The Walking Dead director Frank Darabont ("Shawshank Redemption") brings the quiet intensity he's known for to an exceptionally good adaptation of the graphic novel by Robert Kirkman.
After small town sheriff's deputy Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) falls into a coma after being shot on duty, he wakes to a world that has him beating on the floor in an attempt to wake from his nightmare. Coming to consciousness, dehydrated and alone in his hospital bed, Grimes' struggles have only begun. As he staggers down the bloody, gunshot riddled corridors we can easily imagine ourselves in Grimes' place thanks to the close-up, intimate camera work and quiet focus on the sounds of the buzzing lights and Grimes' footsteps. And we can't help but wonder if, having stumbled upon the grisly remains that are Rick's first glimpse of the outside world since his injury, we'd have the courage to step into a dark stairwell with only a book of matches to light our way.
It's unclear how long Grimes has been asleep, but it has been long enough for the world to become a dystopian nightmare where bodies litter the streets and one has to be prepared for the likelihood that they won't stay put. Grimes discovers this horrible reality as he makes his way home and finds that his wife and son are gone.
Before long Grimes finds more survivors and begins to piece together what happened while he was unconscious and soon after heads to Atlanta in the belief that his family may have fled to the city in search of a safe haven. But once Grimes arrives in Atlanta it quickly becomes clear that the city has been overrun by zombies and he'll have to fight to get out of the city to continue the search for his family.
"The Walking Dead" sets a very high standard for itself right out of the gate. Darabont knows how to use a measured pace when telling a story and, despite some gruesome scenery, we're really given a chance to connect to the characters. There's nothing easy about "The Walking Dead;" we're shown that from the very first scene. It's the nature of a horror story to scare us, but "The Walking Dead" goes beyond creepy bogeymen that jump out of the shadows. Instead it focuses on the human story and asks us what would we do if someone we loved came back to terrorize us. The answers aren't as simple as a quick, impersonal bullet to the head. And, unexpectedly, we learn to feel pity for the monster.
There's not one thing I would criticize about "The Walking Dead." The acting is stellar, the scenery is believable and the script is a shining example of understated excellence. If the premier is any indication "The Walking Dead" is going to be the 'don't-miss' show of the season.
Finally. Something for the grown-ups.