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character Low budget Horror/Slasher

I have a low-budget horror/slasher concept I'm trying to develop. I've written a short on the psychopath serial killer who forms the base of the story. I'm looking for some feedback as to whether the character "works" as a credible but engaging antagonist.

I won't go into the full backstory for the character that I've developed just now, I'm more concerned about whether the concept is appealing and unique enough. In essence though it is a story of a wronged man who becomes sexually obsessed with karma.

The story is set in London and includes local slang so apologies if some of it is difficult to interpret. Also, some of the content is quite graphic so please be warned.
 

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sfoster

Staff Member
Moderator
Directors commentary: "I will NEVER in my life ever direct another script that starts with the words EXT. NIGHT. Cold. Rainy. It was a miserable experience" LOL i cant remember what director said that but it was in a commentary i listened to

Look at your intro paragraph

Code:
EXT. COUNCIL ESTATE - BACKSTREET - NIGHT

Rain falls steadily on a cold night in London.
Dressed in a hooded puffer jacket, Jay (21) waits.
He bounces on the spot to keep warm, hands buried deep in his pockets.

Three sentences and you're making it more complicated than it needs to be.
You said its night twice. You said its cold. and you said hes trying to keep warm. one already implies the other. plenty of redundancy here.

Code:
EXT NIGHT - LONDON BACKSTREET

Jay, 21, has both hands buried inside his hooded puffer jacket as he bounces in place against the cold rain.

Doesn't that just seem clearer and easier to read? or maybe its just my own personal style IDK. you do you.

Moving on - the second scene is the same exact scene.. interesting. youre just cutting to a different angle inside the script.
I would advise against this style of writing unless you are only writing the script for yourself to direct and not to hand off to someone else for direction.

Starting off a script with a character standing around being bored is BORING. Damn man you need to grip your audience at the start.
You've got a impatient character tired of waiting and guess what - youre gonna have an impatient audience tired of waiting too. and then they change the channel. this is not how you want to start off a story in my humble opinion. unless you already have a strong reputation and you know the audience will give you plenty of time to tell your story.

"a pair of legs come into view" is not nearly descriptive enough. TOO VAGUE.
Are these sexy cameron diaz legs from The Mask?? Are they hairy obese trucker legs?? tell me about the legs bc they are my only clue to the attacker. I'm not particularly fond of how our dude was being super cautious looking over his shoulder every few steps and he still got sucker punched without seeing anything. Generally if your character is being super cautious he needs to be totally out of position on the chess board (so to speak) and then no amount of caution will save them from their bad positioning. but that is just a personal note on how i feel and its totally acceptable the way jay goes down.

I dont think that your ending is in tune with your title. a different title might serve this piece better.
 
Thanks for the comments SFoster. You're definitely right about the over-description in the opening. I have actually re-written this since I posted it here a while back and cut a lot of the description back.

The line you suggested to replace the introduction is perhaps better than what I came up with so will re-look at that. I'm not sure about the slugline "EXT NIGHT - LONDON BACKSTREET." though. Is there any particular reason for putting NIGHT before the location in this example?

Regarding the second scene being the same scene (from a different viewpoint) is simply to convey that someone is spying on the guy from another location. It seemed the most logical way to write it to me, do you have another suggestion? In reality, it's the same scene but we somehow need to know that someone else is hidden there, watching him.

I may look to change my opening scene, I have had a few other ideas of how to start the story, but as for the beginning being boring because a guy is waiting for someone, that aspect of it only lasts a few seconds. Is that really significant? Within the next 60 seconds, we see he is being spied on, he then calls a drug client, realises he's been set up by someone, hot tails it out of there and then get's knocked out by an attacker.

The legs thing, yes I agree. It's one of those descriptions I've put in because it is how I envisioned the scene in my mind. I may take that out altogether and leave it for the director to decide after Jay is knocked out. If not, as you say, I need to describe what the legs look like.

The idea of him being sideswiped while being on alert to a threat is because he's expecting the threat to come from behind him. It's when he's looking over his shoulder he gets hit (maybe I should make that clearer?) SPOILER: the person spying on him in the alleyway isn't the same one who hits him.

Lastly, the title is just a working title. Still haven't decided what to call it yet. Also, I am considering toning the sexual aspect down. Not sure if it is perhaps a bit too much. The script is intended to be a gritty low-budget Indie horror/drama so that's what I'm tailoring it towards.

Thanks for reading it and giving your feedback, I do appreciate it.
 
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sfoster

Staff Member
Moderator
Thanks for the comments SFoster. You're definitely right about the over-description in the opening. I have actually re-written this since I posted it here a while back and cut a lot of the description back.

The line you suggested to replace the introduction is perhaps better than what I came up with so will re-look at that. I'm not sure about the slugline "EXT NIGHT - LONDON BACKSTREET." though. Is there any particular reason for putting NIGHT before the location in this example?

Regarding the second scene being the same scene (from a different viewpoint) is simply to convey that someone is spying on the guy from another location. It seemed the most logical way to write it to me, do you have another suggestion? In reality, it's the same scene but we somehow need to know that someone else is hidden there, watching him.

I may look to change my opening scene, I have had a few other ideas of how to start the story, but as for the beginning being boring because a guy is waiting for someone, that aspect of it only lasts a few seconds. Is that really significant? Within the next 60 seconds, we see he is being spied on, he then calls a drug client, realises he's been set up by someone, hot tails it out of there and then get's knocked out by an attacker.

The legs thing, yes I agree. It's one of those descriptions I've put in because it is how I envisioned the scene in my mind. I may take that out altogether and leave it for the director to decide after Jay is knocked out. If not, as you say, I need to describe what the legs look like.

The idea of him being sideswiped while being on alert to a threat is because he's expecting the threat to come from behind him. It's when he's looking over his shoulder he gets hit (maybe I should make that clearer?) SPOILER: the person spying on him in the alleyway isn't the same one who hits him.

Lastly, the title is just a working title. Still haven't decided what to call it yet. Also, I am considering toning the sexual aspect down. Not sure if it is perhaps a bit too much. The script is intended to be a gritty low-budget Indie horror/drama so that's what I'm tailoring it towards.

Thanks for reading it and giving your feedback, I do appreciate it.

i didnt put any thought into slugline lol sorry. youre right that i put night out of order.

The method to convey that someone is watching him is up to the director. And you want coverage.
If you only film it from the camera POV then you only have one option in editing.

Film it from the POV. film the guy standing there in cool intimidating lighting, hiding in the shadows.
get them both in one shot. etc who knows.

the script can simple say that there is a man watching him.
now you've got the creative juices of the director flowing, the director starts thinking about how he wants to depict it.. as long as we know he is being watched then the suspense has been created.

generally directors put extra thought into the opening sequence. in some movies the opening is kinda boring and what they do is jump ahead to exciting action. you see a gunshot or whatever and someone panic. and then "20 days earlier" or whatever and the movie starts. They do that because its important not to have a boring beginning. I think especially online if people just see someone waiting around for an entire 60 seconds i would cut all that out as an editor.

immediately have the guy spying on him kick a can or something. or maybe a cat rubs up against his leg and he punts the cat. MEEEOW we hear.
the guy waiting is suspicious and looks around. get to that suspense in whatever way you can. the sooner we know that he is being watched the sooner your movie is about something. the audience is allowed to know it long before HE knows it.

at least say if they are a man or womans legs.

yeah id say make it clearer. go jurassic park 'clever girl' on him.
Have the one come out of hiding and be seen. He turns around to bolt in the other direction and WHAM the second one hits him

its one of those things where the audience can relate to it. make the audience fall for the same trap that he falls for. its more fun to watch.

the sexual aspect will make it harder to cast. anything sexual always gets less auditions and you may end up with worse talent on the screen.
 
Ok, thanks again for the feedback. Going back to the POV aspect of it. The reason I've done it that way (i.e. to purposely not see who is spying) is that it is a major twist in the story. You don't actually find out who this person is until the very end of the movie. I need some way to convey they're being watched without giving any indication of who it is if you can suggest a way to do that without using POV.

I had been considering to use this kind of POV a couple more times througout the story. The idea being you are meant to think it's the antagonist doing the spying when in fact, it is another main character in the story. If there's an issue with it being written this way, could do with some advice of how else I could portray it.
 
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sfoster

Staff Member
Moderator
Ok, thanks again for the feedback. Going back to the POV aspect of it. The reason I've done it that way (i.e. to purposely not see who is spying) is that it is a major twist in the story. You don't actually find out who this person is until the very end of the movie. I need some way to convey they're being watched without giving any indication of who it is if you can suggest a way to do that without using POV.

I had been considering to use this kind of POV a couple more times througout the story. The idea being you are meant to think it's the antagonist doing the spying when in fact, it is another main character in the story. If there's an issue with it being written this way, could do with some advice of how else I could portray it.
theres so many ways to do it. you can have the persons face covered in shadow.
you can see them from behind. They can be wearing a disguise covering their face while they spy, etc.

if youre directing it then go with the POV.
 
I'm not planning to direct it, no. I get what you're saying and it ties in with other things I've read and even advice I've given out myself but..... it seems by far the easiest, clearest and most logical way to convey it in a screenplay by just using POV. It feels like I'm purposely going out of the way to try and describe in another way it just so I don't break this rule of using a camera instruction in a spec script.

It's not aimed at you, I do know what you mean. Just feels frustrating that I can't use a perfectly valid screenplay term, that perfectly conveys what I need to be seen, all because I'm not going to be the director of the film. Grrrr!
 

sfoster

Staff Member
Moderator
I'm not planning to direct it, no. I get what you're saying and it ties in with other things I've read and even advice I've given out myself but..... it seems by far the easiest, clearest and most logical way to convey it in a screenplay by just using POV. It feels like I'm purposely going out of the way to try and describe in another way it just so I don't break this rule of using a camera instruction in a spec script.

It's not aimed at you, I do know what you mean. Just feels frustrating that I can't use a perfectly valid screenplay term, that perfectly conveys what I need to be seen, all because I'm not going to be the director of the film. Grrrr!
Funny you think it’s going out of the way to say “an unknown man is watching him” when that’s actually way simpler and more direct than what you’re trying to do.

the way it’s actually shot might be so clever that neither of us are thinking of how its done. it’s a chance for the director to shine and show their unique creativity. You want to provide the director with opportunity like that in your script. It’s not a huge deal, don’t get frustrated. Director will do what they want either way
 
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Funny you think it’s going out of the way to say “an unknown man is watching him” when that’s actually way simpler and more direct than what you’re trying to do.

the way it’s actually shot might be so clever that neither of us are thinking of how its done. it’s a chance for the director to shine and show their unique creativity. You want to provide the director with opportunity like that in your script. It’s not a huge deal, don’t get frustrated. Director will do what they want either way
Haha, it does though. Makes it more difficult as it's not a man, it's a woman watching. But I want the viewer to think it's a man, the antogonist. Argghh!
 
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sfoster

Staff Member
Moderator
Haha, it does though. Makes it more difficult as it's not a man, it's a woman watching. But I want the viewer to think it's a man, the antogonist. Argghh!

Well the word person then. Or you could name them something gender neutral. You could literally call them antagonist if you wanted and it would be clear to the reader.

jay stands in the rain. A hidden Antagonist is watching him. Or some other descriptive word To function as a name. Just keep things direct and clear and you’ll be fine .

maybe antagonist is too on the nose haha. Hidden person or whatever
 
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sfoster

Staff Member
Moderator
You had legs in a shot earlier. Some movies a character is introduced and defined by their shoes. Then an hour into the movie we see the face that goes with the shoes.
 
Just read this...

You said: I'm looking for some feedback as to whether the character "works" as a credible but engaging antagonist.

My problem with your Antagonist both from a producer and screenwriter perspective? We've seen this guy before. In the beginning, he comes off Dexter-like -- a serial killer of killers -- maybe not even a serial killer yet because at the beginning? He could be anyone torturing Jay for any reason. However, right before we read about Ricky observing his other victims via computer monitor? I got a distinct Dexter vibe from him. Nothing wrong with that but I should also tell you that there are a plethora of Dexter-like feature specs floating around out there with nobody interested in making them. In fact? Getting anyone to even read a serial killer spec these days is hard UNLESS you've got a HOOK we've not yet seen.

Then? I completely LOST the Dexter-like vibe as soon as you had Ricky masturbating to the observation of his victims. I can tell you right off the bat? I know at least a dozen producers who would STOP reading right there. We like to THINK there are a ton of producers out there willing to RISK the portrayal of a character like Ricky but truth be told?

Nope. LOL.

The problem I personally had with Ricky -- basing this on both a screenwriting and producing perspective? His dialogue with Jay gave me the Dexter-like vibe but then that was immediately taken away when you have him masturbating while observing his victims suffer via computer monitor. With so few pages? It felt like the masturbation was simply for shock value.

So at this point? Not sure if he's credible but sure... He's ENGAGING. LOL. In fact? I think the dialogue could stand a couple of polishes but it wasn't bad for what was happening.

Which brings me to the rest of the script... This is just a working draft... Not even what I would call a first draft. So all the problems I saw -- which were plenty -- can easily be reworked and resolved after you get a first draft written.

I saw formatting problems... Overwriting. Typos. None of that is a deal-killer but? I've been doing this for over 30 years... You have a couple of choices at this point. Keep writing it the way you're writing but understand that IF YOU DO? You will have a hell of a lot of work cut out for you once you're finished... i.e., fixing all those problems which by then? Will have grown exponentially.

What I'd like to suggest? And of course, it's only a suggestion... Learn how to resolve all those problems NOW before the script gets too long. It's okay to overwrite a little here and there but let's say you've written 110 pages (or less) in the same way as I'm seeing with these pages. I can tell you right off the bat that you're going to end up being short because by the time you've fixed all the overwriting? You've lost too many pages and now you need more story.

If you don't think this happens? It does. LOL. ALL THE TIME.

Things like: He looks on nervously.

Just shouldn't even be in a spec... We should already know Jay is nervous as hell simply by his dialogue and behavior.

But here's the good news should you decide to keep moving forward and just keep writing it the way you've been writing it... It'll be FIXABLE.

Bottom line? Write it out however you feel like you MUST WRITE IT to get it all OUT of you. Just know that after it's all said and done?

THE REAL WORK BEGINS.

Good luck!
 
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Thanks for your input Unknown screenwriter. I haven't written any of the feature screenplay, just this short, although I do have an outline for the overall story.

The idea was to get some feedback about the character first, and make the necessary changes to his personality before I start. I get what you're saying about the Dexter vibe, but you could equally say it's along the same lines as Saw and Seven too. All very similar in that retribution aspect. That can be said of most horrors really, there's not many I think where you could say it's not similar in some way to another movie. What I need, is for the antogonist to have a USP. I'd gone down the route of making the vengeance a full-on sexual perversion for him as the USP, but as I mentioned to SFoster, have decided against that and will be cutting it or at the very least, toning it down.

The over-description, yes x 100. I'm majorly guilty of that. What I tend to do in my first drafts is add a lot of detail, then I keep cutting it back further and further in each subsequent draft. This is very much a working draft of the concept as you say.

Anyway, thanks again. If you have any ideas of how I can make this character stand out and be original, would be glad to hear them. I don't want him to be a Dexter character, he's far nastier than that. Dexter usually just knifed his victims in the heart and gave them a quick death. This guy wants them to suffer, he will inflict torture and then leave them to die a slow death in the coffins. He does though, still have a code to dictate who he will or wont kill.
 

mlesemann

Staff Member
Moderator
I finally had the chance to read this so here are a few thoughts.

At the beginning, with the 2nd person watching, I think it would work better if you avoid "we." After you establish that Jay is on the street corner, separately establish that the FIGURE is there. So Figure peers around the doorway, etc. I think that will be clearer.

These guys talk too much to be believable (to me). Start by trimming the phone conversation to a sentence each way. They make their point, and go on.

This is even more true with Ricky. Much too much monologue about his beliefs and concerns. I understand that you want to establish the basis for his actions, but it just didn't work for me. Even for a short, I'd make it just a few sentences, then done.

UNLESS you want to make him a college professor (or writer) type who love his own voice and words. In the latter case, I think it could also be played for humor.
"Man, for fuck's sake! Shut up and kill me already!"

At the end, I think it would work better if Ricky only masturbates to the sight of Jay - it's overkill showing all of them at that point. But a last clip of the short - after Jay is dead - could very quickly show the other bodies, so the viewer gets a real sense of the horror.

I hope that helps.
 
Thank you Mara, that does help a lot. Definitely will use FIGURE to describe the person spying, that will work for how I need to keep it vague about who it is!

Regarding the monologue conversation, you're right. I'm just trying to explain the character's whole theology in this short piece. When I come to do the full screenplay, this information will be drip fed to the viewer across several scenes during the film. With this piece, I'm just trying to prove a concept before I dive in. Although I am envisioning that the guy loves to give these big dominating speeches as part of his ritual so the humour response from the victim you suggested is something I might use.

Very interesting your suggestion about only masturbating to the sight of Jay, that is exactly what I wrote originally! He then just lit up a cigarette and browsed through the other prisoners. I changed it on someone else's suggestion after they read it. Perhaps I should have stayed with my initial instinct.

Thanks again.
 
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