Thursday, November 11, 2010

dead set [2008]

finished this 5-part british zombie miniseries tonight and i'm here to testify that the vision of scads of the undead ripping thru the scant survivors of an apocalypse that has no known origin is quite a head-clearing, stress relieving, experience. this is bleak storytelling at its finest.

it goes like this: it's eviction night for the cast of big brother, a reality show where a group of people live in a single house and bicker like only reality stars can. the show is i hear huge in the u.k. then from out of nowhere the dead are rising up to eat the flesh of the living. the cast survives the initial onslaught and takes refuge in the house itself. also among the survivors is the director of the program, a real self-absorbed shithead and the vapid cast member who was evicted earlier in the evening. the wrinkle is that these two are separated by the rest of the case members as they had fled the control room and are trapped in one of the green rooms. and they hate each other.

that's the beauty of this show. you get shell-shocked victims who bicker and argue to their ultimate deaths. you also have the standard-issue badass of a person who rises from an unlikely source and becomes the default leader. that leader is kelly who was just a few hours before the zombie attacks an assistant to the show whose main job was to get coffee for the shithead director. she is a pleasure to watch. she does no vamping or heroics. rather, her leadership is achieved thru a prism of realism that is unafraid to show real fear and vulnerabilities.

a graduate student can of course write a thesis on the ironies of the literal dead eating the figurative dead of a reality star culture. the makers of this drama do not dig that thesis into the dirt and instead focus on the chemistry of its cast and the group dynamics that emerge under extreme stress. the vision is bleak and nihilistic. the end is both welcome and unexpected. if you like happy endings then stay away from this miniseries. the photography is roughened to a sort of old filmstock but i suspect was shot in digital while the lighting is that blue-grey that is so common among indie horror films now. i suspect that blue-grey light and the fast-cut editing of hyper-violent segments, and this is one of the most violent tv shows i've seen in recent memory, will be seen as so-early-21st century, much like how we view editing of split screens in the movies of the 1970s. even tho the techniques used by the makers of this excellent miniseries might be dated in a few years does not detract from its power. at the end my heart was pumping and my eyes were seared by the final image of kelly looking into one of the house cameras of big brother for even when it is the end of the world the cameras will still be rolling.


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