Monday, November 01, 2010

Premier Review: "The Walking Dead"

In an era where monsters have been co-opted by teenage girls, it seems that zombies are the one monster that remain incorruptible. Sure, you could write a teen angst novel set amid a zombie apocalypse, and no doubt it's already been done, but zombies lack the easy ability to be molded into a youthful, romantic leading character. Thankfully, this lack of teen appeal has really left the genre to flourish in the adult arena and in 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.


Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

I am very glad I didn't miss it. I'm not a huge horror fan but I'll be coming back for more of this one. The conflict of the characters toward the 'dead' was very poignant. And they didn't even touch on the mystery of why and how. Yet.

SQT said...

Susan-- I don't like graphic shows usually, but I do appreciate suspense. This was just so well done. And I think it was the interactions of the living and the dead that I liked the most about it. They do seem like they're taking the story slow-- which is great. I'm really looking forward to watching more.

Harry Markov said...

I feel the same way. It was brilliant!

Budd said...

The show was great. I had high expectations and it blew them away.

Showtyme said...

Susan- If they keep true to Kirkman's story, they will never get into the how and why of the outbreak.

SQT said...

Harry-- Brilliant is a good word for it. :)

Budd-- Me too. I liked it even more than I expected to.

Showtyme-- That's good to know. I never read the source material--I may need to do that now. Interesting that they never go into that. But I suppose it's more likely that's how it would happen.

Charles Gramlich said...

Really liked it a lot.

Showtyme said...

SQT- Yeah, Kirkman himself has said in the letters column he'll never go into how or why it happened because it is irrelevant to the story he is telling. It's not about humans vs zombies, its about humans vs humans. If only a few people are left, can humanity survive or will it be utter chaos. Can love survive in a world where you have nobody but each other... Stuff like that. It's the best comic I've ever read. Though sadly I had to stop reading it a couple months ago because I ran out of money. Definitely get some of the graphic novels if you get a chance, you won't regret it!

M. McGriff said...

Now I'm really upset that I missed it! LOL

Thanks for the review SQT! I feel like I'm caught up enough to finally watch the next episode!

Oh, btw: I'm almost done watching the first four episodes of Sparticus: Blood and Sand - I'm totally with you when you talked about it in your review!

Houston said...

I'm right there with you on this one. Usually shows with this much hype fail to deliver, but I was extremely pleased with the show, the casting, the acting, effects and the scenery.

I will definitely be watching this one and it might (MIGHT) even make my blue ray collection.

wheels209 said...

I was completely clued to the tv. I loved every minute of the show.
Take care,