"The Witch from the Stygian Coven" by Matias Caruso ~ Second Place

Rewrite: 12/5/2010 12:00 AM

Logline: Rival witch hunters must join forces to attack a witch's hideout.

Genre: Action - Fantasy - Thriller

Cast Size: 6

Production Status: Unavailable

Contest: Tick Tock (Oct. 2010)

Contest Scores
PoorFairGoodVery GoodExcellent

Comments Made During the Contest

Ayal Pinkus (Level 5)

First off, what a superbly written script!

1) Expressive descriptions that do a good job of creating the visual imagery in my head. Superb writing. Short powerful sentences.

2) Action starts on page one and hooks the reader right in. The tension doesn't let go until the last page. I was hooked the entire story.

3) I like the names Stygian Coven, Scarlet, Ewan, they hint at witchcraft.

4) The two bounty hunters being closed in to a house visually controlled by the witch through the replica is a very nice and original idea.

5) Thought it would be a horror story, but it ended up being a love story. A great surprising ending! Yet it is believable, as Scarlet and Ewan keep abusing each other verbally, and it is clear they like each other that way, both being tough bounty hunters. Good characters, good how you slowly revealed them to us.

Possible improvements (nitpicking here):
1) No spaces after periods, and no THE END at the end. Struggling for space?

2) I think the dialog would work well for actors, but there is no big distinction in voice between Scarlet and Ewan. Maybe that is good in this case though, making them appear more similar, showing they are made for each other.

3) First Ewan saying "Wow. You really miss me." on page 3, then Scarlet saying the same on page 5 threw me for a second. It pulled me out of the story and made me go back to the page 3 instance in my head. Could work in the movie theatre though.

4) There is external conflict (the witch), inter-personal conflict (between Scarlet and Ewan), but there doesn't seem to be much inner conflict. I feel that might enrich the story.

Overall a very well written story, I loved it!

Bill Clar (Level 5)

Your title is a bit wordy. Maybe shorten it to "Stygian Witch"?

Scarlet and Ewan are supposed to be bad asses. Watching bad asses scrape soil isn't very exciting. Could they have equipment to let them safely breathe the air in the circle? A magical gas mask perhaps?

I envision this story taking place in the 17th century when witchhunts were common practice. Taking place in present day just doesn't fit.

Brian Howell (Level 5)

I really like this. I particularly enjoyed the relationship between Scarlet and Ewan. They flirt, they bicker, they have history, and they're still attracted to each other while hating each other too. Very fine job on their dialog and interactions.

The witch bounty hunting angle is really cool, except for one thing...the powders. How they took down the witch felt a little easy because all they had to do was blow some powder. The powder through the window was awesome (I love the voodoo replica idea), but the sleeping powder was the one that was too easy. I know I'm nit-picking, but this stood out for me.

This is VERY GOOD.

Brian Wind (Level 5)

Wow, this was a really cool script. So cool in fact that I'm fairly sure that I know who wrote it and if I'm right, then it's likely (and rightfully) destined for the winner's circle.

The only thing I'd change here is the first page. Too much text. Upon opening the script, I was intimidated and assumed I may be reading the first or second script of a fledgling writer. Clearly that was not the case at all, but all the text on the front page was a little daunting.

Anyway, great work. My first Excellent of the month and I'm over halfway through.

Caroline Coxon (Mod Emeritus)

Title - makes me think 'does what it says on the tin' - I think I'd like something more mysterious.

Sawed-off shotguns - sawn-off shotguns (or is this a UK version?)

I enjoyed this BUT it started off as the three hunters' story and they were give weight and substance - then they disappeared. This made the whole thing feel unbalanced.

Added to which - the title kind of implies that the WITCH is the protagonist.

Sort this out and you have a fine tale.

Chris Keaton (Level 5)

Interesting title.
- Ok, I have to say your opening 2 action blocks are the best I've read so far. You need to capture the reader fast and paint the picture quick. I can get the feel immediately.
- Maybe some warning before jumping into the cough, like someone chokes a little or clears their throat and then it gets worse. Let the dread build and then bam.
- What's a Gothic appearance in a person, I know a Gothic building, but person?

Well I have to give this my first Excellent. This can be filmed and is a witty little piece that will keep people interested. I'll have to remember this one.

Chris Messineo (Founder)

This was a lot of fun.

The small replica of the shack confused me at first, I had to read that part twice, but once I got it, I thought it was very cool and it would be awesome in film.

This was a very cool story with wonderful characters and a lot of style. I enjoyed it a lot.

Very well done.

Christina Anderson (Level 4)

I'm taking points off because the miniature-construct was hard to follow; that and they blew pixie dust.

Interesting character chemistry. It struck me odd that they kissed at the end; I didn't realize they were those kinds of friends.

Also that last bit of conversation seemed out of place, I thought that bit of shop-talk would have fit better up front when we're trying to figure out what these people are. Let them have a squabble in the end so they can make-up over it.

You have good technique; moving pace, readable and follow able, and interesting--thanks!

David Johansson (Level 2)

First off, I love the way you introduce your characters. You write compelling introductions for every single one of your characters.

The relationship between Scarlet and Evan is intriguing, you do a good job not giving us to much exposition as well.

Although the world you've created is compelling, I feel there are too many rules to keep track of for a 5-page script, it feels like it takes me that long to understand the world, so I would advise you to make it simpler for the short (it would be a great arena for a feature though) and that may just be me.

I like the protective circle part, it's cool and a lot could be done with it visually.

Fred Koszewnik (Level 5)

A truly brilliant screenplay with so many interesting layers. Without any reserve, it's completely engaging from beginning to end. The opening scene pulled me in very dramatically and effectively. And then there is just so much imaginative and thoughtful workings going on in this fantasy witch world - and somehow through the craft of your screenwriting ability, it felt all so real and believable.
The "Chili's waitress" line is refreshingly unexpected. And the swaggering dialogue is clever and perfectly suites the two bounty hunters and their bareful concealed interest in each other.
I don't think I can write enough good things about this screenplay. For me, it is as good as screenwriting gets. Many thanks and continued good success to you.

Heather O'Connell (Level 4)

I adored this whole script - the style, the characters, everything. What a fantastic premise. There was only one tiny little bit that jarred me out of the story:
"She backs away SCREAMING in miserable pain, like if she was just hit by a spurt of acid." - (like, or as if, not like if)
LOL - don't worry, the winner last month - ;) - had the same line - ;) - so this might be a winner, too.
Really, you are really great at developing characters and I love your humour.
:) Heather

Herman Chow (Level 5)

Really good dynamics between our two protagonists, Scarlet and Ewan. Liked how they played along with each other when they were obviously flirting.

There are some parts that are hard to follow. I didn't really understand what the powders do and the significance of their color, red, black, white. It seems like they have different abilities, but I'm not quite sure what they are. Red is a defensive circle, black makes you die, and white is a sleep powder?

Also, how did Evan know about the symbiotic replicas that the Witch is controlling?

At first, the changes between the replica setting and the real setting was a little confusing, but it was good upon the second read. Actually, I liked it, it's intriguing to see what you did to the replica will happen in the real world. This reminds me of the maze in The Shining.

I really enjoyed it. Writing and format is top-notched.


Jamie Collins (Level 3)

This is a good story and well structured screenplay. The main characters are likeable and the story is well told in the small space allowed. Good work...well done...

Jason Dennis (Level 1)

I thought this was a fun, imaginative piece. Beginning, middle, and end with tidy resolution. Nice work setting the scene...it was easy to visualize. The dialogue was clever. My main criticism is that the witch character seemed a weak antagonist. She was obviously no match for the hunters who knew all her tricks. If you could make her a more worthy adversary and have your heroes struggle harder to beat her, it would strengthen the overall story. Good work.

JeanPierre Chapoteau (Moderator)

Until whatever was attacking them finally gives them a break - This reads sort of sloppy. "Whatever was attacking them" Is what I mean specifically. I think it could have been written smoother.

He wouldn't spot the boots right in front. "Spot" gives us the impression that he was searching for something. "A pair of black boots stand inches away from Hunter's face. He looks up."

"Hunting in my territory" Funny.

I really like their back and forth.

I don't get what happened. The shack morphed into a smaller one? Oh... A replica. Like a voodoo doll only in house form. I get it now. I had to read on to understand what I was seeing though. I didn't comprehend it immediately. Not what the mini house was for, but what exactly I was looking at.

Oh I thought he was being sarcastic about the divorce.

I was wondering how she could see them. I like how you added that she was peeking through the window and they used her own magic to attack.

"mysteriously" disappeared. no need to add mysteriously. She's gone, that's it.

Eh, didn't like the ending. Too lovey-dubby. If they defeated her and the guy just hinted that he wanted to get back with her, that would have been cool. But a kiss...

Still, I really liked that. They're like ghostbusters. I could see this being a feature. I like how it was this different world, but you found a way to bring us in. And I also liked how you started off with the hunters, but it wasn't even about them. Cool. I'll give this a VG.

John LaBonney (Level 4)

I'm not a big fan of supernatural themes, but one thing I admired about this script is that it starts with action. I think a lot of short films spend too much time trying to setup the story. The ending leaves me a little confused, but I do see the potential to make an interesting short film from this script.

Khamanna Iskandarova (Level 5)

I really liked the opening, and how the hunter sees the boots and only then Scarlet.

Here "Appearing from around the shack, she spots EWAN (30’s)" - who appears from the back - seems like it's "she" is "she spots" Ewan. Also, Ewan is one of the hunters? - it's not clear at all in my opinion. If he's not then what's the significance of the grand opening (great opening I think) then?

I could not understand why the witch appeared behind Scarlet's back. All I got was a love story. Something in the vein of Bounty Hunter. I did not like that movie, but in a short the love story went fast and was good. But I kept asking myself what they were talking about. Wish it could be clearer. And maybe it's just me.

Kirk White (Level 5)

great fun! you and I had similar themes this contest! nothing I can say to improve this...just write more!

KP Mackie (Level 5)

A colorful and intricate story. Particularly love the snappy dialogue between Scarlet and Ewan. It's entertaining and probably overshadows all the action.
The three Hunters in the first scene disappear quickly, never to be heard from again. Might be possible to omit them completely and introduce Ewan earlier. Not sure where the COUGH comes from; "Blood sprays from their mouths" infers that it's from the Hunters. However, "whatever was attacking them" (by a COUGH?) forces the three to retreat. Scarlet wears mirrorshades, yet she and Ewan "trade hard stares." Not sure Ewan could see her eyes through those shades. Had some trouble picturing the shack morphing into "a miniature replica of the shanty" sitting on a steel tray and the Witch's activities.
The strength is the interaction of Scarlet and Ewan. Love the repetition and reversing of, "You really miss me" and "I'll take that as a 'yes'" at the end.

Margaret Ricke (Level 5)

I really enjoyed this.

The writing is good. The characters are fully fleshed out and interesting to watch and listen to. Each character has a unique voice. Pacing is good. There's an emotional range I find refreshing, especially in a short. You actually seem to have two A stories running simultaneously...

Very good work.

Marnie Mitchell Lister (Level 5)

Well, you get an A+ for atmosphere. Wasn't into the story so much though. It was cool but didn't really pull me in. I would have liked some depth added to some of the banter between the characters.

Great imagery too. Loved the miniatures.

Very Good. :)

Martin Jensen (Level 5)

I liked how you established a witch mythology and also the backstory between Scarlet and Ewan, as previously married and also rival witch hunters.

At the beginning the physical movements of the characters were slightly confusing. A few lines sat uncomfortably, and the end ("Grins widen into smiles as lips touch for a kiss") was strange.


Matthew Fettig (Level 5)

Good - I have some issues with the dialog and other language.

this reminds me a great deal of Bettlejuice.

More later

MJ Hermanny (Level 5)

wonderful title.

Lovely story, like an old fairy tale touched with modern magic from a bickering couple.

Great imagination. I sense an MC at work.

My only negatives are that the hunters mysteriously vanish from the story having been given quite a big intro and the coughing of blood/hunters smacks of King's 'Dreamcatcher' opening.

Very well done. Excellent in fact.

Paul De Vrijer (Level 5)

An excellent example of how to pull off an original story based on recognizable elements.

Everything here is familiar yet unique. The concept of witch hunting itself, is turned on it's head. It's in a desert. I haven't seen a witch in the desert before. And the whole thing with the attic and the miniature shack is absolutely unique. Topped off with two hunters with a twisted past, and it just fits perfectly. This should be a feature.

Descriptive. Perhaps too much so. I mean, it's certainly got a charm about it, but it's not so much about The witch, i'd argue, than the hunters. I'd opt for a different title, this one is only somewhat fitting.

Well, there are a few blemishes to this nigh-perfect story. The introduction of the early hunters, although giving a visual indication of the dangers, serve no real purpose and we don't even see them return at the end. Would be cooler if she worked by herself. Also, the Stygian witch thing started to annoy me, they say 'stygian' about four times through out the script and I started to feel like there were no other witches in this bizarre fantasy world. Bit of an overkill.

The function of the witch, what her actual crime is, except sitting in the shack, is also unclear. What are the stakes here? What crime does she really commit? I think a minor sentence would have solved that problem too.

But besides that, I really like the package. The hint of the romance, the fast quips and the returning dialog. Absolutely mastery right here.

Didn't do anything special with the time requirement, even though the whole miniature/real shack could be seen as a unique influence on the requirement.

Crisp, clear, filled with little emotional detail. Every sentence underlines the emotions in their actions. Did feel like the "..you really miss me" felt a bit stale, but that's nitpicking.

Yeah, okay, in it's current form it probably won't see the screen, but this is great feature material. Might be possible to turn it into a animation film. Don't get me wrong, it's filmable, but the costs vs profit thing will probably keep this thing from getting off the ground. Would be amazing though. Little set in Texas, some desert shack. Little set building and loads of after-effects. Hope it gets made absolutely, but I'd love to see these characters go on a feature length hunt after the entire coven.

I think you get my point. I loved this piece. Love the style, love the genre-mixing and I love the new take. Looks like you got ANOTHER win on your hands.

Biggest flaw: Some minor elements don't match up. Lose the hunters.
Best aspect: The Attic-miniature is so clever. Had people at my work going 'Wow'

Paul Williams (Level 5)

A lot of imagination went into this and it has a real cool vibe. I'm not sure I get it all in the end, but that might just be me.

In terms of the screenwriting, it's been a hot topic in the discussion forum lately about the "rules" of screenwriting, and I subscribe to a tight screenwriting style with little or no adverbs, adjectives, metaphors, similes, etc. Give your pages, especially the first one, a clean look, easy on the reader's eyes.

Format appears in order overall. Didn't detect any major typos.

Rick Hansberry (Moderator)

Not bad. Scarlet is badass and I really enjoyed the easy banter with Ewan. I had a hard time with the ticking clock portion. Never seemed to be up against a clock for resolution. This was unqiue in both subject and approach and I found it be an easy, enjoyable read. Maybe make something about the powder time-sensitive and this would really catch fire. Nice work.

T. James DeStein (Level 5)

The constant blowing powder stuff seems silly to me. These guys reach into their powder pockets and blow it as their weapon? I imagine that to look awkward. The dialogue here was pretty good and the story was good, too. Good job.

Teo Gonzalez (Level 4)

One suggestion, which concerns the title: Whereas "The Witch from the Stygian Coven" is not bad, it doesn't actually address the story nor the protagonists. If I were you, I'd change it.

Other than that, you have a great concept and a great story. The characters, I think, are a bit sterotyped -even their past married relationship.

The dialogue, especially between the protags, makes me think of the attitude/shallow characters with which Hollywood has inundated the screens: Can do, knowit all, self entitled, self suficient, and a bunch of other worthy qualities.

You get a very good from me.

Tim Aucoin (Level 4)

This was very cool and very well written. I only have two scripts left to review after this one but this is definitely the best so far and will no doubt place in the contest if not first place. I think this my first Excellent. Maybe I review too harshly but a script has to have everything done right for me to give it the highest rating. Great description? Check. Great characters? Check. Great story and atmosphere? Double check. Excellent work. I'll be very surprised if this doesn't make first place.

William Wilson (Level 3)

Uhm ok?

This story was very confusing to me i get what the two main characters were doing but as far as How they were doing it I have no idea? The dialouge between Ewan and Scarlet was very well done I liked the playful banter but as far as everything else went it just felt clunky and awkward and here is a prime example...

He looks sweaty as well. And concerned.

That line was just so awkward to read it seemed unnatural?

But overall a "Good" story so I give "The Witch from the Stygian Coven" a 6 out of 10

Zach Jansen (Level 4)

Good dialogue -- the sparring was quick and believable.

When Scarlet blows into the replica, why did only the witch fall over and not Scarlet and Ewan as well? And speaking of Scarlet and Ewan -- "The Island" popped into my head immediately seeing both those names:)

Good structure and flow. This is the best one I've read so far.

Comments Made After the Contest

Chris Messineo (Founder) ~ 12/1/2010 12:04 AM

Congratulations on winning second place. Can I be your agent when Hollywood finally comes calling? :)

Brian Wind (Level 5) ~ 12/1/2010 12:12 AM

I knew this was yours. Congrats Matias!

Chris Keaton (Level 5) ~ 12/1/2010 12:31 AM

Congrats, for another excellent from me. When are you going to get some stuff filmed?

Margaret Ricke (Level 5) ~ 12/1/2010 12:37 AM

Congratulations! This was one of my favorites! Really, really good stuff!

Tim Aucoin (Level 4) ~ 12/1/2010 12:40 AM

This was my first excellent. Wear it with pride :)

MJ Hermanny (Level 5) ~ 12/1/2010 4:38 AM

Congratulations on 2nd place Matias ;) - this was great, knew it was yours and thoroughly enjoyed it.

Heather O'Connell (Level 4) ~ 12/1/2010 9:20 AM

Congratulations! This one was my favourite.
:) Heather

Matias Caruso (Level 5) ~ 12/1/2010 12:22 PM

Thanks everyone. Some very useful feedback and suggestions as usual. I'll make sure to incorporate them in the rewrite.

Had a hard time picking the title as you can tell. Suggestions for alternative titles are more than welcome. Thanks again.

@Chris M: you can be my agent anytime you want; I don't expect that position to be filled anytime soon. :D

Erich VonHeeder (Level 4) ~ 12/1/2010 2:01 PM

Call me a hopeless romantic, but this is one of my faves from you.
Love the dialog between our two heroes. Pretty snappy. It appears you're finally getting your head around the English language.


You're welcome.

Matias Caruso (Level 5) ~ 12/1/2010 5:06 PM

Thanks, I knew the love subplot would resonate with girls... and girly boys.

And you know what they say about writers with long titles. :)

Brian Howell (Level 5) ~ 12/1/2010 5:27 PM

They're compensating?

Brian Howell (Level 5) ~ 12/1/2010 5:31 PM

Loved the interaction between the two. Not so keen on the sleeping powder, but another fabulous script. I know you have a firm grasp on the short style, do you do much in feature length? I only ask because this would make a fantastic feature.

Matias Caruso (Level 5) ~ 12/2/2010 8:52 AM

Thanks for the feedback, Brian. I do features but I'm still figuring out how to do them right.

Rustom Irani (Moderator) ~ 12/2/2010 11:24 AM

Limo for Mr. Caruso: www.moviepoet.com/reply.aspx?thread=2732&forum=1

Erich pays for the gas!

Well done!

Matias Caruso (Level 5) ~ 12/2/2010 11:52 AM

That means I'll have to walk I guess. :)

Erich VonHeeder (Level 4) ~ 12/2/2010 12:24 PM

I'll send a Prius for you.

Matias Caruso (Level 5) ~ 12/2/2010 12:53 PM

Cool. Not sure how those hybrids work, though. Do I have to pee in the tank or something?

Erich VonHeeder (Level 4) ~ 12/2/2010 5:30 PM

That's terrible. I'm so glad I live in a highly enlightened and earth-friendly country like the United States of America. I don't think we even USE oil anymore. U-S-A, U-S-A, U-S-A!!

Sally Meyer (Moderator) ~ 12/3/2010 8:18 AM

Many congrats Matias. I didn't get to this one before the contest ended, but I will read it today. I'm looking forward to it!

Matias Caruso (Level 5) ~ 12/3/2010 9:36 AM

Thanks Sally. And no problem. I missed a few myself.

@Erich: www.youtube.com/watch?v=sWS-FoXbjVI

Shawn Cottrill (Level 4) ~ 12/21/2010 11:43 AM

This is really good stuff. The story twists around enouph for me to be intertained but not confused.

I like the words you use to describe things, but the way you do it is very choppy. I have seen other people do it the same way and if it works for you great. It's just when I read it I find myself reading it a couple times because I feel like I missed something.

Really good story. Keep up the good work.

Matias Caruso (Level 5) ~ 12/21/2010 12:14 PM

Thanks for reading, Shawn. Glad you enjoyed it.

Adam Grage (Level 4) ~ 12/30/2010 2:44 PM

Matias --

havent been on the site in ages but love coming on here from time to time and read some good stuff and a M.C. script never fails. Only 2nd place? What! Are you slacking? The house replica images were a little hard to grasp at first but writing out of the box and making me think some while I'm reading is what makes this stand out even more. I aspire to your kind of writing. Keep up the good work!

Matias Caruso (Level 5) ~ 12/30/2010 6:19 PM

Hey Adam, good to see you around here again. Thanks for the kind words and happy new year!

Chris Keaton (Level 5) ~ 2/17/2011 7:02 PM

Check this out.

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The following members have selected this script as one of their favorites:

Brian Wind ~ Paul De Vrijer ~ Heather O'Connell ~ Fred Koszewnik ~ Herman Chow ~ Adam Grage ~ Chris Keaton