Dark Matter

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© 2018 by Dark Matter Media LLC

 
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Logline: In this tale of inter-dimensional horror set in a teen melodrama, these young adults must question what it is to exist.

Dark Matter Review

 

Overall Impression:

The Breakfast Club meets Saw, which, it turns out, works pretty well.  We don’t usually think of horror scripts as ambitious, but this one is, and it’s got some genuine heart.  We found the script’s exploration of LGBTQ issues, unexpected in a horror setting (which we don’t typically think of as a platform for social commentary, even after Get Out), to be well done and additive to the overall story.  The focus on character development is commendable and Chrysalis has a flair for mining its character’s deepest, darkest secrets. 

 

Writing that lacks polish at times, and a few leaps of horror-script logic that didn’t quite hold up, prevent the script from reaching its fullest potential.  Overall, this is a fun story, very producible and could be developed into a gem with a thoughtful rewrite.

What We Found Most Effective:

 

  • We enjoyed that each character’s primary flaw was ultimately his/her undoing.  Chrysalis took an ensemble approach to the protagonists, and we were impressed by how much we ended up caring about each of the characters. 

 

  • Chrysalis delivers on all the gore you could want and manages several clever new takes on tried and true elements of the horror formula.

What We Found Least Effective

The script is too long (horror tends to run on the short side).  The length of the script is driven by two issues:

First, while we don’t mind the ensemble approach to the protagonist, there are too many characters getting too much primary billing.  By our count, 8 characters are in the ensemble “main character” group (Marks, Ink, Wendy, Bussy, Score, Noel, Vive, Alpha).  We understand that the script needs people to kill off, and also that the kills don’t carry any impact if the character isn’t established.  Even so, 8 just seemed like too many.  We don’t have a problem with all 8 characters remaining, we would just shift the focus to a core group of 3-5.  Wendy, either Alpha or Ink and Bussy would get our votes for being de-centralized, the choices get tougher after that. 

Second, some of the scenes simply run on longer than necessary.  We are firm believers that any scene that takes more than 5 pages should be closely scrutinized – there is almost always a way to convey the essential point of the scene with less.

Suggestions For Improvement:

Big Picture Suggestions

 

  • Is there a main character?  Should there be?  We generally think the script works with a main character group, but it isn’t a common approach.

 

  • A pattern developed that took some of the shock out of the script. Here’s what we saw: 1) we learn a character’s deep secret (e.g., Vive’s suicide attempt on pg. 35) and 2) that character is the next to die (Vive dies on pg. 48). First Vive, then Alpha, then Noel.  As soon as we started to learn about Alpha’s past (pg. 51), we knew he was next.  The effect is to let some of the air out of all the excellent tension that had been built up.

 

  • We’re torn on the ending.  On one hand, it has stuck with us since reading it.  Some argue that the point of art is to elicit an emotional reaction from the audience, and this ending did so.  So, arguably, mission accomplished.  On the other hand, our emotional reaction was “oh, come on, aliens… really?”  There is a certain cheesiness to the alien deus ex machina that, in our view, undermined a grittier feel Chrysalis had going for it up to that point.  If it were our script, we’d write an alternate ending from pg. 112 on and just seeing how it feels.

Odds & Ends

 

  • Pg. 1-7. You set the initial scene well.  The new school vibe feels familiar and accurate.  However, you introduce 9 characters, all of whom, given the amount of space spent describing them, we assume are primary characters.  It’s a lot to take in.  By the next scene, we were having trouble keeping them straight.

  • General Note. Be careful of extra carriage returns between lines.  There should be one space between the end of any action or dialogue entry and the next action or dialogue entry.

  • Pg. 12. Typo. Alpha’s first dialogue entry ends with a comma.

  • Pg. 20. Typo. “Vive keels yelling…”

  • Pg. 10-22. Two observations.  First, this scene is too long.  Yes, you do a lot of heavy lifting in terms of imbuing each of the characters with emotional challenges and goals (which we were glad to see and think is really important), but it’s just too long.  Second, as important as strong emotional goals for each character are, the setup doesn’t feel organic.  Would a group of teenagers really self-organize a meet-greet-tell-all?  We’re able to suspend disbelief to a point, after all this is their first night in a new boarding school, but in our experience it’s much more likely that they would either break up into cliques and talk very little, throw a big party (which they eventually did), or all go off alone to their rooms, but we had a hard time believing they would incorporate a structured “what are you in for” moment.  Also, consider whether the “what are you in for” character traits are nice little nuggets to hold back and pay out at key moments as we get to know each character in the script.

  • General Note. We found ourselves immediately gravitating toward Score as a character.  They is a layered and round character, well constructed, and brings an immediate image to mind.  Very nice work.

  • Pg. 33-35. These three scenes with Vive are very well done.  You built great emotional tension with Vive and also shocked us with the behavior of her would-be hero turned abuser.  Vive’s tragic reaction is painful for the audience.

  • Pg. 38. We’re not completely sold on how tight the Vive/Marks bond is in this scene.  In real time, as we understand it, they’ve known each other for less than 72 hours.  Even given Vive’s history, this just seems like too much too soon.

  • Pg. 38-45. We like this horror turn in the script, but we don’t think the students would jump straight to cutting themselves.  We think most people in this circumstance would need to see the consequence of not “playing the game” before they took seriously the idea of hurting themselves to avoid a potential consequence that might hurt them even worse.

  • Pg. 56. Typo. Alpha’s second to last dialogue entry “…you can just carry…”

  • Pg. 57-59. Wow, the Alpha torture scene… brutal!

  • Pg. 60. Why didn’t they try to leave the school once they finally got out of their common room?  Or call the cops?

  • Pg. 69. We’re a little confused, did the scene in which Alpha visits his childhood home actually happen?  Up until this point, we were getting a good slasher-film vibe from the script, but not a supernatural one.  This scene seems to veer into the paranormal.

  • Pg. 72. Typo. Cheerleader 2 dialogue, “…like is said…”

  • Pg. 78. Another great “ruin a character” scene – this time Noel.  Great job taking all these characters deep down into the depths of despair!

  • Pg. 80. Okay, we think maybe we figured it out: Alpha said this must be a dream back on pg. 65, Bussy responded yes, but which of us is dreaming.  So now we’re left to assume that Alpha was dreaming (starting on the bottom of pg 59), and none of them actually escaped the school (i.e., pg. 59-69 didn’t happen).  It’s okay if it’s confusing, or if we’re wrong, or if you want it to be ambiguous – just so long as that is your intent.  If it’s supposed to be obvious to the reader/audience, you may wan to consider further refining.

 

  • Pg. 85. They let her go back into Alpha’s bedroom?

  • Pg. 87. Would this really work to defeat night vision (and ordinary) cameras? We have no idea, but it’ll bug the audience if it wouldn’t work.

  • Pg. 87. Typo. Bussy’s final dialogue entry “quiet” vs “quite”.

  • Pg. 91. The action entry is: “The scene gets more and more tense in anticipation of something jumping or moving.”  Ask yourself, what should the director put on the screen to show this?  Yes, we have a general sense of what you’re shooting for with this entry (and sure, a good director could probably figure out somewhere to go with it), but its vague writing at best, lazy at worst.

  • Pg. 93. Typo. Wendy’s dialogue: “quiet” vs. “quite

  • Pg. 98. Love this death scene.  Totally gruesome!

  • Pg. 101. Typo. “Marks crosses the common room the his bedroom.”

  • Pg. 109. Ouch, another vicious takedown of a character.  Poor Marks.

  • Pg. 112. Typo. “Marks gets 5-10 years back down the hallway.”

  • Pg. 116-120. Wow, big twist.  We did not see this coming!

  • Pg. 121. Typo. “Score steals once last glance…”

  • Pg. 126. Typo. Last “Voice” dialogue entry, “There are no machine that…”

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