How to write a good horror screenplay

It’s Friday the 13th today and I thought it would be to watch a good horror movie to celebrate the day. Why don’t we start with the original slasher Friday the 13th by Sean Cunningham and written by Victor Miller.

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One might ask, how do the writers scribe a good horror movies that would make a hit when released to theaters near you.

In you want the answer, the late screenwriter guru Syd Field gives us the standard recipe for a good movie screenplay : it’s a very simple blueprint.

The Hook.

Start with a bang. Step right into a suspense scene. (“Scream” opens with a terrifying sequence with Drew Barrymore on the phone with a killer)

The Flaw.

Introduce your hero. Give him a flaw. Before you can put your hero in jeopardy we must care for him. We must want our hero to succeed. So make him human. (In “Signs” Mel Gibson plays a priest who has lost his faith after his wife died)

The Fear. (or the Phobia) 

A variant of The Flaw. The hero has a fear. Maybe a fear of heights, or claustrophobia. (In “Jaws” Roy Scheider has a fear of water. At the end he has to conquer his fear by going out onto the ocean to kill the shark)

No Escape.

Have your hero at an isolated location where he can’t escape the horror. (Like the hotel in “The Shining”)

Foreplay.

Tease the audience. Make them jump at scenes that appear scary — but turn out to be completely normal. (Like the cat jumping out of the closet) Give them some more foreplay before bringing in the real monster.

Evil Attacks.

A couple of times during the middle of the script show how evil the monster can be — as it attacks its victims.

Investigation.

The hero investigates, and finds out the truth behind the horror.

Showdown.

The final confrontation. The hero has to face both his fear and the monster. The hero uses his brain, rather than muscles, to outsmart the monster. (At the end of “The Village” the blind girl tricks the monster to fall into the hole in the ground)

Aftermath.

Everything’s back to the way it was from the beginning — but the hero has changed for the better or for the worse. (At the end of “Signs” Mel Gibson puts on his clerical collar again — he got his faith back)

Evil Lurks.

We see evidence that the monster may return somewhere..somehow..in the future..(Almost all “Friday The 13’th”-movies end with Jason showing signs of returning for another sequel)

Good Luck And Happy Friday The 13th

Sofiane MEROUANI

Boeing to halt the production of the 747. An end of an era for the Queen of the Skies

It’s bittersweet milestone for the people at Boeing who were involved in the design and the production of the 747. The Queen of the Skies, the royal moniker given to the Boeing 747 fleet will be off the manufacturer catalog in the United States.

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The first 747 hit the sky all the way back in 1969 at the time when the demand of people travelling from one continent to another was high.  The plane was also the symbol of America’s power and influence especially during  the Cold War era. The plane was used as the test-bed for the upcoming of the 777 project that Boeing embarked in the 90s.

When it debuted in 1989, the 747-400 was a world beater. Already on its fourth generation, the jumbo could fly up to 7,200 nautical miles and airlines flocked to it for its ability to fly non-stop to and from Asia from the U.S. and Europe even if they couldn’t fill the roughly 400 seats aboard.

Korean Air is amid the last clients to order the 747.

And of course, the most recognizable 747 of them all, Air Force One, continues on for U.S. presidents.

Sofiane MEROUANI

Porn Legend Sasha Grey debuts her first novel : “The Juliette Society”

Her name is a trademark in the porn industry. Sasha Grey one of those rare gems who turns anything into gold. After a stint in the adult indusrty, Sasha Grey  moved into film and TV roles, including the lead role in Steven Soderbergh’s The Girlfriend Experience and a long guest arc on HBO’s Entourage.  She stared in Open Windows oppisite Elijah Wood. And now she turns into a novelist. Her latest endeavor is an erotic novel called The Juliette Society, about a young, sexually unfulfilled woman named Catherine who spends her days indulging in sexual fantasies. Her thirst is finally quenched when she gains entrée into a secret society where the rich and powerful bump uglies.

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You can order the book at Amazon.com

Sofiane MEROUANI

Timecrimes (2007) Objectification and Sexism. How Women are Treated in Timecrimes (Part 4)

Timecrimes, released almost a decade ago, is written and directed by the Spanish director (and actor) Nacho Vigalondo. The first time I was it back in 2009, I was completed intrigued by the storyline, a creepy tale about time paradox, presented in the most simplistic, yet more complex plot.  Forget about CGI like in Terminator or the Flying the Delorean in Back to The Future. Timecrimes is truly a masterpiece in its own right.

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The Sleeping Beauty

In the previous articles I wrote, I covered the plot, the free-will within the limit of perception and the time-paradox. However, there is an interesting theme, I’d like to cover here. It’s all about voyeurism and sexism, and how the women, the bicycle lady and Clara are treated in Timecrimes.

There is a strong sense of objectification  early in the movie, when Hector 1 sees The Girl standing out in the woods, biting her thumb, apparently thinking about something. Continuing to watch her, he sees her pull off her shirt, exposing her breasts.

At this time, Clara is there next to him, trying to talk to him about whether or not he wants chicken for dinner. He basically ignores her, as he’s too busy watching The Girl. He doesn’t mention to Clara what he’s looking at, even when The Girl starts undressing, and continues watching her. Eventually, she leaves to go into town, clearly annoyed.

Being a pervert, Hector-1 goes for a walk to try to get a closer look at The Girl. He follows a trail of clothing into the woods, until he finds her naked and unconscious. Hector-1 eyes her naked body for a while, the camera along with him, before he tries to wake her up. He then approaches her, apparently to see if she’s alright (at least I hope), but up until this point he’s just been a pervert.

Later, when he time travels and becomes Hector-2, the lab worker sits him down to explain just what the freak’s going on. Hector-2 seems concerned about the other man in his house with his wife, though he eventually catches on about the time travel. The lab worker describes Hector-1 as like a reflection in the mirror, essentially the same as Hector-2, and that Hector-2 has to conform to the way things went when he was Hector-1 or else Hector-1 will never go back in time and become Hector-2. However, the explanation is worded in a way to emphasize the fact that if Hector-2 doesn’t do this, then he’ll be cuckolded by Hector-1. This is a small aspect of the movie, but the disrespectful treatment of the female characters adds up.

Hector-2 at first doesn’t listen and tries to make contact with Hector-1. Partway to his house, his car is struck (by Hector-3) and he crashes. The Girl, traveling along the road on a bicycle, comes to help. Realizing he needs her to be in the forest to draw Hector-1, he repays her kindness by basically sexually assaulting her. He threatens her with a sharp instrument and forces her into the woods, where he makes her undress for what amounts to his own (Hector-1’s) sexual satisfaction. Yes, this is to keep the timeline intact, but why does it even exist? She attacks him, and he knocks her unconscious, going on to stripping her for Hector-1 to find.

Then at the end, we have the conflict with The Girl and Clara. Clara is not treated as a person in her own right. She’s just an item Hector-2/Hector-3 wants to keep safe whereas the Girl is just a disposable item.  Hector feels a great attachment to his wife and wants her to live for his sake rather than the respect for human life. The Girl has always been objectified, from the first time Hector(-1) saw her, to Hector-2’s coercion of her to attract Hector-1, and she ends objectified when Hector-3 kills her to save Clara. When it’s all over, Hector-3 doesn’t explain to Clara what’s going on. He just brings her out to the yard and makes her sit in the lawn chair next to him while the police come.

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I think the ending is supposed to be twisted and give viewers an uncomfortable feeling as they watch it. Yes, Hector has fixed the timeline to his liking, but he’s done something evil to do so. The character itself is written to be immoral, so I’m not sure how much blame can be put on Vigalondo for producing sexist content. However, the whole series of instances Hector encounters and must reproduce involve this objectification and sexual assault for no reason other than it suiting Vigalondo’s purposes.

In conclusion, this twisted-up strange loop time travel story, though amusing, contains noticeable elements of sexism. Women characters are constantly disrespected. Though the protagonist is himself depicted as immoral, the existence of certain events within the strange loop (having no detectable cause but themselves) indicate sexism of the narrative rather than thematic depiction of it. So: enjoyable movie, but problematic content.

The final part coming up soon.

Sofiane MEROUANI

Timecrimes (2007) : Everything you need to know about this wickedly dense serio-comedy.

A trip back in time. From a present to.

Timecrimes (Los Cronocrimines) tell tales the story of Hector, an everyday man whose lazy afternoon turns into a nightmarish time paradox. After being attacked by a bandaged man in an attempt to rescue an unconscious woman, Hector runs into a scientific silo. A scientist tells Hector to hide into a basin filled with an unidentified liquid, operates the switch and sends Hector back in time. One hour backward.

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But interfering with the past can engender the future as Hector would soon realize.

As we celebrate the 10th anniversary of the release of Timecrimes, l decided to write an extensive multi-part article that deals with Timecrimes, the time paradox and other themes covered in the movie :

(Warning: Spoiler & Adult Content)

  1. Timecrimes (2007) Part 1 : A Trip to The Past From The Present To…
  2. Timecrimes (2007) Part 2 : Free Will Within The Limit of Perception
  3. Timecrimes (2007) Part 3: It’s all about a Time Paradox
  4. Timecrimes (2007) Part 4: Sexism, How Women in Timecrimes are Treated

 

Sofiane MEROUANI

Timecrimes (2007): It’s all about a time paradox (Part 3)

Continuing with Part III of my multi-part article about Timecrimes.

In Timecrimes, Hector is caught in a what appears to be an infinite time loop with no apparent beginning or end, which is consistent with a predestination time paradox, but does beg the question how the paradox may have originated in the first place. One solution to the problem could involve a scenario in which an original attacker (not Hector) knew about the girl’s bicycle route and so lay in wait for her by the path to the woods, before assaulting and forcing her into the woods, where she is made to undress, then rendered unconscious.

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Spying the girl from his garden, Hector subsequently becomes interested after she removes her shirt, and unaware of the rapist wanders towards her and blunders into the scene. On hearing Hector’s approach, the rapist then hides before attempting to stab Hector, but only succeeds in slashing his arm, instead. The attacker now chases a fleeing Hector to kill him, and a desperate Hector is given all the motivation he needs to scale a barbed wire fence, and break into the science compound. The attacker then leaves Hector briefly to return and dispose of the girl’s body, before going back for Hector.

On explaining his horrific story to the scientist and seeing the attacker approaching once more, the scientist may have tried to hide Hector in the time tank before later hiding somewhere else himself. Importantly, the scientist only activated the untested time machine less than two hours ago and so does not know if it works. He may have subsequently decided to risk Hector’s life by sending him back in time, knowing if the attacker does kill them the timeline will be restored to an hour earlier with the arrival of Hector 2. As to what happens to the attacker in the movie, well one can speculate that Hector 2 forcing the girl into the woods takes the opportunity away from the rapist who has now missed his chance and is frightened off by Hector 2’s presence.

Hector 3 attempts to prevent the bandaged Hector 2 from getting into the time tank, in order to stop Hector 2 accidentally killing his wife. At the end of the movie when Hector 3 realizes that Hector 2 didn’t accidentally kill his wife, but instead the young girl from earlier, Hector 3 locks his wife in the shed and allows Hector 2 to frighten the girl into falling to her death, knowing full well that Hector 2 would then try to prevent his wife’s apparent accident by driving off in the rain to scare Hector 1 into the time tank before also traveling back in time to become Hector 3 and “save” his wife.

A self-sustaining stable timeline is thus created in which the two anomalies have now resolved themselves into a self-correcting loop, and history for Hector 3 is allowed to continue, while nothing significant affecting Hector’s going back in time in the first place is altered

To be continued

Sofiane MEROUANI

Timecrimes (2007) : Free Will within the Limit of Perception (Part 2)

Continuing with Part II from my multi-part article about Timecrimes.

In Timecrimes, Hector 2 was jealous about Hector 1 being with his (Hector 2’s) wife. Ignoring the scientists’ warning  not venture in the forest in an attempt to deal with the original Hector (Hector 1) , Hector 2 decides to reproduce the earlier events in an attempt to draw Hector 1 off his house into the forest.

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Hector 2 has just thrown himself into a trap of a crooked time-loop in which he believes he witnesses the murder of the girl before inadvertently becoming the murderer himself.

During a certain point in the movie, the girl is seen naked and unconscious. Then she is seen alive and well, guiding the battered Hector 3 back to his home. Then she is dead thrown off the ledge of the house.

One might ask, wasn’t she lying naked amid the bushes ?

The young woman has a picture of Schrödinger’s Cat on her shirt, which is a reference to the observer’s paradox first proposed by the Austrian scientist which states that an object or outcome of an event is not determined until being observed. A cat placed inside a box with a device which may or may not poison it is theoretically both dead and alive simultaneously until the box is opened and observed, forcing the object into just one of these possible states.

 

As Timecrimes writer Nacho Vigalondo explains about his movie:

The quantum mechanics aspect is the girl. We put an image of Schrödinger’s cat on the girl’s shirt – there’s a point in the movie where she’s dead and alive at the same time; it depends on what Hector sees, he defines whether she’s dead or alive. The theory of this film is that you only have free will within the limits of your perception. If you haven’t seen what happens inside a room, you can change what happens there, but if you have seen inside the room, you cannot change anything.

What can we understand by that. As far as my understanding is concerned, that Hector 1 has seen the woman naked and possibly dead. The end-result, that he can’t do anything to change of the outcome. Hector 2 inadvertently kills a woman (wearing a pair of converse) by throwing her off the ledge of his house. Hector 2 believed that the dead woman was his wife) . However when Hector 3 had the accident with the red-van, he stumbled upon with the young woman (wasn’t she naked and unconscious), alive and well. So, the situation clearly fits the Schrödinger’s cat’s experiment whereby the outcome of an event all depends on how the observer sees.

To be continued in Part III

Sofiane MEROUANI