Logline Madness 2020

Semi-Finals – Horror/Thriller

Judge: Christopher Lockhart, WME


Below are the loglines designated as the top twelve (12) in the thriller genre. The four (4) loglines chosen to move on to the Genre Final round, as determined by the judge, are listed at the bottom.


1) Jacqueline/Hyde by Matthew Bryan (TV) – After being attacked, a by the book cop receives a heart transplant from her brother, a brilliant surgeon on death row. When she awakens, she discovers she can now see, hear and speak to her dead brother while solving crimes – but if her heart rate gets too high, he takes over her body and goes outside the law to pursue his own brand of justice.

Judge’s Feedback: I like the opposite genders of Jacqueline & Hyde.  Given the nature of the concept, the sibling angle feels a bit incestuous.  I’m not sure of the tone here.  Are we supposed to take this seriously?  Is this a straight thriller or is it tongue-in-cheek?  The way this is described, I cannot help but think of Steve Martin & Lily Tomlin in ALL OF ME.   That may or may not be a good thing.  As a series logline, this enables me to understand the basic premise of the show, and the predicament of the protagonist.  A logline for a series tends to be broader than a logline for an episode (of the series).

2) Don’t Think Bad Thoughts by Zachary Rowell & Danika McWaid (Feature) – Set in the near future, where humans must take daily medication to avoid disturbing deaths, a group of wealthy teens find themselves stranded in the woods without their pills.

Judge’s Feedback:  I don’t understand “to avoid disturbing deaths.”  Does this refer to their own death or observing the death of others? Because this lacks clarity for me, I don’t understand what’s at stake. This makes the classic error of not telling me what the movie is about.  This is just the set-up.  In order for the logline to be complete, I have to know what the group of teens does in response to being stranded in the woods without their pills. Is it about a group of kids  who are in the woods without their pills and wait for a prescription delivery from Mickey Fine’s?  Do they root for mushrooms to make their own pills?   Wouldn’t you rather just tell me in the logline instead of me guessing? My guesses might suck. Without that information, I don’t know what the movie is about.    

3) Incursion by S. Rhallin (TV) – In 1974, a group of scientists sent a message to the stars, welcoming other sentient beings to visit our world. It’s a decision humankind may not live to regret.

Judge’s Feedback:  This is not a logline.  First of all, it doesn’t tell me: Who’s the protagonist? What does she want? What stands in her way?  Instead, it seems to tell me the backstory. That’s ridiculous!  Let me present JAWS through a similar lens:  In 1940, little Marty Brody almost drowned at Coney Island – but his fear of water won’t stand in his way 35 years later.  Does that sell JAWS for you?  Is that an accurate representation of the movie JAWS?  The job of the logline is to present the three basic facts of the story (mentioned above) with no poetry, gimmicks, or editorial.  Furthermore, this logline tells us that humankind will NOT live to regret its decision (to send out the message).  That is counterintuitive to drama, because it doesn’t create conflict; it represses it.  Also a red flag for any logline is past tense.  Movies are told in present tense.  (Even flashbacks are presented in present tense, because we’re seeing them as they happen.)  Loglines should be in present tense.  All in all, I don’t have a clue what this TV show is about.  And that’s a fail.  This show could be brilliant, but I wouldn’t know from this.  This presentation is the apotheosis on how NOT to write a logline. 

4) Log by Alison Parker (Feature) – A weekend of debauchery turns to terror for a group of friends staying at an old lumberjack camp when a bloodthirsty log springs to life and embarks on a murderous rampage.

Judge’s Feedback:  A log logline.  It sounds amusing and campy (and really dumb).  Is the log any relation to the lecherous tree branches from THE EVIL DEAD (1981)?  This presents a concept, but it’s not a logline because it doesn’t tell me the movie.  What do the friends do in response to the bloodthirsty log?  For example, do they have to execute a plan to lure it into a wood chipper or a campfire?  Of course, it would help to centralize one of the friends and put her in the logline’s spotlight.  It could read something like:  …a PhD student in arboriculture and her friends…

5) Vinyl by Adam Santa Cruz (Feature) – A grieving young man comes into possession of a seemingly harmless record player after the sudden suicide of his best friend, but a haunting melody turns his life into a nightmare.

Judge’s Feedback:  Again, we don’t know what the grieving young man does in response to the haunting melody.  That piece of information would define the movie.  Without it, there is no movie – it’s just a concept.  Knowing his response is what activates the concept.  Instead, he’s a reactive character.  We want the protagonist on the offense in a logline.   As written, I don’t understand the threat of the haunting melody.  Why doesn’t he just buy a pair of noise cancelling headphones?  (There are affordable brands on Amazon that won’t break his bank account.)   Why doesn’t he just trash the record player and subscribe to Spotify? 

6) Humboldt Cut by Allison Mick (Feature) – In the forest where her grandfather was murdered 50 years ago, a suicidal woman leads a search party for her missing brother. In the woods she battles nature, mental illness, and a supernatural evil none of them could have imagined.

Judge’s Feedback:  I’m not sure the logline needs the second sentence. This could have been structured in a different way that might have had more power without resorting to that second part.  Maybe something like: When her brother goes missing, a suicidal woman leads a search party for him in a supernatural forest – where their grandfather was murdered fifty years earlier.  Sometimes less is more.

7) Theater Is Dead by Asia Ponder(Feature) – The bond of sisterhood is tested when a dysfunctional sorority meets at a theater and finds all of their secrets exposed on the big screen.

Judge’s Feedback: According to this logline, the characters sit in a movie theater and watch their secrets play out on the big screen.  Aside from being a possible cure for insomnia, I cannot envision the characters or the conflict or the movie. 

8) Integrity by Cadance Bell (Feature) – As the world heralds trials of human teleportation, a beggared family dread that the father who went through is not the thing that came back.

Judge’s Feedback:  I’m sounding redundant here, but so are the loglines.  What’s the movie?   There’s no protagonist, and there’s no active response here – only  dread.  If we’re to take the logline at face value, the movie consists of a group of people who do nothing for two hours but look panicked.  Let’s examine my logline for THE INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS (1956):  When a small town doctor discovers his neighbors are being replaced by emotionless duplicates from space, he struggles to expose the extraterrestrial plot – while fighting to keep himself from being snatched.   Here. we have the three crucial elements: (1) Who is the story about? (The doctor); (2)  What is it he wants? (To expose the body snatching plot); and (3) What stands in his way? (The aliens).  It’s clearcut and cogent; it’s a movie.  This explains why …BODY SNATCHERS has been made several times while INTEGRITY isn’t likely to make it out of the script phase. 

9) My Only Sunshine by Jessica Landry (Feature) – After her father’s death, a sheltered young girl learns the horrifying truth about her overbearing mother and the role their family farm plays in a world consumed by an insatiable hunger.

Judge’s Feedback:  “Learning” isn’t cinematic.  It’s internal.  A simple substitution with a word like “discovers” makes it sound more external and active.   Regardless, this is boring.  I don’t know what the sheltered young girl is doing for 120 pages.  And it seems like the script will be burdened with a lot of expository flashbacks.   Maybe the last sentence adds some intrigue, but because the girl’s journey is internal and dull, I’m not interested in whatever the reveal may be, because the pages it takes to get there are going to be slow and dull.

10) The Killer Within by James Ward Breen (Feature) – A small town cop must hack through local paranoia, city homicide and his own guilt ridden past to find an escaped prisoner before he attacks the sole witness: his five year old son.

Judge’s Feedback:  The sole witness to what?  And can’t he hide the kid in the Arctic or something while he chases after the escaped prisoner?  This logline has the three ingredients. (Thank you!)  I know who the story is about.  I know what he wants.  And I know what stands in his way.  It’s all there.  But it’s not put together in an intriguing package.  And the laundry list of obstacles (in the first sentence) is merely a way to pad the logline to give it some heft, which makes me wonder if the screenplay has the momentum to keep it active and alive for 120 pages. 

11) Mom Was A Killer by Rochelle Krause (Feature) – When two estranged siblings discover that their elderly mom was a Cold War spy, together they fight to stay alive when Mom’s fiercest adversary returns for revenge.

Judge’s Feedback:  This  logline has the basic elements I need to see the movie.  But they feel slight.  Is there more to this? Is there, for example, an espionage plot with which the sisters get involved?  Is there more to the story than the sisters’ “fight to stay alive?”  It feels a little too defensive.  I want to see the protagonist on the offense in a logline.  What are they specifically doing to defeat their mom’s adversary?  This could use more of a hook.  The concept doesn’t feel sexy enough (and I don’t mean that in a sexual sense).  

12) All the Evil by Joel Justin Joseph (TV) – Haunted by the disappearance of his childhood friend, a true crime novelist must piece together the puzzle behind an urban legend from his youth, a masked boogeyman involved in a series of grisly drownings.

Judge’s Feedback:  This logline has the right ingredients, and I think it’s well structured. Technically, it works for me, and it’s the best written logline of the bunch.   But I don’t think this has much of a hook.  I’m not excited by it.  You can have all the right ingredients to bake a cake, yet it still may not taste good.   

The loglines selected as the Top 4 and moving on to the Horror/Thriller Genre Finals:

#1 Jacqueline/Hyde / #4 Log / #6 Humboldt Cut / #12 All the Evil


The Championship contenders, genre finals winners, will be announced in forthcoming articles next week. Thank you to all writers who submitted loglines and congratulations to those moving on to the next round of the competition!

First Round, Horror/Thriller (results): https://www.scriptsandscribes.com/2020/05/logline-madness-2020-first-round-thriller/

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