SAMPLE SCRIPT ANALYSIS WORK
BUDGET: LOW X MEDIUM HIGH
LOG LINE: A woman’s happiness is jeopardized when her marriage to a prominent lawyer is threatened by a cruel stalker who is intent on taunting her with a personal tragedy she has kept hidden in her past.
COMMENTS SUMMARY: This suspense thriller is entertaining and has a few interesting ideas but its basic lack of originality along with some weakly focused plot choices give it a less than inspiring potential.
SYNOPSIS: One night at the estate of the Elias family, CAROL ELIAS wanders her home in a distressed state. Shortly afterward, a gunshot is heard. A couple of years later NATALIE PIERCE (late 20's), the owner of a preschool facility, is greeting parents at an open house. Her friend and assistant KATHY HOWARD helps with some of the parental inquiries. One parent, BILL McCARTNEY is particularly belligerent but Natalie gives her attention to another parent, MATT ELIAS, a prominent attorney whom she has been seeing and whose son, NICK (4), is a pupil at the preschool. Matt invites Natalie to a fund raising dinner where she learns about the late Carol Elias. Matt tells Natalie that Carol had died of a heart attack.
Natalie’s romance with Matt continues to grow but a sense of caution arises when it is learned that Natalie has a secret to hide from Matt. Natalie is invited to Thanksgiving Dinner at Matt’s home to meet his children. She meets the house keeper MARY, a middle aged woman who looks upon Natalie with a little caution. Matt’s rebellious daughter ALISSA arrives late to dinner and immediately has an argument with her father. After dinner Matt apologizes to Natalie for Alissa’s attitude and asks her to marry him. She thinks it over and accepts. Kathy also finds love with a new boyfriend, GARY. During the wedding Natalie is troubled by a pair of lost earrings Kathy had brought her and Alissa’s less than pleasant attitude. Before the ceremony a telegram is handed to Natalie which says “I’m watching you.” In an unknown location an unidentified person looks at a picture of Natalie and Matt from the society pages and is drawing a site line over Natalie’s face. Next to the pictures are her missing earrings.
After the honeymoon, Natalie returns to the pre-school only to be confronted by the abusive Bill McCartney. He accuses her of hiding his family from him, which she denies. At home Natalie finds Alissa snooping in her dresser and the two have an argument as someone watches them from outside. When Natalie arrives at work the next morning she finds the school has been vandalized and another threatening message painted on the wall. She is able to wipe off the message but is then hit from behind by an assailant. While recovering at home, Natalie discovers Bill McCartney, a newspaper owner, has used his paper to blame her for the poor security at the school. Believing McCartney to be behind the harassment and stalking, Natalie goes to confront him. When she arrives at his home she finds him dead. Matt arrives after the police and becomes upset when he learns that Natalie had not told him she was being stalked. Back at school Natalie finds another threatening note which had been left after McCartney’s death. Natalie reveals that her son Kevin had died several years earlier in an accident which she felt responsible for. The implications of the threats and the fact she hadn’t told Matt about Kevin causes her great anxiety and she passes out. She is taken to the hospital where she and Matt learn she is pregnant.
Returning from another social dinner, Matt tells Natalie he has been getting wrong number calls for someone called Kevin. This information strikes fear in Natalie. She quietly leaves the next morning to visit her ex-husband, LARRY PIERCE, whom she believes is behind the stalking. When she meets him outside his home, he greets her with anger and claims to have nothing to do with her problems. Before returning home, Natalie visits her son’s grave and is pursued by a mysterious assailant in the cemetery. In the stalkers room, a flower from the cemetery is placed in a scrap book. Stopping at a motel, Natalie has a dream about the night Kevin died in a swimming pool while she and Larry had a fight. Back at the school we find Kathy managing the school with the help of her boyfriend Gary who turns out to really be Larry. Upon returning, Natalie is informed by Mary that Alissa being held at a mall store for shoplifting. After getting Alissa released, Natalie gets into an argument with her resulting in a car crash.
Both Alissa and Natalie are found to be in satisfactory condition after the accident but Matt learns that Natalie had been pregnant before. Matt is crushed by Natalie’s lack of trust in him. The next morning Natalie packs her bags and tries to leave. On her way out she comes upon a distraught Alissa sobbing in a secret basement room. Natalie tries to comfort her and is immediately joined by Matt and Mary. Alissa had felt guilty about Carol’s death and Matt tells her it was not her fault. Moved by the sensitivity of the moment, Natalie decides to remain and unpack her bags. While Matt takes everyone out to dinner to talk about their problems, Natalie remains alone in the house. Larry sneaks in and tries to kill Natalie by the swimming pool. However, Kathy, who has figured out who Larry/Gary really is, arrives and helps Natalie overpower him. Matt and the children return just as Larry is taken away by the police. They join together as a new family looking forward to a new future.
GENERAL COMMENTS: In the suspense thriller “XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX”, the writers present a story with a few interesting ideas but with little originality or imagination. The mystery elements are infused into the story adequately but many of the dramatic choices lack credibility or logic.
STRENGTHS OF MATERIAL: As mysteries go, the writers do a good job at setting up an atmosphere of suspicion and paranoia to support their story. They also provide an array of suspects to keep you guessing as to who the stalker is. Most of the characters are given just enough negative inclinations to make them a suspect keeping you involved with their actions far into the final acts of the story. Dramatically the pacing is drawn out well with information about Natalie’s tragic past trickling out slowly and the threat of the stalker increasingly terrifying.
WEAKNESS OF MATERIAL: While the drama is effective at creating suspense and mystery, its premise and general plot lines lack originality. The plot is kept moving with various clues and elements that stimulate the imagination. However many of these elements payoff very poorly. Larry being Kathy’s boyfriend in particular seems to have too many logistical problems. Many of the clues are random and disassociated from each other. This gives the impression that the writers are trying to complicate their plot rather than add to the story. The mystery of Carol’s death is thought to be a guiding motivator of the plot and a threatening force to Natalie’s welfare. This choice doesn’t payoff very well since Larry, who has nothing to do with Carol’s death, turns out to be the stalker. To support the influence of Carol’s death on the story, Matt should become some sort of suspect.
POTENTIAL FOR DEVELOPMENT / IMPROVEMENT: This story does a sufficient job of entertaining and may be an adequate vehicle for an actor to display his or her talents. Unfortunately the story itself holds no fresh potential. Spousal abuse, a key social issue, is only used sparingly to move the story forward and the exploration of Natalie’s inner conflict is very minimal. This lack of depth and the general lack of originality in the writing makes this a weak CBS movie candidate.