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"Gathering Souls" by Chris Keaton

Rewrite: 4/14/2010 12:00 AM

Logline: Two serial killers reveling in the power killing gives them, are surprised by an unconventional lawman.

Genre: Action - Crime - Horror - Thriller

Cast Size: 5

Production Status: Produced

Production Web Site:!/pages/Gathering-Souls/132865476740212

Contest: Third Time's the Charm (Dec. 2009)

Contest Scores
PoorFairGoodVery GoodExcellent

Comments Made During the Contest

Ammar Salmi (Level 5)

Oh yeah, now you're talking. Finally, some gore-action mix. I liked the characters, they felt real. I really envy your ability to shape up characters. However, the storyline have stopped twisting right after the black fangs was revealed. The reader always expect a new revealing from time to time while reading, and he never stops until the fade out. Give him what he expects.

Audrey Webb (Level 5)

I think the name of your SWAT guy is a bit too cartoonish to fit with the rest of the script. And from a perspective of realism, perhaps Johnny would have to fire a few shots, just to let Buck and the others outside know that he's in there doing his job.

I have to wonder why Tex and Cher left the victims in the room and then went out. There's little intrigue in the opening sequence, and the script really starts when T & C enter the hotel room. Consider having the opening start right in the room. We can get "seedy hotel" without having to see the outside of the building.

Brian Wind (Level 5)

This was written and formatted pretty good. Tex and Johnny seemed a little too similar to me, like they were essentially the same character. The title gives away what Cher and Tex are up to and the twist of Law being a soul sucker was predictable as soon as he told Buck to wait in the hall so there really weren't any surprises here for me. It wasn't clear what mistake Cher and Tex had made that led Johnny Law right to them and I think that could have been a good detail to include. Overall, I liked this script, but I would have liked it more if there was anything surprising in it. Nice job.

Caroline Coxon (Mod Emeritus)

Is the great detail describing what Tex and Cher wear really necessary? I don't think so.

I thought this was almost brilliant! The not quite bit was mainly - wondering what the lot of them DID with the new souls when they'd got them.

When Cher and Tex got the first souls, I expected their demeanour or personality to be changed by having new souls, then something similar with Johnny. Without that, the gathering of souls seemed purposeless. I needed a reason to make this wonderful piece of writing stand up completely on its own two legs.

Very very good!

Chris Messineo (Founder)

This made me smile. It's full of so many classic moments - it feels like an homage to a hundred different films.

I'm not sure there's much depth here, but then I don't think there's supposed to be with a story like this. It's full of fun, fast, action and memorable lines and characters. I love the name "Johnny Law"; it's cliche and perfect at the same time.

Well done.

Dan Delgado (Level 5)

OK, you got my interest. This story works, says a lot in five pages and is complete as is or could be used to start a longer story. It definitely makes you wonder who and "what" the heck Johnny is.

It's easy to read-- the quickest moving five pages I read this month and that's a good thing. (I even went back to make sure it was actually five pages.)

I didn't see anything at all to complain about in the pacing or the mechanics of this, you drew vivid pictures with a few words and didn't do anything to pull me out of the story.

I gave this an "Excellent".

Thank you.

Dan Lennox (Level 5)

I thought this was a pretty good story that flowed pretty well. I liked your dialogue between TEX and CHER, especially the southern accent. It added depth and originality to your characters.

The only question that still haunts me a bit concerns the SWAT team. I know nothing of police protocol, but it would seem a bit unlikely that considering the dangerous nature of the people they were chasing, that they would only let one guy (JOHNNY) go in by himself.

Good job.

David Birch (Level 5)

the best way to emphasize a word in dialog (although you should do this at a very minimum) would be to underscore the word you want emphasized...simple and it gets the message across...the story was very descriptive, but i prefer a little more "white" on the page...have your lines of dialog be crisp and on point...i'm not sure you need to open your story with your protags in the room already...the stuff about pulling up to the motel really doesn't move your story and could be used to add some backstory to help your reader connect with the scene...anyway it was a good read...keep working at it...

DW Pollard (Level 4)

Fun read - fast and action packed. Interesting characters with interesting traits.

I did not like the character name: Johnny Law. Seeing that turned it more into a cartoon or comic strip. The tone before that had a more serious, adult feel to it. It made me think of something from Rob Zombie.

I think having Buck and the SWAT team with Johnny was unecessary; might make for interesting visual having SWAT slink along hotel walls, but it took away from the story again because SWAT wouldn't be called in and then just let one man go through the door. So why even have them at all?

Any significance to why both Tex and Johnny Law are wearing cowboy hats?

Elias Farnum (Level 5)

I'd shy away from describing a character's dress, unless it is important to the story somehow. Otherwise, the writing is tight, very visual, and a unique voice.

The story feels a bit Highlanderesque, but I don't see any reason behind it, it's not set up, and as soon as "John Law" (don't care for the name) is introduced, I knew he was also a soul reaper.

No one had a goal here that I could discern. Didn't feel very original without more of a set-up as to why this all happened. Just reaping souls for power is not a real goal to me.

I think this needs to be expanded.

Faith Friese Nelson (Level 5)

The opening slug-line and sentences confused me. If the seen is outside, then how can they be walking on the second floor to their room? "EXT. SEEDY HOTEL – DAY Litter blows across an empty parking lot. A couple walks down the open second floor toward their room."

Instead of naming them VICTIM 1 and VICTIM 2, why not FEMALE VICTIM and MALE VICTIM? Or give them names?

Gary Jackson (Level 1)

Why does Lawman have black spider teeth? Not that it matters that much. I am just curious. The beginning hooked me right away and that is hard to do, since I have a short attention span. The whole supernatural twist really made this script. The climax and ending was clever too. If I seem to be rambling, it is because I am required to write at least 300 words here when I can say it all in about two: Very Good!

Herman Chow (Level 5)

Once again, another interesting idea that suffers from sub-par execution. I'd like to give it a higher mark but couldn't because of lack of explanation and too many unanswered questions.

Let's start with something I liked. The change of tone from the first to second scene was a surprise to me. At first it was like a romance and then changed into a horror. You set up an expectation and then threw in a twist. I think that was great.

Now inside the hotel room, the usual chit-chat between the killers and victims are fine. But I don't think you need to tell us Tex and Cher are taking their souls. We'll eventually SEE them taking their souls. But then you didn't explain what they are going to do with their souls? Do they get prolonged life or something? It seems they do it for no reason, no motivation.

Then Johnny comes in with Buck. I don't think you need to isolate Buck from the rest of the SWAT members. Buck didn't do anything important to the story. Then Johnny is actually a vampire who kills both Tex and Cher. Okay, but why? Johnny seems to know Tex and Cher but not the other way around. Another question that I want answered.

I know what's going on on the screen, but I cannot tell why each character is doing what they are doing. The action was good, but at the end I could care less because I didn't know who I should root for. Tex or Johnny?

Jeannie Sconzo (Level 5)

It is nice to see that the good guys won.

A bit more clarity may be needed during and after the victims' actual deaths. I'm guessing that the killers took their souls somehow. I get that idea from the title. However, without the title, I'm not sure I'd get that part. It may seem like they're having orgasms jerking their bodies having gotten so excited by killing.
Perhaps if you mention something about the souls being seen entering their bodies or if they have dialogue with one another descibing what's taking place.

I also think fleshing out Johnny's character would be helpful. Make him more likeable. Maybe make him more of a father figure to Buck. Right now he's a bit disconnected from him. We want to root for him; so help us do that.

JeanPierre Chapoteau (Moderator)

This was okay. I felt like I was reading stories from the horror month. I thought the fangs came out of nowhere. I would have liked to know that we lived in a world filled with monsters and stuff. It would have brought me into the story. First there were killers. Then Soul takers. And then a vampire thingy showed up. I thought it was too much.

There were some typo's, but nothing major. The ending was just... I dunno.

Jeffrey Slocum (Level 4)

I liked this a real lot. Great beginning, you don't mess around, cut right to the chase. Wasn't crazy about the cornball "Johnny Law" reference and the typical stance of him standing nonchalantly, unfazed, smoking a cigarette, bu I have been known as overly critical. Overall, awesome. Didn't expect the twist with Johnny being the carnivore. I guess that makes up for the cornishness. Vampires are everywhere these days, but this was a good rendition.

Joel Davis (Level 5)

That was pretty grotesque. Had a nice, comic book tone to it. I really like how you managed to convey the tone and atmosphere very well through not only the description, but also the dialogue. Nice work.

I would have liked to have Johnny Law introduced earlier, it was kind of jarring to switch protags between Tex and Law. This would have been fine for a prologue on a longer feature, but for a short it takes half the space before we meet Law.

Jose Batista (Level 5)

Tex and Cher seem like banded pieces of criminals from different movies. Johnny Law does too. And so does Buck. Tex and Cher's handling of their victims and their subsequent defeat at the hands of the supernatural Lawman and his bufoonish sidekick is all that was needed to cement the sequence of cliches that is this script. Lacking originality and a better explanation of what the fantasy aspects are, you created a fun scene that appears to be a part of something bigger. Perhaps if you lose the typical trashy appearance of the criminals, the swanky hotel that everyone likes to film in and the soul-sucking John Wayne-ish lawman, this could be a fantasy-scifi thriller that could really catch attention.

Kenneth Goorabian (Level 2)

Nicely done. Odd but fun character names. Truely evil people. I would like to know what the mistake was that Johhny Law is refering to that led to their capture.

Thought: Wouldn't the SWAT team enter after hearing a gunshot? With Johnny's powers was it necesarry?

Kevin Carty (Level 4)

This story seems a bit abrupt. It just seems like I've seen Tex before a hundred times. I was thinking, superhero, comic book. I don't know much about the powers. Can anyone do it?
I think the world needs to be set up, maybe this is a good case to use voice over. It just seems a bit out of place.

The writing and format are good enough. The story just doesn't hit me on message, character, or story. I wish this story was about something instead of just good guy vs bad guys for an idea like taking souls, I wish this was about something or had something different to say.

Khamanna Iskandarova (Level 5)

What you wrote is very visual and bloody, which is a good thing.

p3 - who is Galveston - I understand that they are referencing someone great, another federal marshal perhaps, but don't think these two lines are really necessary.

I can't understand the genre here - is it a parody or a serious vampire slash soulsucker fantasy/horror?

And I'd appreciate your script more if there was some learning from it, some character act. What's your characters motivation? Why they need souls, is it what they feed on - this was not very clear. All vampire movies have it - they have to sting in order to feed, why these need souls?
If you are going for something silly and crazy - maybe it's not my type of silly and crazy,..or maybe you didn't go all the way silly.

KP Mackie (Level 5)

Writing is concise and the characters are well defined.
Hard story to read, though. Perhaps it's indicative of the good writing.
Lots of descriptive visual action. Seems the killing for sport aspect by the characters, the blood and gore, is particularly vivid. With the current popularity of vampires, this story probably would make a lot of money.

Kyle Patrick Johnson (Level 5)

I'm not exactly sure who the protagonist is in the story. It seems to be Johnny, but he doesn't even enter the film until page 3 (halfway through!). Since there really doesn't seem to be a character arc for anyone in the film, it's really a situational film only. The characters are from some strange mythology, but none of the backstory is given (fangs?). I just hope your film doesn't inspire a new breed of copycat. :)

Margaret Ricke (Level 5)

Page 1 - "A couple walks down..." sounds like they're going down stairs. Change "down" to "along."

I'm so wondering how she got a long knife in her back pocket... Back pockets don't generally have that much room. Try a sheath slung under her flannel shirt.

Stick with MAN and WOMAN in describing the people on the bed. You switch to VICTIM 1 and VICTIM 2 on page 2.

Page 4 - I'd break up Johnny's top dialogue.

Put a comma between "...messing with..." and "Lawman." Take out the "He emphasizes 'Lawman.'

Page 5 - "Tex let's go of his neck..." Earlier you say Tex grabs his "throat." Use one or the other, but not both. I prefer "throat." Much more visceral when you're talking blood and gore...

Fun story, and I really like the concept. I'd get into the innocence of the couple on the bed before Law brings it up, though. A foretelling earlier in the story...

Good work.

Marnie Mitchell Lister (Level 5)

This one had me confused. I'm not sure what the "power" was that Tex and cher got from killing people. And Johnny Law...what was he? Like a spider? The western stuff was cool but even that is confusing because it was present day. No Swat team and 6 packs of beer in the west.

So there were parts I liked but in the end I just didn't get it. I'm sorry.

Martin Jensen (Level 5)

I like the Pulp Fiction-esque torture matched with the stealing of souls and the supernatural. It feels very original.

The action flows very well on the whole, but sometimes it's a bit too detailed for what you're trying to describe.

With a rewrite (outside of five pages) you should expand the fight scene. There's no real danger to Johnny at all once his fangs are revealed here, and a fairer fight would make it more dramatic.

A great idea, very well written.

Matthew Fettig (Level 5)

What I liked about this was that Tex and Cher didn't waste time talking to the victims. You knew it was coming but it was very abrupt. It was set up well. The tempo was good.

I'm not into the vampire thing, and the part with Buck was a bit awkward. He seems to know but I'm not sure. But overall I think it played fairly well.

MJ Hermanny (Level 5)

This started off really nicely, has a Natural Born Killers vibe to it and I thought some great exposition about soul hunting was going come out when they showed the scars and then things went off at a weird tangent that I didn't quite grasp.

Do the SWAT team know Johnny is a vampire?

This seems like something from a much bigger piece and it doesn't really work for me as a stand alone - too many unanswered questions which leaves me feeling confused.

Formatting is good. Characters a little cliched and one dimensional. Dialogue is ok but not too original and the story just leaves me a little flummoxed.

Paul De Vrijer (Level 5)

Reads like a popcorn pulply episode of twilight show or something. That's a compliment, because I think you were going for that.

The twist, although surprising, doesn't really change the dynamic all that much. Why not? Because from the moment Johnny enters, hes already in control. There's never a shift of power. He almost immediately shows his strength. Perhaps it would be best to stall the reveal a bit longer.

The descriptions are good and you've filled out the setting well. The dialogue renders the characters a bit stereotypical though, specially the girl. A more action-packed change would also create a little more tension.

Perhaps you should enter the story even later, after the kills, make it more of a showdown.

BEST MOMENT: The difference between the nodding. Nice touch.

Paul Williams (Level 5)

A cool, fun story that threads together a few different genres, but a lot of it felt derivative, these are scenes and situations we've seen in the past: boyfriend/girlfriend killers on the road, kidnapped victims killed in a motel room, quirky lawmen on the hunt, the secret vampire/supernatural components of seemingly "real" people, etc.

The ending felt a bit anticlimactic. This is generally the type of story that should have a twist or surprise ending, but other than Johnny's revelation that he's a vampire, the story is very straightforward.

I understand to keep it as low budget as possible, you've confined the story to the motel room, but that resulted in some scenes becoming "talking heads" which relayed back-story and plot information through dialogue.

Your screenwriting is very good; format overall appears in order; didn't detect any typos.

Philip Whitcroft (Level 5)

You've got some chilling stuff in here and it seems like a good basis for a wider story.

For me though it felt a little bit flat and I think that's because it's not clear who we are meant to care about. Also as the story progresses there are surprises but within that there is not much doubt about the outcome of each confrontation. In each case the superior party completely overwhelms the opposition.

Ray Bogdanovich (Level 2)

Nice writing and compelling story. It took a while to build up the characters but I never got bored, and when the story came together it was really hard to stop reading. I loved the twists and turns and narrative thrust. Tons of interesting details as well as a riveting character. I want to know more about the characters!

Rob Dianora (Level 4)

My first impression of this was a lot happened and I think it could be expanded. I kind of liked the whole super natural thing, plenty of potential with it. I'd work on the characters and making them a little more realistic or deeper. Right now this is good, but expanding this will make it into a pretty great film.

Sally Meyer (Moderator)

I think it would be good to have a time frame here. What era are we in? I think the story is written well and very visual. I could picture everything as it unfolded.

There's not really a protagonist here to root for. Tex and Cher are unsubs and Johnny turns out to be one of 'them'? So it was just a matter of killing people for the fun of it, and then being killed by someone else. Just nothing to root for or care about.

I'm impressed with your writing skills, you obviously know your craft and how to write a screenplay. So I gave this a very good, because while I hated the story, the writing is top notch and I think it wouldn't be fair to mark it down because of that.

Scott Merrow (Level 5)

So, now we know -- souls are blue. And they glow. Cool.

Pretty good idea, and pretty well written, but the story's kinda loose.

As I read it, the story is this: two nasty soul-suckers tie up some victims to steal their souls. But first, they go out and get a six-pack. Then, they come back to suck their victims' souls (and presumably wash them down with some brewskis), but before they get to the brewsters, a badder guy (who's also a federal marshal) kills the bad guys and sucks THEIR souls. (I hate when that happens.)

So, my questions: Why did he bring a SWAT team? Does he share the souls with them? Do they know he's a soul sucker? Wouldn't he be better off working alone?

One thing about monster stories is that they often require some 'splainin'. You don't have to do too much 'splainin' for, say, vampire stories, because we all know the mythology associated with vampires. But soul suckers are something new, so you have to help us out a little. Why does Johnny have "a more developed palate" than they do? Why does Johnny have black spider fangs if all he does is suck the blue haze from his victims? There's a lot of potentially cool stuff in there, and you can certainly leave some of it a mystery -- but not all of it. Give us a little back story or something.

Anyway, to me the story seemed a little loose, but it was a fun read just the same.

My score: GOOD.

Shane Shearer (Level 4)

I like this. Johny was the devil then, eh? Cool story and had a tarantino vibe, almost like honey-bunny and whatever Tim Roth's character's name was. Very hip, very cool and played out in a hip and cool fashion.

I could have done without the transition into soul-sucking, but I think it was a pretty sweet story overall. I think maybe if it had a little more of a set-up, but you did just fine with what you had so I'll give it a good.

Stephen Brown (Level 5)

I feel like we need to know more about these people. Either the victims, Tex and Cher or Johnny Lawman to really get into this story. I would think about extending this and spending more time with Tex and Cher or show the hunt that Johnny has been through for them. I didn't get to know any of the characters well enough to care about them and I think that harmed the script.

One positive was there was a lot of action going on and you wrote that part very well. Everything was clear and easy to visualize.

A couple of nitpicks -

You don’t know who you are messing with

He emphasizes ‘Lawman.’ ***I don't think you need this part, about him emphasizing that word. Leave it to the actors, but if you need to make it stand out then put it in caps, or underline it but I don't think you need to even do that.


Tex lets go of his neck. Blood squirts out. Tex gasps. Johnny
drinks from Tex’s neck. His teeth drag across Tex’s neck.
A static charge leaps between the teeth and flesh. Tex’s soul
disappears in a blue haze. Tex’s eyes roll back and he shakes.

This part didn't read too well. Maybe could look at rewording part of it. Possibly it's the amount of times you use the character's names. It's tricky, you need to make it clear who you're talking about but also need to make it read well.

Overall, this has potential but it could use a rewrite and a possible extension. Good luck with it.

Suzanne Smith (Level 4)

Hello. A vampire cop? I really enjoyed this script. The pace was awesome, nice flow. The characters Tex and Cher were your average psychotic killers - with the exception that they'll suck up your soul lol. I really enjoyed the premise, and it was written very well. The only thing that somewhat confused me (this is just me though) - the part where Tex sniffs his victims and says that shit smells good, the first thing I thought was - eww, he likes the smell of shit? lol I didn't know he was referring to the smell of a soul - of course after the fact, I realized he was sniffing soul, but first time reading that dialogue bit I was confused by their intentions. If there was more to this story, for sure I'd keep reading!

Sylvia Dahlby (Level 5)

I loved the premise and great beginning, had me riveted. Well drawn characters and nice twist w/ the lawman being a bad guy (sort of). But, overall the story was too derivative, I guess I needed a bigger ending... or something more.

The dialog was weak and too OTN; too much explaining. I suggest more showing & less telling.

I'd also like to see less attention to the details, for example except for the long-sleeves on Cher, it wasn't necessary to describe the costumes, lose the knuckle cracking & neck flexing didn't advance the plot or do much to develop the character. I also thought the plot had a big hole in it; the rest of the SWAT team wouldn't be buying any of this... get rid of them and just have John Law show up on his own (the Galveston reference was also an unnecessary detail).

Lastly, "victim1" and "victim" are the same as WOMAN and MAN.


Bonus point for gore.

Thomas W. Brown (Level 4)

Crazy story, very intense and dark. I especially like the idea behind Johnny (although I do not like his name). Your style and form are pretty good, so no qualms there. Some of your dialogue seems a little clunky, such as Johnny's speech on page four. That in particular struck me as unnatural. I would recommend reading your dialogue aloud to see how authentic it sounds. The one big problem that I see with this is that it would cost quite a bit to produce. That's however beside the point here. Overall I'd say you've done a good job. Keep it up!

Tim Westland (Moderator)

Really fun. Liked this a lot.

I do think you could lose most of page 1, which would give you more room for a more interesting ending, but that's easily rectified.

This is Very Good... congrats.

William Bienes (Mod Emeritus)

I thought the writing was very good -- not my type of story, but well done nonetheless. No wasted words and/or moments.

Title went well with Johnny Law who was a very good character.

My only criticism -- I wanted to know what Tex and Cher were, their deal as far as the "power" thing. Were they onto something, but still young as far as their journey?

Comments Made After the Contest

Chris Keaton (Level 5) ~ 2/1/2010 12:21 AM

Some of you got this as a Popcorn Pulp Comic Tarantino fluff piece that it was meant to be. I mean these are ridiculous cliche characters with 'I don't give crap' dialog. It's just about fun. And there is no good guy, at least I don't see Johnny Law as a good guy. Man I could sure expand this.

Some of you are now realizing that you don't like pulp fiction and this is probably the reason you couldn't get into it. My wife just hates these types of movies.

But if movie poet has taught us anything you can't please everyone without going safe, then you'll probably please no one. Thanks for all the feedback I've got a some great ideas for a rewrite. Losing the Swat team being change #1. What was I thinking that could blow the budget right there. :)

Oh, and Galveston is a city.

Chris Keaton (Level 5) ~ 2/1/2010 12:40 AM

I thought Tex smashing the table was a sign of what he gained from the souls and Cher leaping over the bed. I mean, I don't know many people that can just do that?

I would've like to make Johnny Law's fight a little longer, uh next rewrite.

Chris Messineo (Founder) ~ 2/1/2010 12:50 AM

I dug this. It reeked of style and I mean that in the best way possible. This would be a very fun film.

Chris Keaton (Level 5) ~ 2/1/2010 1:11 AM

Thanks Chris, I think a few people got it. I don't think anyone guessed I wrote it though. :)

Chris Keaton (Level 5) ~ 2/1/2010 11:43 PM

Dan, thanks for being the one 'Excellent' vote. :)

Suzanne Smith (Level 4) ~ 2/5/2010 2:31 PM

Wow, you have definitely improved as a writer since you first joined zoe - I was a fan of your work there, still a fan!!! I think we share an appreciation for the darker things in life:) I can't wait to see what you create next!!
Awesome writing, Chris!

Chris Keaton (Level 5) ~ 2/5/2010 2:59 PM

Thanks Suzanne. I keep all my bad scripts out on Zoe. ;)

Suzanne Smith (Level 4) ~ 2/5/2010 3:15 PM


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