What can I say about THE WALKING DEAD? I mean seriously; what could I possibly say about the most anticipated horror event of 2010? I first started reporting on this AMC original project way back in January of 2010 (January 21 was my first article), and I’m happy to say that it was well worth the fucking wait!! THE WALKING DEAD isn’t just a kick ass zombie feature; it’s one of the best genre films I’ve seen this year.
I’m sure most of you reading this review already watched the pilot episode, “Days Gone Bye,” and know about how this amazing serialized graphic novel made it to the big screen. So I’m gonna spare all of you the history of this project. But I do wanna note that AMC really deserves some praise here. Not only did they see the potential of THE WALKING DEAD as a feature, but once they committed to it they didn’t pull any stops and went full-on balls-to-the-wall in developing it. Their first (and probably best) move was hiring Frank Darabont, the only man to really successfully bring Stephen King’s books to the big screen. He adapted and directed THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION (1994), THE GREEN MILE (1999), and THE MIST (2007). That’s a pretty good track record (and I know a lot of fans didn’t like the ending of THE MIST, but I thought it worked even though it was a bit schmaltzy). So when he was handed over the reins to THE WALKING DEAD I knew AMC was serious and committed to making this a fantastic series.
For those of you who may have missed the premier, I will say that if you’ve read the comic then you already know the story. Deputy Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) is shot and when he comes out of his coma he discovers he’s woken up in a totally different world. The hospital is abandoned, except for the barricaded doors holding back a swarm of the dead; the streets are abandoned; and when he finally makes it home he discovers his wife and son aren’t there. Confused he wanders outside only to get smashed in the face by lil Duane Jones (Adrian Kali Turner). Duane (a nod to the same-named actor who starred in Romero’s NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD??)and his father Morgan (Lennie James) take in Grimes and catch him up on what exactly is going on in the world.
I was really happy with the casting here. The actors playing Morgan and Duane couldn’t have been better, and Andrew Lincoln is great as Rick Grimes. There was some skepticism about Lincoln playing the lead but I think Darabont made a great choice. The only other character we got to see in any detail was Grimes’ partner Shane (Jon Bernthal). We meet some of the other main characters but the focus in the pilot was definitely on Grimes. I can’t wait to start “getting to know” the other characters.
Now I can’t talk about the characters in THE WALKING DEAD without talking about the characters that mean the most to us … the zombies. The zombies, done by Greg Nicotero, are, simply put, absolutely fucking amazing looking. At times I forgot I was watching a TV show; Nicotero didn’t pull any punches with the make-up. The zombies were terrifying, juicy, and decayed. There were also a lot of zombie’s that were plucked directly from the pages of Kirkman’s comic. There’s one that Grimes sees while he’s still in the hospital; he looks through a window in a door down a corridor and sees this gnarly fucking corpse. The corpse is stripped down to the bone and we can see the ripped open abdominal cavity. It’s a gruesome fucking scene and the camera lingers on it for a few seconds. But by far the best looking zombie was the one Grimes comes across as he’s getting on the bike. You know the one from the commercials; the make-up is horrifying and it has only half its body. One of the legs has been gnawed down to the bone and is just a stick, and we can see the spinal cord as it tries to make its way across the park. These are some terrific looking zombies that are in all different stages of decay. Easily some of the best looking zombies I’ve seen in a long time. Just wait until you see the scenes where Grimes rides the horse into downtown Atlanta!!
I certainly hope THE WALKING DEAD can maintain the momentum it’s had since around this past June-July. Based on the pilot episode I think we’re in for one helluva great series that is gonna do justice to the deep characterizations of the humans without forgetting about the zombies (like so many zombie projects often do). I’m really looking forward to getting to know the characters all over again and seeing them struggling to survive. Yes the overarching message here is that humans are the true monsters, but fuck me if this message isn’t presented in a savage and brutal way (unlike the recent snooze-fest MONSTERS). And don’t let the “AMC Presents” moniker throw you off; Darabont does not skip on the gore. Putting aside the CG blood splatters (they weren’t done well at all), the effects here are all practical, using CG only to enhance some of the effects. Don’t believe me? Just wait till you see what happens to Grimes’ horse.
It’s not often we get such a strong genre TV show that delivers on the writing and the gore. Let’s support this one people … I wanna see how far they go with this story. I can’t wait to see what they do with the psychotic character Philip. You remember him? The one who repeatedly rapes one of the main characters and has a little girl zombie chained up in his house that he fucks? Yeah that one. I can’t wait to see how Darabont gets around the censors with Philip!! There is so much here to love; from the dialogue to the zombie make up to the sets. THE WALKING DEAD is off to an amazing start and I for one will be eagerly tuning in every week. I’ll see ya there.
Director: Frank Darabont (also series creator and writer)
Plot: 5 out of 5 stars
Gore: 6 out of 10 skulls
Zombie Mayhem: 5 out of 5 brains
Reviewed by Scott Shoyer