Acoustic - A Horror Screenplay by Marie Cooper

Acoustic – Horror Screenplay

Reading Time: 4 minutes


Bel is reluctantly heading home to her family home, Bridge House, in Vermont. She’s late. She’s been thrown out of a car. She has lost her shoes and she’s hungry.

Some scripts that I work on, I hardly look at again once the initial draft is done and the story is out of my head. Whilst there are others that I am unable to get out of my head. They wriggle around inside until I have no choice but to go back and read them again. The short horror script, Acoustic, had been irritating my brain meat since the autumn of 2020. So, when the opportunity to submit it to a horror screenwriting contest arose a year later, I knew that it was this script I wanted to work on and submit.

Horror Screenplay Competition – Frights! Camera! Action!

Usually, when you enter a writing contest, there is a good, lengthy, wait. It is common for it to take months for the judges to read through the scripts and make their decisions.

The advantage of this competition for me was that there would be no long wait for results. There were several themes throughout the year based on different horror monsters. Each theme had its separate deadline. It serendipitously turned out that my screenplay fit the final theme. The only downside was that the cost of entering the contest increased at each stage of the competition as the deadline drew closer.

My script was submitted for the final theme deadline on 31st December 2021. So, as I write this, there isn’t much time before the results are announced on 31st January 2022.

Writing the Horror Screenplay

I wrote my first ideas for this script and a very messy draft on 12th October 2020 during Scriptly Writing. As well as the prompt for that day of the challenge, I randomly generated words and images to help get me started.

These were:

  • Genre: Horror
  • Location: A bridge
  • Image: Red, retro transistor radio
  • Word: Railroad

Almost immediately I could see her. My character. She was walking along a road, towards a distant bridge, swinging her radio. The odd thing was that the clothes she had on didn’t seem warm enough for the time of the year and she had nothing on her feet.

I thought she seemed nice, albeit maybe a little ditzy. After all, she was walking on the road in bare feet. Why would she be doing that?

I remembered picking up a huge, caterpillar that had fallen from a tree outside work one morning. It was laying in the middle of the pavement and I moved it to the verge, under a bush to prevent it from being stepped on. I thought that was just the kind of thing that my character would do too. So, in a later draft, I gave that experience to her.

I felt that this young woman didn’t want to head home yet. She was reluctantly heading back, slowly, making the most of her walk through the forest that she appeared to love. She carried a guitar on her back. She’d been singing in a local bar the night before. One last performance before collecting supplies for her family and heading home. Then a man offered her a lift home. Initially, my character had been picked up hitchhiking home in my first draft in a twist on the hitchhiker trope. But in the later draft, I decided in the rewrite that the victims were purposefully hunted and preyed upon by the demon/s rather than just unlucky chance encounters along the road.

Frights! Camera! Action! Screenplay Competition

My first rough draft sat on the metaphorical shelf for a year. When I saw the Frights Camera Action contest, I knew I had to enter. People who gave feedback on the contest described it as “fun”, “friendly”, “affordable” and “that results were given promptly”. At my early stage of screenwriting, I felt it took off the pressure to be perfect. There were also various prizes for films and scripts…

  • Best Screenplay (feature)
  • Best Screenplay (short)
  • Best Twist
  • Best Villain
  • Most messed up death

It was the “Most messed up death” category that amused me and grabbed my attention to this contest in the first place. Characters in my demonic horror come to a rather bizarre end, so I thought that, if nothing else, my screenplay might be a contender for that category.

I dipped in and out of the screenplay throughout December, re-reading and revising. As soon as I made the decision it was done and proofread, and even after I submitted I was still thinking of further changes I could make. Every time I read it through, there were more questions. Further things I could add or remove. But I had to let it go.

Then it was gone… and in the hands of the judges.

Frights Camera Action Announcement

The winners and runners-up were due to be announced on the 31st of January. The website did not say when the unlucky non-winners would hear back. I can’t bring myself to say losers, because, in my opinion, everyone who has worked their ass off in the creative process and submitted a script is winning in life.

I have to confess that, as the date drew near, I began checking the competition page and my email regularly just in case the announcement was made earlier than expected. When it got to the evening before the announcement, I was so on edge that I had a ‘Call of the Void’ urge to press the ‘Withdraw from Festival’ button to avoid having to face not winning, removing any chance of rejection. If I had done, that would mean not winning either. My brain is stupid sometimes.

Honorary Mention of Acoustic, from Frights! Camera! Action!

I did not win the prize my heart was set on, which was the ‘Most Messed Up’ death. However, I was extremely happy to receive an Honorary Mention. I have not been writing screenplays long so to be recognised at all at this early stage has been overwhelming.

Congratulations to Acoustic from FilmFreeway

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