Point of No Return

While suffering from an ultra-annoying migraine, I nursed myself back to health last weekend watching movies – two horror movies to be exact: House on Haunted Hill and Return to House on Haunted Hill.

I have never seen the original so I will refrain from discussing it.

But I want to focus on the script for the second movie. Since I now have received my feature film writing certificate from UCLA, I feel I am pretty qualified to make this grip.

Not to say, it’s a bad thing either. If I can see things “wrong” in other scripts, then I can make sure not to make the same types of faults in my stories. It’s a good teaching tool.

Ready?

Here’s a quick summary from imdb.com

The editor of a fashion magazine Ariel Wolfe receives many calls from her sister Sara, but she does not return. When Sara is found dead, apparently after committing suicide, Ariel goes to her apartment with her friend and photographer Paul. She meets Professor Richard, who is seeking Sara’s journal to find a lead to the statue of the evil god Baphomet for a museum. Later, Ariel and Paul are kidnapped by the gang of the treasure hunter Desmond, who intends to find and sell the statue to a private collector for five million dollars. They go to the house, where they meet Richard, his assistant Kyle and the student Michelle, but the criminals dominate the group. However, the house suddenly closes all the exits and they find trapped inside with vision of ghosts that are reliving their final moments in the place they died.

Ok, now that we’re caught up —

Many times Ariel repeats the words ‘my sister….’ ‘You killed my sister…’ ‘my sister said….’ So you apparently have a sister? Why can’t we use her name – Sara? Which by my count was only used once or twice. I hate repetition. Which actually is a good pet peeve to have. Drove me crazy.

Second — When Sara’s sister (!) escapes and runs to the SUV parked outside she can’t find the keys and bangs the vehicle in anger. Fine. But, there are two SUVs parked there – why didn’t she try the other? And if your life means that much to you – wouldn’t you try to hotwire it? No, I don’t know how to, but that’s not the point. When your life is in danger, you do crazy (and sometimes miraculous things!)

On that same note, Ariel later saves the day by throwing the idol down the sewer drain (so all evil spirits can be freed.) She’s the one who came up with the idea of how to get it out of the house…..yet she can’t figure out how to hotwire a car? If that same brain can think under pressure to save everyone, why can’t it be used for mechanical work?

After one bad guy is pulled apart to bloody bits, the professor slips in the leftover mess onto the hard floor. During the film’s climax, Ariel walks backward (while in tennis shoes) across a blood-soaked floor – and why didn’t she slip? Yes, the professor was hurrying himself across the room, but tennis shoes don’t have super grip strength either.

And also why didn’t they slip on the many water puddles scattered through the many underground damp tunnels? And how did the water even get down there in the first place? Unless there was a VERY recent storm that passed by, I don’t think you can justify that much liquid.

At one point, the remaining live characters happen upon a massive tub used for hydrotherapy, but the water appeared pretty clean for being locked up for about 50 years. Ghosts tried to grab at Ariel and her friend when they got caught inside the tank, yet the underwater shots looked clean – as in anti-murky and wouldn’t or shouldn’t it be if bodies were dumped in the tank? Slowly the body would dissolve or something….all the ghosts appeared intact, very much alike the new victims swimming for their lives.

Flashlights – I was trained to create tension, conflict, get at the heart of the story, so why did the flashlights work the entire movie? Wouldn’t it be better they break down? Or at least flicker?

Visually, Ariel wore white and the bad guys wore black, so it was a true battle between good and evil. At the end of the movie, Ariel was wearing red – thanks to all the blood splashed on her. I really didn’t even notice that, but her tank top was so blaring white it was hard to ignore.

Lastly, Desmond twice applied chapstick to his lips. Still can’t figure out the symbolism for that. If it was cut from the movie, it wouldn’t leave behind much of an impact. Was a nice little character trait, but other than that, chuck it. Did not add to the overall picture.

Several times it seemed the writer needed to create a situation for a character to do something else, so he was forced to create a diversion for the character to finish the puzzle. So if he needed him to get to C and he was at A, he inorganically created a B to complete the circle.

With all that said, I was not hired to do the script, for all I know it could have been a rush job and needed to be finished in less than a week….I’ll never know. I just can comment on what I saw.

And thankfully, I can now see loopholes and faults that need to be fixed in my scripts.

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