Thursday, October 11, 2012

Horror Thoughts ‘12—The Walking Dead, season 1 (2010) ***½

TV-14, 6 45-min. episodes
Creators: Frank Darabont, Robert Kirkman (graphic novels), Tony Moore (graphic novels), Charlie Adlard (graphic novels)
Directors: Frank Darabont, Michelle McLaren, Gwyneth Horder-Peyton, Johan Renck, Ernest R. Dickerson, Guy Ferland
Writers: Frank Darabont, Charlie H. Eglee, Jack LoGuidice, Robert Kirkman, Glen Mazzara, Adam Fierro
Starring: Andrew Lincoln, Jon Bernthal, Sarah Wayne Callies, Laurie Holden, Jeffrey DeMunn, Steven Yeun, Chandler Riggs
Guest starring: Norman Reedus, IronE Singleton, Jeryl Prescot, Juan Pareja, Andrew Rothenberg, Emma Bell, Melissa McBride, Michael Rooker, Adam Minarovich, Noah Emmerich, Lennie James, Chris Banks, Noel G.

The first brief season of “The Walking Dead” is a mark of the television revolution. Lately, cable networks like AMC have been changing the landscape of television with shows like this one and their other hits “Breaking Bad” and “Mad Men”. They’re often described as consisting of film quality storytelling. They also tend to be subject matters that would earn a movie an ‘R’ rating. The public largely ignores television ratings, while an R rating on a movie can greatly affect its box office totals. It seems for cable outlets, a hard adult subject matter can only help their viewership.

“The Walking Dead” is probably one of the most intense of these adult television series because of its subject matter of a zombie apocalypse. Like any good zombie movie, this television show is grisly with its gore and violence. It doesn’t pull any punches for TV. There has never been a time in television history when a show like this could’ve been possible until now. But, as the television landscape changed, along came Frank Darabont with the notion to turn a series of zombie graphic novels into an ongoing television drama. It looks like he did it right, too.

The pilot episode is stark, as a story beginning after the zombie apocalypse has already taken shape must be. It introduces us really only to one main character, the person of Rick Grimes. Grimes is a police officer who was in the hospital for a gunshot wound when it all went down. In the first episode, he’s playing catch up and is determined that his wife and son are alive and that he will find them. It doesn’t take him too long considering how the world has changed.

As usual there is the typical social commentary lying beneath the actions of a zombie flick. What this series does so effectively, however, is to roll this idea of zombie plague survival into a soap opera format. Perhaps a zombie apocalypse story is one of the best mediums for an ongoing horror story because the zombie apocalypse is one of the few horror monster stories that aren’t really about the monsters as much as it is about the people who survive it.

The first season of “The Walking Dead” is effectively absorbing. It gets past many of the zombie apocalypse mythologies that must be handled for the story to work, and introduces a cast of characters that we are willing to follow into a second season and find out what their story is really about. It’s a good introduction. Now, I’m ready to see what happens.


Emily Caswell said...

I've just finished watching the first two seasons of this series. I've never been a huge fan of zombie movies, but I really loved this series. Can't wait for new episodes!

Andrew Wells said...

I'll be watching season 2 before Horrorfest is finished, and I just set my dvr to start recording season 3 when it starts Sunday. After just seeing season one, I wouldn't say it strays very far from typical zombie fare yet, but the lengthened format takes away the filmmaker's need to shock the audience quite so frequently, which I think allows them to focus on the actual story more.