There was a time when I found zombies the be-all-end-all of horror. But that was some time ago, and as I mentioned on this very blog; lately zombies are dead to me.
And then, just last week, I stumbled upon Dead Set, a witty, creepy, British mini-series that finds contestants of Big Brother, the sole survivors of zombie infested England (and possibly the world).
Now, to be fair, I did not immediately fall in love with Dead Set. As a matter of fact, I found the first episode to be so fucking hyper-kinetic, that I had a headache by the time it was over. Shot and edited at a rapid-fire pace, there was not much time to appreciate what was actually going on, and in what seemed a matter of minutes, hundreds of people become crazed flesh eaters, society crashed, all communication went down, and the world was now the domain of the ghouls. Also, the creatures in Dead Set were so fast, and so crazy, they seemed more like the infected in 28 Days Later. Another thing that really bothered me was that whenever we saw a zombie, the camera seemed like it was set on vibrate - you know, that goddamn, shaky cam crap that once seemed so inventive; well, it's almost a cliche these days.
The magic in Dead Set did not manifest until the second episode when we meet a handful of other survivors and see how they try to escape the apocalypse that's befallen. It is at this point that Dead Set goes from being a frenetic set piece to a dark, morbid tale that just becomes more inescapably horrific and hopeless until, by the final episode - all hope is gone. Did I mention that amongst all of this despair, Dead Set manages to include a message about the evils of "reality television" as well as mass media in general?
Shortcomings aside, Dead Set was a satisfying, short, sweet affair (six, half hour episodes), if you have not already seen it, seek it out (IFC has been showing it, and it's also available on DVD).
On Halloween night, AMC premiered the highly anticipated (and highly hyped) The Walking Dead.
Seemingly the polar opposite of Dead Set, The Walking Dead's first episode was a slow paced almost cinematic affair that related the story of Georgia police officer who falls into a coma after being shot by a couple of ne'er-do-wells. Upon walking up, the cop discovers that something wicked his way came, and the world seems a much emptier place ... that is until he finds out that the world is now overrun with flesh eating zombies.
For the next hour and a half, I was mesmerized by the chilling tale unfolding before my eyes. No caffeine infused crazies here, no seat-of-the-pants camera work, no ironic dialouge...just a unique story slowly creeping up on the viewer. And when the zombies turn up, they are horrifying, shambling things (some of whom still seem to have an ounce of their human memories - one female ghoul shows up at her home to try and claim her still living son and husband).
What also impressed me was the story being told. A long conversation between two of the main characters at the start of The Walking Dead, figures in on a plot twist that we witness about half way through the proceedings.
Granted, I've only seen the first episode of The Walking Dead, but if the rest of the series is as good as chapter one, then I think we are all in for a rare treat; a zombie tale with something more behind it than special effects and gore. Could this be the redemption that the zombie genre has needed for so long? Stay tuned.