ specific fears and weaknesses. The son didn’t want to take over the business of examining corpses and now…the corpses are trying to kill him? It’s a very potent fear, but I’m not sure how it relates to the character. Yes, dead bodies are his job, but I don’t know if I truly learn his fears in relation to the job and what that says about him. Or maybe I’m just not remembering.

    As far as what scares could be replaced? I don’t know, because maybe they don’t need to be. But the vengeful spirit could somehow curse the son, and the things that they saw in her body slowly happen to him throughout the movie. The insect, the carvings, the things stuffed in her throat and so on and so on from least to worst. He feels the pain but is somehow kept alive.

    For me, this script was very visual–I liked that. I imagined all kinds of horrors while they were examining the girl. Maybe my imagination was a bit too rampant because the actual identity of the girl felt like a let down.

  • Mike.H

    Mr. Crawford was nice to have sent me this last week; on related note, if you have “300 years” ALIEN SCRIPT please send to — MAY1MSG at gmail dot com. Thanks!

    • Scott Crawford

      Haven’t got it. Linkthis83?

      • Linkthis83

        Nope. Sorry.

      • crazedwritr

        Mr. Crawford, any chance you could send to me? Moviegurl@me.com.

        Hope everyone’s week is off to a great start.

    • Nicholas J

      Incoming…

  • Kane

    I read this awhile back and really enjoyed it. I think it had some creepy visuals that will
    work well on both a big and small screen. I hope it does well because I for one, love contained films and alwaysdo my happy dance after a writer pulls one off. It’s hard to hold interest and develop characters in a few rooms. Goldberg and Naing did it here.

    Coming up with new scares is tough because unlike say, what makes us laugh or dance where the triggers evolve constantly, what scares us is pretty primal and stagnant. It goes back to living in the caves wondering if something was in the dark waiting to eat or murder us.

    Our brains have not evolved fast enough with technology to completely separate what we feel when we see a member of the herd in danger even on film. It ignites our fight or flight response.

    This may be why it takes getting vested with characters before we can have a truly fun and satisfying scare. We respond reflexively to jump scares and thin characters in danger but we can tell ourselves it’s just a movie and the tension and anxiety go away. So we may
    get a scare when Jason impales a cheerleader during opening credits, but the film isn’t satisfying unless we invest in the protagonist and dread her meeting the same fate. When the writer creates a character with enough depth that we see them as real, as an extension of ourselves or our tribe, the fear and dread is sustained and it goes beyond being a creepy, jarring, or disturbing visual. Our fight or flight response kicks in. If the character falls we have the sadness of watching the wolves take down a member of the tribe. But when
    they survive we pump our fist in the air because we have fought back and won.

    It is very hard to come up with a new scare because it all starts with a variation of – is there a threat I don’t know about in the dark. Is that brown patch in the woods Mongo is standing beside a pile of dead leaves or a bear… yup it’s a bear… it’s eating Mongo now. We are terrified by the unknown. But once we the audience identifies the threat we lose interest if the writer hasn’t gotten us to invest in the characters. That’s how Bruce not working helped to create a classic. All that tension of not truly identifying the threat was sustained while we got to know Quint, Hooper, and Brody. So when we do finally see Bruce up close and personal, the audience is thinking, those guys need a bigger boat.

    So I say all that to say, that the goal may need to shift from the really hard task of coming up with new ways to scare an audience to the nearly impossible task of making them care about the old ones. The bell scene from this script for example, felt really fresh to me. The writer’s earned it with some nice setup. In a follow up draft if they make the readers care just a wee bit more about the characters, it could become a classic horror scene.

  • scriptfeels

    I was wondering if a newsletter’s been sent out recently? I haven’t gotten one since aug 4. so I may be off the mailing list for some reason.

    • Casper Chris

      Nah. It’s normal.

      • Kirk D

        no orange newsletter is the new black normal

    • dawriter67

      Check your spam box – it may have ended up there…

    • Midnight Luck

      Newsletters are Sooo 2013….. :)

  • OddScience

    A way to add a new scare to this? Coming from a guy who writes mostly Action, why not make the Living Dead a hell of a lot stronger.

    Have the father, son in a room — the Dead PUNCH through the walls/door. But their skin isn’t invulnerable, so as they punch through it starts shredding off. The dead are left with exposed bones, tendons, muscles, and hanging flesh on their hands/arms.

  • JakeMLB

    Yeah The Experiment is based on the German movie (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0250258/?ref_=tt_rec_tt) and the same Standford prison experiment that Carson reviewed earlier, written by McQuarrie:
    http://scriptshadow.blogspot.com/2012/01/stanford-prison-experiment.html

  • ripleyy

    I really liked “The Experiment”. You’re also right about “The Divide”, it’s just brutal and it keeps throwing the punches.

    The ending for that and “Martyrs”, another contained film, are my favourite in the horror genre, I think.

  • Midnight Luck

    Horror is most effective when based in an Honesty, or Truth of the story or Character. (as are most things in whatever Genre)

    Just trying to find new “scares” new terrifying things to throw at readers and viewers will ultimately fail without a basis in reality, honesty, and / or character and story truth.

    If at the core of a character there’s a feeling they’ve done something wrong, but we don’t know what it is, then everything about the situation has to highlight and point out that character’s possible failings.

    This is why something like “The Tell Tale Heart” is so good. The main character is terrified of the old man’s eye. The eye that is always open and always see’s him, to his core. Seeing him for all he is. It “knows”. His fear of this all knowing, all seeing eye begins to make him insane. So crazy does it eventually make him that he ends up killing the old man and putting him under the floorboards. So when police arrive to question him, even though everything looks fine in the house, he now IS guilty of something, and all he can hear is the old man’s heartbeat in his ears. He is sure the Policeman can hear it, the noise slowly making him crazy with guilt and fear. The incessant beating calls to that inner core of guilt to the point he has to scream it out, just to release himself of the anguish.

    Now, most of the horror movies I have seen (recently) and read, do nothing to create a true inner character conflict. Nothing upon which to build other scary conflicts.

    Just having a young nubile hottie alone in a cabin or in the woods, chased after by a madman with a hacksaw / chainsaw / knife / hook / scythe / iPhone / whatever, isn’t enough to build any true fear and terror inside the reader.

    Neither is a ghost floating around some house scaring a young hot couple, or a young hot girl, or a young hot family. Who cares if they appear in the mirror? or the cobweb attic or the dank basement or ? Jumping Black Cats, and creaking floorboards aren’t scary anymore.

    Nor does it scare if young girls or old ladies or twins are, for unknown reasons, suddenly taken over by the devil.

    There needs to be, at the heart, a Personal reason for something to be happening. So personal the character is being driven to the ends of sanity by it. And will they or won’t they be able to gather everything inside themselves to fight it off and win, Before this thing takes them down.

    We need to be as divided about the character as they themselves are. We need to worry about the predicament they are in for the same reasons they are. We need to know things, but not know everything for sure. There needs to be one or more mysteries that make us think we know, but leave us unsure if we really do know what we think we know. You know?

    • Nicholas J

      Best comment I’ve read on here in a while. Well said.

      • Midnight Luck

        Well thank you. Appreciate that.

  • fragglewriter

    I have to agree with Poe that a compelling story is what drives your horro story, but I have to add in a Stephen King; your fears. I know that some critics might call his novels childish, but if you write a story about your fears or a terrifying dream/situation, then find a way to develop it by digging deep into the paranoia, you have your compelling story.

  • Mr.j

    No one else wants to take a shot at Carson’s challenge?

    One scene. One fresh scare.

    • Tiger Jimmy

      why would anyone GIVE AWAY the gold mine; fishing but no takers I see.

  • Midnight Luck

    You can come up with fresh scares by really digging deep into what makes us as people afraid at the core level.

    Arachnophobia was a brilliant idea, because no one had made a purely realistic story about spiders. Yes there were outlandish things like a giant Crab or spider or Moth or other things vs. Godzilla, but those are just crazy funny summer movies.

    Arachnophobia tapped into that primal fear. It was JAWS at home. It was Jaws in your living room. If anyone had even a slightly creepy feeling about spiders it made you feel all weirded out. Made you check that strange feeling under your shirt when it was over.

    You have to think about what people across the board fear? and then figure out a way to write something centered around it, while still building a larger, every-day-life tale, which will interest us in many other ways as well.

    Claustrophobia:
    Falling down a well and becoming trapped.

    Abandonment:
    Being left on your own in the vastness of space / wilderness / mountain top, with no help possible anywhere, at any time.

    Loss of Protection:
    Someone you totally trust and rely on turns on you, becomes someone else, shows a side you never knew they were capable of, putting you in danger.

    Primal fears are things built into our Lizard brain. The oldest part of our nervous system that had one job: save us from the most typical things to kill us. Fire, Famine, Storms, Intruders, Things Bigger than us.

    I think we all have to look really, really deep within ourselves and see what might frighten us to our core. Then slowly build a story based on that. Not in a typical way (like my example of falling down a well= Claustrophobia), but in a way that creates a storytelling narrative based on a central theme about that fear.
    Buried used the Claustrophobia idea and then said, “what if you REALLY were buried alive? What would it look like? How would it feel?”

    • Franchise Blueprints

      Looks like we’re on the same wavelength.

  • Franchise Blueprints

    If anyone does write any type of horror film never use this phrase, 102 movies stripped mined this phrase of all meaning.

    http://uproxx.com/filmdrunk/2011/06/cinemas-most-overused-line-you-just-dont-get-it-do-you/2/

    I won’t say every idea in horror has been explored because I’m generally surprised by the concepts in J-horror, K-horror.

    I recently have given some thought to the horror movies in general as far as the scare factor. Why do most movie goers give reverence to horror pictures from the past? My theory is isolation, distance, and social mores.

    My theory of isolation comes down to two dates: June 17, 1946 and March 13, 1984. Well before my time June 17, 1946 the very first mobile phone call was made. People are no longer tethered to making calls from home or a phone booth. March 13, 1984 the very first cell phone was sold for $4000. The general masses now in time will have affordable communications.

    Tying back into the horror film industry, whatever antagonistic force(s) stalking down its next victim could do so with relative confidence of committing murder barring any eye-witnesses. The audience believed in the scenario of the victim searching for a way to communicate to authorities or loved ones.

    My theory of distance comes from the population is now heavily concentrated in major metropolitan areas. When you don’t have the interconnectedness of major highways and air travel, tragedies get perpetuated for longer periods of time.

    Audiences bought into small towns suffering long term affliction due to some horrific circumstance. Going from any point on the globe to another wasn’t as commonplace in the past as it is now.

    My last theory of social mores is obvious. The general population has become calloused to real life brutality that fictional horror has lost any relevant meaning. I didn’t show the movie PURGE any mercy in my opinionated review. They didn’t sell me on the main conceit, is society completely devoid of soul to allow this to happen?

    I made previous posts concerning real life tragedies as subject matter for entertainment purposes and whether it would be in good taste or not.

    The stage has been set. Two scenarios tend to hold some level of fear for Americans. Terrorist bombings on home turf and school shootings, public shootings. Will any writer or studio take a chance on presenting that material in a non-documentary setting? Horror films of the past were based on tragedies that could or have occurred. Atomic bombing, pollution, kidnapping, wars, murder, rape, ect.

  • Franchise Blueprints

    Well Clint Eastwood created a new car chase with the remote control bomb car scene. I can’t recall the title. I’m trying to think is it the movie with Jim Carrey.

    I think Die Hard 4 had the chase scene with the harrier jet chasing the truck on the under construction freeway. I didn’t particularly buy into the believability of that scene. In fact I may have yelled FUGAZE.

  • Eddie Panta

    Hello!
    So many great comments here – so much to read…
    I haven’t posted in long time so here is a nice long, dense post.

    I’ve read the first 15pgs of this script more than a few times.
    The opening scene, although traditional is described mainly through sound and light.
    There is a great sense of visual pacing that is editorial without being heavy handed.
    The writers are very direct in letting us know what we can not see: “it’s hard to see anything through the windows.”

    On the first pg. there is visual direction that many amateur screenwriters are told to stay away from. The writers leads the reader/viewer through a dark mysterious space with PUSH IN, FOLLOW and WE INCH CLOSER.

    There is a photomontage of camera shots INTERCUT with the scene where: crimson blood stains an a cracked window are visualized with the strobes of a camera flash.

    A still-frame camera is used to highlight the visuals in the scene and it’s flash whites out the scene to transition to the white fluorescent bulb and we are: INT. MORGUE on pg 5.

    The opening scene is very traditional. Cops and a crime photog around a dead body.
    Many of the AOW scripts here on SS have started the same way.
    Yes, and even included the FLUORESCENT ( spelled correctly) LIGHTS – flickering.
    Then we’re lead into the morgue in almost video game single viewpoint way.
    Again, the lighting is key as a DIM LIGHT BLUB : “sways on a flimsy string, ever so slightly”.

    In reading these opening scenes I wonder what is it that makes these elements work so well here while these same type of descriptions in other scripts illicit a groan.

    In writing a contained thriller it is important for the reader to understand the confined space, to really feel the physical aspects of the rooms. Without this almost claustrophobic description that grounds the characters the scenes won’t be realistic or scary. You sense that the writers have not only done their autopsy research but also completely visualized this space as well as a video game designer.

    The descriptions here are lengthy, there are three pgs of text without dialogue to visualize the morgue. Again, sounds play a key role as the leaky faucet DRIP… DRIPS.

    You’ll see that the writers use PUSH IN and MOVE IN or WE GLIDE PAST ( camera directional description. )
    But the structure of the descriptive sentences themselves start with position rather than subject or verb action.

    At the end of the hall, he looks at the…
    In the corner,
    Further down the hall,
    Beneath the shadow of a large oak tree, Tommy lights.
    In the center of the room…

    Positional phrases prior to subject verb action suggest a spacial relationship as well as noting what is on screen. It elicits a distinct viewpoint that is not so much stylish or directorial but rather a necessity in order to understand the length of time in which the action chase will later take place.

    Within the corridors of the morgue a chase will ensue. Without descriptive physical relationships the “chase” will never feel scary or real.

    The other reason I really liked the script is that the cat in the morgue has the same name as my old tabby; STANLEY.

  • Zadora

    Late to the party here. I just read this. Read it in one sitting. I’m a big horror fan and I can totally see this being scary on the big screen. Maybe even on a small screen.

    I don’t think that Tommy’s and Austin’s relationship needs more depth, but it did feel flat. Monotone and flat for most of the script. Is that going to make this film less scary? Not in my opinion it won’t.

    I loved how this script started out with the mystery of the autopsy. Excellent work to keep me turning the pages. Then after it’s revealed there’s some evil force or some supernatural thing going on, it lost some steam, but the scares kept coming so I wasn’t too focused on the story itself at that point.

    Good read regardless! :)