The Walking Dead Season 1: Thoughts from a Dedicated Zombie Fan

The Walking Dead Season One - Thoughts from a dedicated Zombie Fan by Jason Lees,

The Walking Dead (Frank Darabont and Robert Kirkman, 2010)

As a preface to this review, I have to state that I am a huge zombie fan. I love ‘em all, whether they be fast or slow, I dig my undead flesh eaters. I can recite Romero dialogue the way other, more respectable souls recite Shakespeare. For me, Fulci is right up there with Spielberg as far as being important to film history, and I can even find good bits in “House of the Dead.” Yes, I’m a dedicated zombie fan, and I’ve been in heaven the last few years as the undead trend keeps rolling.

At times the popularity of the subgenre threatened to lose momentum, but then certain films or books came along and brought it back. Zombies were all but forgotten in the 90’s but came roaring back with the Resident Evil games and then later the movies, but then really took hold again with the release of Danny Boyle’s “28 Days Later.”

After that, zombies were realized to be the new slasher flick, meaning the DIY crowd could take a recognizable screen villain and put it into any budget level. We were treated to big budgets affairs (the much maligned but so damn fun “Dawn of the Dead” remake) to the uber-cheap (fan fave “Zombie Diaries”). Some were hits, some were misses, but for me, it was heaven. Even the crappy ones were still more fun than anything being produced by Hollywood. I’d much rather watch the pointless Steve Miner “Day of the Dead” remake ten times in a row than sit through five minutes of “The Roommate.” The reason being, Hollywood doesn’t make movies for me anymore. I’m old. I’m not the target demo anymore. No, people like me get their fill elsewhere, and I’ve been damn lucky to have the zombie flick be so unrelenting the last few years.

So, if I felt lucky to have flicks like “Diary of the Dead” and “Fido,” then you can bet I feel absolutely spoiled by AMC’s “The Walking Dead”.

By now, most of you have either seen it or at least heard of this Frank Darabont produced series. You know it’s based on the Image comic from writer Robert Kirkman and that it has more acclaim than probably any horror comic in history. It’s stark, vivid, and absolutely never holds back. The only drawback to the comic is having to wait between issues. Again, I’m spoiled.

The Walking Dead Season Poster Art
(Poster Art by Drew Struzan)

The television series is unique in that it doesn’t follow the comic exactly, but does follow it closely enough that it might throw off readers. In today’s comic-centric entertainment world, we rarely see films or shows that follow their comic sources too closely because most of the titles being adapted have decades of stories to draw from (the exception, of course, being SIN CITY). With “The Walking Dead,” both comic and show start off following Sheriff’s Deputy Rick Grimes as he awakens from a coma to find that the world has become a nightmare of the mobile deceased. He sets out to find his family. We discover very quickly that this world is bleak. No “Resident Evil” butterfly kicks here. In this world, yes, you shoot the undead in the head, and you rarely miss it seems, but each time you fire that gun you only get the attention of more lumbering stiffies (sorry, couldn’t resist).

From there the two versions diverge. The comic becomes a road picture, while the show embellishes the beginning of the end of the world. The first season of the series is only six episodes long, all collected on 2 dvds, and moves very fast for a show that is basically a drama. That’s the only real complaint I’ve heard about the show is that it’s kind of talky. For me, that’s one of its strengths. When I want to sit back and watch unbridled face chewing, I can pop in my “Zombi” dvd. If I want to laugh and party with the undead, then in goes “Return of the Living Dead.” Now, when I want to feel what it would be like to face the end of days surrounded by the ‘rigor mortissally’ challenged, I get to sit back with “The Walking Dead.” It’s a cerebral zombie yarn, like Romero’s early work. Instead of wondering how accurate it all is, you sit and watch this and “Night of the Living Dead” and just know that if (when) the zombie apocalypse happens, this is what it will be like.

Instead of fighting it out with “Dawn of the Dead” or other Romero entries into the subgenre, “The Walking Dead” sits right beside them, proudly existing in the same reality. The rules that apply to “Land of the Dead” also apply to Darabont’s tales. Robert Kirkman, who even wrote an episode here, must feel damned lucky to have such a production spring up around his baby. Not only does he have Darabont shepherding his creation, he also has Greg Nicotero on board as producer/make up supervisor. As the N in KNB, you don’t get much better support than that.

I know I ramble, and I know I push this title every chance I get. I’ve pushed “The Walking Dead” as the best thing on TV to about everyone I know. I watch it with my kid. I bought the trade paperbacks for my girlfriend. I lend the dvd set to people at work. I want this show to last, to keep going, because I’m greedy. I want the zombie revolution to keep on going forward. I want more of “The Walking Dead.” And if the ratings keep up and the quality of the second season is half as good as the first, then I should be able to look forward to years more of my new favorite show.

Like I said, I’m spoiled.

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