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

Read X-Files “Flight 180”. The spec script that would become Final Destination.

Unless you have been living under the rock, Final Destination is a huge financial success that started back in 2000, spanning four sequels that concluded in 2011. Not to mention movie tie-ins and other related medias. (Final Destination 5 is a  prequel whose final scene was directly connected with the events of the first movie that sets off the franchise)

The story resolves around a teenager who must cheat death in order to survive. Using his premonition of the upcoming calamity, he or she tries to save life of those who were supposed to perish on a particular accident.  Final Destination was first conceived as a spec script for X-Files TV Show entitled : “Flight 180” , written by Jeffrey Reddick.

The main protagonist is supposed to be Dana Scully’s brother who has some sort of premonition, an asset that would be essentially used by the protagonists of the franchise to cheat death.

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Dated all a way back in 1994, Jeffrey Reddick wrote Flight 180, using Word processor instead of Final Draft. The spec script is available right here.

“I decided to use the basic concept of people cheating Death as the catalyst,” said Reddick, “But when you write a spec for a series, you want to follow the framework of the show and go deeper. So, I had Scully’s brother have the premonition, which made the story more personal. I won’t spoil the rest, but for the spec script, the concept isn’t front and center, it’s more about Scully, Mulder and her relationship with her brother.

“But when I decided to write it as a feature [Final Destination], I made the story all about the concept. And tweaked it.”

Reddick continues :

I think fans will be most interested in seeing how the kernel of the concept started in 1994. Death worked differently in this version. Since Mulder and Scully had the believer/skeptic relationship, I had to keep Death vague enough, but clear enough, to fit the concept and investigation in to a one-hour show.

“But it’s interesting to see how this kernel evolved in to the original draft of Flight 180 in 1997 – and finally the finished version of the 2000 Final Destination.”

Reddick revealed he’s been carrying some frustration for the past 15 years. Here, he clears the air about rumors that Final Destination was inspired by the real life crash of TWA Flight 800 in 1996.

“The biggest misconception about the original spec script is the one that has bothered me the most… When the movie came out in 2000, a lot of reviewers said the story was inspired by the real life crash of TWA Flight 800 in 1996. I got flack for that,”

Sofiane MEROUANI