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Red Menace

Logline: The Atomic Age - an era of profound contradictions. The promise of unbridled technological innovation evokes awe and optimism, amidst intrinsic paranoia regarding communist infiltration that threatened the American way of life. Red Menace is a film where science fiction pulp meets McCarthyism. Two undercover federal agents investigating communist infiltration in Hollywood are ordered to protect a screenwriter awaiting his HUAC subpoenaed testimony. Over the course of an isolated weekend, they stumble upon an intricate web of conspiracies intothe movie business and the actions of the US government post- World War II.

Dark Matter Review

 

Overall Impression:

Steeped in cold-war dogma, Red Menace twists and turns its way through the ultimate effort in espionage.  The kernel of a gripping story is there, but some foundational elements are missing.  Character development needs to be refined.  The driving plot device – national brainwashing – required a high degree of suspension of disbelief, without the necessary elements in place to provide the audience a navigable path to the world of fantasy/sci-fi.

What We Found Most Effective:

 

At its best, Red Menace evokes a blend of Fringe and Red Dawn.  This deep dive into the Hollywood 10 is fast-paced and thrilling, with just enough creepiness to linger in the back of your mind as you’re falling asleep the night after you read it.

 

What We Found Least Effective

  • We found the transition in the scope of the script jarring.  We begin on an international stage (congressional testimony, glamorous Hollywood banquets, messages from Stalin, a movie set).  By page 30, our expectation is set for globe trotting action.  But the script takes a hard turn, and the majority of pages 33-81 take place in and around a cabin in the woods.

 

  • The script is dialogue heavy, and the action sequences tend to be general in nature.  In the first of two climactic components of the script - Arness’s confrontation of Morrison’s murderers - the action is particularly sparse.

 

  • Character depth and development were lacking.  Each of the main characters needs an emotional through line to help the audience to connect with them and care about their journeys.

 

  • Typos.  We understand a few.  Too many, and it distracts from the story.

 

Suggestions For Improvement:

Big Picture Suggestions

  • To sci-fi or not to sci-fi?  The opening feels distinctly sci-fi, but we never experience any specific, supernatural phenomenon.  The newsreel montage breaks the link to fantasy – reporting of hard facts returns the audience to a grounded, real world experience.  We get a few hints of sci-fi from Lawson’s speech and secret meeting, but it was plausible as cold war propaganda.  Sci-fi doesn’t meaningfully return to the script until page 60, when Watson explains his work to Arness.  By that point, we had almost forgotten we were in a fantasy world and had to re-suspend disbelief.

 

  • We identified with Arness as the main character, but he isn’t introduced until page 17.  We’d love to see the story told through his eyes from start to finish.

 

  • The audience needs a better reason to align with Arness (and, to a lesser extent, Morrison).  We get one nugget about Arness, he’s a family man who sacrifices his family relationship for his job.  But what is the emotional need driving Arness so powerfully that it causes him to prioritize his job over his family?  In what way does Arness grow?  How is he changed by the journey?  Not every character in the script needs an emotional through line, but we strongly recommend one for both the protagonist and antagonist, and perhaps one or two key supporting characters.

 

  • The primary plot device is the threat of brainwashing of the entire country.  We had two issues with it: first, plausibility; second, immediacy.  To help with plausibility, consider giving us some examples of the process working early on.  Regarding immediacy, the stakes did not feel high enough.  The script ends by showing us the consequences of failure, but what are they?  No one’s life is immediately changed as a result.  Don’t get us wrong, a nation changing its form of governmental an basic ideology is obviously a big consequence, but it is very abstract.  Other than Morrison, who died fighting the good fight, no character’s life is appreciably different.  In terminator, when the machines win they exterminate everyone.  In Red Menace, when the communists win, what happens?  To help with immediacy, consider imbedding a more tangible consequence early on, so that we have something that we dread to see happen to the main characters.

Odds & Ends

  • Pg. 1. We dig the old-timey intro.

  • Pg. 1-2. After he is introduced, refer to John Hendricks as either John or Hendricks, but don't alternate.

  • Pg. 6. Typo “He hands turn over TWO HIDDEN…”

  • Pg. 6. Watch the usage of passive voice, “Champagne is swilled by the attendees…”

  • Pg. 6. Stanley is identified as “BELLICOSE MAN” – the use of caps indicates that you intend to refer to this character as Bellicose Man, but then you refer to him as Stanley in the immediately following dialogue.  We could tell what you meant, but stick to the standard formatting guidelines.

  • Pg. 6. Typo in Stanley's dialogue, “Which is we so many of my…”

  • Pg. 10. Typo. “…the flights flicker…”

  • Pg. 11. Typo. “…through the lobby to a BOG JIM MCLAIN movie poster.”

  • Pg. 15. Typo.  Missing period in the sentence starting “The room is PITCH black…”

  • Pg. 17. & Pg. 18: McGreary is introduced on page 16, and if he warrants a description, it should come when he is introduced.  He is later described on pages 17 and 18, after his intro.  McGreary is described as young on page 17, and as a short balding man on pg 18.  Young people can be balding, of course, but usually aren’t.

  • Pg. 17. Typo. “…Arness and Morrison appears in full alien…”

  • Pg. 21. Typo. The dialogue heading for Briscoe appears to be missing, and the carryover dialogue on the top of pg. 22 appears to be misidentified as Arness.

 

  • Pg. 21-25. Briscoe, Morrison and Arness.  Two FBI agents are disguised as extras.  Another FBI agent (the ranking agent) is disguised as a producer.  Plausibility is an issue here.  Think about how much effort Argo went to in selling the plausibility of the ruse they used.  Here, we just get thrown in and asked to suspend disbelief.

  • Pg. 26. Typo. “From his expression, she intuits that is about to share…”

  • Pg. 30. Typo. Stanley’s dialogue, “It just do happens…”

  • Pg. 31. Typo. “Arness and Stanley exist into an alley.”

  • Pg. 34. Typo. Morrison’s dialogue, “It makes about as much as sense as…”

  • Pg. 37. Upon awakening, Stanley claims that Morrison and Arness killed Natalie.  Immediately before he lost consciousness, Natalie was still alive.  How would he know what they did to Natalie after he blacked out?

  • Pg. 38. Watson is introduced relatively late.  He plays a huge role in the script.  Not every character can be introduced on page one, but given how important Watson is in solving the central mystery, you might consider foreshadowing his arrival earlier.

  • Pg. 40. Typo. Officer’s dialogue, “Should I call taht…”

  • Pg. 40. Character’s names for purposes of dialogue headers should not change.  Officer changes to Watson.

  • Pg. 45. Typo. “The tires screech and he peels pack around.”

  • Pg. 49. Typo.  Morrison dialogue, “You’re turn.”

  • Pg. 54. Typo. “Arness fight through the fog…”

  • Pg. 58.  Typo. “The file is opened in Arness’ hand.”

  • Pg. 59.  Typo. Missing period at the end of Arness’ first dialogue entry.

  • Pg. 63. Typo. “Arness steps forward to analyzes a portion.”

  • Pg. 64. Typo. Stanley’s dialogue, “It started ror a few minutes.”

  • Pg. 67. Typo. “Stanley’s syes suddenly glaze over.”

  • Pg. 69. Typo. Arness’ dialogue, “It impenetrable to me.”

  • Pg. 78.  These concepts seem out of place from Holbrook.  This is the heart of the antagonist’s dogma, but you have it coming from a throw away character.  Moreover, Holbook states a page before that he is only doing it for the money.  So why would he deliver an impassioned speech that America lost?  Seems like this should be coming from Lawson or Alexandrov.

  • Pg. 84. Typo. Usher’s dialogue, “You dig your nose is excess and filth…”

  • Pg. 89. Typo. “The dressing room as seen better days.”

  • Pg. 96. Typo.  Son’s dialogue, “Everyone says it all the rage, pop.”

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