Paranormal Activity Screenplay Contest Winner Announced

Paranormal Activity poster

It’s time to announce the winner of our second screenplay writing challenge: The End.

As a reminder, we asked you to submit your best shot at rewriting the ending of 2009’s most successful horror film, Paranormal Activity.

Our referee was the awesome Denise Gossett, scream queen and founder of the Shriekfest Film Festival.

And The Winner Is…

Congratulations go to: Carlos Perez – for his “Goodnight” entry.

Carlos wins a Shriekfest t-shirt, a free 200-word ad in the Shriekfest newsletter (he can use it to pimp his film, screenplay, writing services, etc), a link on the Shriekfest site, and a free festival pass for 2010 Fest. Sweet, right?

Here are Denise’s notes:

My pick is Carlos Perez’s Version with the “Goodnight” line.

The “You Win” line [from his first entry] is creepy, but I think it felt like it was trying too hard to be creepy.  I just don’t see her character giving in so easily; granted she has been through a lot, but she does love Micah.  I don’t think she would just give up on Micah like that.

The “Goodnight” ending was pretty cool.  She knows she can’t escape this apparition and seems to really enjoy this “boyfriend” shall we say.  In a way it’s comforting to her that she has this “thing” with her at all times all through the years. Yes, it scares her, but it’s like when someone stays with someone that abuses them, at least they have someone right?  They justify it in any way they can.   I thought this was a much better ending than the original ending.

The third entry seemed to be trying too hard…this ending bothered me, I didn’t buy it, felt the writer was searching for a way to add a twist in just for the sake of a twist.  The writing was good, but I just didn’t like the content.

Thank you Denise! You’re awesome.

Chip’s thoughts…

And my thoughts go something like this… I agree that given a choice between the two lines, I also prefer “Goodnight”. But given a broader choice, I’d rather have no line at all. Sometimes less is more, and when struggling to choose between two lines, sometimes the struggle is an indication that there’s a third, “righter” answer. Maybe it’s a third line, maybe it’s no line at all. I think it’s important to remember that “silence IS dialogue”, and nothing can be the perfect thing to say. Choosing no line here isn’t a cop out… it’s in keeping with the minimalist, naturalistic nature of the whole film… and particularly if the camera timer had fast forwarded to the credits, it could perfectly echo preceding scenes.

Nevertheless, the scene does a good job of remaining in the style of the preceding film (one of our stipulations) and setting up an opportunity for a truly creepy ending that’s far less “hollywood” than the “throw a body at the camera” version I saw.

On the more critically technical side:

  • Some of the left margin descriptive passages seem to trend a little long (best to keep them to three or four sentences) but the limitations of the scrippets formatting make that tough to judge.
  • I would like to see a less formal style to the descriptive text — there are virtually no contractions used, and the word “and” is overused, as is the phrase “there is”. It seems to retard the pacing a bit, where shorter more declarative sentences might keep the reading pace in line with the action. Find ways to collapse those thoughts into more efficient sound bites.
  • The phrase “quickly jumps” out of bed feel redundant (can one “slowly jump”?) as does “the apparition’s strength is too strong”. I’m not sure your strength can be strong.
  • I think I’d prefer “a man’s scream” to “a male scream” – it’s less clinical and easier to empathize with.
  • And lastly I’d watch for passages like “climbs back under the covers and prepares to go back to sleep” — tell us what people are doing, not what they are “preparing” to do.
  • I only found one typo!

And regarding the third entry… I also liked the writing, but found myself suddenly hung up on the viability of such a sting… is there an insurance company that pays out for “death by poltergeist”? Like the cops aren’t going to look at Katie? Unlikely… a fun twist but simply not in keeping with the preceding film (one of our stipulations).

So that’s it. Thanks for your entries, and thanks to Denise for refereeing our little contest, and for donating all the cool stuff. Carlos will receive his schwag in plenty of time for this year’s Shriekfest… congratulations again!

So did Denise make the right choice? Are my technical points off base? Weigh in if you like… that’s what this site is all about… creative dialogue between writers.

And… scene!

Here’s The Winning Entry

(and then here’s the page with all the entries):


Micah and Katie are asleep in bed. The footsteps of the apparition are heard entering the bedroom. The covers over Katie are slowly pulled back from off of her. Invisible hands grab her hands and pull her from the bed and out toward the doorway.

Katie SCREAMS out for help and Micah hears her. He quickly jumps out of bed and tries to pull her back into the room, but the apparition’s strength is too strong and Katie is pulled out of the doorway and into the hall.

Micah rushes after her, into the darkness.

There is a scuffle from downstairs followed by a male SCREAM.

After a moment, Katie returns to the room. She is covered in blood. She climbs back under the covers and prepares to go back to sleep.

A few moments later there is the sound of footsteps from the apparition as it enters the room. Katie looks toward the sound of the footsteps.

Katie’s gaze follows the footsteps as they come around to Micah’s side of the bed. The covers lift up and a form lies down under the covers. Katie lies there very still for a moment, looking at the invisible form beside her. The invisible form turns on it left side, away from her. Katie slowly moves in close to the form and then drapes her right arm around the form and snuggles up behind it.

The two of them lie quietly together. Katie rests her head on the shoulder of the form. There is a slight smile of contentment on Katie’s face; it’s over.


(in a whisper)


The tape on the recorder runs out and there is nothing but a blank screen filled with static.


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