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Top 5 Horror Scripts To Download And Study

 

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Horror Scripts

We put together five classic horror scripts that every screenwriter who wants to write horror should read and study.

As we’ve already discussed in many posts, including this one, we’re massive proponents of reading screenplays in order to improve writing craft.

So download these five classic horror scripts and get reading!

Best Horror Script #1: Scream

Horror Scripts

When writing the set up in a horror script you can generally go either one of two ways:

  • a slow-burn opening that draws the reader into the lives of its characters, or
  • a shocking first scene that immediately hooks the reader in and sets the tone

The writer of Scream, Kevin Williamson, opted for the latter in what has now become one of the most iconic opening scenes of a horror in movie history.

While very tongue-in-cheek, and much satirized over the years, I can still remember the impact of seeing this opening for the first time. If you decide to go for a gore-fest opening intending to grab the reader’s attention, there’s probably no better place to start than studying this scene from Scream.

Here’s the moment where the caller first loses it, showing Drew his true nature:

Horror scripts

Break down this scene structurally to see how Williamson escalates the tension — progressing from Drew Barrymore innocently flirting with a stranger on the phone, to running for her life.

Every “big” scene in a horror movie you write, must always change its emotional charge from positive to negative as in this case, or vice versa.

Download and read the screenplay to Scream

Best Horror Script #2: It Follows

Horro Scripts It Follows

This is a remarkably polished and inventive horror screenplay from David Robert Mitchell and was only his second feature after the drama, The Myth of the American Sleepover.

When writing a horror script, one of the most important things to do early on, is establish tone. Let’s take a look at the opening lines to It Follows:

Horror scripts

Not only is the tone established right away, but we’re thrown into a situation and a character in action — a girl trying to escape something unseen on a suburban street at night. With all these factors, we’re immediately hooked.

Try to avoid static openings, or stasis in any kind of scene for that matter, in which we merely see characters sitting around not doing anything in particular. Connect with our primal fears like how Mitchell does here, put us in the character’s shoes and make them active.

Download and read the screenplay to It Follows

Best Horror Script #3: The Ring

Horro Scripts The Ring

If you’re writing a horror screenplay, it’s important that your writing style has the chops to elicit a fear response in the reader. For example, inevitably you’re going to want to have a character creep down a hallway, and by reading horror scripts like The Ring (written by Ehren Kruger and the great Scott Frank) you’ll absorb how to do it.

In this scene, Rachel wakes up with an uneasy feeling about her son:

Horror scripts

Note the judicious use of ALL CAPS, ellipses, em dashes and the mini-slug line, “AND FIND AIDEN AT THE TV”

This is great writing, but the best part about it is that you can incorporate all or some of these techniques into your own writing to make it stand out from the pack.
Download and read the screenplay to The Ring

HORROR SCRIPTS

Best Horror Script #4: The Shining

Horror Screenplays The Shining

The only screenplay version of this classic horror from Stanley Kubrick and co-writer Diane Johnson appears to be the shooting script, so it’s full of camera angles — a writing style not generally recommended for aspiring screenwriters.

However, it’s just too good to overlook (sorry, I couldn’t resist) for any writer intending to master the craft of horror.

Here’s an excerpt from the famous scene in which Wendy retreats up the staircase swinging a baseball bat at a mischievously evil, Jack:

Horror scripts

It’s worth reading this script and noting how the emphasis is more on Danny and his imaginary friend than Jack and his slow descent into evil that we see in the finished movie.

Download and read the screenplay to The Shining

Best Horror Script #5: Annabelle

Horror Screenplays Annabelle

Horror screenplays are, of course, not all about gore and shocks. You need to know how to write the quieter moments too, such as this great scene from the first of the Conjuring spin-offs — Annabelle:

Horror scripts

The script was written by Gary Dauberman and it signaled his arrival as a sought-after Hollywood writer after a couple of schlocky B-movies. He favors a Walter Hill (The Getaway, Alien) minimalist style, with sentences either broken up within a paragraph or hugging the left margin, like bullet points.

It’s a unique style but isn’t for everyone, so read the script and make up your own mind. There’s plenty to admire in there.

Download and read the screenplay to Annabelle

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What are your favorite horror screenplays? How much have you learnt from reading horror scripts and breaking them down? Let us know in the comments section below.

1 Comment

  1. Hoan Lee says:

    Wow! Thanks for sharing the scripts. Don’t ever think that we can see these script online, but now I can study them on my laptop.

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