The Abridged Script
INT. DARK CITY
The CITY is very DARK. It has ARCHITECTURE from EVERY CORNER OF THE EARTH and PEOPLE from AMERICA.
KIEFER SUTHERLAND (V/O)
At some point, aliens showed up who could make freaky shit happen with their minds. With my help they began experimenting on humans. All of this is visibly shown quite early on, but New Line was concerned that people who would seek out a mind-bending science fiction movie might have trouble understanding mind-bending science fiction, so they added this helpful voice-over. Now on with our film!
All the clocks hit MIDNIGHT and everyone FALLS ASLEEP. In a seedy hotel however, RUFUS SEWELL wakes up NAKED in a BATHTUB! The PHONE rings.
Hello. Listen, carefully. You are, in great! Danger. No time to; explain, especially. Given the, tortured way; I'm, delivering these; lines. You must; leave, now.
What the fuck? I don't remember anything... I should grab my stuff, that'll help. Let's see, clothes, coat, big ol' suitcase, gruesomely murdered hooker OH SHIT YEAH BETTER GET WITH THE LEAVING
Holy crap, am I a ruthless serial killer?!?
Hey buddy! The automatic diner called, they found your wallet and ID.
...who leaves a trail of evidence everywhere I go?! Guess there's no way I'm responsible for some huge murder spree, I'd easily have been caught by now.
RUFUS flees into the night and moments later, WEIRD PALE DUDES IN HATS also known as STRANGERS arrive, led by RICHARD O'BRIEN.
Can I just say, so far this dazzling sci-fi spectacle has mostly been dim lighting and watching lots of people fall asleep, are you sure that's a wise stratezzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz
JENNIFER CONNELLY sings in a SUPER ATMOSPHERIC NIGHT CLUB that is SO COOL AND ATMOSPHERIC that she doesn't risk disturbing the mood with things like CHANGES IN VOLUME or FACIAL EXPRESSIONS. She gets a note from KIEFER and goes to visit him.
Ah, yes; this is; my. RAT MAZE. Do; you like, it, there are; RATS; in this; MAZE, hint, hint.
Is your asthmatic crackhead routine supposed to be some kind of Peter Lorre impression? Fine, then my impassive woodenness is, oh let's say, a Marlene Dietrich homage, why not.
RUFUS retrieves his WALLET but his suspicious act of BUYING SOMETHING in a STORE attracts police attention! Luckily MELISSA GEORGE is there to offer SEX for MONEY which reassures the COPS nothing shady is going on.
This recent string of prostitute murders has really got my motor running! Whaddya say?
I'm worried I might be a compulsive serial killer. But rather than turn myself in and let the evidence determine my guilt or innocence, I'd rather toy with your life to find out. Worst case, you get horribly murdered, but the chance to feel better about myself is TOTES worth the risk.
They go to MELISSA'S place where MELISSA gets nekked but RUFUS manages to NOT MURDER her! Having established he is not a SERIAL KILLER but possibly just a SOCIOPATHIC DOUCHEBAG, RUFUS leaves to search for more CLUES.
EXT. DARK CITY
RUFUS spots a billboard for SHELL BEACH, which he also has a postcard of, so he CLIMBS UP the scaffolding in case anyone left CLUES to his identity scrawled on the GIANT BILLBOARD.
SLEEEEP... NOW. Hey, it didn't work! Luckily, even though that is supposed to 100% always work, we also brought knives.
RICHARD and other STRANGERS approach RUFUS menacingly! However, RUFUS begins projecting THOUGHT BUBBLES from his FOREHEAD that take out the BOARDS beneath their feet!
Well that's one of the more literal representations of mental powers I've seen--
YOLP oh wait, we can float!
At least we've established that falling presents no threat to us. Remember that for later!
However the billboard's GIANT SWINGING METAL HAND does present a threat, so much so that it SLICES THE TOP OF A STRANGER'S HEAD RIGHT THE FUCK OFF! We see that INSIDE is a weird ENERGY BUG THING!
Hm that energy bug effect hasn't aged nearly as well as all the other special effects. Let's avoid showing that as much as possible okay?
INT. UNDERGROUND STRANGER LAIR
The STRANGERS hold an urgent conference about RUFUS.
I have important news about Rufus!
He... can tune.
(throws up hands)
Well it's ABOUT GODDAMN TIME! Our piano has sounded like shit for years now, get him down here and-
NO NO not like that, I mean he can "tune", meaning he can change reality with his mind, like we do.
Oh, sorry Richard, I mean, "Mr. Hand". Which reminds me, why do we have these goofy names? It's not enough to be aliens, we also gotta be fairy-tale monsters?
It is necessary, Mr. Wall.
And another thing, I don't like Mr. Wall, it's dumb. Why don't I be Mr. Knife, no-one else is Mr. Knife.
You can't be Mr. Knife, some other guy on some other job is Mr. Knife, you're Mr. Wall!
You're just lucky you weren't near the end of the line when they handed out these names...
Don't even start.
(ABRIDGER'S NOTE: Our Canadian readers can substitute "Mr. Dressup" and "Mr. Lube" in those last two lines of dialogue for bonus regional fun!)
INT. RUFUS'S PLACE
RUFUS uses his wallet to get his home address, and finds JENNIFER there.
Rufus, my husband, it's you! I've been so worried since you've gone missing. My nightclub singing has gone from disinterested to uninvolved.
Look Jennifer, I don't remember anything. And there's something weird about this city. Maybe it's the constant dark, or the feeling of dread, or the floating pale death weirdos with energy bugs inside them, but something's not right.
Freeze! I'm the detective on the serial killer case. When Jennifer reported her husband had gone missing I thought "now there's a classic serial killer move", so I followed her.
RUFUS flees and WILLIAM chases! However RUFUS BRAINSPOOGES a DOOR into a WALL and escapes! RUFUS hails a CAB.
Can you take me to Shell Beach? I've decided to obsess over that, because why not.
Well sure, I... huh I can't remember how to get there. But everyone knows Shell Beach!
Why is that though? What purpose does this huge shared memory serve besides being a big-ass clue to help me figure shit out?
Oh see, that's because... huh I can't remember why we need to know about Shell Beach at all. Funny.
INT. DIRTY MESSY APARTMENT
WILLIAM HURT goes to visit another DETECTIVE who has gone MAD.
So you went mad working this serial killer case, huh.
THERE IS NO CASE! Yep, the big convoluted narrative we threw at the viewers up front is utterly meaningless!! Sorry if anyone invested too much trying to sort it all out! Ha ha ha, maybe the studio wanting to throw people another plot thread to start wasn't so dumb after all, huh? Oh, also, SPIRAALLLS
I, too, sense that something isn't quite right.
INT. UNDERGROUND STRANGER LAIR
Meanwhile, KIEFER reports in to the STRANGERS who take him to ride their TIM-BURTON-ESQUE RICKETY-ASS ROLLER-COASTER THING, WHEEEEEEEE!!!
You guys; can, float, why the. Fuck; did you, build this?
They pass an assembly line of STRANGERS making various random items they need, because even though they can "tune" anything into existence from nothing, gotta keep the unions happy by preserving some manufacturing jobs. Eventually they reach KIEFER'S LABORATORY.
Time to; make, some memories.
A dash of; unhappy, childhood. A, pinch; of heartbreak. This is, how; we create new, personalities.
Okay but which of these coloured goops is "my grandmother gave me this accordion", because some of the memories we swap around are a weeeee bit more specific.
Attention! Tonight's experiments will happen on Avenue N and Avenue D. Thank fuck we didn't pick Avenue Q or some people in the future would be having a good chuckle right about now. Ahem.
SHUT IT DOWWWWNN!!! OH YEAH BITCHES IT'S TUNING TIIIIIIMME
An enormous CLOCK in the shape of a HUMAN FACE opens, which makes you wonder if these aliens always re-customize their gear to resemble whatever species they're currently fucking with.
EXT. DARK CITY
As the TUNING kicks in, the buildings CHANGE and GROW and SLIDE AROUND and are RE-ZONED FOR JOINT RESIDENTIAL-COMMERCIAL USAGE GOING AGAINST THE RECOMMENDATION OF THE SUBCOMMITTEE ON URBAN PLANNING, HOLY FUCKING SHIT!!
Ah yes, now we; will transform, this poor family, into; a rich family. I shall; inject all four, of them. With; new memories. Since none, of my syringes; are labelled, I sure, fucking hope, I do this; in. The right, order.
RUFUS shows up to confront KIEFER but nothing really comes of it except to remind the STRANGERS they should really deal with the whole RUFUS situation.
I have an idea. Rufus is supposed to have the memories of "John Murdoch". Inject them into me, and I will solve this Murdoch Mystery.
RICHARD uses the MURDOCH MEMORIES to find MELISSA GEORGE even though when RUFUS was supposed to get the memories he hadn't met MELISSA GEORGE yet.
Hm, I've already been naked so I guess this is where I get murdered?
Now I shall use these memories to realize we should follow Jennifer Connelly. Who only thinks she's Rufus's wife because we deliberately set it up that way, so we should have made this stunning deduction long before I gave myself Murdoch memories or killed Melissa. I suck.
INT. DARK SUBWAY
RUFUS tries to use the subway to get to SHELL BEACH.
Hi Rufus! I should explain, this transit system doesn't get you anywhere you want to be and is only designed to frustrate you. The Strangers stole it from Toronto HEY-OHHHHHH I'm sorry, that was a cheap joke, I must be punished.
(jumps in front of train)
Ouch. What to try now? Oh hey, my Shell Beach postcard has a name on it! And there was a suitcase at the hotel with these initials! And I have a tattoo saying "FIND THIS GUY YOU IDIOT"! And
INT. OLD DARK THEATRE
RUFUS tracks down the name to the OLD THEATRE, where he finds his UNCLE KARL.
Hi Rufus! Let's get deep into your backstory and childhood and gain insight into who you truly are.
But those are all LIIIEEEEES!!!
The Strangers have been shuffling our memories around, changing everything, nobody knows shit about who they really are, least of all me!
(takes deep breath)
I sure hope the audience is identifying strongly with this group of utter blank slates.
Concerned, KARL phones JENNIFER, which also alerts WILLIAM HURT, and RICHARD O'BRIEN, and while we're at it how about SNAKE PLISSKEN and MING THE MERCILESS and BUCKAROO FUCKING BANZAI, why the fuck not. Everyone converges on the THEATRE just as the clock strikes--
MIDNIGHT AGAIN, OH SHIT! STRANGER DANGER! STRANGER DANGER!
EXT. DARK SHIFTING CITY
DARK! HOLY SHIT IT'S SO DARK! WHY IS EVERY-THING SO FUCKING DARK! THIS IS WAY TOO DARK I THINK
RUFUS is confronted by RICHARD on the ROOFTOP!
So what's the deal with you pale-ass alien riffraff?!?
Pale as death, yes? We use your dead as vessels, even the children. But no women, we don't wanna get cooties.
RUFUS runs across the oscillating rooftops! He takes a fire escape down to a window, but another building is coming towards him!
Must draw on my special power to alter the physical objects around me!
(smashes window with elbow)
Well yeah, what did you think I meant?
Some STRANGERS follow him down the fire escape, and one gets his COAT caught on a NAIL!
Hm guess I should "tune" the nail out of existence. Or "tune" my coat to not be snagged on it. Or, then again, I could shriek in useless terror as that building draws closer to
RUFUS reaches the alleyway where he is CORNERED! But WILLIAM and JENNIFER show up in a CAR and save him!
Damn, all our reality-warping powers were useless against the classic "Get in!" trope.
INT. HEALTH SPA
WILLIAM and RUFUS find KIEFER at his favourite spa.
I was supposed to arrest Rufus but have decided instead to team up with him, and expose the nefarious evil plot seeped into every corner of this city. We've realized nothing is what it seems and nowhere is safe. With every passing moment, all of us are in grave mortal peril.
I dunno, she's off nightclub singing or staring at rivers or whatever the hell she does with her free time. Now talk!
I can; do, better than, that. I've; prepared a, magic! Syringe. That could, end, the whole movie; right, fucking now.
Oh. Well we'd better save that for the actual end of the movie then. Let's go!
EXT. DARK CITY
RUFUS, WILLIAM, and KIEFER hop in a BOAT and row down a canal towards SHELL BEACH while KIEFER explains the entire plot.
Well this is fucking dire. I barely know how to "tune" and somehow we need a way to defeat this whole alien race.
Yes. Are, you; SURE you, don't, want to use; the syringe, and immediately; win?
Not quite yet.
They reach SHELL BEACH... which is just an EMPTY ROOM with a GIANT POSTER on the wall!
Damn. Looks like this is a dead end unless somebody left two large sledgehammers just lying around... oh hey!
WILLIAM and RUFUS HAMMER THE FUCK out of the WALL until it BREAKS to reveal... OUTER SPACE WHAAAAAT?!?!?
And now you know the truth! Well, the last 10% of the truth you hadn't already figured out, I mean.
STRANGERS attack! WILLIAM and a STRANGER fall through the HOLE in the wall, and WILLIAM floats out to at last see the GIANT SPACESHIP that is DARK CITY! Though his LIFE be forfeit, his FINAL SACRIFICE allows him to acquire in exchange this ULTIMATE KNOWLEDGE!
I'd pretty much gathered the "spaceship" angle once we saw outer space through the wall, but okay.
Give up Rufus, or I kill Jennifer!
Sorry Rufus! "Naked" and "murdered" were already taken and "hostage" was the only option left.
RUFUS allows himself to SLEEEEP... NOW and is taken below street level to the UPSIDE DOWN part of the city where all the STRANGERS' THINGS are.
INT. STRANGER BASE
RUFUS wakes up chained to a piece of GOTH EXERCISE EQUIPMENT!
Now, Kiefer, inject Rufus with our alien memories, which somehow helps us? I'm not sure I understand our evil plan. Anyway get on with it.
I think it's finally time for the winning syringe!
You; got it!
KIEFER injects RUFUS with the GOD SYRINGE that gives RUFUS a full lifetime's memories of training in TUNING, as taught by implanted memories of KIEFER with a NEW ACCENT.
How the fuck does Kiefer know how to teach Tuning? EH WHATEVER, HERE WE GO ASSHOLES
(tunes SO HARD)
Everything starts going HAYWIRE as RUFUS TUNES THE EVER-LOVING FUCK out of everything in sight! The STRANGER HQ begins buckling and platforms collapse and shit!
(falling to death)
WAIT SO EXACTLY WHEN DID WE FORGET HOW TO FUCKING FLOOOOAAAAAAT
RUFUS floats himself above the city and prepares to fight IAN RICHARDSON in the final TUNING TEST!
Fuck you Ian! Why did you even do all this? What was the point?!?
Our race was dying. We thought if we could identify and isolate the human soul, we could conquer death.
But... you realize humans FUCKING DIE, right? We're not immortal. Maybe there's an afterlife, maybe not, but if your goal is to keep living in THIS plane of existence, how the fuck would being human help with that?!?
Look here asshole, you know how we found your goddamn planet? Radio waves flying through space. Radio waves that promised, AND I QUOTE:
(reads from list)
"Endless Love", "Love Never Dies", "My Eternal Love", "Always", "Immortal Beloved".... I COULD GO ON. My point is, YOU DOUCHEBAGS were the ones making idle boasts you couldn't fucking back up.
IAN throw-tunes a KNIFE at RUFUS but RUFUS throw-tunes it BACK into IAN'S CHEST! IAN flies backwards into a WATER TOWER and is IMPALED!
Not that the spike through my torso means shit since this body is already dead, but I guess the water is killing me? There was something about us hating water earlier. Oh well.
RUFUS uses his powers to create SHELL BEACH for real, and tilt the CITY towards a nearby STAR, so it is now WELL-LIT CITY.
Hey Rufus. I got implanted with new memories even though the Strangers were supposed to drop everything and focus on you. But since I barely had personality before it won't be much of an adjustment! So, what happens now?
First I guess I have to single-brainedly create food for everyone so we don't starve to death. And then keep doing that forever. Hm. But the important thing is we've made a landmark sci-fi classic!
Indeed! Our place; in, history! Is assured; so long as, nobody else, does pretty much, the same story, any time soon; but with, more advanced, visual effects; and a. Plot, where more than just, white dudes; get to, be active participants; ha, ha ha...