.Big elephant in the room, right? AMC's new The Walking Dead small screen adaption is seventeen days old and just saw its third episode debut this past Sunday. Meanwhile I've been twiddling my thumbs, until last night, when the three VOD installments so far were consumed for the first time. My stupid ass was nearly set on waiting until the inevitable Blu-ray box set next year.
I hate to continually speak about my perspective (your usual self-centered blogger here), but I must explain my indifference towards television. Before I feel your eyes roll at the screen; no, I'm not one of those lying elitists who scoffs at the medium and swears they don't partake in such a lowly pastime. I find the episodic sitcom more palatable than the ongoing miniseries. Maybe that says something about the nature of my attention span since I frequently lose interest with weekly scripters like 24 or The Sopranos. You can usually find me "half-watching" those quasi-informative/entertainment numbers like Dirty Jobs or the stupidity of Ghost Adventures. So my interest leading up to this Frank Darabont-laded zombie TV event wasn't anywhere near the stratospheric levels of the majority of horror fandom. That and, I know this is wrong, I've never once cracked open an issue of the comic series.
The Walking Dead shares the ardent focus on the revised condition of humanity after an unthinkable apocalypse seen in the best undead cinema and fiction. The most recent domestic live-action product that resembles this earthy tone is Tom Savini's Night of the Living Dead update from two decades ago. Perhaps major studios are leery of losing audiences with a thinking man's zombie flick, look to Land of the Dead's ultimate mediocrity, because screens in the country that birthed the flesheater haven't seen this serious brand of undead tale for far too long on such a scale.
The plight of these people is told in such a matter-of-fact fashion that the scenario is immediately believable. The characterizations could be criticized as cookie-cutter, yet this simplicity is what the traditional ideas in the genre need right now, instead of the Saw saga's continuing clusterfuck or the willful mutilation of once great icons in hollow remakes for first weekend box office. This back-to-basics narrative is clear and expressed without the political heavy-handedness of Romero's last few efforts.
Zombies are made frightening again by their mere presence as the new dominant species; not by running in triathlons with human flesh as the prize in high contrast actionfests. The direction across the episodes, with the first by Darabont himself, is confident, consistent, and most importantly not overly flashy while maintaining a cinematic feel. The make-up effects and "dark crimson" gore on display by Gregory Nicotero is excellent with very minimal use of CG. Common sense also prevails with the laws and presentation of the living dead. No runners, consumption of all flesh out of hunger, noise draws them, and you gotta get 'em in the head.
So far, so good with The Walking Dead. It's exciting, fun, refreshing, and genuinely touching in equal measure. AMC were wise in pursuing this venture and Darabont knows exactly what makes horror creep into our souls beyond making our nerves jump. I can't wait for Sunday night. One can only hope the great ratings continue and this popularity translates into a rejuvenation of how Hollywood views the genre. At least this is a start. We're long due for another renaissance, don't you think?