Genre: Horror
Premise: A long-forgotten killer from the 1940s reappears in the present day to wreak havoc on a small town.
About: Blumhouse ain’t stopping any time soon. The business savvy Jason Blum realized that we haven’t created an iconic slasher movie monster since the 80s. And why wouldn’t you, seeing as you can milk over a dozen movies from a memorable antagonist. “Sundown” is written by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, who scripted the remake of Carrie, and has also written on the TV shows “Glee,” and “Big Love.” The film will be directed by Alfonso Gomez-Rejon, who directed some episodes of American Horror Story, as well as Black List script, “Me & Earl & the Dying Girl” (cancer is in, baby! Producer: “I love it. When the hero saves the girl from the terrorists in the end? One of the best climaxes I’ve seen all year. Buuuu-ttttt, is there any way we can add more chemotherapy?”). In classic Blum fashion, the movie will star a bunch of unknowns. ☺
Writer: Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa (inspired by the film by Charles B. Pierce)
Details: 100 pages (2/25/2013 draft)

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Don’t know much about this one other than that it’s a Blumhouse Production. Typically, I don’t review horror scripts unless they’re for Amateur Friday (where a lot of them seem to win the slot). But since Blumhouse so rarely misreads the public, it’s important, if you’re writing horror, to pay attention to whatever this guy does. Cause whatever he’s doing is setting the trend. Until someone else comes along at least.

Get your note pads out, because “Sundown” has one of the more needlessly complicated setups I’ve read in a screenplay. The story takes place in a town called Texarkana, which is a “double town,” split on the border between Texas and Arkansas.

Over half a century ago, in 1946, there was a series of horrific murders by a serial killer who wore a bag over his head. The man, who was never caught, was dubbed the “The Phantom Killer.” Flash-forward 30 years, and they made a movie about the murders, which became a cult hit. Now, every year in Texarkana, they show the movie all over town so people can freak out about their town’s very own ancient serial killer.

We’ll put an asterisk by “ancient” because it’s now present day. And when two teenagers, Cory and Jami, drive to a secluded area to do what kids in cars driving to secluded areas do, they see a man standing by the car WITH A BAG ON HIS HEAD!

We’re not sure if this is in protest to the new Los Angeles law that requires you to buy paper bags for your groceries or not.  But whatever the motive, the bagged one pins Cory down and rapes him while repeatedly stabbing him. He makes Jami turn away, so neither she, nor we, can see what’s happening. But we can hear it. And our surly imagination is much worse than whatever’s happening behind this chick’s face.

While Cory doesn’t make it, Jami is somehow able to escape the killer, and the next day, the town goes into full-on Freak Out Mode. Is this a copycat killer performing a one-night thrill kill? Or is The Phantom Killer back!? And if so, how is he back? He’d be, like, 90 years old by now. Is he going to kill people with his acid reflux?

Long story short, our killer keeps on killing while Jami becomes a little investigator, researching all the murders dating back to that first fateful kill. As she slowly puts the puzzle pieces together, she thinks she knows who the killer is. But is it too late? The killer may have one last big kill in him before going into hibernation for another 70 years.

COUNTRY SUNDOWN SunsetThe enemy!

The Town That Dreaded Sundown should’ve been dreading its overly elaborate setup. There is a lot of information given to us in the first act that could’ve easily been summarized as “the killer’s back.”

A serial killer in the 1940s. A movie about those killings 30 years later. A complicated border town with two mayors. All that stuff would’ve been cool IF IT ACTUALLY MATTERED. But if you never mentioned any of it, we’d still know exactly what was going on. Psycho Freak who’s pissed about the paper bag grocery law is killing people and he needs to be stopped. 1940 doesn’t need to tell me that.

The irony is that once you get past that first act of exposition, the story becomes blazingly simple. A slasher is killing people. Our hero is trying to figure out who he is. Which meant for the next 50 pages, I was consistently 30 pages ahead of the writer.

Here’s the thing. Horror movies are all the same. They’re broken down into a few different categories (slasher, ghost, monster-in-a-box), but once you know which one you’re watching, the movie becomes incredibly predictable.

For that reason, you want to take whatever’s unique about your idea, and infuse that into the plot as much as possible, since that’s the only opportunity you have for making your script different. If your horror movie takes place on a pig farm, for example, I better not see a garden variety slasher flick. I should see horror where pigs are involved in various ways.

So here, I kept waiting for this double-town thing to work its way into the plot. Or this 1940s stuff. And the 1940s stuff does peek in every once in awhile. Maybe, for instance, the killer could be the son of the original #1 suspect in the killings. But in the end, nothing surfaced from that first year that affected the plot. It was still a killer with a bag trying to kill people.

Why not create friction between the border towns to begin with? And then this serial killing thing starts and each mayor has a completely different idea on how to tackle the problem. This causes a lot of conflict between the mayors and the towns. Maybe one of the towns is poorer, so the assumption from the richer town is that the killer must be from the “degenerate” side of the tracks.

You know what, if you really wanted to add some tension, why not set this on the border between the U.S. and Mexico. Now you can really explore some crazy shit.

As far as the 1940s stuff, I’m not sure placing the original killings in the 40s was the best thing for the movie. It’s too far in the past for us to believe that the same killer could return. If you changed the original murders to the late 1970s, now it’s conceivable that the original killer could be back. Again, 1940s sounds cool cause it’s so long ago but you can’t put “cool” things in your script if they don’t serve the story in an interesting way. Every choice you make must serve the story.

That’s not to say “Sundown” was bad. It had some really good scenes. The early scene with Corey getting raped while we stayed on Jami’s horrified face, looking in the other direction, imagining what was happening behind her – that was good stuff.

One of the most important things about being a horror writer is knowing when to show something and when not to. Sometimes, not showing is infinitely scarier. I’d go so far as to say that every scary moment in your script – you should consider both options. Should you show the horror or not? Your first inclination may be to show it.  But always consider the alternative.  It might surprise you.

“Sundown” isn’t breaking any new ground, which is a shame, because it could’ve. It had such an information-heavy setup that I was sure all this information was going to be used to create an elaborate horror plot that I’d never seen before. Instead I got “Halloween” but with a not-as-cool mask. Not a bad script. But not that good either.

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

What I learned: Very important for writers to know. If you’re writing 5 line paragraphs or longer, the reader is skimming through those paragraphs. Lots of writers laugh in the face of the “stay under 4 lines” rule of writing action paragraphs. But readers HATE huge chunky paragraphs and they take it as an insult when you write them. They fight back by skimming. To prevent this from happening, keep your paragraphs short!

  • Scott Crawford

    There’s a large middle ground between “They fight!” underdescription and “He hits him, and he hits her, and then they both kick each other.” overdescription.

    Personally, I prefer closer to the former than the latter. Long, long scenes without dialogue are a bore and I skip them.

    • brenkilco

      And you’re certainly not alone. Still it’s ironic that in judging a script for a movie, a visual story in which dialogue often is and maybe should be a subordinate element, a reader will only read the dialogue and skim the rest. A lot of the most memorable scenes in movie history had no dialogue.

      • Scott Crawford

        And I love WATCHING those dialogue-free scenes, I just dread READING them!

        I’ve never been able to get hold of a screenplay for the original (best) version of The Mechanic – with its dialogue-free opening assassination scene – so I have no idea if the first sixteen pages have no dialogue. Obviously, if you’re going to write such a scene, you’re going to have to write all those little bits of business. HOWEVER, I think you can still limit that information to a page or so, as Michael Mann did with the shootout in his screenplay Heat.

        So if I was writing The Mechanic, I would write down what happens as concisely as possible and let director Michael Winner and his editor Arnold Crust stretch it out.

        • brenkilco

          Don’t know how you would really condense that opening. All the details. The stove and the book and the rifle and the this and the that. The trick I guess is to make the reader who is initially saying what the hell is going on here start saying I have to know what is going on here.

          • Scott Crawford

            I WANT THAT SCRIIIIIIPT!!!

          • brenkilco

            You might not want the whole thing. If memory serves, it contains an awful lot of incongruously pretentious philosophizing for a Bronson action picture. Since I havent seen it in years I may not be remembering accurately but is that the one where the mob boss is dressed in an expensive bathrobe and is painting a picture of his pet ocelot on the back lawn of his mansion? Not sure what was up with that.

        • IgorWasTaken

          Perhaps that works, regardless of formatting, by telling us three things at the top of page 1: Meet our hitman; see his target; watch as the hitman plans how he’s going to kill the target.

          If you care about how he is going to do it, and if you get a sense that you won’t feel bad if the target is killed (and maybe the guy even deserves it), you’ll read pages of action, assuming they are written reasonably well.

          You’ll read, just as if you’re reading a short story. To those who say that this or that “takes them out of the story”, then my guess is what a writer needs to keep you IN the story is A STORY.

          Otherwise, you won’t.

  • Steffan

    Okay, I understand when you say:

    “Here’s the thing. Horror movies are all the same. They’re broken down into a few different categories (slasher, ghost, monster-in-a-box), but once you know which one you’re watching, the movie becomes incredibly predictable.”

    But, would you say the same for action movies, dramas, comedies, etc.?

    • Scott Crawford

      There’s predictability and there’s audience expectation. The problem in particular with horror is that variations on the basic horror formula – mysterious goings-on lead to horrific discoveries – could result in a story which doesn’t have the necessary elements people expect from horror movies. Specifically, no scares.

      There are certain that you would expect from, say, an action film (my bailiwick): shootouts, explosions, fist fights, murders, attempted murders. If these elements weren’t present, it wouldn’t be an action movie, it would be something else.

      There’s a formula, a pattern, that is easily discernible in most movies – a hero’s life is thrown out of balance, he goes on a series of adventures to achieve a goal, he uncovers the truth, etc. This formula has existed for thousands of years. What you want to do, as a writer, is create enough twists on this formula to make something original.

  • brenkilco

    Remove everything that has no relevance to the story. If you say in the first chapter that there is a rifle hanging on the wall, in the second or third chapter it absolutely must go off.
    —Anton Chekhov

    Horror movies tend to have lots of useless stuff hanging on the wall. In this case it seems everything from town charters to family trees to movie posters. The belief seems to be that big scares excuse a poorly constructed or nonexistent plot. And for undemanding audiences maybe so. But the best horror movies are horror thrillers like Psycho and Alien where care is taken with the construction.

  • martin_basrawy

    Off Topic:

    Billy Bob Thornton interview about Fargo. He talks about TV vs. Movies, budgets, etc.

    Excellent read!

    http://deadline.com/2014/08/emmys-qa-billy-bob-thornton-on-channeling-evil-in-fxs-fargo-817841/

    • Matthew Garry

      This one also touches on the economics of movie making. Together with the Justin Lader interview (http://scriptshadow.net/screenwriter-interview-justin-lader-the-one-i-love/) they give some great insight into what is interesting to the market.

      Seeing how the right budget is so important, is there anyone here who can shed light on how budgets are actually calculated from screenplays?

      • Malibo Jackk

        My guess is that budgets are taken as gospel.
        That budgets are prepared by people interested in protecting their jobs
        — which leads to worst-case-scenario estimates.
        That they don’t consider it their job to find creative ways to reduce their estimates.
        And that the problem will always revert back to the whipping boy
        — in this case, the writer.

  • ChadStuart

    Wasn’t the original “The Town that Dreaded Sundown” based on a true story? I think they’re going for that creepy this really happened vibe, which would make it inconvenient to change the original murders to the 70s, or move the town to the Mexican border. If they do, they lose the “hook” of the movie.

    • Scott Crawford

      Yeah, but they might make their money back. Slasher movies are generally more profitable than haunted house movies.

  • UrbaneGhoul

    Even if the twist is the killer was a kid, he’d almost be in his 80s. The thing about serial killers returning is that you always end up with the police believing it’s a copycat, but then the next murder has a detail that wasn’t released to the public. I don’t know if it’s going to be in this movie, but I always expect it.

    • Randy Williams

      Don’t know forensics. If they’re able to extract semen from poor, ravaged Corey, does sperm count survive enough to show whether it was a young man or someone much older?

      • gonzorama

        Maybe they could run a PSA test and check for an enlarged prostate?

      • UrbaneGhoul

        I don’t know either, just a google search and you can’t determine age. I think if you had a large enough sperm sample, like the cup at a fertility clinic, you could probably find health issues an old man would have that a young man couldn’t. That’s just a guess. I don’t know how much semen a rape kit actually gets either.

        Something I learned watching a Dateline, the police had tested so many suspects that they were on the verge of running out of DNA to test. They had to narrow it down and really be sure since this might be the last time they could use it. So if you could determine health issues through the semen, it might not be worth it since you only have a limited sample.

        It’s an interesting element for a story, if you only have a limited amount of DNA tests, each one is so valuable you can’t mess up one.

  • Randy Williams

    “My son tells me, ‘Do you realize you are the last one? The last person
    who was an eyewitness to the golden age?’ Young people, even in
    Hollywood, ask me, ‘Were you really married to Humphrey Bogart?’ ‘Well,
    yes, I think I was,’ I reply. You realize yourself when you start
    reflecting — because I don’t live in the past, although your past is so
    much a part of what you are — that you can’t ignore it. But I don’t
    look at scrapbooks. I could show you some, but I’d have to climb
    ladders, and I can’t climb,”

    Another legend gone,

    Lauren Bacall, dead at 89.

    • Sebastian Cornet

      Anybody else thought of The Clash’s “Car Jamming” when you got the news?

      I know what I’ll be listening to a hundred times over today.

      • klmn

        Never really listened to The Clash, but that sounds like the Bo Diddley beat – what musicologists call “The Juba Beat” behind it, slowed down quite a bit.

        • Sebastian Cornet

          All of rock and roll is built on the work of pioneers like Bo. The Bo beat strikes again with Mona (I Need You Baby), the template for Buddy Holly’s “Not Fade Away.” Who said it’s only movies that borrow from each other?

          Of course, when it comes to music history, technique, and what have you I’m at the mercy of others. I did hear it say that “Car Jamming” is more of a bossa nova style (also African-inspired, by the way). Maybe all art is one huge circle.

          • klmn

            Here’s what Wikipedia has to say about Juba.

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Juba_dance

            And just as a little extra, here’s a song from the WWI era.

          • Poe_Serling

            Here’s another song to add to your eclectic collection of music videos:

            It’s the main theme song from The Legend of Boggy Creek… the other cult classic from the makers of The Town That Dreaded Sundown.

          • klmn

            Very good. Now here’s one for you, A Heart Dies Every Minute from The Body Shop, aka Doctor Gore.

          • Poe_Serling

            The lead singer: a young Burl Ives? The guy with glasses and picking on the guitar: a young Stephen King?

          • klmn

            Oh man, you’ve gotta see that movie. There’s sort of a surprise about that scene. I won’t spoil it for you, but let’s just say it involves a double role. The actor is Roy Mehaffey.

            I believe the actor is lip synching. That’s not the surprise.

            If you can’t find the movie on netflix or whatever, I’ll send you my copy. Watch it and send it back.

            kenklmn AT yahoo dot com

          • Poe_Serling

            I’ll definitely check it out. There’s a dvd store just around the corner from me that specializes in hard-to-find and cult films. I just checked their inventory online and they have a copy for rental.

    • brenkilco

      She really was the last. Kirk Douglas is still kicking. But he was a post war movie star. Funny that people like Sean Connery and Gene Hackman, whom we think of as belonging to an entirely different era are only a very, few years younger than Bacall.

      • Scott Crawford

        And both Connery and Hackman retired because of “the business”; Connery because he hated it and Hackman because his doctor said it was killing him.

        The Hollywood of Lauren Bacall – Heck, the Hollywood of Robin Williams – it’s not the same anymore. Alas.

  • Scott Strybos

    I thought Corry being raped was an—the following word choice took some deliberation— interesting plot choice; usually it is the girl being degraded, tortured, and sodimized. (Although because Jami didn’t see anything makes me think the choice has less to do with progression and equality and more to do with a possible plot twist in the third act.)

  • Rachel Woolley

    If the “good stuff” in this movie is listening to someone get raped and stabbed at the same time…you can count me out. Me and my mostly-in-tact faith in humanity will find something else to watch.

    • walker

      Not to mention 5-line paragraphs. It’s like the writer is deliberately trying to be offensive.

      • ripleyy

        And 5-line paragraphs are *the* most offensive thing to writers. We’re perfectly fine with racism and bigotry and slanderous curse words, though.

        • klmn

          Freedom of expression.

          • Scott Crawford

            Freedom not to read, freedom not to watch.

    • David Sarnecki

      Yup. Rape in general is problematic for me, but the context of this one just makes it an ugly shock value thing. I would prefer writers spend more time trying to create the next great HORROR set piece, instead of the next upsetting thing.

  • Paul Clarke

    Two detectives from either side of the US/Mexican border teaming up to hunt down a serial killer is a great idea. Which is why they already made the TV show and it’s into it’s second season.

    – THE BRIDGE – starring Diane Kruger. Haven’t watched it but I like the idea. Certainly more a thriller than horror though.

    • pmlove

      An idea so good they made it three times.

      The female detective is a great character too – like what Homeland should have been.

  • walker

    Orson Welles’ Touch of Evil (1958) is set in a border town. A truly great film.

    • brenkilco

      And not the least of the many amazing things about it is how Welles turned Venice, California into a convincing border town.

    • Midnight Luck

      Absolutely love TOUCH OF EVIL.

      I don’t understand how Citizen Kane has been known as the greatest movie ever made in just about every list.

      Touch of Evil is so much better in every way.

      Janet Leigh and Marlene Dietrich just rock.

      • walker

        I named one of my antagonists after Welles’ character. Of course no one noticed. But as soon as you and brenkilco start reading for the Nicholls I should be in good shape.

        • Midnight Luck

          I’ll get right on that.

          What’s your characters name?

      • Magga

        Still think Kane is the best pre-60’s movie, but Touch of Evil is amazing as well. One of the most underrated films I know of, though, is F for Fake. That is almost as dazzlingly innovative and grounbreaking and surprising for it’s time as Kane was in its day, and on a non-budget, too

  • Poe_Serling

    Even though I feel the original TTTDS was a so-so film at best, I do see the potential financial benefits of doing a remake.

    1)The Town That Dreaded Sundown is an eye-catching title for the a horror flick.
    2) the original film probably has some nostalgic value based on being such a staple of late night TV for the past few decades.

    • klmn

      We need a good “man in a rubber suit” movie. Enough with the CGI.

      Where’s the new Creature From The Black Lagoon?

      • Poe_Serling

        Yeah, Creature has been stuck in developmental hell up at Universal forever. I remember John Carpenter working on the project for years… then more recently director Brett “The Crazies” Eisner.

    • Hadley’s Hope

      I’d love to see I BURY THE LIVING remade nowadays. It has a pretty good concept and could be done on a low budget, or expanded into a bigger film with elaborate set pieces.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/I_Bury_the_Living

      Maybe change the title to PINS.

      • Poe_Serling

        I Bury The Living… you’re right, it has ‘potential remake’ written all over it. It’s a really exciting and creepy ‘B’ horror flick… and boasts a solid performance from Richard Boone.

        • Hadley’s Hope

          I don’t think that particular concept has been redone either. Nothing major that I can think of off the top of my head. It’s also pretty darn old and not a known classic, so no one should get bent out of shape if a remake were to be announced.

          • Poe_Serling

            “… so no one should get bent out of shape if a remake were to be announced.”

            It could be a public domain movie.

          • Hadley’s Hope

            I didn’t even think of that.

            That means it could be pitched as “based on previous IP.”

  • Franchise Blueprints

    OFF TOPIC

    I’m still not sure how two competing studios came up with an almost identical story line, White House Down and Olympus Has Fallen.

    I just read this article concerning the new Aquaman movie. I’m surprised this hasn’t been done before on tent pole licensed IP movies. Literally this is the best thing to hedging your bet. If this approach had been taken with The Man of Steel I believe we would have had a much better movie.

    I’m not looking forward to the new Star Wars movie. The fact that they’re bringing in characters from the original trilogy tells me creatively this will be an expensive re-hash. On a project of this importance I would have maybe 4 or 5 writers turn in a draft. Two women, one sci-fi writer, one POC, one unknown (amateur). I honestly see this movie as middle of the road, safe, predictable and boring.

    http://www.comicbookresources.com/?page=article&id=54789

    • brenkilco

      There is a long and storied tradition of Hollywood studios releasing near identical movies at the same time. From killer asteroid pics to bios of Jean Harlow and Truman Capote. The Towering Inferno was set to be two movies based on two similar novels about skyscraper fires but the two studios concerned had the sense to pool their resources. Just why this happens I don’t know.

      “I honestly see this movie as middle of the road, safe, predictable and boring.” I guess I’m immune to the magic but I gotta be honest. Is there any other kind of Star Wars movie? Oh, and the idea of a zillion dollar movie based on the dullish, near forgotten Aquaman was a running gag on the show Entourage. Guess there really is no way to satirize Hollywood.

      • Franchise Blueprints

        In my opinion George dropped the ball in the second trilogy. He had two characters that were more interesting than Vader. Darth Maul and General Grievous. He set up the second trilogy to show what type of bad ass Obi Wan and Anakin Skywalker (were, is, are). I would have had Darth Maul and General Grievous as Vader’s secret apprentices always waiting in the wings to avenge Vader’s death.

        • brenkilco

          Annakin went from petulant adolescent to supervillain in about twenty minutes of screen time. It was absurd. Look, Lucas caught a once in a generation wave with this stuff, but no one should confuse him with a good screenwriter. And I dont have much patience with people who try to infuse this childish material with imagined depth because they’re a bit embarrassed about their continued attachment to it as adults. The old ones were exhilarating kid stuff. The second wave a plodding rehash. The third batch is going to be shiny dreck.

          • Hadley’s Hope

            I kinda think my idea for a Star Wars follow up has decent legs.

            I’d start out with an idyllic green landscape, mountains in the distance. The wind blowing through the tall grass. Two young lovers run through the field. It is a nearly Eden like scene. The young man stands facing his girl. He puts one hand over her eyes. “I have a surprise.” He pulls out some jewelry or fancy trinket, then removes the other hand from her face. She blinks then stares with a stunned look over his shoulder. The man is puzzled. He turns, to see THE DEATH STAR looming in the bright blue sky… Then a FLASH.

            Then darkness. An asteroid floats by us.

            The familiar title crawl starts…

            It quickly explains a few key events of the original trilogy, and the destruction of Alderaan. Now a group of Alderaanian refugees have formed a hit squad that is hunting down high ranking members of the Empire who survived the war. Some of these ex-Empire cronies are in prison, while others were pardoned. The rest are living in the shadows, always on the run or hiding under the protection of the crime syndicates (Jabba the Hutt types).

  • ripleyy

    Well first of all, “The Town That Dreaded Sundown” is a great title, but it is also a title that could lend itself to a good vampire movie (a la 30 Days of Night) and secondly, I think they could have went the meta route.

    I didn’t read the script, but wouldn’t it be cool if they made the “movie” in this script the original “The Town That Dreaded Sundown” and, going the meta route, they could neatly tie both together. Plus, audiences love rehashes of old stuff, so it would be something like that.

    • Dan B

      Agreed, first reading the title and I automatically assumed Vamps.

    • Hadley’s Hope

      Sounds like good title for a vampire western.

  • Franchise Blueprints

    ON TOPIC
    Is it possible to actually write a “JUMP SCARE” on paper? Or is that a choice by the director and post editing? I can’t imagine myself reading the hospital scene in The Exorcist and actually being scared. But SEEING it to this day gives me the creeps.

    • Scott Strybos

      The only way I can think of writing a jump scare is by putting it at the top of a new page. Maybe part of it written in caps. The reader wont jolt in their seat, but the positioning might catch them off guard and come as close to imitating a jump scare as possible in a screenplay.

  • Mike.H

    I’d like to read this script for research, Also Echoes, Heatseekers, Day One by F. Scott Frazier. please send:Thanks in advance! MAY1MSG at gmail dot com.

  • fragglewriter

    This may not be a blockbuster script but I can see this airing on the Chiller channel.

  • mulesandmud

    I love the idea of the two mayors with contrasting views on how to solve/address the killings. It opens lots of doors for great obstacles and infuses the slasher formula with opportunities for real drama based on human relationships.

    That’s why JAWS makes a human antagonist out of Amity’s mayor, and spends half the movie having Brody fight the bureaucracy more than the shark. And why Ripley in ALIENS must deal with the compound threats of the incompetent Lt. Gorman and corrupt exec Burke on the way to her showdown with the Alien Queen.

    When the opposing force of your story is a mindless, faceless killing machine, there need to be other layers of conflict introduced to add layers and nuance to that central external problem, otherwise the script is just treading water until the climax.

    • Hadley’s Hope

      Even movies where a human is the primary villain, it is nice to have a sub-villain that attempts to thwart the hero.

      The character of Cypher in THE MATRIX adds a lot to that script. Sure they could have likely found a way to tell that story basically the same way using only Agent Smith and his two buddies as the villains, but they added Cypher as the flip side to Neo. Instead of wanting to find truth, Cypher wanted to have the wool pulled over his eyes again and live in a dream.

    • Magga

      That’s the concept in The Bridge

  • Scott Crawford

    Tell, but in as few words as possible. For me, it’s the story I’m interested in. If scene direction goes on and on – particularly in action scenes – it’s quite possible the writer has no story to tell, or not enough of it.

  • jw

    I’d like to request an article on ‘The Leftovers’. I’m fascinated by the fact it got picked up for a second season when half the people watching it have no idea what is happening and I’m finding it hard to see where there’s ever been a show where this LITTLE has actually happened. Half the time I’m thinking to myself that Lindelof walked into the studio and said, “watch this, I can make a show about nothing and people will still watch.” I think it’s refreshing to see different stories told and different styles (clearly this has source material), but I stopped watching this some time ago because I just didn’t care, so I’d be interested in the comments and theories of others. I happen to think Theroux is pretty fuckin’ good in this, but I wish they gave him something meatier to chew.

  • lesbiancannibal

    You don’t see any of the killings in Se7en either.

    The idea of something is infinitely scarier/cooler than showing it – case in point The Clone Wars.

    I hate it when a sequel shows some character backstory detail that was spoken.

    As an example,

    Dr. Frederick Chilton: I am going to show you why we insist on such precautions. On the evening of July 8th, 1981, he complained of chest pains and was taken to the dispensary. His mouthpiece and restraints were removed for an EKG. When the nurse leaned over him, he did this to her.
    [pulls out photo]

    Dr. Frederick Chilton: The doctors managed to reset her jaw more or less. Saved one of her eyes. His pulse never got above 85, even when he ate her tongue.

    Now in, I think the remake of Red Dragon/Manhunter with Hopkins, they actually show this scene.

    Totally ruins it for me.

    This is probably a bit late of a post for it, but I’d love a comment from Carson on this element of show vs tell – because for me, often spoken backstory illuminating a character works really well, where a flashback doesn’t.