DVD, Blu-Ray Television Review
By our guest blogger, Matthew Schimkowitz
AMC’s zombie revival “The Walking Dead” may not be perfect, but it sure comes close. The series, spearheaded by writer/director/producer Frank Darabont and adapted from Robert Kirkman and Tony Moore's acclaimed comic series, turns the flooded zombie market on its head, takes the concept seriously, and uses the device to heighten the show’s drama.
"The Walking Dead" follows Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln), a lone sheriff who awakes from a coma during the Zombie Apocalypse. With the world in ruins, Grimes searches the destroyed Atlanta area for his missing family and, along the way, meets the remnants of mankind and deals with their slipping mental states in hopes of finding his wife and child.
Darabont does his best to keep humanity and fright in the living dead. Each zombie retains its human qualities, allowing the characters to wonder who they once were, and thus, sympathize with their attacker. There’s weight in each bullet, as the zombie looks at the survivors with recognition before chowing down on their flesh.
The show has a cast of dozens, including character actor Michael Rooker, who carries one of the show’s best scenes, and Jon Bernthal playing Grimes' partner who, in Frank’s absence, fills the role of husband to Lori Grimes (Sarah Wayne Callies) and father to Frank’s son. This triangle creates an undercurrent of human drama amidst the paranormal threat.
Kirkwood and Moore's story fires on all cylinders, remembering that human struggle makes the genre interesting, not body counts -- although, Darabont doesn't ignore this either, bringing on horror veteran Greg Nicotero to provide the blood. Gruesome? Yes. Exploitative? Not in the slightest. The show uses gore effectively to add to the threat.
It'd be easy to compare "The Walking Dead" to George A. Romero's classics (Dawn of the Dead, Night of the Living Dead). However, the show’s episodic structure and clear focus on character are more akin the plane-crash survivors of “Lost.” Likewise, "The Walking Dead"'s cliffhanger endings, goofier moments and tear-jerker episodes are just as addicting.
Not every episode is a winner, but it's fantastic two-hour pilot and stand out episodes like "Tell it to the Frogs" and "TS-19” create enough great character moments and scares to excite genre and non-genre fans alike. The show keeps the scares and surprises coming, and unlike his contemporaries, Darabont gives life to the living and living-dead, making his vision of doomsday all the more satisfying.