Monday, April 15, 2013


I feel strange making a screenwriting post in light of today's tragic events, but Dan has been waiting patiently since Friday and Jim put a lot of work into this review -- so here it is.

You can read Dan's 1st 4 pages on his site:

Also his Austin Film Festival winner THE P.A.N.D.A. WAR recently scored a 9 on The Black List site. I hear he might be in the market for a manager.

Now, here's Jim.

Reviewed by Jim Newman
(posted Apr 15, 2013)
(Screenplay | Horror, First 10 Pages)

“Prophecy meets the Hills Have Eyes. Great pace, clean writing, and hits on the elements of a ten pager.”

Let’s kickoff with the logline:
Original Logline: When her corporate coal security job drags Iraq vet Eliza back to the mountains she once fled, she must battle a snake cult of horribly disfigured mountainfolk to save a mysterious child.”

Let’s take a few moments to dissect this:
  • The logline hits these chords:
    • Protagonist – Eliza (Iraq War vet)
    • Goal/Mission – To save a mysterious child
    • Antagonist – Mountainfolk and returning to an environment Eliza escaped from …
  • The logline lacks the following essential elements:
    • Time: Is Eliza under any pressure to complete her mission? What happens if takes too long?
    • Irony: One could argue that the irony is that Eliza’s back to the mountains she once fled. But I consider this to be an indirect antagonist. She must fight the obvious and internal challenges: the elements and the fear that pushed her away.
  • Notes/Suggestions:
    • I commend you for getting this completed in one sentence – that seems to be the first and biggest hurdle.
    • Food for thought: if this was pitched to a random stranger, then what do you believe will be their reaction? Could they clearly see the premise, character, the challenge? Are they distracted by any confusing elements?
    • I could see the one sheet – a wide eyed but weary Eliza in the forefront, ghoulish figures in the lower right corner, background is a harrowing mountain where the shadow of a young girl is the focus.
    • Here’s where I was hung up:
      • The “snake cult” made me wonder what/how that was important to the story, but after reading I learned its purpose. However, this should be communicated in a different manner to offer more clarity (otherwise, my first thought was “Snakes on a Plane”).
      • The first line reveals enough, but is a lot to chew on (wordy). Let’s try to truncate this.
      • Mysterious child: boy/girl? What makes him/her mysterious?
    • My shot-in-the-dark at tightening this up:
      • When her security job drags her back to the mountains she once fled, Iraq War veteran Eliza must confront her own atheistic beliefs and save a prophetic young boy from the religious fanaticism of the grossly disfigured mountainfolk before the angels of Heaven and Hell clash.”
        • I don’t believe it’s pertinent to the logline to include “corporate coal”. Likewise, the snake cult should be replaced … the snakes will hold a symbolic meaning during the course of the movie. And I’m assuming the child will have some sort of godly influence.
        • I’m not sold on my own closer of “Heaven and Hell” but I was trying to throw in something that made it time-sensitive. And the use of “Eden Mt” tells me there’s a good dose of religious symbolism in this script.
        • Of course I’m taking some liberties with guessing what’s coming up since I haven’t read past page ten, but hopefully you get my gist. Naturally you can flip me off and completely ignore my notes, too. (

The story begins with young Horace accompanying his father in a coal mine of Eden Mountain. Lacking a respect or holding a disbelief in a greater power, Horace Sr. collects some coal while muttering his defiance. Immediately, a cave-in strikes the mine and traps his father, never to be seen again, while Horace Jr. is slashed across his face.

Morphing into a later stage of his life (65 y.o.) Horace is now conducting a “religious” ceremony whereby the attendees are disfigured missing limbs, eyes, noses, etc. A couple holds hands while a rope is tied around the base of each tongue with the other end tied around a boulder. Based on their transgression, Horace has sentenced them to be disfigured for not holding true to a belief in God. Presumably the others have been disfigured under the same set of circumstances.

Meanwhile Eliza and Buf are moving through the woods when they’re confronted with gunfire from a resident. They are there to force the homeowner from her home, but she is resistant. Meanwhile a shadowy figure watches from the trees above. In the end, the three are set off in a Humvee along with the resident’s dog.

The shadowy figure, Coondog, reports back to Horace – SHE’S back! “That whore Eliza!” This is done in a makeshift temple where mason jars of human body parts and even a head float in a greenish gelatin. Horace is overjoyed at the prospect of seeing Eliza again.

Back to the Humvee, not far down the road a ten foot rattlesnake blocks the path, hissing and threatening. Eliza brings the Humvee to a halt, jumps from the vehicle, and aims her sidearm at the snake.

Flashback to Eliza’s childhood experience in the mountains. Her father and sister participate in a ritualistic ceremony where a snake is considered both God and Satan, its eyes peering into your soul. A young Eliza cries out that he sees what she has done …
but what has she done?

Return to real time: the rattler has disappeared.
Where has it gone? Dumbfounded Eliza jumps back into the Humvee and starts to take off. Suddenly the snake appears between Buf’s legs and lunges at him. Buf quickly grabs the snake and whips it off, but it has been thrown into the backseat where it sinks its fangs into the cheek of the resident.

Eliza moves to grab the snake, but the resident insists that it’s good luck. Eliza ignores her and kills the snake. She checks the resident’s vitals, but she seems unaffected by the poisonous snake bite.
But how?

I like the writing style. Adheres to the industry standard although check the left margin – looks a bit more than the 1” standard. No long expositions, nice spread of “white space”, and enough dialogue to keep the pace rolling. Quick read!

The second scene is pretty damn gruesome (gave me a chill). But I am confused as to why Horace says that one day they will have new bodies. Must be in the afterlife, but felt a bit out of place. Maybe I’m just being dense and not following.

Page 1: Should Horace Sr have “white teeth”? How about stained teeth from a lack of dental hygiene?

Page 2: Omit “intuitive” and “we move down the length of his thin body” – avoid directions at all costs.

Page 3: Remove “(Almost to himself)” – he’s off screen so we can’t see this. Perhaps in a whisper to imply the action. Same with “Angle On:” – try to describe this differently. I know it’s technically acceptable, but best to use at a bare minimum especially during your first ten. Keep your first ten as clean as possible.

Page 4: Neva – perhaps replace “she’s having her period” with “she’s ovulating” – makes me think that she’ll be used as a sacrifice or possibly raped since she can bear children. Remove last paragraph – don’t instruct the producer when the title should come in. Close this out with Horace’s dialogue.

Page 5: I laughed at the pissing on a spider – haha! Remove the “angle up” on Buf.

Page 6 thru Page 10: No specific notes to offer – all good!

In summary I was pleased with the writing style, the fast pace of the read, and some of the nasty shit that’s going on. I’m seeing Eliza as this sort of sexy vixen, Lara Croft type. Buf – still trying to wrap my head around his name. Horace and crew seem plenty nasty – great!

I enjoyed this and will get to reading more. Would like to read the ten pager again after a quick rewrite to see if it still feels the same to me.
Rating: More Please!

Thank you for sharing your work with us! I’ll try to read the rest since you submitted your entire script. Feel free to send a rewrite for additional feedback along with your outline, if available.

1 comment:

  1. Jim, Robert, thanks so much for taking the time to do this and for posting it (especially on this day). It's extraordinarily helpful to me.


Please make constructive comments. Anything mean spirited or malicious will be removed.