#screenwriting #screenplay #review
“There is one type of script that is absolutely perfect for the spec market – this one. If you come up with a contained horror scenario that’s intense, that has immediacy, and that’s a little bit different from what’s come in the past, somebody will buy it. Shit, I’LL buy it. You can make these movies for a cheap price AND they’re easy to market. So they’re always going to be in high demand.
But that doesn’t mean you can do whatever you want. You have to find that fresh angle. Hidden is by no means original, but it has just enough new that it doesn’t feel like yet another contained thriller clone.
For example, almost all scripts with people hiding from an unseen danger put several strangers together. It’s a smart way to go because you can create a mysterious backstory behind each character (that can be revealed over the course of the script) and the potential is high for conflict since you have a bunch of different personalities.
But Hidden took the unique approach of sticking us with a family. You definitely lost some potential conflict with the choice, but what you gain is an overwhelming sense of love between the characters and an “us against them” mentality. This created a strong bond between us and the characters, which meant we were rooting for them from Page 1.
And remember that when you have the audience rooting for your characters, you can pretty much get away with anything. You can even ignore some of the things I preach all the time because if we’re desperately rooting for the characters, the structure isn’t as important. We just want to see the characters win, regardless of the mechanics beneath them. The closeness of this family really helped in that sense. I read on because I wanted to see them survive.
Speaking of the family, it includes Claire and Ray Hewitt, former middle-class suburban parents, and their seven-year-old daughter, Zoe. They’re down in this shelter because a year ago, on an ordinary Sunday, a mass hysteria rose up when a unique virus started infecting everyone. The virus turned ordinary people into dangerous and uncontrollable beasts.
The Hewitt family tried to get away like everybody else, but when the military started attacking civilians, they fled into the woods and found this hidden shelter. They’ve been here ever since, hiding. And it’s gone pretty well. Except they’re finally running out of rations and will need to find food somewhere else – not an easy task since going to the surface is the equivalent of suicide.
But hunger is just one of many invisible clocks ticking down for this family. And those clocks start ticking a lot faster when an accidental fire sends smoke out the ventilation shaft up into the forest. It’s only a matter of time, now, before the breathers spot the smoke and seek out its origin. When that happens, it’s doubtful our family will be able to remain…hidden.
Lots to like about this one! The writing itself was top-notch. The brothers have an amazing ability to keep descriptions sparse, so that the script moves along quickly, yet still pack interesting shit into their action, so that the info both moves the story forward and paints a powerful picture of the situation.
I read lots of scripts from writers who hear their writing needs to be sparse, but they take it to the extreme. The writing ends up containing so little meat, so little detail or depth of information, that it’s as if the words disappear somewhere between the page and your eyes.
I loved how the brothers would take time, for example, to explain how a rat was able to get into their food supply and chew through the cans, cutting their survival time in half. It’s stuff like this that paints a detailed picture of their predicament – that shows the unique things a family in this type of situation would have to go through. There’s meat here. There’s specificity.
But the real power of the script came in the writers’ ability to tell a story. Again, so many new writers focus on how to string words together. And it’s not that that isn’t important. It is. But it’s not nearly as important as telling the story and keeping the reader interested.
Right away, we hear about these “breathers.” The way the family talks about them, you’d think that the devil himself was hunting them. And yet we don’t know what they are yet because the writers have chosen to make them a mystery. Well guess what? That mystery is a storytelling device to keep us, the reader, interested. We will keep reading until we see these breathers for………”