Sunday, November 28, 2010

The Dead Set (Television) - 2008/2010

Oh Britain and your zombies, what am I going to do about you?

I feel like I'm the only person in the horror circuit who didn't fall head over heels for the British five part mini-series "The Dead Set", that aired on IFC Halloween night. I'm not saying that I hated it or anything, I'm just saying that I don't really feel the need to move to a quaint little house in the country and pick out lacy curtains either.

Now here's where I'm going to get a little more un-popular. I am not the hugest fan of zombies. I KNOW I KNOW. What sort of self respecting horror blogger am I if I'm not all:


If that was the sort of talk you were expecting out of me, well, then now is your time to disown and turn your back on me. Because that just isn't the case. I'll understand if you do this, I really will, but I was hoping that we could at least still be friends...

But before you hold this all together against me, let me explain to you my side of the story.

Some of you might already know this about me, but I really don't scare. My friends, and especially my roommate, think that I am overly desensitized to horror, and who knows, maybe they're right. However, one of the only things that can get to me is cannibalism. I can't help it, the idea of being eaten while you're still alive is, in my opinion, that absolute worst way to die. Seriously, I can't even deal with it.

This is why I generally give movies like 'The Hills Have Eyes' and 'Texas Chainsaw Massacre' a wide berth. So, obviously, this is a statement that extends to Zombie films. It's only been the past couple of years that I've really been able to make myself sit down and watch zombie films without getting nauseous and generally a bit freaky.

It's really only on account of films like Shaun of the Dead, Zombieland, and Fido that this girl was able to ease into the zombie genre.

Now that I've rambled about me, as I am like to do, Let's actually talk about The Dead Set.

The premise of The Dead Set revolves around the ever-popular British Reality Series Big Brother. Which, for those of you not in the know about this sort of thing, Big Brother is a show where a group of people are kept in a house together, secluded from all contact with the outside world. There are cameras installed everywhere within the house, so that the inhabitants are constantly being recorded, and there's also a "diary room" where people sit and talk into a private camera, generally about who in the house that they hate.

Every so often certain inhabitants are nominated to be "evicted" from the house, and the British public gets to vote for who they want out. Whichever housemate lasts through the series without being evicted gets a cash prize. In a creepy George Orwell-ian tribute, there is a giant glowing eye in the house through which a voice reminds the inhabitants that 'Big brother is watching you'.

I don't get it, but hey, my only real experience with the Big Brother franchise before this was an episode of Doctor Who.

So the heart of The Dead Set revolves around the fictitious group of current housemates, and the people who work behind the scenes producing and what have you.

The heroine of the series is arguably Kelly, who begins the story as a 'runner' on the show. Kelly and her boyfriend are in a bit of a tiff, which shouldn't be anything we care about, except that the boyfriend, Riq, is to become the window into the world outside the studio... so it's a little bit relevant.

It's eviction night, so tempers and what have you are up, everyone is stressed, inside and outside of the house. But the people in the studio are too caught up in the night of Big Brother that they entirely ignore the impending Zombie Apocalypse.

There is even a monitor that the backstage crew is watching, that has the news, showing what is happening outside in all its gores detail. Yet, the main concern is that 'Big Brother might be getting bumped for the news. Oh noes.

So, of course, no one knows/cares that there is a herd of zombies headed towards the crowd of Big Brother fans clustered outside the studio. So as the crowd is turned into flesh eating monsters, the zombie army quadruples, and really at that point it doesn't take much work at all for them to blunder, flailing, into the studio.

There aren't a lot places to run, hide, or make quick getaways to within that building, so the crew starts to drop like flies.

Kelly, in a feat of admirable Bad-ass-ery, manages to fight her way through the waves upon waves of former friends and coworkers, armed with only a large pair of scissors, until she makes it into the 'Big Brother' house.

To more or less set the majority of the case up to not be missed as they start dropping like flies, the housemates are pretty much idiots when Kelly comes stumbling into their house covered in blood and whispering about "the things outside".

In a fit of being a complete asshole, the one contestant not only starts to call Kelly, essentially, a dumb bitch, but then goes on to start impersonating the brother from the beginning of 'Night of the Living Dead' ; Lurching towards her with his arms out and saying "THEY'RE COMING TO GET YOU BARBRA!"

Because in that film, being a complete douchebag and saying that sort of thing ended so well for him.

People are dumb.


After mocking Kelly incessantly, that same douchebag decides to open the door that empties into the studio, letting a zombie into their former safe haven.

Smooth move Exlax.

I'm sure you can guess that it all goes even further to Hell in a hand basket past that point.

One thing that 'The Dead Set' tackled pretty well in its storytelling was the look at the human psyche, and what people are willing to do or act like during a crisis.

Prime examples come in the form of when the housemates finally realize that Kelly told the truth, as they look out at the flood of zombies behind their wall, and one of them says

"Does this mean that we aren't on telly anymore?"

Then there's Riq, and struggle to make his way to the studio, and to Kelly. Furthermore is the woman he teams up with along the way, who tells him that he hasn't had to do anything to survive, and how she had to shoot her best friend in the face in order to stay alive.

And there's always Kelly's boss, Patrick, who is more than willing to damn all the other survivors if it gives him the remotest chance of getting out of the compound alive.

So it could be argued that theme of 'The Dead Set', is that humanity is being destroyed by its own vanity. Which would make sense, given that zombie films have, in the past, often been means of conveying social commentary through the horror medium. And it's not as though there weren't many homages to George A. Romero throughout the mini-series anyway.

Unlike the Romero zombie franchise, however, the zombies of The Dead Set seem slightly more akin to those in 28 Days Later, in the sense that they can seriously run like hell.

While not a huge zombie fan, I take issue with this. In 28 Days Later it made sense, because it was more of a virus film than a zombie one, and it was virus that made you essentially rabid. These aren't rabid humans though, these are your run of the mill zombies, and anything that is pretty much hunks of un-refrigerated dead meat should not be impersonating Flo Jo.

I mean, because really, they are these rotting, festering things. Shouldn't they be too busy decomposing and taking on the traits of rigor mortis to be doing a 5k jog? I could be wrong, but it just doesn't make sense to me.

Also, I was amazed that Britain, which usually shies away from graphic violence, went so all-out with the gore of this thing. Really now, it was the sort of thing I would expect from Eli Roth or Rob Zombie, not my good friends across the pond.

There was a scene where a man is ripped apart and eaten, and the whole time he is bellowing at the zombies. And oh yes, the camera shows you everything in gut-wrenching detail. I was overjoyed. That was sarcasm.

So here's the thing kids; I think that if you were a dyed in the wool zombie fanatic, this just might be your cup of tea. If you're squeamish, you should probably just shuffle away as fast as your little legs can carry you.

Okay, so I don't want you to go away from this thinking that The Dead Set is merit-less. There are some definite good things about it.

For one, it has absolutely stunning cinematography. Once you get past the gore factor involved here, they framing and coloration of each scene is done in such perfection that the arty film nerd in me wanted to kiss the camera man and the editor of this thing.

There are also some EXTREMELY funny moments inside this. Sure, some of them are jokes that you feel like an eight year old boy for laughing at, but they are laughs all the same.

And there are a few characters, mainly Kelly and Riq, who you genuinely like and have sympathy for. You really want those kids to make it through the nightmare. And truly, a production is nothing without a hero or heroine that you can get behind.

I also have to give props to 'The Dead Set' for its realistic non-Disney ending.

In closing, let me just say, that 'The Dead Set' is only for the zombie enthusiast or those with extremely strong stomachs. If you had to shut your eyes during either Saw or Hostel, you'll really want to skip it all together. And if you don't, well, you were warned so don't come crying to me when you upheave your dinner.

So that's that I guess my darlings.

Until I get around to another of the 45165484798 reviews I'm behind on writing I'll just say:

Love and kisses

Spooky Pie

1 comment:

  1. You were ultra-kind about Dead Set, nice to read another review of it! Here was mine if you're interested: