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critique The Dark Site - First Act

Many thanks to the members who offered their advice on this project on the previous 2 threads, notably @sfoster, @mlesemann and @Unknown Screenwriter. Have taken the comments and suggestions on board and tweaked the story.

The main things I've changed is that the killer now plays a more prominent protaganist role. The film is still a kind of a joint protaganist/antagonist feature though bewteen him and the Detective. Similar in a way to the roles Pacino and De Niro play in Heat I suppose.

I've also toned the torture element right down so that it does not form part of any sick "need" or obsession for the killer. I have left some elements in there but they are milder than what I originally planned and used for a direct purpose.

His killings are not especially humane though, but that is kind of the point of the film I'm going for. This is not Dexter, It's a Gory Thriller/Slasher. Not everyone's cup of tea, but I think there is a market there for people who are into those type of films.

I've also tried to add more humour to balance the darkness of the subject as per Mara's suggestion.

Anyway, I've knocked up a working draft of the First Act over the last 2 days. Would really appreciate some initial feedback on it from anyone willing to read it.

I know the descriptions and dialogue will need further polishing but more interested to know thoughts on the characters plus what works well and what needs addressing before I go much deeper.


  • The Dark Site - Working draft.pdf
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I do remember you saying that you were going for the way HEAT handled the Protagonist/Antagonist. I get that but as far as I'm concerned? Pacino was the Protagonist and DeNiro was the Antagonist. That the movie revealed so much about both characters is what kept us liking both of them but little by little Mann reveals MORE about DeNiro and who he REALLY is i.e., the guy that can leave EVERYTHING behind (even his new girlfriend) in 30 seconds flat if there's heat around the corner.

What I think Mann did with these characters was REVEAL how much ALIKE they are which is where you're getting the Protagonist/Antagonist thing i.e., that they are one in the same. Both are married to their work and both have lives that never take precedence over their WORK. Both have their little circles of community i.e., their co-workers.

Mann juxtaposed both Hanna and McCauley's lives to reveal they were pretty much flip sides of the same coin... One is a good guy and one is a bad guy but they're really not a whole hell of a lot different from one another.

You haven't done that in your 30 pages. Ricky and Schofield are as far away from one another as characters can be.

Another movie that kind of does the same thing you're talking about is LAW ABIDING CITIZEN. I believe Jamie Foxx's character is the Protagonist in that film too even though the story revolves MORE around Gerard Butler's character.

As for a HOOK?

True... Ricky's unhinged but what's you've depicted didn't really HOOK me into the story. Again, look at LAW ABIDING CITIZEN. Butlers wife and daughter are brutally murdered RIGHT OFF THE BAT hence, I am HOOKED. I have a wife. I have a daughter. I can empathize with this character and I want to SEE how HE HANDLES it and like most people... I assumed right off the bat that he was the Protagonist but as things develop, I find out because of what happened to his family? He's actually the Antagonist.

So something probably needs to happen to either Ricky or Schofield or BOTH that really GRABS US at the beginning. TO HOOK US INTO THE STORY and want to KNOW MORE about BOTH of these characters.
Right, I see what you mean. Ricky does have a traumatic back story but it relates to a series of incidents beginning with his childhood. Like I said, my plan was to reveal this in the second act, but taking your point on board, perhaps I could show a glimpse of some it at the start. Maybe via a flashback?

In terms of what I'm showing of the 2 characters, there is meant to be a direct contrast and I've tried to do that by flipping the perception of good v bad. Schofield is supposed to be the good guy but he is severely flawed and not particularly "good" as a person. The bad guy is actually quite honourable and trying to provide justice for the unfortunate, albeit in a rather disturbing way. It's almost the opposite concept of Heat in that way, personality wise they are miles apart, yes, but in terms of their job/mission they are both trying to provide Justice, hence the link and complex relationship to follow.

Maybe it will work, maybe not. But I think it's doable and makes for a more interesting story. Thought it was interesting that you assumed the Protagonist was Schofield, yet Mara thought it was Ricky, which was sort of the effect I was after. If there absolutely has to be one main Protagonist over another, then it's going to be Ricky.

As an aside, it was DeNiro I was rooting for in Heat. Protaganist or not. ;)
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A flashback could work OR just take us TO THAT TIME and make it happen. Then flash forward to where Ricky is NOW. Either way can work. I totally get what you're TRYING to do but at the same time? You also said you wanted to something along the lines of HEAT with your Protagonist and Antagonist.

As I pointed out previously... The way Mann handled that was to reveal how much McCauley and Hanna are alike and the only real thing that keeps them unalike is their respect for the law. Like I said... They are the flip sides of the same coin.

I'm also not getting that Ricky is that honorable... That's not coming through for me. That he gives Jay a pass on killing him over Melvin kind of works for that but at this point? I've not got enough from Ricky to understand what he's actually doing here.

I kind of GET that he's torturing and killing people that the law hasn't brought to justice... Why is he DOING THAT? If it were as easy as you've depicted it thus far? Why aren't we ALL doing that?

We need to know WHY. Once we know why? We're gonna want to WATCH it play out.

As an aside? I was heart broken when DeNiro bought it.

You misunderstood me... I don't think Ricky OR Schofield are the Protagonist. LOL. As I said... I didn't even feel there IS ONE at this point.

First acts need to SET UP all this stuff. You don't need to tell us EVERYTHING of course... Just set it up and pay it off later in the story.
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How are the libraries over there?
I just looked it up on my local libraries website - they have a few copies of the DVD.

I can place a hold on the website, go to the library and they will have it on a shelf waiting for me.
Not so great where I live. My library does stock some DVD's but not a wide choice and they have no website.


Staff Member
Not so great where I live. My library does stock some DVD's but not a wide choice and they have no website.

ah thats a shame. people dont buy used DVDs anymore so everyone here just donates them to the library.
it has a bigger collection than netflix if you want to watch classic films . and its free. pretty crazy.


Staff Member
I didn’t reread it. But I have a couple thoughts.

I think that there is a suspense problem still, when Jay says he didn’t do it I immediately believe him and immediately think the killer won’t kill Jay. And so everything after that happens between the two of them falls dead to me. Those scenes are so flat you need to make them about something else. More than just what we see on the surface.

The discovery of the website didn’t seem to advance the story either, it doesn’t impact any of the characters that we know.

Anyway I don’t want to just list a bunch of problems here’s one idea. When the police discover the website they should rush to protect the next victim. A sense of urgency. This has the potential to be exciting, they can finally get ahead of the dude and stake out to catch him. And then after they race over to the potential victim there can be a prank trap set.Like they open the door and get soaked in a can of paint. Totally embarrass them. Bc this dude has to do the polices job for them he sets it up to embarrass and mock them at the same time. Then archer is really pissed about the paint and he gets laughed at in the station. More believable he beats someone up and disappears.
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