Full review of the feature screenplay "The Family Way", written by Shiva Rodriguez and D. Duckie Rodriguez.
This script report was done by a reader at HORROR Underground Film & Screenplay Festival in August 2020.
TITLE: The Family Way
In the horror feature, The Family Way, two couples, Vivian and her husband Tony and Vivian’s brother, Greg, and his girlfriend, Jessica, travel on a road trip to Nevada. They make a pit stop at a lone gas station but the owner, Richard, tells them the gas line is broken and it will take a day to get the parts. He invites the group to stay at his family’s home for the night. Meanwhile, on the radio a reporter announces another female body has been found and the police believe it is related to at least six recent murders. At the house, Richard introduces the couples to his wife, Sue, her brother, Crawford, and their sons, Jeffery, and Marty. After dinner Richard offers the men brandy down in his basement. Jessica and Vivian hate each other and pick fight after fight. Crawford takes a liking to Vivian who is always drawing in her sketch book. Later, Richard attacks Tony and Greg and locks them in a cell in the basement. Jessica is attacked and tied up in the bathtub. Marty later rapes her. Crawford shows Vivian his morbid and grotesque cadaver art. She is intrigued and not disgusted. In order to stay alive and live with the group a person must kill someone they love. Richard says Vivian needs to kill Greg. No one believes she will do it. Crawford has brought back many women, but Vivian is different. Eventually Vivian kills Greg. The group work together to nurture Vivian back to health after some injuries she suffered during Greg’s attack. The family lives on.
The concept of this horror feature is fresh and original, and the story includes a compelling cast of characters whose lives intertwine when two couples encounter a strange, murderous family after their car runs out of gas on a long-distance road trip. You have imagined a creative story with a unique cast of characters. Now it’s time to zero in on a few issues to make your script even better.
STRUCTURE AND PLOT DEVELOPMENT.
You are a creative writer with a genuine talent for writing a horror feature. Act I grabs interest when the radio news reporter announces another body has been found and they believe it is related to the last six murders in town. There are several good elements here that make up a fulfilling script. The setting is original, and you bring to life details that are unique and visually engaging. There is an exciting flow to the story and the quick pace keeps us turning the pages. I had to shut my eyes a few times during the script before continuing on. The plot and subplots are entertaining and are easy to follow. The characters are genuine and there is a unique relationship between Crawford and Vivian that sends chills. We feel eager to see how their relationship will develop. Richard is an evil predator who adds mystery and intrigue to the story. There is plenty of conflict and compelling obstacles throughout the script and you certainly know how to hook a reader and keep the momentum going!
Wrapping it up the conclusion doesn’t have to have a happy ending however you want your audience to feel satisfied. Think of it as payback for the time they invested. The story comes full circle after Vivian passes the Cultry Family’s test and she is welcomed with open arms. Too bad no one else in her group survived. She and Crawford obviously like it that way. Good job here.
Proper formatting makes a good impression. A properly formatted script not only looks professional and shows serious dedication, but it keeps readers focused on the story and not distracted by other formatting problems. There are a few issues here that need some modifications, but they can easily be fixed. The characters and the initial setting are properly introduced but try adding the name of town or city where the action takes place and the year it is to your first slug line. This will give a reader some good information. Next, review page one where the radio announcer says, “…the shoeprint suggests the perpetrator is a man in his teens or early twenties.” Think of changing “man” to “male” here. A “man” suggests the perpetrator is older that a teen, etc.
Wow! You are a creative writer and you are aware of what an attractive page of script looks like, not too much dialogue, not too much description. Just right. The script however is overly long at 116 pages. Try reducing the pages to 90-95 pages instead. This will help tighten up your story. Remember everything needs to be as brief and concise as possible. Another good tip is to read other screenplays that are similar to your genre. Remember that writing a screenplay is all about revealing story through visuals. Approach each scene from this angle: what do I want to show the audience with these characters’ words and/or actions? Finally, always remember to double check spelling, grammar, and typos. Your goal is to make your script as easy to read as possible so readers can naturally follow your story.
Think about any story you’ve ever told. Chances are, you began by telling us who it was about. Everything else comes second. The same is true of a great screenplay. We need the who before we care about the why. The trick is to capture your reader’s attention from the moment your character shows up. Your first instinct might be to just tell us who someone is. If we are reading your script, we want you to show, not tell. We want discovery rather than exposition. And the core of your description has to be visual. For example, if your protagonist is struggling with addiction, don’t just tell us they’re an addict. Describe the shake in their hands or voice. Most importantly don’t tell us they’re good at what they do. Put them in a difficult situation as quickly as possible, and then have them solve it in their own unique way. Your script is a fantastic example of all these characteristics.
Richard and his grotesque and vicious family are quite unique and are a bunch of weirdos. But they seem to make it work. Crawford and Vivian change the most by the end of the script. Vivian has become a murderer and Crawford, already a murderer, finds out what love feels like. What a great twist. Both of them being artists is a nice common interest, but the kind of art is what makes them so unique. (and sick).
You have a genuine talent for writing unique characters with different personality traits and we are drawn to your characters visually and emotionally. Fantastic job! The cast is where your story shines. There are so many interesting directions your story can go, but relationships are what drives a story. Whatever plot there is, whatever outside influences there are, it is really all about who these people are and what they’re going to bring to each other.
The dialogue is realistic in the world you have created, and the characters listen to each other and respond accordingly. There is distinction in the characters voices and a good example of this is when on page 18,
Richard says, “I’ll go ahead and shut down here if you fellers want to put your bags in my truck over there.”
Then a few of my favorite lines include when Vivian speaks to Greg about marrying Jessica on page 9:
“You sure you really want to do this, Greg? I mean you really don’t have to marry that dingbat.”
And on page 14,
Greg says, “You want anything? Potato chips? Soda?”
Vivian says, “Ear plugs.”
Good job here!
Overall, you are off to an entertaining first draft! You are a talented and creative writer with a genuine talent for writing suspense and excitement. There is plenty of conflict and compelling obstacles. The plot and subplots make sense and are easy to follow. You know how to hook a reader and keep that momentum flowing. The characters are realistic and genuine, and we are not confused by too many of them. A good tip is to read your scenes out loud with a friend and cut out anything that drags too much or is complicated and confusing. Trim down everything even further. Be simple and concise. For a horror genre you have kept the momentum going, included a few chuckles, and scared the wits out of this reader! You still have a little tightening up to do, but that’s the fun part. I enjoyed reading your script and look forward to seeing how things turn out for you. You have plenty of potential, so keep working…don’t give up!