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Screenwriting Help E-Mail (Previous)

Updated every Monday, one selected e-mail will be posted and answered here each week. With many years of experience in the film and television business, I look forward to providing answers to your questions about screenwriting or the entertainment industry in general.  Please send your e-mailed questions to: Script Advisor.  You may also wish to visit our Screenwriting Help E-Mails - The Archives.

This week's question: 

I’m working on a thriller and just saw the remake of When A Stranger Calls.  It was basically about a babysitter who is stalked by a killer scene after scene and didn’t even seem like a full movie to me.  Do you have anything to say about that?

Bob from Utah


This week's Answer: 

A Short Long Film

Bob, I did see the remake and understand what you’re referring to when you described it.  This is a “scare them as you go” rendition.  No frills, no character development, no deep plot or theme.  No anything except “teen in jeopardy and come along for the ride.”  There were very few locations, the main one being the secluded house near the forest.  It’s the kind of film designed to create the necessary suspense to hold our attention until the very end.  If you notice, it’s a sine wave of building tension followed by quick drop-offs of false scares or plateaus of progressive terror.  You can visualize an uneven wave, more ascent than descent due to the fact that this film focuses more on building suspense than displaying climactic, terror-filled moments.  Just like a sine wave, a roller coaster takes us up and down, attempting to give the feeling of being spun out of control.  The reason it may not seem like a “full movie” to you is that, even though the running time of When a Stranger Calls is 123 minutes, it’s filled with somewhat repetitious moments in the sense that there is so much of the protagonist walking through the house and making and receiving phone calls (a major activity of many cell-phone users, many of whom are teens, whom, possibly, their parents would wish would feel a little more terror when it comes to the cell-phone bills that register their over-the-limit minutes, thereby putting the teens' parents mortgages in jeopardy -- which, come to think of could make for an excellent thriller depicting mad, out of control parents stalking their own cell-phone abusing teens), which can create a time-shrinking illusion, and because, once the killer is discovered to be a physical, tangible threat to the protagonist, the rest of the film plays out very quickly as the she fights to stay alive.

I thought of a title for the film:

TALK STALK

OR

WHEN A STRANGER (TEENS OFTEN SEEM LIKE STRANGERS TO THEIR PARENTS) CALLS... ON A CELL

DcH                                                           

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