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FROZEN DARK

written by

Anthony Pittore
FADE IN:

EXT. OLD FORGE STATE FOREST - NIGHT

An ice-covered ribbon of highway snakes through an endless


stretch of virgin forest.

Silence, except for the occasional winter bird’s song, until--

An oil tanker SKIDS onto the interstate from a private road


out of the trees.

We follow the private road back to find, deep in the trees, a


hydraulic fracturing pump looming tall in the center of an
acre-wide clearing: a fracking site.

A line of other trucks exit the site toward the interstate.

EXT. FRACKING SITE - PUMP DECK - NIGHT

A pair of men stride across the main platform, navigating


through the active equipment.

The older of the two is MACK BRIDGER (50s): aged to grey, but
still built & dressed like a Marine.

MACK
Cold’s been a real bitch on the
supply. Been dropping twenty points
a day since Thanksgiving.

He hands a chart to GEORGE WONG (30s), the living embodiment


of a corporate drone, makes about 10x Mack’s salary with
1/10th the work.

MACK
Not only is the fluid backing up
‘cause of the ice, but the roads
make it damn near impossible to get
these trucks where they need to be.
Surprised none of ‘em’s been killed.

George studies the chart for a moment more, makes a few marks
on his clipboard, then looks up at Mack.

GEORGE
Mr. Mack, as I’m sure you’re well
aware, that is all part of the
process. I’m not sure what you’d
like us to do.
2.

MACK
Lookit...

He snatches the chart back from George.

MACK
We’re losing about fifteen-grand a
day here, even with a skeleton crew.
Had to force ‘em all to take off for
the whole Christmas weekend since we
can’t pay ‘em time and a half. What
else do you suggest I do?

GEORGE
You seem to be well enough equipped
on security.

He gestures to FOUR SECURITY guards stationed at each corner


of the drill site. They pace back & forth eyeing the trees.

GEORGE
They weren’t all in the budget you
proposed with your bid.

MACK
We can’t lose ‘em. Last thing we
need is eco-terrorists sabotaging
our shit like they did in
Binghamton. We already had two
pipes split in the past few months.

GEORGE
(not listening)
That’s all well and good, but I’m
still confused as to why you needed
us to come down here.

MACK
Well, actually... I had a request.

EXT. TRACTOR TRAILER - REAR - NIGHT

Mack swings the trailer doors open to reveal rows of blue


chemical drums filled with SULFURIC ACID.

GEORGE
You want to use sulfuric acid in
your extraction lines?

MACK
Only with corporate’s permission,
of course.
3.

GEORGE
You won’t have our permission.
(rattles off legalese)
This is a banned practice known to
taint water supplies and cause
explosions. It’s illegal under
federal law.

MACK
We all know the usual shtick for
the press, but I just wanted to
keep the suits in the loop. We
started the process this morning
and our numbers of skyrock--

VINDIKO EMPLOYEE (O.S.)


(shouts)
Hey Mack! The pressure over here is
through the roof! Take a look!

Mack SLAMS the doors shut.

EXT. PUMP DECK - NIGHT

Mack & George hustle across the platform.

The ground beneath the rumbles as they pass the wellbore


(hole drilled into the ground).

GEORGE
What is that?

MACK
Nothing good.

The wellbore ERUPTS with a pillar of fire. Orange flames


BLAST fifty feet above the fracking site.

Mack is THROWN BACKWARDS off the platform.

EXT. FRACKING SITE - NIGHT

In the midst of the blast, FLASHES of movement surround the


camp on all sides, so fast they’re almost invisible.

A hyena-like cackle echoes around the site.

One by one, Guards and Workers disappear. The SHADOWY ENTITY


yanks them from the ground and upwards into the trees.

A TERRIFIED GUARD flees the scene but the unseen Entity


DECAPITATES him before he can reach the trucks.
4.

An ARMED GUARD gets his handgun out just in time, aims it at


the trees, FIRES until the magazine CLICKS empty.

The Entity KNOCKS the Guard off his feet in a blur and pulls
him into the woods.

The Guard claws at the ground in useless panic as he vanishes


from view.

EXT. PUMP DECK - NIGHT

Mack struggles to his feet. His ears ring in deafened confusion


as he puts his palm over a gaping wound on his forehead.

He looks around the fracking site as his life’s work burns in


blood-soaked destruction, then comes to his senses and races
toward his truck.

MACK
Somebody help me!

He trips and slides face-first across the snowy ground.

Behind him is George’s tattered corpse in pieces. His lower


half gone. His entrails lead to a tree branch high above.

MACK
Jesus fucking--

Fear STORMS his face as the Entity SPEEDS at him from the
treeline.

His screams for mercy are drowned out by the HOWLS of the
ravenous beast.

EXT. TOLL PLAZA - INTERSTATE - NIGHT

Two tollbooths sit alone on a long stretch of road a way’s


from the off-ramp.

TOLLBOOTH #1 on the right glitters from the inside by a


string of colorful Christmas lights.

A jolly SHADOW moves about can be seen through the wreath-


adorned door.

A total inverse, TOLLBOOTH #2 sits dark. An orange traffic


cone blocks its lane.

The CRUNCH of snow signals the arrival of--


5.

INT./EXT. CADILLAC ESCALADE - CONTINUOUS

A black Cadillac Escalade rolls to a stop, a couple hundred


yards from the toll plaza.

Inside, ROBERT PETERS (late-50s) tenses his fists around the


steering wheel. His demeanor gives off the air of wealth, but
with the affable features of a politician.

His daughter, ERICA PETERS (mid-20s) fidgets in the passenger


seat next to her father. A weathered young face reflects the
troubles in her past.

ROBERT
Here we are.

They remain silent as a lilting Christmas song plays on the


radio.

ROBERT
I know this is a difficult
situation, but--

ERICA
Dad...

ROBERT
I want you to know. We’re trying to
help you here.

ERICA
(scoffs)
Help me. Alright.

She leans forward to leave the car, but Robert catches her arm.

ROBERT
Yes, Erica. Help you. Do you think
your mother and I aren’t being
punished here too?

ERICA
I can take care of myself.

ROBERT
Your track record would prove
otherwise.

Erica’s phone BUZZES in her coat pocket. She pulls it out and
the screen lights up to reveal a text:

TRAVIS (TEXT)
Heard you’re back. Can I see you?
6.

Erica pushes to reply and begins to type

ERICA (TEXT)
Come by tomorr--

She stops mid-word, deletes the text, then shoves the phone
into the glove compartment with a growl.

ERICA
(frustrated)
Thanks for the ride.

Robert looks disappointed, but nods.

Erica opens the door and steps out of the warm car and takes
a sharp breath as the frigid air hits her.

Before she closes the door--

ROBERT
Erica, I...
(beat)
I’ll be back at six.

ERICA
Great, see ya.

She SLAMS the door closed.

ROBERT
(sotto)
Merry Christmas.

EXT. TOLL PLAZA - NIGHT

Erica plows her way though the snow toward the tollbooths as
Robert does a U-turn and drives away.

The same Christmas carol from Robert’s car plays from inside
Tollbooth #1.

Erica KNOCKS on the booth door. Her thick gloves dampen the
sound so she KNOCKS again, harder.

ERICA
Hello?

After a moment of no response, she opens the door and enters.


7.

INT. TOLLBOOTH #1 - NIGHT

The booth is simply set up with a desk against the large


front window and another smaller window across from the door.

On the desk is a photo of a MIDDLE-AGED WOMAN.

An older man (mid-60s) slumps in a small metal chair, softly


snoring. His uniform is rumpled and faded from years of wear.

The stitched nametag on his shirt reads “FRANK RUSSO.”

ERICA
Ugh, please don’t be dead.

She CLEARS HER THROAT and Frank JARS AWAKE with a start.

He looks around the booth. After a moment, his kind eyes


register Erica’s presence.

FRANK
Hey there! Sorry, I was, uh...
meditating. Finding my center and
all that. You know.

A moment of awkward silence passes between them.

FRANK
What can I do for you?

ERICA
I was told to come tonight. I was
just hired.

The lightbulb clicks on for Frank.

FRANK
Erica! Right? Of course, of course.
Have a seat, please.

He motions to an empty stool and she sits, removing her cap &
gloves.

ERICA
I’m a little late. Roads were hell.

FRANK
Don’t worry about it one bit. Just
glad you made it safe.

He holds out his hand to Erica to shake.


8.

FRANK
Frank Russo, tollbooth operator
extraordinaire.

ERICA
Nice to meet you. I guess you’re
supposed to be training me tonight?

FRANK
Real go-getter! Good. Fact is,
though, there’s not a whole lot to
really train you to do. Only here
as a stop-gap measure these days
until the new laws get passed.

ERICA
What do you mean?

FRANK
Take a look.

He opens the window and points at an automatic toll-taker.

FRANK
That’s the real moneymaker. Drivers
just toss their coins in there or
take a ticket to pay later. We
can’t even make change anymore
because they’re afraid of highway
robberies!

ERICA
Then why do they need us?

FRANK
See, therein lies the genius! They
don’t need us. Union rules are set
in stone though, robot or no robot.
Always need to have the booths
manned. Or, I guess, womaned now?

Erica gives a pacifying smile to the dad joke as a wicked


GUST of wind blows in through the open window. A draft of
snow blows in with it.

FRANK
Damn!

He scrambles to close the window, but it jams.

FRANK
Give me a hand!

Erica helps Frank slide the stubborn window shut.


9.

FRANK
Whew! Colder than a witch’s tit.

Erica brushes the snow off her front, clearly freezing.

ERICA
Anywhere to get something hot
to drink?

FRANK
Now that you remind me, I was just
about to make some cocoa before my
little meditation session if you’d
like some.

ERICA
I’m not really a hot cocoa-type of
girl. I was thinking coffee maybe?

FRANK
We can do that too. But your booth
has the coffee maker.

He points out the door’s window toward--

EXT. TOLLBOOTH #2 - NIGHT

Erica & Frank head out into the bitter night.

FRANK
(over the wind)
This one doesn’t get so much use
anymore, so we always gotta make
sure we didn’t get any critters
sneaking in.

He pulls a set of keys from his coat and searches for the
correct one.

A flash movement in the trees grabs Erica’s attention and she


squints through the dark but sees nothing.

FRANK
Here we are.

INT. TOLLBOOTH #2 - NIGHT

Frank flips the lights on to reveal a setup identical to his


booth.

FRANK
Home sweet home.
10.

Steam billows from Erica’s and Frank’s mouths as they try to


warm up inside.

ERICA
I think it’s colder in here than it
is outside.

FRANK
You might be right.

He turns a couple knobs on the heater, which GROANS and


BUZZES as it comes to life.

FRANK
That’ll warm up in no time and
you’ll be all set. If she starts
smoking up just slap some snow on
top to cool her off.

ERICA
Got it, I guess.

He points at a small table with basic appliances on it.

FRANK
Over there’s your coffee maker and
toaster for all your culinary
needs. Microwave’s on my side, only
have the one.

He peeks around as if checking to see if anyone is watching


then kneels on the ground.

FRANK
And down here is our little secret.

He opens a small cabinet and pulls out a small 13” TV

FRANK
Strictly speaking, we’re not
supposed to have this. But, on a
night like this, sometimes you’ll
go ages without seeing a soul.
(looks outside)
The quiet can drive you mad.

Erica appears confused by Frank’s momentary gravitas.

ERICA
I can see that.

FRANK
Should be slower tonight on account
of the holiday.
11.

Even the workers up the road won’t


be in for a few days.

ERICA
Construction?

FRANK
Nah, just some drillers out in the
woods. Not even sure what they’re
doing. You probably won’t even see
‘em now that they’ve got that
private road of theirs.

He puffs out a long sigh.

FRANK
Anyway, need anything else?

ERICA
I mean... I don’t think so.

FRANK
If you think of anything, I’m about
fifteen feet away. Just give me a
shout.

He steps out into the cold again.

FRANK
I’ll check in on you later.

He nods with a smile and hurries back to his booth.

ERICA
Merry fucking Christmas to me.