Play Dead by Stephen Wells
In the aftermath of the zombie apocalypse, one man believes he has the perfect strategy to survive, but what will his plan cost him?
Decades before George Romero’s Night Of The Living Dead ever hit the screen, the first feature length zombie horror film made its début. Its title: White Zombie, starring the inimitable Bela Lugosi. Prior to this in 1920, Robert Wiene mesmerized audiences with his silent film: The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, which depicted a killer in the guise of a sleeping-walking zombie.
Fast forward to the 80s and Romero set the gold standard in popular culture with his unique and oft imitated vision of the Undead as plodding lumbering cannibals.
Various Zombie incarnations have proliferated since. Though the source of Zombie plagues is often not divulged, zombie outbreaks often represent a decaying society, and are depicted as allegorical and cautionary tales. In a post apocalyptic world, corrupt governments, leaked mutant viruses, radioactive fallout and even supernatural occurrences frequently act as catalyst to any outbreak.
Zombie settings and genres are equally diverse. From outer space, to period drama, and movie musicals such as: Zombies On Broadway. From the brilliantly funny Zom-com: Shaun Of The Dead, to Zom-Rom-Com: Pride And Prejudice and Zombie, and the angst-ridden romance that is Warm Bodies. From the lumbering and kooky to the frenetic superfast avalanche of zombies in World War Z, and the grim and bloodthirsty mutants of Richard Matheson’s, I am Legend. How can we forget Danny Boyle’s provocative and intelligent reworking of a world gone to rack and ruin with its special brand of Rage-Zombies in 28 Days Later and its sequel: 28 Weeks Later.
From book, to comic strip, to video game, to movie and television, it seems our fascination and appetite for the Living Dead is insatiable.
So what makes a good Zombie script? Well, a fresh angle and originality is key. An audience wants to see something they haven’t seen before.
No easy task, but writer, Stephen Well’s short script Play Dead ticks all the boxes with his very cleverly crafted story.
We open on:
A SKELETON sits propped up against a gas pump.
In every city and every country
people died in record numbers. It was
a global pandemic. The end of mankind
as we knew it.
Suddenly, the sound of FOOTSTEPS. Slow and listless.
MAN (V.O.) (cont’d)
Then the darndest thing happened. The
dead started to rise.
A SHADOW looms over the skeleton and a figure staggers into
view… A ZOMBIE.
We meet: Trapper Hat, the protagonist and narrator of the piece. By his own admission Trapper’s a survivor, doing his best to blend in with the Undead around him. Its also clear Trapper Hat will do anything to survive. Through every word he utters it’s clear he’s capable and smart, but he’s also conceited, full of pride, and ruthless.
TRAPPER HAT (V.O.)
I shouldn’t have left them alone.
Trapper is also plagued by a guilty secret. A secret that could either redeem him, or could prove deadly.
He rips the knife from the creature’s skull and uses it to
open up its mid-section.
I don’t need backup. I just do what it takes.
He reaches in, takes two handfuls of blood and innards,
smears them over his body and face. Gives himself a fresh
coat of gore.
At this point the reader may well jump to the conclusion that this trope (above) seems a little familiar, but what happens next will shock and surprise you. From here on in this one definitely ain’t treading clichéd ground.
With its original storyline, visual writing and universal themes of love, loss, and betrayal, its multi-layered well drawn characters, and masterful twist, Play Dead is guaranteed to not only shock audiences but also bring a tear to the eye.
Play Dead was one of two Reader’s Choice picks in the April ’17 Apocalypse themed One Week challenge on Simply Scripts.
Filmmakers: We just know you’re dying to sink your teeth into this one and bite off all you can chew. You’d better move fast though, or you may well be left for dead.
Medium Budget: Depending on skills, but this one’s well worth it.
Exterior day-time shoot.
Three main characters: 40s male, mid 30s female, young lad of 14.
One motorcycle enthusiast.
Blood and gore FX, pyrotechnical skills would be handy, or use stock footage for one scene.
EXTRAS: A modest swarm of The Undead.
About the Writer:Hailing from Derbyshire, England, Stephen Wells is a graphic designer who has been writing for several years after first getting the screenwriting bug in 2009. He had a feature script optioned in 2013 and placed as a Quarter-Finalist in the 2014 Bluecat feature competition.
About the Reviewer: L. Chambers has been writing all her life – especially in her head, and on scraps of paper. It’s only in the last few years she began to get serious about screen-writing. Prior to this she worked in the Features Department for ABC TV as a Program Assistant, and trained as a FAD. She currently works as a freelance web-content editor and lives with her husband (also a screenwriter) in Sydney, Australia.
Read Play Dead (9 pages in PDF format)
Find more scripts available for production
This screenplay may not be used or reproduced for any purpose including educational purposes without the expressed written permission of the author.