Budding horror writer? Download the scariest screenplays here
As we always say, the simplest way to learn about the craft is from the work of other screenwriters. There are endless sources of inspiration that can be found by studying and analyzing the traits and stylistic techniques of your favorite artists, helping you to fine-tune your script and discover new ways to make it stand out from the crowd.
We’re turning our attention to the scariest screenplays so you can find out how to bring the chills with your writing skills. Without further ado, let’s get started!
Screenplay by Walter Hill, Dan O’Bannon, and David Giler
An undeniable classic, there’s a lot to be learned about horror filmmaking from Ridley Scott’s original Alien. Same goes for the screenplay, which is famed for its minimal, vertical writing style and influences derived from classic 50s sci-fi flicks. As O’Bannon himself declared, “I didn’t steal Alien from anybody. I stole it from everybody!”
Dawn of the Dead (2004)
Screenplay by James Gunn and Michael Tolkin
Widely considered to be “one of the best horror films ever made,” director George Romero’s second Night of the Living Dead feature is a well crafted zombie flick, its shopping mall setting used in great effect to offer a satirical view on American consumerist society.
Script Reader Pro pointed out that while the screenplay only credits Gunn (Guardians of the Galaxy) and Tolkin (The Player) as rewriters of Romero’s script, “in fact Scott Frank (Minority Report) was also brought in to add some oomph to the action sequences.”
Final Destination (2000)
Screenplay by James Wong, Glen Morgan, and Jeffrey Reddick
If you’re looking to craft yourself a cheesy oos-style horror hit with some of the most creative death scenes in movie history, look no further than Wong (American Horror Story), Morgan (The X-Files), and Reddick’s script crafted for the OG Final Destination.
Apparently the origins of the screenplay are as ghastly as the film, as Roddick claims it is based on a true story about a woman who was warned by her mom not to take a flight, only for the plane to crash on take off. Yikes!
It Follows (2014)
Screenplay by David Robert Mitchell
A unique and horrifying commentary on the dangers of unprotected sex, It Follows centers on a young woman who is followed by an unknown supernatural force after a sexual encounter. The first film in quite some time to offer a unique imagining of the ghost story genre, the premise is as original, terrifying, and inspiring as its script. Horror writers, take note!
The Omen (1976)
Screenplay by David Seltzer
Antichrist’s spawn turned out to be even more horrifying than we could have ever envisioned, as the little Devil Damien terrorized those around him with his Satanic powers. It took Seltzer (Shining Through) exactly one year to get the script down on paper for The Omen, which we all know went on to become one of the most iconic horrors of all time. Shame the same couldn’t be said for the 2006 remake!
Screenplay by Kevin Williamson
“What’s your favorite scary movie?” The last two words of that sentence were to make up the original title for the titular 90s teen slasher, the draft script of which was apparently banged out in just three days by Williamson (The Vampire Diaries) while holed up in a hotel room in Palm Springs, proving that some of the best work is produced off the cuff.