From special guest contributor Dale Who
Last year—that’s 2009 for those of you reading this from the future—was the year of the vampire. Now, 2010 is rapidly coming to a close as the year of the zombie, the next big thing for the supernaturally animated, if you will. You could almost call it The Dawn of the Dead. Worldwide, there are now zombie walks where otherwise sane-ish individuals dress as the recently reanimated; there are numerous zombie films and remastered DVDs of old classics available; and the world seems to be moving on from vampires that sparkle to gruesome dead people with no table manners. The producers should have asked; I could have shown them the East End of London.
Into this current shambling, cadaverous melee comes The Walking Dead, an adaptation of the comic book series of the same name. The plot, as with most of these post-apocalyptic dystopian tales, focuses on a small band of characters trying to survive after the Zombie Apocalypse wipes out most of the world, with those who aren’t completely dead now shuffling around looking for something living to eat. In The Walking Dead, the special of the day seems to be Andrew Lincoln—already well known to UK viewers from Love, Actually, Afterlife and Strike Back—as deputy Rick Grimes, who’s recovering after being shot in the line of duty. Rick awakes in hospital to an undead world, in a somewhat similar set-up to the opening scenes from Day of the Triffids.
TWD is very full-on. It reminds me of Oz, the prison drama, but with zombies. It’s gruesome, bloody, violent, gory, very dark indeed…and really rather good. The effects used are top-notch and, again, like Oz, this programme’s not afraid to test your limits as a viewer. Although, in a scene that perhaps says more about my views on Humanity than it should, the only part I found distasteful was the death of a horse. I know it’s not real, but the poor horse had a horrible fate. It’s also a testament to how far special effects have come in the last 10 years that you can now have a horribly realistic undead half-a-person crawling across a park with her entrails hanging out of the hole where her waist and legs used to be. Also, said poor horse can meet a grisly demise despite there being so many laws in place to prevent any cruelty to animals. Apparently CGI animals don’t count. Sorry about that, Mr. Ed.
So. Rick is on the hunt for his family who have (quite understandably, I feel) left the house and gone elsewhere. I suppose the nearest 7-11 or Wal-Mart being full of flesh-eating zombies will change your opinion of the neighborhood, so off Mrs Grimes and her son go, not thinking to pop by the hospital and leave a note for her husband in case he wakes up. Terribly inconvenient for him, but a simple plot set-up for us.
Drama-wise, it’s nothing you’ve not seen a hundred times before. Where this excels for me is in the visually depicted scale of the problem Rick is faced with. If you suspend your disbelief and let yourself get drawn into the plot, it’s already becoming a very dark and gripping storyline, and shows a lot of promise in these early days. And in a clever co-production move, I see most of the zombies are now appearing as the audience for The X Factor, Britain’s Got Talent and most daytime talk shows.
Ladies and gentlemen, the zombies have arrived.