Saturday, 1 November 2008

Of Dead Set

Grrr I keep promising to put a lid on the television reviews but it's my first love so I can't really stop. I would have posted a review last night but I got a tad tired so didn't write it then.

Dead Set was a great zombie TV show. I think I can say that it is one of a kind in that respect. I do believe that zombies have not been attempted in a stand alone TV show before. Occasionally in episodes yes but not a full TV show devoted to a zombie outbreak. Buffy the Vampire Slayer has used zombies as have many animated TV shows but not to this extent. Dead Set is teaming with zombies. It's also very dark. It's not a Shaun of the Dead in any respect. Shaun of the Dead was written as a comedy first, there's also the fact that Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright are massive zombie fans, they enjoy movies like 28 Days Later and Dawn of the Dead. This is evident in the way they treat the genre. The movie is teaming with references to previous zombie movies, stores are named after stars of other zombie movies and causes of zombie outbreaks in other movies are mentioned. Dead Set doesn't do this. It is a British zombie movie. In fact of an zombie movie it is most comparable to 28 Days Later (due to the setting) and the 2004 remake of Dawn of the Dead.

Dead Set was masterminded by Charlie Brooker, the guy who presents Screenwipe. If your astute enough you can see a lot of him projected onto the Producer (by far the best character). Brooker shows a lot of talent in a show that it is extremely different from Screenwipe but still gets across a lot of points about how Big Brother works. They are definitely hidden but they're there. How all the people in the house hook up and say it's "true love", how all the people in the house are in there to make money so they don't have to work (brilliantly played off against the scene of dead bodies being carved up for bait) and the way that alliances are built up against certain characters.

Dead Set was incredibly gory. Gorier in fact than some zombie movies. In the last episode there is one of the goriest death scenes I have ever seen. It also looks frighteningly realistic. This is where Dead Set really comes into it's own. In terms of television production values it looks amazing. It feels like a zombie movie. Not like many British TV shows which feel very weird in their production. There are definitely some very movie like qualities in the way that the show was made, but for a television budget it is really impressive.

I will say if you are looking for a light hearted portrayal of zombies don't look here. This is a very bleak portrayal of a zombie holocaust. The humour is very dark (although the producer is hilarious because of this) it's not funny in the way that Shaun of the Dead was. There is no "beating zombies up to Queen" there is however Davina McCall being brutally stabbed through the eye. In terms of tone thing those last few minutes in the pub in Shaun of the Dead or 28 Days Later.

The characters are all spot on. Threes the unlikeable northern guy, the gay person who gets on that one persons nerves, the older chap who the younger people think is a pervert, the stupid woman, the annoying one and finally that one guy who seems like a normal human being. They are used here to great effect and whilst some do get annoying it is nice to have a diverse range of characters in a zombie movie. Shaun of the Dead focused on a bunch of friend, but here Dead Set took people from all over due to the Big Brother setting and some of them hated each other. It's exactly how people would react.

Dead was a very good zombie tale. Not the best one ever, but due to it being a television show it was great. It's not going to change how we see zombies, it does however make you reflect a little. Whilst the humour and morale are somewhat shadowed (as they should be unlike in the original Dawn of the Dead where consumerism is clearly being mocked) it still makes you think. Dead Set is one of the few shows where I sort of sat a little shaken after the credits had rolled. Only two shows are able to do that consistently to me (The Wire and Lost).

I will level a criticism though the main character got very annoying with her constant "fuck off". I'm not saying I didn't like the swearing it's just the way that she spoke that got on my nerves. Also shaky cam? Good occasionally but here it seemed to be a tad overused. However it did give a visceral nature it didn't help give us much intimate detail of these characters. The characters whilst spot on were only playing towards a stereotype and due to it not being a "proper" TV show meant they weren't given much personality beyond that of your typical Big Brother contestant. I will applaud that they used fast zombies as slow zombies just don't make sense nowadays, however I believe that there wasn' the proper sense of claustrophobia that should be offered in this sort of show, which is odd considering the setting (I believe this can come down to the widdening of the Big Brother house).

It was an interesting ride and one only marred by a few niggles and the fact that there are better zombie stories (whilst very different Shaun of the Dead is one of them). Overall Dead Set gets 8/10 and was a great watch for Halloween.

P.S. I would like to say that Screenwipe will be back November 18th on BBC4 if you like Charlie Brooker, this news also comes with the fact that there will also be a spin-off about the news, called Newswipe early next year. Finally please check back at this post on Fables. I've updated it and it now includes a score for the first 75 issues.


IaSg14 said...

You're telling me you weren't, just a little bit, pissed off with the ending?

Nquoid said...

Not really, this is how zombie movies end. With it going to shit in a matter of minutes. Everyone dies end of. Whilst some people do occasionally survive, it makes more sense for everyone if they've barricaded themselves in somewhere to die due to the fallable nature of people