Written By: Glenn David & William Laurin
Draft Date: January 2011
I don't like the font. Seriously. For some reason, this script wasn't written in a monospaced font, much less industry-standard Courier. It was annoying to read on a practical level for that reason.
*It also means that the page count isn't really 55, because monospaced fonts take up more room, so this is probably somewhere in the 60s.
But, y'know, I can get over that.
What I can't get over is, well, the content of the script. Depending on how you look at it, it's wildly imaginative or completely inane. I'm firmly standing by the latter.
I started my read knowing only the logline: "Two sisters on the verge of adulthood who find themselves on opposite sides of a zombie uprising."
Let's tackle this one piece by piece, as it's almost entirely misleading.
"Two sisters." Yes. Jenna and Jayce (and, note to new screenwriters out there... try to not name main characters with the same first letter, and if you must, at least make the names different lengths, because not only can it be confusing to a skimming reader... you can interchange them and not notice... like Glenn and William did once or twice).
"On the verge of adulthood." Well, Jenna Lestrade is 30, and Jayce is 25 even though she ACTS like she's 16. So, no.
"Who find themselves on opposite sides of a zombie uprising." Easily the most confusing part of the logline. How the hell are two sisters going to be on opposites sides of A ZOMBIE UPRISING!? And have that be part of a continuing series?
Here's what the logline isn't telling you.
Jenna and Jayce are both zombies.
Yes, gentle readers, the zombies in Awakening are walking, talking, sentient beings with an ability to fit into normal life and, on a mere whim, "zomb out" meaning go from a "normal" look to, y'know, decayed flesh. Also they age and can have babies.
It's... a departure, for sure.
There's a point made by a zombie about how human (or "pre-dead") movies present them as lumbering, thoughtless brain-eaters. But... isn't that what fans of zombie movies like? Isn't that what they're looking for? I get that you want your zombies to be different. But you've basically just made them into undead cannibals. The mindless, decayed, ravenous horror is what's so frightening!
And, of course, Jenna, an ADA and a recovering bulimic when we meet her, is the family's "vegetarian" zombie (there's always a vegetarian...) meaning she doesn't eat human flesh. She's trying to fit into human society and even has a human boyfriend, Matt, who doesn't know her secret. Her parents don't know about him, either (there's a lot of "racism" overtones to the whole zombie vs human thing).
Jayce is an "organic" zombie. She likes her meat fresh. She likes to hunt. Which is a problem for her parents, because the whole "zombie" thing isn't out there in human society. They don't know zombies still exist. They did know, once, back in the 60s, when there was an "Awakening" which seems to be the "uprising" the logline refers to. Evan, Jenna and Jayce's father, is a survivor of the war (and a battle at a nearby tourist trap called Dellamore that gave me hope because it was a vague, off-hand reference to a hilarious zombie film with Rupert Everrett called Dellamorte Dellamore), and doesn't want to see that happen again.
So he and his wife, Eunice, get corpses from a restaurant, Macoute's, that has suppliers from morgues, medical labs, pathologists, etc. And the flesh is cooked.
The moment I stopped reading the script as a seriously toned zombie story and said, "wait, I think this is supposed to be campy horror comedy" was when, at the family dinner, Evan asks Eunice to pass him the lady fingers.
Y'know, like, a bowl of real lady's fingers.
So, I adjusted my mind to be critical of what I thought I was reading. Campy horror comedy. If the entire story had been in the Lestrade household, or at least in that tone, it would easily have won me over. Because that's some seriously campy, over the top shit. It could be zombie Dark Shadows.
Unfortunately, that's a minimal part of the pilot and there's the rest of the story, which is so drawn out and mind-numbing I refuse to look back at pages to summarize it.
Yes, some humans do know about the zombies. And there's a zombie hunter closing in on Jayce through a circle of friends (who want to start a new Awakening) she keeps. Naturally, he turns out to be Matt's father, and as he's said that zombie hunting is passed down through families, even though Matt shows no signs of knowing anything about zombies, it implies in the future that he very well could be coming after Jenna.
Here's the problem, as I've said above.
It's a departure. It's too far from the "zombie" lore we're used to, and it simultaneously commits the same mistake I felt Secret Circle did... there isn't enough "normal."
Whereas I looked at Secret Circle through the lens of The Vampire Diaries (same source material author, same two producers adapting it), I think Awakening, more than anything, wants to be the True Blood of zombie television series. So let's look at it like that.
Yeah, there's the gore, the camp, the horror. But it's from the wrong point of view, and you really don't get much in the way of seductive romance between Jenna and Matt.
We're not in the POV of Sookie Stackhouse and the residents of Bon Temps dealing with their first real vampire coming to town in the aftermath of the vampires "coming out of the coffin" (granted, I definitely do not think the pilot of True Blood was its strongest hour). We're in the POV of the zombies. Lots of zombies, who have their whole culture and community and it's all just immediately thrown in our faces without anyone besides Jenna, the vegetarian zombie, to connect to on an emotional level.
Is an audience really going to connect with Jayce, the homicidal, human-hunting, flesh-eating zombie? She's not even a delicious villain in the way you knew Damon Salvatore was going to develop into in TVD, or Eric Northman in True Blood (who... not introduced until, what, episode 10 of the first season?)
There's a reason Twilight was told from Bella's POV. There's a reason Elena is the main character of The Vampire Diaries. There's a reason Sookie is the main character of True Blood. They're the humans (okay, that's not entirely true of Sookie). They're us. And a crazy world is unfolding around them and we get sucked into it with them, as they fall in love with a "vegetarian" representative of the supernatural. Jenna, who in the preceding examples would be the Edward/Stefan/Bill, is the main character, instead of her human love interest.
There's also a reason why most zombie fiction (that I'm aware of) is about the human survivors. That's what we connect to. Survival.
Awakening lacks both those things. It's missing the human side.
UPDATE: Oh, I forget to mention something I tweeted about as I was reading. Let's play a game of "You know it's a CW script when"! You know it's a CW script when even the mid-50s mother character, Eunice, is described as "sexy." I'm not saying people in their mid-50s can't, or aren't, sexy. I just think pointing it out is a very "CW" thing to do in the script.