Friday, September 3, 2010

Zombie Review (SZ): Dead Set

Creator: Charlie Brooker
Director: Yann Demange
--Jaime Winstone
--Andy Nyman
--Kevin Eldon
--Davina McCall
--Riz Ahmed
--Beth Cordingly
--Kathleen McDermott
Originally Aired: October 27 to 31 2008
Full Length Feature Aired: October 31, 2009
Channel: UK E4 and Channel 4
# of Episodes: 5

Britain has a big problem. The dead are returning to life and attacking the living. The people they kill get up and kill – and it’s spreading like wildfire. Curiously, there are a few people left in Britain who aren’t worried about any of this – that’s because they’re the remaining contestants in Big Brother. Cocooned in the safety of the Big Brother house, they’re blissfully unaware of the horrific events unfolding outside. Until an eviction night when all hell breaks loose.

Kelly, (Jaime Winstone) the production runner working on Big Brother finds herself caught in the impossible position of trying to fend off the walking dead alongside the remaining housemates, Davina herself, a host of former Big Brother housemates, her producer boss Patrick (Andy Nyman) and boyfriend Riq (Riz Ahmed).

Over the ensuing days, in a cruel reflection of the game show they thought they were entering, the contestants fall victim, one by one, to the hungry masses outside. Staying alive requires teamwork – which is tricky when you’re a group specifically selected by TV producers to wind each other up.

My Thoughts:
Ah ha ha...I originally watched this while being sick in bed, unable to move more than a couple of inches without coughing so badly I saw spots in front of my eyes (this was my 'very sick gonna die' phase of Fall 2008).  I had to download the episodes, since I live in the US and it hasn't aired nor been released in the US (to my knowledge, correct me if I'm wrong).  I've never watched Big Brother, and other than the Doctor Who Episode ("Bad Wolf") I knew nothing except it was kind of like MTV's Real World spliced with Survivor.  But hey Zombies! Why not?

As 'fake' reality show this goes all the way.  They use the 'host' for Big Brother UK (Davina McCall), its the Big Brother House, and for a good portion of the first episode the contestants are convinced its all a hoax by the producers to see how they react.  Considering some of the crap usually pulled by such reality shows I don't blame them for being skeptical.  When it finally becomes apparent they only have each other they momentarily overcome societal barriers and work together to 'survive' the threat.  Within the Big Brother House they are actually quite safe.  The House itself is isolated--so as long as they keep the Zombies from getting within the perimeter they're okay.

Sadly just like in any other Reality Show the social experiment works against their long term survival.  Whether its cabin fever or sick of each other or what have you dissent erupts and you start to see a true social experiment.  In any given reality show, unless you are Russell (from the latest Survivor seasons), most people still treat the 'survival game' more like a game.  There is no true 'threat' of dying or getting hurt and being left behind.  So when you stick a bunch of idiots altogether--plus producers, crew members, etc--that were brought together for the express purpose of creating a volatile cocktail of fractious personalities to create good drama, you begin to see an ugly truth of humanity.

This show is surprisingly gruesome.  I say surprisingly because other than HBO's Rome, Showtime's Dexter and (the more recent) Starz's Spartacus, I've never seen so much blood.  Certainly not in any other BBC show I've ever watched/enjoyed.  It also doesn't shy away from seeing the Zombies munch on people's legs or rip into a person's stomach.  Which is fine, as long as you're not half-dead from meds. XD The first time I saw the series (because I had to marathon it) I wasn't able to hold down tea let alone real food.

As a Zombie TV series it lends itself well--its about twice as long as your standard Zombie movie, but the director does a good job of keeping things from going dull and stagnant.  We don't just follow those cast mates stuck together, but also an oily exec who literally uses an underling as bait at one point.  The warring attitudes make for some good drama (ha! its too bad the Zombie Uprising killed everyone else, they're ratings would be through the roof for this season) and tension flits between hope and despair nicely.

Yes these are the 'fast' Zombies, more akin to the Infected of 28 Days/Weeks Later (who are not, technically Zombies since you don't have to 'die' to manifest the Rage Virus symptoms...but I'll discuss more on that later in the month) than the shamblers from classic Zombie films like the original Night of the Living Dead.  I like my Zombies either way.  If I'm cool with allowing the Resident Evil mutants in my fandom of Zombies I can't really point a finger and say 'No No bad Zombie don't run' can I?

My only real problems with the show was how annoying the people got after a while.  The show tried too hard to point out the many, many instances when if they had the 'group spirit' they would have lived and then seemed to punish them harshly for basically being human.  Are there those who would sacrifice for the 'greater good' (the greater good)  in the world?  Certainly.  You won't find them on any sort of reality show though (well unless you count Tom the NY Firefighter from Survivor from a few seasons ago) because they don't, by in large make for good TV.

Buying Options:
Unfortunately the series is only available on Region 2 DVD (from Amazon).

If you look around you'll likely find it on youtube or for torrent, but I wouldn't endorse those methods by linking here.

Interesting Web Bytes:
Simon "Shaun of the Dead" Pegg to Hollywood "The Dead and the Quick"
--I couldn't possibly love this man more if I tried.  Basically Simon Pegg reminds us that Slow Zombies (ala Romero's Original Recipe Zombies) have certain charms that these new 'Fast' Zombies (ala Every Other Zombie Film in Recent History but Shaun of the Dead) lose by being able to sprint at high speeds.

Charlie Brooker to Simon Pegg "In Defense of Zombies Running"
--So a week later Brooker posted a 'defense' for his Zombies tacked onto his Obama as President piece.  My how people can be tetchy about such things.

Channel E4's Website for Dead Set
--its pretty awesome and filled with fun things.  Like pictures, episode guide, character guide...

Channel E4's Viral Website for Dead Set "Unseen Screen"
--It asks for your birthday due to content (oh yeah this series is a bad idea for anyone who is young-ish) but I wish all 'reality' shows did something like this.  Be so much more fun.

The Inevitable Zombie Apocalypse Site Review
--hell yes I love this site.

The below video was used a 'viral', from the site Unseen Screen.