Dark Matter

  Media

© 2018 by Dark Matter Media LLC

 
where creatives control
Screen Shot 2019-02-22 at 3.11.20 PM.png

Logline: A singing Siren in the swamp terrorizes four young boys by taking control of them, luckily one of the boys is deaf and must save his friends from being lured by the Sirens song to their demise.

Dark Matter Review

 

Overall Impression:

If Stand By Me and The Blair Witch had a little movie baby, that movie would look a lot like Defying Sirens. Overall, Defying Sirens is a well-constructed, classical horror/suspense script.  We greatly enjoyed Danny, the reluctant hero, whose deafness is a key advantage in the battle between Danny, his three best friends and a mysterious Siren.  This script is highly contained in terms of sets, cast and location, and very producible.  What holds it back from a top score is a bit of sloppiness in execution, scene and act pacing (each a bit slow), and an overall need for a few more events/action.

What We Found Most Effective:

 

The plotting and story structure are excellent.  Act I ends with a big event (Trent’s disappearance) and that event logically compels Danny and his friends into their Act II mission.  Act II slowly builds and crescendos with Danny alone and facing seemingly insurmountable odds.  Act III burns hot and quick and ends on a satisfying note.

What We Found Least Effective

 

Fundamentally, Defying Sirens is a suspense/horror script.  Yes, there is also some comedy (and perhaps a bit more is needed), but to excel in this space, you need to hit all the high notes of a suspense/horror script.  While there are a handful of scenes that are at least adequate in this regard, the script needs both a greater volume of suspense/horror scenes, as well as scenes with a bit more oomph.  E.g., this is the only horror script we can recall reading where no one dies.

Suggestions For Improvement:

Big Picture Suggestions

 

  • You should be shooting for a 90-minute runtime or less in this genre.  Yet, the script is 19,000+ words (or about 108 pages). The script needs to be condensed in a general sense – in particular the excessive exposition in the first 30 pages could be at least halved.  Stay laser focused on getting into scenes at the right moment, conveying only the essence of what is needed from the scene to advance the script, and getting the heck out.  The boys (or at least Scott, Logan and Danny) do a fair bit of waiting around for the Siren to sing – do we really need to see much of the characters simply waiting?  While not a horror movie, we hold Birdman in high regard for its punchy, tight scenes.  It’s worth a watch (or a re-watch) for a little inspiration in this regard.

 

  • More needs to happen.  This may seem counter to our first suggestion, but we think you can both condense the script and create more memorable events.  Take, for instance, the scene where the Siren bites off Trent’s finger; you had your mojo working in this scene and we wanted more events like this that are truly impactful to the characters.  Specifically, we think some people need to die.  We certainly admire the simplicity of the 5 person primary cast you’ve constructed, but we think you need a few token members of the crew to kill off.  It’s a horror script: give us the goods!

 

  • You have the framework for Danny’s emotional journey built-in, but the execution is lacking.  At times, we got the sense that Danny is looked down on, or treated as an outsider by part of his group (Scott and Logan).  At other times, he seemed to be an equally valued member of the group.  We see the potential for Danny’s emotional journey to be: 1) Danny is looked down on for his disability, 2) this treatment by his “friends” has in turn affected his self-confidence (he doesn’t like to talk, even though he can), 3) when they meet the Siren suddenly his disadvantage becomes a clear advantage, 4) he saves the group despite their unworthiness of him as a friend.  Despite the structure, you don’t really execute on this (it’s there between the lines at best, at worst it’s just sort of muddled).  We suggest you build in a few tweaks to fully flesh out this clear emotional through-line for Danny.

Odds & Ends

 

  • General Note: Consider generating a .pdf version – that’s what most folks submit and what we believe is generally expected.  Also, add page numbers.  We’ve included page numbers in our comments below for ease of reference – these are based on exporting the .txt document to a .pdf.

  • Pg. 2. Typo. “Continuious.”  This error recurs throughout.

  • Pg 2. Spooky intro, we dig it.  What does the Siren look like?  She is revealed here for the first time (albeit briefly), so in theory we should get a description.

  • Pg. 4. How old are Trent, Logan and Scott.  Also, what do they look like?

  • Pg. 10. Scott’s joke is that Danny curses like a sailor.  The punchline is that Danny is deaf and mute.  The joke/cruel jibe falls flat since you haven’t yet established that Danny has a disability.

  • Pg. 3-11. The first 1.5 pages are quick, punchy vignettes.  Then we hit the high school hallway scene and the pacing slows drastically.  Varied pacing is good, but this scene feels long.  While we generally like the dialogue/humor and getting to know these characters, see if you can condense this sequence.

  • Pg. 15. It’s cool that Danny is a primary character – we’ve not seen many movies or read many scripts where a deaf character plays a meaningful role. We like it!

  • Pg. 20. The joke about swallowing the paper doesn't really work.  It seems unlikely that Trent is going to show up and demand to see the last note Danny wrote.  Why not just pocket it?  Or have Danny take his notebook back?

  • Pg. 31. Some of the opening scenes feel too long and lack in structure.  The initial camping sequence runs about 10 pages.  The boys tell jokes, settle in to their campsite and you establish that Trent brought a hatchet.  But what really happens in the scene?  Why is it integral to the story?

  • Pg. 32. It’s been 30 pages since we’ve had a siren sighting.  Given the title and the fact that a siren appeared in the first scene, we expected sirens to be a more consistent presence.

  • Pg. 33. Typo.  “…the boys return to silence and listens.”

  • Pg. 38. We like the moment you’ve created: the creepy story from Danny; the fact that Logan is getting scared; the prank by Trent to douse the campfire.  But, we thought you could have milked it for a little more suspense.  What about a shock/scare when Logan turns on his flashlight?  Could be a good moment for him to catch a brief/terrifying glimpse of a siren?

  • Pg. 39-43.  The sequence where Trent disappears has an excellently eerie quality to it.  Loving it!

  • Pg. 44. Great job using Danny’s deafness as a way to create tension, misunderstanding and lack of communication.

  • Pg. 47. Wow, these sirens are pretty freaky.

  • Pg. 49. Duh, of course [slaps head].  We admit we didn’t see it earlier, but now it seems so obvious that Danny (or one of the characters) needed to be deaf for immunity to the sirens.  Well… kudos on finding a good plot device, it feels organic to the story.

  • Pg. 50. Typo. “Danny and Scott are standing the same position that we seen them last…”

  • Pg. 60. We like Logan’s disbelief, but it’s a little one-dimensional (all frustration).  What if it had stages.  Frustration, turning into humor, then anxiety and finally hysteria (or some other sequence you think fits his character).

  • Pg. 62. “I hate you.” Hahahahaha – great line! We can envision the dry, sarcastic delivery.

  • Pg. 67. It’s not clear to us why Danny had to wait for nightfall and to hear the Siren again before going back into the swamp house to rescue Trent. Why couldn’t he just go right back in?

  • Pg. 75. It feels like Danny gives up a little too quickly when the Siren starts calling Trent back.  Sure, Danny took an elbow – but that was all it took?  We keep waiting for Danny to physically confront the Siren.  It seems overdue.

  • Pg. 76. The Siren sings “Don’t go defying Sirens…” and all we can hear is “Don’t go chasing waterfalls…” Is it intentional?  If not, you might want to consider re-phrasing to avoid any unintentional comedy.

  • Pg. 80.  The boys discuss going to the police, and reiterate their concern that the police won’t believe them.  This is a key moment of suspending the audience’s disbelief, and it didn’t quite get us there.  What if they dispatched one member of the group to get the cops? You could even add in a character just for the purposes of having someone to send off (earlier on – probably right when they realize Trent is missing).  Another thought is that their camping trip could be further away, making it infeasible to get help.

  • Pg. 88. The Siren popping out of the water here should be a pretty good scare!

  • Pg. 90.  Each time Danny survives a physical confrontation with the Siren, our fear of her ratchets down.  What if you threw in some additional characters for her to kill off?  So far, all she has done is kidnap Trent, force him to eat some fish and then bite his finger off (which was totally cool, btw), but we want the audience to be absolutely terrified of her and convinced that she is invincible.

  • Pg. 91. Since Scott and Logan are not on the screen in this scene, their dialogue should be designated either (V.O.) or (O.S.) immediately next to the character name.

  • Pg. 96. Typo. “Your the one who has come up with…”

  • Pg. 105. Good job isolating Danny and stacking the odds against him.  Even though we know he’ll win, we’re starting to wonder how he possibly could, and whether anyone else will make it out of the swamp alive.

  • Pg. 109. Totally gross/awesome spear shot by Danny!

  • Pg. 111. The Siren’s resurgence is sort of clichéd.

  • Pg. 116. Typo. “…knowing that he looked exactly what he seen in his vision.”

  • Black Facebook Icon
  • Black Twitter Icon