Dead Set

Dir: Yann Demange, 2008. Executive Producer/Writer: Charlie Brooker. Imports.
Dead Set

You are probably NOT saying to yourself, "You know what the world needs more of? Zombie stories." I know I wasn’t. The idea behind the British Television mini-series (five episodes all together running just over 140 minutes) called Dead Set is this...what if there’s a world wide zombie outbreak, all hell breaks loose, the apocalypse sets in, and no one lets the attention seeking, shallow idiots of TV’s isolated Big Brother house in on the news? That’s the set-up; sounds like a cheap gimmick, right? Sounds even a little shrill. Guess what? It works. It works great. This is a zombie tale that can take its rightful place along with the handful of good zombie tales of the last fifty years (Night, Dawn, Shawn, the Dawn remake, and 28 Days Later).

The zombie mayhem comes fast in this story - no long-winded, Arthur Hailey like, first act of meeting and falling for the folks about to be thrown into disaster. Nope, ten minutes in and it’s on. Luckily for us. most of the Big Brother house morons are only there to be future zombie chum. The story mostly centers on two radically different characters. Kelly, a PA at the network, manages to survive the attack and when she makes her way, blood soaked onto the Big Brother set, to try to warn the cast, they take her as a ploy to shake things up on their show and assume she is an over-acting new castmate. Also managing to survive the initial outbreak is the show's producer, Patrick. The actor, Andy Nyman, is wonderful, making this obnoxious madman a cross between Entourage’s Ari Gold and Saul Rubinek in True Romance. From what I could figure, much of the cast is made up of real life British reality stars. But don’t let that turn you off, most of the acting is surprisingly well done.

I suppose the creator of this show, Executive Producer/Writer Charlie Brooker, might have been making a statement about the zombies that continue to humiliate themselves in reality TV. Or maybe he was pointing out that we are the zombies that watch these fools on TV. Whatever. I wasn’t hit over the head with the "message" the way George Romero has ham-fisted us with his last couple zombie movies. Or with the obvious metaphor Joe Dante slogged into his overrated Masters Of Horror zombie episode "Homecoming." Also, unlike the filmed video game Resident Evil series or the (great first half/bad second half) Will Smith opus, I Am Legend, these zombies are not computer animated (cartoon looking) zombies. Nope, they are old school actors with yucky make-up zombies. They’re more realistic and therefore more terrifying (that is, if a zombie can be "realistic." You know, how zombies actually are in "real life").

What Dead Set really gets right is the surviving the new world aspects. Unlike the recent British long-running post-apocalypse series Survivors, where the "survivors" sit around in a mansion reading magazines in designer clothes and seem to have no problems with day to day apocalyptic survival, Dead Set has desperate characters and it’s grim stuff outside the studio. Our main link to the outside world is Kelly’s boyfriend who travels through the carnage and dangers to reach her. It shows that life on a TV set in a protected bubble really is better and safer than the hordes that await them beyond the studio’s gates.

So far this very cleaver, very violent and gory (certainly for television standards) program comes to us only in an import DVD. Hopefully it will get the whole "bells and whistles" American DVD release it deserves. Apparently the Stephen King loving director Frank Darabont (director of the beloved Shawshank Redemption and maybe the worst movie of ALL TIME...The Majestic) is doing an adaption of the great graphic novel, The Walking Dead, for AMC TV. I’m very excited to see what he does with it; hopefully though, with his overly "Americana" style, he will take some cues from this excellent UK series and not from Romero’s latest efforts.

Posted by:
Sean Sweeney
May 11, 2010 3:02pm
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