George A. Romero once proclaimed, a long time ago, that, "When there is no more room in Hell, the dead will walk the Earth." Romero, is of course, the man who wrote and directed a low-budget horror film called "Night of the Living Dead" in 1968, which became one of the greatest and scariest horror films of all time.
"Night of the Living Dead" helped make flesh-eating zombies a truly horrifying horror movie menace, and also gave rise to generation after generation of bloody, flesh-eating zombies for legions of devoted fans to follow from - movies, books, video games, comics, and faux "zombie survival guides" (you get the point). Romero also directed "Dawn of the Dead," "Night's" superior 1978 sequel, which proved once and for all that zombies were here to stay. (Inconsequently, as a boastful aside, "Dawn of the Dead" is my favorite horror movie of all time and the best, scariest, and most intelligent zombie movie I've ever seen.)
The 21st century saw the impending soon-to-be real-life living dead emergency, "Z"-Day as it's called by some - as a means of helping to capitalize on the fears of the people living in the "new" reality of our post-9/11 world. From the first "The Walking Dead" series of comics in 2003; to Max Brooks's seminal "Z"-Day novel "World War Z" (one of my all-time favorite books, by the way); to Zack Synder's "Dawn of the Dead" (2004), "Shaun of the Dead" (2004), and the "Resident Evil" movies; and to Romero even resurrecting his "Living Dead" series with "Land of the Dead" (2005), "Diary of the Dead" (2007) and "Survival of the Dead" (2009). The point is that in the 21st century, zombies are everywhere you could imagine and they're not going away anytime soon.
So here we are with "The Walking Dead," from filmmaker Frank Darabont and producer Gale Anne Hurd. "The Walking Dead" is an adaptation of the ongoing series of comics by Robert Kirkman, Tony Moore, and Charlie Adlard. While I've never read the comics this show is based on (because I initially believed the comics to be just more nihilistic post-apocalyptic zombie survival-horror of little redeeming social or artistic value in a market that's already heavily saturated with zombie-horror fiction), I do feel now that "The Walking Dead" is currently one of the best TV shows I've ever seen. To their credit, Darabont, Hurd, and the cast & crew of this series have created an outstanding piece of compelling horror-drama that grabs you by the heartstrings and forces you to watch, not just for the gory zombie head-shots, but because of how the clearly defined and well-written characters make you care about the cause for humanity's survival.
I can't speak for the original comic books simply because I haven't read them, but "The Walking Dead" does something few zombie movies (or books or video games, for that matter) are able to do correctly, and that is create fully believable and realistic characters that you do actually care about and grow to know and like, in addition to serving up gory scenes of carnage and flesh-eating that fans of zombie-horror will no doubt be pleased of (that's why Romero's "Dawn of the Dead" is such an important staple of the horror genre). No character on this show is under-written or truly unlikeable that you don't care if they survive or not. For the most part, these are ordinary people who are surviving a post-apocalyptic world after a virus of unknown origin has transformed much of the Earth's population into ravenous zombies (or "walkers").
Using a set-up that's quite similar to the beginning moments of "28 Days Later..." (2002), Sheriff's Deputy Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) is shot-gunned into a coma by a trio of escaped convicts that lucky for him, allows him to survive "The Walking Dead's" version of "Z"-Day. He wakes up several months later, confused, disoriented and alone, and struggling to find out what's going on. Soon enough, he finds that he's not alone and that zombies have taken over the world. He does encounter other survivors, but his main mission is to reconnect with his wife and young son, whom he firmly believes are still alive somewhere.
And he's right. His wife Lori (Sarah Wayne Callies) and son Carl (Chandler Riggs) are indeed alive, along with a small group of survivors that are led by his former partner Shane Walsh (Jon Bernthal). Other survivors include Andrea (Laurie Holden), Dale (Jeffrey DeMunn), Glenn (Steven Yeun), T-Dog (IronE Singleton), and the trouble-making redneck Daryl Dixon (Norman Reedus).
As stated before, the amazing depth of the characters in "The Walking Dead" makes a strong case for humanity's continued existence in the post-"Z"-Day reality this show creates. This lends the show a depth and poignancy that is rarely achieved in zombie-horror. Each one of the characters whether it be Rick Grimes, Shane Walsh, Dale, Andrea or even Daryl, can allow the viewer to make an emotional connection with them (which in the zombie genre is a difficult thing to do correctly, especially if the focus is mostly on action sequences and gore, though there is still plenty of that here, too). The prosthetic make-up effects and gore by Greg Nicotero & company are simply outstanding, easily on-par with something that Tom Savini himself may have done on any one of Romero's zombie flicks. This is a mature-rated TV series, remember, so it's really not advisable to let children watch this show because of the graphic zombie violence.
"The Walking Dead" is one of the best TV shows on the air right now. Its humanity (that is what "The Walking Dead" is ultimately about, humanity's case for survival post-"Z"-Day) and three-dimensional characters easily overpower the gore and special effects (although gore-hounds won't be disappointed by helpful doses of Nicotero's gory action scenes this show stages up from point to point). "The Walking Dead" is highly recommended, highly compelling television programming.
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