Shelby is a girl. I've never heard of a boy named Shelby.
They were not leaving that night. I should have added "tomorrow morning" to the "we have to be at the hotel".
Shelby is possessed by this alien force. Hence why she ends up in the strange place. She was abducted. The entire piece was written in this style. There are decided contrasts in the writing to highlight this: Shelby not wanting her body to go there. Her body goes there assuredly. Her body is moving with the assurance that her mind is not providing. I even provide a note early on that says that all of her dialog is POV. I felt as though there was more than enough there for everyone to understand(the people who don't read loglines for whatever reason) that she was not in control of her actions.
Me telling the audience that it isn't a dream is a technique. You are allowed to do that. Not everything has to be shown. Some liberties can be taken when structured.
A symphony of shrills is a harmonious arrangement of shrills or screams. They indicate pain. That's a hint that I beat on several times.
Shelby can't move her eyes. She can't do anything. Her words and screams are merely her thoughts. Again, her "not bothering to look" is indicative of the contrast between mind and body.
I should have cut the bit about mentioning it was her home. I think her yelling lyle would be enough.
"The door shuts behind Shelby, blowing the candle lights out." Is the actual quote. She is in the bedroom, not the hall.
"How are we supposed to see a machete in Shelby's head in a POV shot?" I never wrote a scene where we see a machete stuck in her head. I did write "Marge takes the machete to Shelby’s head. It sticks." Which can be seen, since Marge is holding the machete, as it's stuck on the side of the camera.
The alien encounter is the possession of these people.
Here's the breakdown:
Marge warns of bad things coming. Implications that other people have already left. They are to leave tomorrow(I didn't specify, though I should have). Shelby is possessed at night and taken to a cave, where it can be implied that the other bodies are kept. We see the faces of other people on walls, and we do hear screams. But the screams don't sound human. So what are they?
So Shelby's body keeps taking her through the cave. Then it stops when it hears a loud, pleading scream. Then it heads in that direction. Why? Since her body is being manipulated, we can assume that her body's motivations are the alien's motivations.
She heads through the forest and sees from the corner of her eye, someone dragging another person in the opposite direction(towards the cave). Foreshadowing.
She arrives at her house and here's Lyle's cries of "help". Her body goes inside and moves "purposefully" through. There were heavy hints that the body knew exactly what it was doing and what it needed to do. There was a task. What is it?
She heads upstairs, and follows the sounds of the help. She sees Lyle's head screaming it. She takes the head. It can now be assumed that her task, the alien's task was to take this head. She goes in the room and sees Lyle's body and the alien on the floor. She moves towards it. Why? If we recall the "pleading cries" and the "help" from Lyle(who was clearly also possessed) as well as the body being dragged from the city to the cave(through the forest), one can assume that it's her task to retrieve this body and the alien and bring them back. These are the bodies and aliens that didn't make it out of their homes alive.
So I reversed the horror story paradigm. Normally it starts in the home, with mystery and scares building and eventually peaking once we reach the strange place. Here I started in the strange place with the mystery and scares increasing and peaking as we reach the home. This way we get the duality of the fear. We get Shelby's side, being exposed to all of this, and we have the alien's side, begging to be rescued from Marge's home(and other homes possibly).
Marge was the evil to the aliens. She killed her son before he could leave the home(he was possessed). It's implied because his head is chopped off and she has a machete(I should have described it as bloody). And they needed help.
Marge attacks her daughter because she is possessed. And kills her in much the same way as she did her son.
Shelby's screams of help(now audibly) should call back memories to Lyle's screaming. You put two and two together, you can assume that there's a cycle here. Another possessed body will be sent to that house to retrieve these two dead aliens and the dead bodies. And Marge will likely kill them too. You can even assume a step further, that she uses the dead bodies as bait(Lyle standing at the window). But if you got that far, I'd be overly impressed.
A lot of this you missed because you didn't read the logline(which takes a second to read). At the end of the day, it all depends on how much the reader cares. If they want to know what happened, they will find out. If they didn't really care, they won't and they'll take it all at face value.
I doubt I could have "easily cut three pages from the script by tightening descriptions and dialogue" to come in under 8 pages. Please direct me at any sentences and descriptions that could be cut. I'm not really sure how you can suggest what needs to be cut when you didn't understand the story. It's just about as lean as I can get it, minus a line or two here and there.
Thanks for reading. I can't make you re-read it, but when you don't get something, why not give the logline a read to try to understand it? Or try to put clues together?
Thread: The First Night
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06-16-2012 12:20 PM
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Last edited by ZellJr; 06-16-2012 at 12:43 PM.
06-16-2012 12:58 PM
OK. This is helpful. I can now re-read this with the CliffsNotes :-)
And just so I've got it right, the "elevator pitch" (damn, I sort of hate that phrase, but it works here):
Aliens have landed. They possess and behead people. A family is trying to get out, before it's too late (nice scene, BTW - loved the interplay between the three, but more on that in a more formal review). Daughter is possessed - her body ends up in cave. Because she is possessed, she has lost control of her physical actions, but her mind is still her own, so we experience her uncertainty, her terror and other emotions. The alien in possession of her body takes her to her home, because the aliens goal is to possess humans and take them to the cave. Upon arriving, we discover (through her POV) that the brother has been decapitated by the mother because he's been possessed. Now, unlike Shelby, the brother can talk (his cries for help), but she arrives too late to save him from the mother's machete. Shelby comes upon the scene, sees her brother, and alien and her mother with the machete. The mother then kills Shelby.
I think I've got it more or less right - reading this over, and looking at the script, is it the alien who is crying for help or is it Lyle, the brother?
06-16-2012 01:15 PM
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Lyle is crying for help through the possession of the alien. Lyle is dead(beheaded; poor Lyle). But the alien still screams through him. For help. So the aliens need saving(from Marge) just as much as the possessed people need saving. It goes both ways.
You're pretty close. The aliens don't behead people. But Marge beheads the possessed people(to protect herself).
But yup. That's the gist. More possessed people will respond to Shelby's cries for help now and return to save Shelby. Marge will likely kill them. etc. etc
06-16-2012 01:53 PM
I don't get why some have found it so hard to follow. I always read once with my punter brain before I turn my critic brain on. Maybe people are tripping on details. That said it shouldn't need an explanation almost as long as the script and I preferred the open interpretation. The writer's intent is only half a story, the audience's interpretation the other half. You shouldn't mind if the audience interprets your story wrong, only whether it entertained them. An open interpretation will leave an audience with questions and prompt discussion. The trick is that is has to raise good questions and answer enough to be satisfying. You had a strong internal logic so even though I read it a little different to your intent it still felt right.
06-16-2012 02:10 PM
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But I find it's most fun when you get to compare your interpretations with the author's.
As a reader, I always want to know what the writer intended. Curiosity's sake of course. But also to sharpen up my own reading skills. My own analytical skills and attention to details. It helps me to pick up on things.
But that's just me.
06-16-2012 02:34 PM
OK, cool. I'll re-read it with that and your notes in mind. I think there's a lot of good stuff going on here...
Love that phrase "punter brain"
06-16-2012 03:48 PM
I disagree. Everything that I need to understand the story should be in the story (I'm not saying you don't need mystery). Audiences get a tagline at most. If you get a bug budget feature then they may have seen a trailer. With a few tweaks it would've made perfect sense on first reading. And don't get too burned up over reviews. Take what you can use and toss the rest.
06-16-2012 03:51 PM
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No one's getting burned up.
I've yet to meet anyone who has paid to watch a movie without knowing what it's about or asking. Every query service out there asks for a logline. Every script service asks for a logline. You will almost never see a script without a logline.
06-17-2012 06:55 PM
It's okay everybody. I can clear this whole thing up with two words.
06-17-2012 07:34 PM
(incidently I for one try my best to see movies devoid of prior knowledge...I have to go into lockdown when I hear about a movie that's up my alley!)
Last edited by Egg Born Son; 06-17-2012 at 07:39 PM.