Review: Dead Set

Posted by Cory Casciato On June - 2 - 2009

divina-deadsetc4The zombie apocalypse comes to reality TV in the BBC miniseries Dead Set. The premise is that the cast of reality show Big Brother, locked away in a house isolated from the outside world, are among the few survivors of a plague of flesh-eating zombies. They don’t even quite realize what is up – they think the producers are “testing” them – until one of the remaining crew gets into the house, followed shortly by one of the zombies. From there, the story follows a fairly predictable – or classic, if one prefers – curve as some are bit, a supply run is undertaken, more survivors make their way to the compound and finally, things unravel spectacularly.

Haters of speedy zombies might want to tune this one out – these bastards can move. The show gets credit, though, for not setting the characters into a situation where this speed would make escape impossible without cheap editing tricks as many fast-zombie films do. There are no scenes  where they’re surrounded … then cut, and they’re a few steps ahead all of the sudden, for example. The zombies look great, with creepy, white-irised eyes and lots of apparent wounds – everything from torn flesh to missing limbs.

The show uses a lot of cuts and angles to keep the gore from being too excessive for mainstream consumption but considering that this was on TV (pay TV, if I understand correctly, but still) the gore factor is remarkably high. It comparable, gore-wise, to something like Dexter in the U.S. – plenty of grue, but not so much as to classify it as a truly gory show for those that revel in such.

The creators clearly know and love their zombie lore. There’s at least one direct nod to each of George A. Romero’s first three zombie movies, including direct quotes from Night of the Living Dead (“They’re coming to get you Barbara”), parallel dialog from Dawn of the Dead (a character suggests the zombies are attracted to the studio where they’re holed up by some sort of “primitive intuition” and opines that the place used to be “like a church to them”) and a visual quote and parallel dialog from Day of the Dead where an obnoxious character gets torn apart by a mob of zombies while spouting curses at them the whole time. It’s not just Romero, either – at one point a character says another has “a face like a Manchester morgue” (clearly a reference to The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue aka Let Sleeping Corpses Lie).

They fail, however, at putting across a message as well as Romero or even Let Sleeping Corpses Lie – those films are admittedly heavy handed, but clear in what they have to say. Apart from the very obvious and zombie-film standard message inherent in the fact that it’s the failure to work together that causes nearly all of the problems for the survivors, this seems to be vaguely condescending toward and condemnatory of the reality-TV generation and surveillance state, but what the exact message is – if any – is unclear. It would have added depth to the proceedings if made a little clearer – or streamlined it if jettisoned all together. It’s also entirely possible that the difficulty in transmission stems from subtle but deep differences between British and American culture that leave me somewhat in the dark as to some of the targets here.

Despite that minor quibble, the writing, direction and acting are all up to the task – Jaime Winborn is particularly good as Kelly, and Andy Nyman turns in an impressive, scenery-chewing performance in the role of the bastard lead producer, Patrick. The only real complaint is the pacing is a bit off – things start off slow before catching stride, then drag a bit in the third and fourth episodes and seem a bit rushed in the fifth and final episode. Still, considering how well the creepiness, jump scares, drama and laughs all work overall, this is a minor issue. Falling short of greatness, Dead Set has to settle for being very good – but in a genre as heavily weighted to the terrible end of the scale as zombie film is, very good is high praise, indeed.

Dead Set/U.K./2008 – Made for TV

Deadlines: News roundup 6/1/09

Posted by Cory Casciato On June - 1 - 2009

deadlines

A daily roundup of all the undead news that shambles into view… Bookmark the home page or add the feed to your RSS for your daily dose of walking dead. Got news tips? E-mail me at cory.casciato[AT]gmail.com.

Already blogged about my suggestions for it earlier today (hit that “previous” button if you have overlooked it somehow) but today Valve announced Left 4 Dead 2. An updated director, new survivors, new boss zombies (boo!), new weapons and items, including some sweet-ass melee weapons shown in the trailer (embedded after the break): I couldn’t be more excited. Except about the “more boss zombies.” I’m afraid that adding a bunch more of them is just going to tip things in the direction of silly. (Valve)

If you aren’t sick of Pontypool related info yet, there’s an interview with the director and cast at CinemaBlend. (CinemaBlend)

Some poor bastard in Seattle got arrested when he showed up early to a zombie crawl in a too-convincing costume and a concerned citizen called the cops. The story says he was dressed as a zombie, but for my money the description sounds like he was dressed as Umbrella Corporation security (maybe zombified, though). (Seattle Post-Intelligencer)

Over the weekend, news broke that work is starting on Quarantine 2. This one will supposedly be a totally new work, unrelated to the coming-soon REC 2 despite the first Quarantine being a shot-for-shot remake of REC. (Bloody Disgusting)

Londoners (or those with the resources to get there) can participate in the world’s biggest zombie walk and be in a mockumentary zombie film called I Spit on Your Rave come August 6, as part of the Big Chill music festival. (Dread Central)

New Yorkers can catch screenings of Dead Air (world premiere!) and Dead Snow (New York premiere!) at Fangoria‘s Weekend of Horrors convention, June 5 through 7. (Fangoria)

The episodic series Lifeless, about the survivors of a global pandemic who must face off against the newly risen dead victims of said pandemic, is said to be getting close to distribution. To celebrate and/or build hype, they’ve released two clips. I’ve got one embedded after the break, Quiet Earth has the other (and a more in-depth synopsis to boot!). (Quiet Earth)

If you like watching the opening minutes of a film in a tiny window of your computer, only to be cut off just when it starts getting good, rejoice, because the first ten minutes of mutant-femme cannibal quasi-zombie laffer Doghouse are online for you to watch in anticipation of the June 12 U.K. release. (Empire)

Another microbudget zombie flick is on the horizon. This one is called Bled White, and it gives us a scenario where survivors of the zombie apocalypse are driven to eat human flesh to survive. The official website says “All Rights Available” which I believe is code for, “Please god, someone buy our movie!” There’s no release date or info on when it might be available in any format, in any case. There is a trailer, after the break. (Horror-Movies.ca)

Also after the break is a new trailer for Dead Rising 2 that shows off a whole lot of zombies. Whew, can you believe all the news today? It’s like they knew it was Zombie Movie Marathon Month starting tonight and celebrated by choking me with a week’s worth of news. Anyway, tonight’s selection Dead Set will be kicking off as soon as I unwind a bit. Reaction and/or review of it up sometime tomorrow!

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Deadlines: News roundup 5/29/09

Posted by Cory Casciato On May - 29 - 2009

deadlines

A daily roundup of all the undead news that shambles into view… Bookmark the home page or add the feed to your RSS for your daily dose of walking dead. Got news tips? E-mail me at cory.casciato[AT]gmail.com.

There’s a slew of DVD release info hitting, some of it contradicting previously asserted info (fun!). We’ve got word of October 13 for Pontypool on DVD (it hit on-demand today for you cable folks) which contradicts the July 21 date DVD Active reports. If I can get anyone at IFC to respond to my queries, I’ll get to the bottom of this. In less confusing news, REC is still slated for June 14 and grave-robbers-meet-zombie-gangsters flick The Crypt is coming to DVD August 11 after a limited theatrical release June 25. You can get a few additional details here. (Fangoria)

The talkmeisters at Fangoria Radio (Sirius channel 108/XM channel 139, satellite radio folks starting at 10 p.m.) will have Pontypool director Bruce McDonald and star Steven Hattie in for a chat. (Fangoria)

If you’re wondering what to get me for Christmas (in July), this oil painting of a toy zombie in front of the Seattle Space Needle is perfect, and will only set you back $32.99. (Fangoria)

A sequel to Greek zombie movie Evil (this one apparently called Evil in the Time of Heroes) is coming. There’s a teaser trailer after the break. (Quiet Earth via a Greek blog)

Who says there’s no new ideas in the land of the dead? The standard zombie tropes get twisted up with amnesia-like symptoms that alter the very perception of reality in the no-budget thinker Fugue State. I’m instantly intrigued. And there’s a teaser (which doesn’t really do the idea justice) after the break.

Finally, for those following the Zombie Movie Marathon Month saga, the final film list, in rough order (possibly final, but may undergo minor sequence changes) is also after the break. When we meet again, Zombie Movie Marathon Month will be upon us!

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Deadlines: News roundup 5/28/09

Posted by Cory Casciato On May - 28 - 2009

deadlines

A daily roundup of all the undead news that shambles into view… Bookmark the home page or add the feed to your RSS for your daily dose of walking dead. Got news tips? E-mail me at cory.casciato[AT]gmail.com.

The July 14 U.S. DVD release of the great Spanish zombie film REC is approaching soon. Today the DVD art was revealed, and man does it look like a first-time Photoshop user with no design skills created it. We can only hope someone in charge sees this crap and insists on a do-over. (DVD Active)

The mutant-femme-zombies meet dudes-behaving-badly flick Doghouse is set for release in the U.K. June 12. There’s a new poster for it, which looks fantastic. (Dread Central)

The latest iteration of Nazi-occult first-person shooter franchise Wolfenstein comes out August 4, which almost certainly means more Nazi zombies. And if you like your zombies in space, you’ll have to wait almost two months longer because Dead Space: Extraction, a prequel to last year’s hit Dead Space, comes out September 29.

After the break, there’s a trailer for frozen Nazi-zombie comedy Dead Snow, coming to VOD (video on demand) June 12.

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Deadlines: News roundup 5/27/09

Posted by Cory Casciato On May - 27 - 2009

deadlines

A daily roundup of all the undead news that shambles into view… Bookmark the home page or add the feed to your RSS for your daily dose of walking dead. Got news tips? E-mail me at cory.casciato[AT]gmail.com.

Director Gary Ugarek reports that Deadlands 2: Trapped has been acquired by Anthem Pictures. It may be coming to VOD (video on demand), since Anthem does that sort of thing. Presumably it will see a DVD release at some point as well. (Horror-Movies.ca)

The upcoming Wii zombies-in-space prequel game Dead Space: Extraction gets a preview from Kotaku. Short version: promising, but still needs some polish. (Kotaku)

Fine science fiction blog io9 has a thoughtful post up today asking the timeless (and slightly disturbing) question, can zombies be sexy? (io9)

After the break, you can view an insane bit of AutoTuned gimmick rap called “Zumbie” by Major Lazer. It’s about zombies, and probably NSFW.

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ZMMM List 2.0: plus Film Club and Japanese zombie voting action!

Posted by Cory Casciato On May - 27 - 2009

onechanbaraConsidering June is almost upon us, I thought it was time I got serious about firming up this list. Here’s what I’ve settled on watching for sure:

Lucio Fulci’s Zombie
Nightmare City
Hell of the Living Dead
Zombie 3
Burial Ground: Nights of Terror
Versus
Tokyo Zombie
Plan 9 from Outer Space
Return of the Living Dead
Children Shouldn’t Play with Dead Things
Dead Set
American Zombie
Mutant
I Walked with a Zombie
Messiah of Evil
Day X
Grapes of Death
Night of the Living Dead (1990)
Pet Sematary

That’s nineteen, which is almost two-thirds of the month. There will definitely be three more Japanese zombie movies, which I’m inviting you all to vote for (poll at the bottom of the post and on the right sidebar). Leave me a comment or e-mail with suggestions on these. Here is the list of “maybes” I am still considering:

  • They Came Back
  • Dead and Breakfast
  • Zombie Strippers
  • The Stink of Flesh
  • Poultrygeist: Night of the Chicken Dead
  • Re-Animator
  • Redneck Zombies
  • Fido
  • Evil
  • Zombie Honeymoon
  • Enter Zombie King
  • Resident Evil
  • Shanks
  • Sugar Hill
  • The Walking Dead
  • The Fog

Also, if you have a blog, I invite you to join the Zombie Movie Marathon Month Film Club. It works like this: watch one or more of these movies this month (bonus points for watching them the same day as I do!). Write something about the movie on your blog, and link to my writing on the site from your post. E-mail me with the link. I link back to you! Fun! Easy! An excuse to watch a ton of zombie movies and maybe get a minor traffic boost!

Finally, I need a hand choosing which Japanese zombie movies to pick for my five days of Japanese zombies. No need to comment, just push a button. Never heard of any of these? That’s okay, you can pick them by title if you like. Or by art — the picture at the top of this post is for Onechanbara

[poll id=”2″]

Deadlines: News roundup 5/26/09

Posted by Cory Casciato On May - 26 - 2009

deadlines

A daily roundup of all the undead news that shambles into view… Bookmark the home page or add the feed to your RSS for your daily dose of walking dead. Got news tips? E-mail me at cory.casciato[AT]gmail.com.

Four brand-new clips of language-virus zombie flick Pontypool hit the Internet today. I’ve embedded one after the break, courtesy of Dread Central, and put links to the page with the other three. Can’t say much about them, because I haven’t watched them. See, I’m one of those weird, old-fashioned types that prefers to not spoil the best bits of a film before actually seeing it. But don’t let that stop you. If you can wait, it comes to VOD (video on demand) this Friday, making me wish I had cable TV. (Dread Central)

That sub-$100 budget zombie film Colin that’s been getting a bunch of buzz gets a bit more, with a brief story from Fangoria, including some words with the creator. And there’s a trailer, after the break. It looks intriguing, but cheap. Which I guess isn’t exactly shocking, is it? (Fangoria)

Live in Austin, Texas? Visiting June 13? If you answered “yes,” get thee to the Alamo Drafthouse for a special screening of Night of the Creeps, with director Fred Dekker and a bunch of the cast. The reunion will be filmed for the upcoming special edition DVD release, so you can point out your head’s silhouette to friends for years to come. Tickets go on sale tomorrow. (Fangoria)

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Deadlines: News roundup 5/25/09

Posted by Cory Casciato On May - 25 - 2009

deadlines

A daily roundup of all the undead news that shambles into view… Got news tips? E-mail me at cory.casciato[AT]gmail.com.

We’ve got another zombie apocalypse incoming! This one is called Autumn, and it’s a story about a plague that kills basically everybody in one very bad day. Then, in an even worse day for the survivors, the dead come back. It looks to be coming this fall (surprise, eh?), it has David Carradine and it sounds cool to me. Bloody Disgusting gets credit for spotting it and you can get more details and a trailer (unembeddable, sorry) at the official site. (Bloody Disgusting)

The upcoming issue of Rue Morgue has a piece on Dead Snow and a complementary piece on the fetid swamp that is the Nazi zombie subgenre, plus a piece about the Zombeatles and lots of other cool horror stuff. (Rue Morgue @ MySpace)

PopCap games are saying that the whimsical tower-defense zombie game Plants vs. Zombies (review coming as soon as I can stop playing long enough to write it!) is their best selling game ever. They’ve also got some more details on its origins. (Gamasutra)

It seems just a month ago I was reporting that Resident Evil 5 had sold 1.5 million copies (because it was), but today, Capcom bigwigs say that number is up to five million. Seems fishy, but who knows? In any case, RE5? It’s sold a lot. (Kotaku)

Dumb but fun:Dead Heist

Posted by Cory Casciato On May - 25 - 2009

dead-heistLook at that cover and read the title and you’ll know pretty much what you are getting with Dead Heist. It’s an exceptionally cheesy blacksploitation heist movie with some zombie-like creatures thrown in. And it has Big Daddy Kane as some sort of one-man anti-zombie army.  It’s a brain-dead b-movie action flick with a chewy, undead center, but hey, that can be fun. In it, a band of none-too-bright dudes rob a bank, get stuck inside and then the pseudo-zombies come. Then Big Daddy Kane comes to kill the zombies.

Those zombies seem lifted directly from the old Vincent Price chestnut The Last Man on Earth (itself an incredibly important film in the development of the zombie genre!), which is to say that they are sort of weird zombie/vampire hybrids. They only come out at night and they hunger for blood — which implies vampire — but they are dumb and they are many — which is more zombielike. Regardless, this isn’t the kind of movie that necessitates deep analysis. It is the kind of movie you can enjoy while drunk, or high or perhaps both. I think the highlight is the climactic fight. It is one of the worst choreographed fight scenes I have ever witnessed: so bad, it circled around to being good.

Dead Heist/USA/2007

Deadlines: News roundup 5/22/09

Posted by Cory Casciato On May - 22 - 2009

deadlines

A daily roundup of all the undead news that shambles into view… Got news tips? E-mail me at cory.casciato[AT]gmail.com.

News today? How about none, basically? Not that that’s why I haven’t posted. I was tied up with a paying job all day and didn’t have time, but as it turns out, it turned out to be pretty much a moot point, because there’s no real news to report! But because I love you (and zombies) I dug up a few nuggets…

Remember yesterday, when I gave you the early word on Colin, the under-$100 budgeted zombie flick from the zombie’s point of view? Well, CNN reads the blog apparently (or, just maybe they have their own source … I guess it’s possible) because they have a story about it today. Still no word about distribution or eventual release date. (CNN)

And … that’s it. But, here’s a link to a cool, on-going series of short-short stories set in a zombie-infested world. It’s written in a collaborative fashion (each story has one author, but they are clearly set in the same world, telling different parts of the story). It’s called Wrath of the Damned and I heartily recommend it.

Have a great weekend, and please let me know what I should watch for my movie marathon!

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