Zombie Redemption

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.


wavingpalms said...

Maybe it's just a hangover from two Val Lewton pictures this past holiday weekend, but I'm suddenly nostalgic for the old West-Indies-style zombies.

Having said that, DEAD SET sounds intriguing. And I tend to like that British tendency toward the miniseries form (like the awesome 80s version of DAY OF THE TRIFFIDS, which, in a curious dovetail, was shamelessly ripped off for 28 DAYS LATER...)


Anonymous said...

The Walking Dead was just interesting enough to reel me in. I'm excited to see what happens with the series. 16 million tuning in to watch it? Wowsers.

Dead Set sounds interesting enough. I'll have to check it out.

Sarah said...

Dead Set is interesting. I re-watched it a month or so ago and while I'm not sure if it holds up as well during a second viewing, I like its approach. It is kind of hard to get over the weird cultural barrier that Big Brother is a way bigger deal in the UK than it is in the US.

Day of the Triffids, 28 Days Later (as well as a couple of other novels penned by Alex Garland, the screenwriter), and The Walking Dead all feature dudes who just woke up from comas in an empty hospital to realize that the world has gone to shit. I haven't read past the first volume of The Walking Dead graphic novel, but it is a pretty emotional series, and shocking as far as the idea that any one of the characters can die at anytime. I kind of cried at the end of the first volume. I watched the first episode last night and its following the book close enough.

Prospero said...

I LOVED "Walking Dead" and can't wait to see where it goes. Sadly, my provider doesn't carry IFC, so I still haven't seen "Dead Set." Guess I'll have to wait for the DVD.

Toon said...

I've been raving about "Walking Dead" to anyone who will listen. I appreciated how well-made and truly scary it was.

Jack Veasey said...

I'm very bummed to have missed both of these (life doesn't always cooperate with our plans to watch TV!) I'm going to keep an eye on IFC for the next 'Dead Set" showing but at the moment I can't find any way of seeing the first "Walking Dead" episode. It doesn't appear to be online anywhere, and I haven't been able to find any more encore presentations.

Sarah said...

You can watch The Walking Dead on Amazon's On Demand dealie. However, it costs $1.89/1.99 an episode unless you buy a season pass. They're really vague as to how much the season pass costs, but apparently it's 5% off of something.

Jack Veasey said...

Thanks, Sarah. Turns out they showed it on IFC last night, so I got to see it after all. It was great!

NHC College said...

The Walking Dead premiere will be streaming online for a limited time:


Spooky Sean said...

"Upon walking up, the cop discovers..."
I think you meant, upon waking up.
Still, good article, keep up the good work.

Pax Romano said...

Sean, I need an editor, you are hired. Long hours, low pay, no benefits - call my girl, we'll do lunch. ;)

Spooky Sean said...

Eh, I'm planning to be an author, so low pay and long hours are definitely in the cards.
But, I'll take the low pay to do what I love.
And what I love is writing about fucked up shit.
And cats. I just really love cats.
I'd be the worst editor though.
Truth be told, I make the same kind of mistakes, that's how I know how to spot them.