I never thought zombies were scary. I view them as the most mundane monsters ever created. In short, they are not frightening. That is until I saw the premiere episode of The Walking Dead.
Based on the Image comic created by Robert Kirkman, Tony Moore, and Charles Adlard, The Walking Dead is about a group of people who survive day to day during the zombie apocalypse. The focus of the series is on the group, how they interact and how each person deals with the crisis.
The episode begins and with Sheriff’s Deputy Rick Grimes. While helping to stop a speeding car Rick gets shot, placing him in the hospital where he is in a comatose state. When he awakens he finds the hospital in a mess. Making his way out of the hospital he comes across many dead bodies. Eventually he meets a man and his son, Morgan and Duane Jones, while looking for his own wife and son, Lori and Carl. Rick is informed that the dead are walking and to not get bitten. After obtaining weapons, Rick heads out to a safety camp in Atlanta. Needless to say there are complications when he gets there.
So where do I start? Developed for television by Frank Darabont and executively produced by Robert Kirkman, the show takes a look at the situation as realistically as it can. Where other zombie related shows give the actors pale skin and weird contact lenses, the folks here took a cue from the comics and decided to make the zombies actually look dead. A perfect example of this is in the scene when Rick is leaving town heading towards Atlanta. He returns to a spot where he saw a zombie earlier, he follows her through a field. In the wide shot we see that its half a body, below the waist missing. I cannot tell whether it was an animatronic or CGI but either way it gave me the creeps with its movements. As Rick moves closer we see the creators decided to make the living dead look as if their bodies are decomposing, hair thinning out, skin falling off, and the color of the skin looking more convincing than I have seen in the past. In this same scene we see the other aspect of the show, human emotion and reaction. We get a sense that Rick might have known this woman and has come to terms what he has to do to spare her this fate.
I also enjoyed was how Darabont approached filming the episode. Hand held camera shots, little to no music in scenes with focus on the actors performances that were superb. Andrew Lincoln, who portrays Rick Grimes, does a fantastic job as a man who tries to adjust to the situation and who wants to find his wife and son. Lennie James sold it as a man who protects his son. His moment comes when he must decide whether or not to kill his wife who is a zombie. Though not much was showcased when it comes to a group it does set up key players, Rick, his wife and son portrayed by Sarah Wayne Callies and Chandler Riggs. We also meet Rick’s partner, Shane Walsh, played by Jon Bernthal. While the episode ends on a cliffhanger the season preview showcases a promise of fear inducing situations, raw human drama and revelations to come.
Like I said, I never did think zombies were scary, but in the hands of Darabont whose resume includes The Mist, The Shawshank Redemption, and The Green Mile he managed to make them a threat. He has taken away the ridiculousness zombies have gained over the years and infuse them with true horror, at least in the eyes of this writer. The pages were brought to life and I feel this makes the show better than the comics, you can feel it in the atmosphere and in the performances.