Monday, July 5, 2010

When good horror flicks go bad...

I have this horror script I've been meaning to rewrite for ages. Horror's not my main forte - they say you only know what genre you specialise in once you've written a few scripts. Well, I have seven scripts and so far it's 2 thrillers, 1 horror and 4 family films. Like I said, I'm clearly not a horror writer.

But, I like the idea for this one and I do like watching horror flicks (we're not talking torture porn here, more stuff like The Shining). Plus, I'm low on Irish-based scripts and this one could be shot for hardly anything. So on with the rewrite.

After dwelling on the problem with the script for a few days, I woke up this morning with the solution - it's the bad guys. They are bad, but not bad enough. Plus, they vanish for virtually the whole of the second act. This inspired me to come up with a list of 5 things that can go horribly wrong with horror movies - I can't be the only one to suffer from crap baddies, for a start...

1. My own special hell - bad guys who are absent/less than ideally evil. Ramp it up! Add in some innocent victims for 'em to annihilate and thus prove their extreme evilness.
2. Heroes we couldn't give a shit about. This is probably the single biggest problem across the horror genre, and it seems to be getting worse rather than better. I enjoyed Drag  Me to Hell but didn't really care for Alison Lohman's character Christine. Laurie Strode's fate, on the other hand, had me on the edge of my seat for a whole bunch of Hallowe'en films. And don't get me started on the assorted jock/cheerleader/virgin fodder that clogs up every second slasher flick. Write some decent, non-stereotyped characters!
3. Confused second acts that leave you scratching your head. The plot has to make sense!
4. Either gore-free PG13 horrors where everyone seems to get killed off screen or over the top gore. Both make me switch off.
5. An unrealistic set-up where the horror bits come as a blessed relief from boredom. It should be the opposite. Jaws would still have been a compelling watch even if there had been no shark - the story of the new island police chief and his family and his terrible fear of water could have gone lots of different ways and was a great background for what ultimately unfolds. The viewer should get the feeling of lives interrupted, not lives that have been constructed only so that a bad plot can play out.

With that, I'm off to start my rewrite. Let the screaming begin...

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