Free Script Feedback: Don’t confuse (OS) with (VO)

Today’s guest script for feedback is Wooded Darkness by Freddie Lee Cross

Read the pages here.

I really like horror movies and slasher movies.

A lot of people, and I mean a LOT. Of people.  Don’t.

An even LARGER amount of people don’t want to see a girl get her throat slit and her corpse raped on page one of a screenplay.

That being said…

Page One, don’t use VO. Use OS.

VO is if Morgan Freeman was narrating:

Now, this here’s the story of ole Eddie Tateon. A handsome young man with a penchant for murder.

OS is for OFF SCREEN.  That’s what you have here. But even OS might be a bit confusing for us readers diving into your script and trying to orient ourselves.  Strategically speaking, you may want to just write it all as one scene without starting on the panties/basement thing with the OS, just to get past readers.

On the phone with Kim and Marcus, same thing.  OS, not VO.

Make it clear that Kim and Eddie are siblings the first time we meet Kim. (Assuming they’re siblings because of the “brotherly love” comment)

The script has a super limited appeal, and I’m assuming you know that, and are writing for a very specific audience.

As it happens, I’m not an audience member, so I can’t really relate.  And since I can’t relate, I can’t really give you notes within that context.

I can, however, give you notes from a mainstream horror / mainstream film market context:

Corpse humping, incest, cunts, dismemberment… All this will not get past a script reader at a studio, production house, agency, or even a guy listening to pitches at an AFM party.  They’ll circular file it.  (And maybe call the police.)

My two cents:

Storytellers who truly push the envelope of horror and thrills seldom ever do so just by adding more kills, or by being more shocking than the last slasher film.

When they succeed is when they horrify us at our most base, most universal levels.  Not writing 2-dimensional characters we’ve got figured out on page 1, who, when we spot, basically let us off the hook so we can say “Oh, this is one of those types of films.  This guy’s a Slasher™, and this movie is about killing people, foul language, corpse-raping, etc. Got it.  Nothing new here. I can stop paying attention.”

Everybody fears being dismembered.  Don’t let us off the hook by making your slasher simply an upgraded, more vile composite of other slashers.  Give us a take that hasn’t been done before.

Or if you DO have something that’s not been done before, and I just couldn’t get to that point in these first 10 pages because I had to put this script down, then make it apparent long before page 2, which is when most readers will hurl this script across the room.

OR tone it down on the first few pages until you can “hook” readers in.  Seducing them into your script, rather than bludgeoning them over the head right off the bat.

Twisted evil bastard who kills, then rapes the bodies?  Got it on page one. Not interested by page two.

Twisted evil bastard who is someone an audience can relate to, and then kills and rapes bodies?  Probably a better idea.

That being said, films about killing and raping bodies really ain’t my bag, daddy-o.  More power to ya if it’s yours.

Make people care first.

Then you tear apart as many bodies as you like, and, um, do what you like until your heart’s content.

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