Saturday, November 6, 2010

The Walking Dead, Mike White and a Chainsaw

That's a panel from Robert Kirkman's graphic novel The Walking Dead. As you all well know by now, AMC hs adapted Kirkman's work into an exceptionally graphic and well-produced TV series. The premiere aired last Sunday to AMC's highest ratings ever and proved that Horror has an audience on TV. So let's start with some Zombie TV, shall we?

The premiere episode, "Days Gone Bye" introduced the main character, a Georgia Sheriff's Deputy named Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) with marital problems who is shot in the line of duty. He awakens from a coma about a month later to find the world has changed for the worse. Everything he knows is gone, including his wife and son. Even worse, the dead walk and they want nothing more than to eat the living. My original review can be found here on Caliban's Revenge, but I watched it again today (man, do I love my DVR) and have some additional thoughts.

First, Frank Darabont is an obviously talented director who understands and appreciates genre story-telling, perhaps more than any director working today. One need only to watch his three Stephen King adaptations (The Shawshank Redemption; The Green Mile and The Mist) to know that. He is also a master at getting nearly point-perfect performances from his casts. No matter how outrageous the situation, the actors in his works make us believe them because they believe them, themselves (see Tom Hanks in The Green Mile and Marcia Gay Harden and Thomas Jane in The Mist). Finally, he is committed to conveying the humanity in the stories he tells. "The Walking Dead" isn't about a world over-run by flesh-devouring zombies. It's about the living and very human beings trying to make their way in such a world. As with his other genre works, Darabont understands this and uses it to his best advantage. We can see all the gore and grotesques in the world, but without real human reaction  to them,, they mean nothing. The confusion and fear on Rick's face as he picks his way through a field of corpses outside the hospital tell us more about him than a hundred exploding zombie heads ever could. And the abject grief in Morgan's eyes as he puts his wife's zombified head in the sight of his rifle is enough to bring tears to the most jaded of horror fans' eyes.

Of course, Darabont isn't afraid to creep us out - the scene where Morgan's zombie wife tries to open the door the house where they are hiding is as scary as any boogieman we might imagine in our closets or under our beds. And the sequence in which Rick finds himself surrounded by hundreds of zombies in downtown Atlanta is nothing less than heart-pounding. "The Walking Dead," while ostensibly a story about the Zombie Apocalypse, is actually a tale about the people trying to survive in a world turned upside-down by circumstances completely beyond their control. And that is why it works so well.

In Zombie Film news, it is being reported (via)  that Mike White (Chuck and Buck; Year of the Dog) has been offered to direct the film adaption of Seth Grahame-Smiths Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, the zombified version of the Jane Austin classic.  And while Natalie Portman is reportedly no longer attached, Scarlett Johansson (Ironman II) is now reported to be in the running for the lead.

Finally, tonight's Zombie Clip of the Week, in which the zombie-killing claymation maid makes a welcome return:

More kids with chainsaws, soon.

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