Friday, March 15, 2013

HUSKER by Marc Johnson

Review of “HUSKER” by Marc Johnson
Reviewed by
Jim Newman (posted Mar 15, 2013)
(Screenplay | Horror, First 10 Pages)
“0-60mph from the get-go. Page 1 thru Page 10 is a fast read with no major flaws. But need more to be sold.” 

Let’s kickoff with the logline:
Original Logline: When a mentally unstable woman is pursued by skin-husking killer, she believes it is because her policeman dad killed the suspect forty years earlier.” 

Let’s take a few moments to dissect this:
The logline hits these chords:
o    Protagonist – Mentally unstable woman
o    Goal/Mission – Get away from vengeful (sadistic) killer!
o    Antagonist – Skin-husking killer
o    Time – Only as long as she can survive!
o    Irony – A mentally unstable protag is chased by a mentally stable killer who was presumably killed by her father decades ago.
The logline lacks the following essential elements:
o    Can’t cite any. Although I am a fan of re-working and re-working the logline.
§  For instance, keep the present tense: “A skin-husking killer pursues a mentally unstable woman who believes her policeman dad killed him forty years earlier.
Is there a better way to describe the woman? Mentally unstable is overplayed and too generic. Is she delusional? Is she schizophrenic? Try to diagnose her without revealing too much.
The story begins with setting the place/world we live in – a remote area in Nebraska, nighttime, dilapidated barn. We see Rollins, an older man, chained presumably to an overhead rafter or wall. The skin on his stomach has been peeled off by Husker, the “villain” who playfully displays it, then tosses it aside before finishing Rollins off.
Pages two through seven center on the cast of four: Jennifer (Rollins’ daughter), Amy (token hottie), Rick (bashful local law enforcement), and Sean (Rick’s side kick and smart ass). The relationships of the characters are revealed as well as the backstory (emptying Jen’s father’s house) and a sub-story (Amy’s mother killed herself in a pretty gruesome way).  One item of distinct importance (at least I think so) is that Sean find a Ouija board when the crew is cleaning out the house. We’ll see if this comes into play later.
End of page seven brings us back to Husker having his way with a female victim who ultimately meets a gruesome death.
Pages eight through ten closes the clean up on the Rollins house and the characters set off in their separate ways. Jennifer and Amy are about to start the clean-up in the attic, which seems to be creepy enough. And we see the Husker enjoying some chocolate pudding in his car outside a grocery store.

This will be an easy one. I’m not one for horror, but this one has me hooked – meaning, I would like to know what happens next and how it concludes.  
The format meets industry standard rules. It’s well-written with no major flaws. Plenty of white space helps make it a fast read and proves that the writer is attuned to making the dialogue and narratives short and sweet. And I didn’t find any gaps in the story.
Character descriptions are either too concise or completely missing. Each is given a full name and an age, but only Amy is given a physical description (curvy brunette). I have no idea what Jennifer, Rick, and Sean look like.
The opening image is gruesome and kicks off the story in the right way. I do think it would be more sinister if Husker did more to the navel of the skin than poke a finger through it. Perhaps peek through it or throw it up like pizza dough (ok maybe that’s a bit overboard).
Page 1: Instead of “seventies metal music plays” I would replace plays with “BLASTS from a beat up boom box” (maybe that’s too much alliteration). Also, can you give a solid physical description of Husker?
Page 3: Amy reveals her relationship with Jennifer – childhood friends. Instead of saying it, show it. Perhaps a photo from their younger years.
Page 3: You lost me with the “lost relative” comment. Can you explain?
Page 4: Is there a way to show that Rick is a cop instead of Sean saying it? Perhaps he flashes a badge when flirting with the girls or they're driving in a squad car.
Page 5: Laughed when Amy repeated Sean: “no wonder you never get laid.” And when “Amy enters” – this is blah. Say/show this in a more specific manner, i.e., “Amy cautiously steps inside … “ or something to that effect.
Page 6: Jennifer’s first line – correct “order” to say “ordered”
Page 7: Laughed when Sean said a village has lost its idiot.
Page 8: I thought Husker was going to hatchet off her foot. Perhaps this is implied. Question: does Husker keep trophies from his victims? Body parts? Jewelry?
Page 10: Spider prepares a meal in “its” (not it’s). Common oversight – I do it all the time.

This has been the shortest review I've written because I could not find many issues. I did not scan my hard copy because there aren't enough notes to warrant it. I wish I could offer more insight on the first ten, but I do like what I’ve read so far and would like to read more to see if the solid work continues.

Your writing style makes for a fast, fun read. I flew to page 10! You've setup a good scenario with a hook.

Great job!
Rating: More Please! (I’m hooked).
Thank you for sharing your work with us! Feel free to send your rewrite for additional feedback and a review of your outline, if available. If you have more, then feel free to send it to me directly.
Jim Newman -

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