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Adapt This: “Awakening” is the zombie-noir you didn’t know you wanted

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With Hollywood turning more of its attention to the world of graphic novels for inspiration, I’ll cast the spotlight on a cool comic book each week that has the potential to pack a theater or keep you glued to your television screens. At the end of some “Adapt This” columns, you’ll also find thoughts from various comic creators and other industry experts about the books they’d like to see make the jump from page to screen.

This Week’s Book: Awakening by Alex Eckman-Lawn and Nick Tapalansky

The Premise: Private detective Derrick Peters finds himself in the middle of a case that defies logic when a rash of strange murders rips through the otherwise quiet town of Park Falls. When the craziest woman in town cries “zombies,” it seems like the ramblings of a disturbed individual — but could she be closer to the truth than anyone cares to believe?

The Pitch: A blend of “Night of the Living Dead” and classic Richard Stark crime novels, Awakening is a zombie story told from the perspective of a private detective investigating a missing-person case, and it’s a moody, tense exploration of the genre that blends the best parts of a noir mystery with a gruesome horror story. Given how accustomed movie audiences have become to the nonstop gore-fests of modern zombie films, an adaptation of Awakening is likely to stand out from the crowd and benefit from offering such a fresh take on the genre.

To their credit, Eckman-Lawn and Tapalansky accomplish quite a lot within the limited confines of their mid-size city setting, and the narrower focus they take on the notion of a zombie outbreak makes the entire tale feel more personal — which only adds to the terror as the threat grows. This focused, more personal approach to the genre is similar to the way the recent film “Chronicle” approached the superhero genre, and a filmmaker looking to adapt Awakening would do well to take a few hints from that movie.

Still, beyond the normal makeup effects necessary for a zombie film, an adaptation of Awakening would require little in the way of digital eye candy to bring the graphic novel to the screen. What is necessary, though, is a director with a good grasp on the way light and shadows can shape the tone of a film. Awakening is very much a zombie story filtered through the lens of classic noir cinema, so the ability to handle the latter is more important than a knack for blood and guts.

Casting Suggestions: Both the main character of the story and the supporting cast leave quite a bit of room for talented actors to bring their own visual characteristics and details to the roles, which should make any studio happy. While the role of Derrick Peters should be filled by someone capable of handling the conventions of noir cinema, the character of Daniel Howe — a scientist sent to Park Falls by the government — requires a nice balance of slick attitude and confidence without letting the character become unlikeable. Cynthia Ford, the woman regarded as the “town crazy” by most of Park Falls’ inhabitants, could also make for a fun role that a talented actress could expand upon and turn into something far more memorable than what appears in the graphic novel.

Given his experience with noir-fueled projects, Joseph Gordon-Levitt is an easy pick for Peters, but it would be nice to see that role — as well as the rest of the cast of characters — go to some up-and-coming actors looking to try something new. Awakening is such a unique story that it would benefit from an audience’s lack of expectations and a cast with room to build on their roles.

Would “Awakening” make a good movie? Chime in below or on Facebook or Twitter.

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The Best Of The Last

Portlandia Goes Out With A Bang

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The end is near. In mere days Portlandia wraps up its final season, and oh what a season it’s been. Lucky for you, you can watch the entire season right now right here and on the IFC app, including this free episode courtesy of Subaru.

But now, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the new classics Fred and Carrie have so thoughtfully bestowed upon us. (We’ll be looking back through tear-blurred eyes, but you do you.)

Couples Dinner

It’s not that being single sucks, it’s that you suck if you’re single.

Cancel it!

A sketch for anyone who has cancelled more appointments than they’ve kept. Which is everyone.

Forgotten America

This one’s a “Serial” killer…everything both right and wrong about true crime podcasts.

Wedding Planners

The only bad wedding is a boring wedding.

Disaster Hut

It’s only the end of the world if your doomsday kit doesn’t include rosé.

Catch up on Portlandia’s final episodes on demand and at

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Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

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Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

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