Friday, November 5, 2010

"The Walking Dead" Review...

I'm shocked and a bit chagrined that this new TV series about zombies didn't even show up on my radar until last week.  These days we're used to cable creating their own shows (The Shield, Rescue Me, etc.), but that's on channels like Spike or FX.  AMC is a movie know, American Movie Classics, so I didn't see this coming.  I thank Zombieland for the resurgence of interest in this subject (love that movie).  Interestingly enough, Zombieland was originally written to be a TV series.  Of course, The Walking Dead is about as similar to Zombieland as The Shield is to Cop Rock

What I mean is that this new show is as serious as a heart attack.  Creator Frank Darabont, who directed The Shawshank Redemption, The Green Mile, and The Mist, was shooting for reality on all possible levels.  (Given the man's resume, I'm surprised the show wasn't written by Stephen King.)  Anyway, Deputy Sheriff Rick Grimes gets shot during a stand off with some car thieves, wakes up in the hospital after a short coma, and then discovers the world has gone to hell.  I have to say I was a little disappointed they aped 28 Days Later for the opening bit.  So many other ways...

At any rate, we follow Grimes as he discovers hundreds of wrapped bodies outside, civilian and military, and also the now abandoned army vehicles.  As he makes his way home, desperate to find his wife and son, he encounters only one zombie.  Our introduction to how Darabont has decided to depict the undead is shocking and pleasing.  Grimes finds an upper torso of a partially eaten or maybe decayed body.  It's still trying to drag itself along with its arms, and also acts in a most zombie-like manner when it grabs for him.  Excellent make-up effects.  I'm excited.

His house is empty, of course, but he runs into a man and his son who have been holed up in a neighbor's house.  They give Grimes the skinny on the "walkers" and help him finish recovering.  Yes, destroying the brain is still the way to go.   And unlike 28 Days Later, these zombies are more of the George A. Romero variety.  That is to say, slow and plodding instead of scary-as-hell fast.  Ok by me.  There is a downside, however, and it's my one major complaint about the series.  It moves about as fast as the walkers.  Maybe that will change as the series goes on.  I sure hope so, because if you're not going to have humor, then the pacing needs to be at a level that will hold your attention.  What I realized toward the end, though, is that this is going to be an episodic, story arc endeavor.  Think Lost or 24.  Like that.  But if it's slow and humorless, you may ask, why should I care?

Well, because it teases you, (and because it's so damn well made).  We aren't told how the zombie apocalypse started or why.  Grimes' wife and child are alive and well and living in a survivor camp in the woods somewhere.  They think he's dead so the wife and Grimes' best friend are getting...friendly.  Yes, I tried not to roll my eyes, too.  Soap opera crap, right?  Yeah, kinda want to know what happens next.  Especially since Grimes ends up riding a horse into Atlanta in search of an official encampment only to find himself downtown and surrounded by thousands of brain-munchers.  Sorry, the horse doesn't make it.  The episode ends with Grimes ensconced in a tank completely engulfed by walkers.  Suicide seems to be the only way out...until someone starts talking to him via the tank's comm system.  Like I said, you kinda want to know what happens next.

All in all, I'm glad this show exists, and I will watch every episode.  I do recommend it because, A) It's well made, well acted, and well written; and 2) Because it's as true to the original Night of the Living Dead as any zombie film ever made.  Oh, did I mention the gore?  Despite the show's TV14 rating, Darabont manages to sneak in as much carnage as you'd expect to see in an R-rated flick.  Well-produced carnage, at that.  But really, would it have killed him to throw in some Twinkies or maybe even Bill Murray?

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