The Walking Dead
By Bert Ehrmann
October 15, 2010
The only creature from the horror genere I can think of that’s more tired and overused than vampires are zombies. Since the shambling undead came to back prominence a little more than eight years ago with 28 Days Later (2002), according to Wikipedia there’s been more than 400 films released to date that have dealt in whole or in part with zombies. To put that number into perspective, also according to Wikipedia, in the 34 years between the release of the first modern zombie film Night of the Living Dead in 1968 and 28 Days Later there were only 210 zombie films released.
And though I’d argue that most of these 600+ films were probably pretty terrible, it seems that since the great bulk of these films have been released in recent memory it only serves to dilute what made zombies scary/different in the first place. So why is it that I think that the only cure for this mass of recent lame-o zombies are more zombies? Or more specifically the upcoming TV series The Walking Dead?
What’s special about The Walking Dead, what separates it for the (pun intended) mass of other zombie related media are two things. The first is that the series is based on a brilliant and long running comic series of the same name that’s been both a fan favorite and critical success since it began back in 2003. Over the course of nearly 80 issues, The Walking Dead comic has told the story of what it takes for a small group of people to survive during the zombie apocalypse. Led by police officer Rick Grimes, played in the series by Andrew Lincoln, these survivors must trek across a ruined and infested U.S. in search of safety from the zombie plague.
As the group makes their way away from the abandoned cities to the relative safety of the countryside, Grimes and company slowly come to the realization that the zombies are here to stay and that the survivors might just have to spend the rest of their lives one step ahead of the flesh eating ghouls.
And that’s where The Walking Dead gets really interesting. While most other zombie related media deals with the start of the zombie apocalypse or what happens just after the fact, this comic has spent the last 2,500 or so pages chronicling just what it’s like to spend one’s life on the run under the threat of almost constant death. Through The Walking Dead, we get to see just who the characters of the comic really are and how their personalities evolve as days on the run turns into weeks, then months and years.
The second reason The Walking Dead TV series might make zombies scary again is that the television series was created by writer/director Frank Darabont. If there’s one guy I’d trust the most with this material it’d be Darabont who wrote and directed the amazing The Shawshank Redemption (1994) as well as the criminally underrated The Mist (2007). Although that film didn’t deal with zombies, The Mist did deal with much of the same subject matter as a standard zombie story in that that the people of The Mist are just as dangerous as what’s lurking outside in the dark. So Darabont certainly has an understanding on how to make a series like The Walking Dead work.
Darabont said on AMCTV.com, “One of the things I found most intriguing about The Walking Dead was that it was so focused on the characters. Within the context of the cool zombie apocalypse, there was this very serious character drama. I thought, this is a great opportunity to satisfy not only zombie fans, but bring in an audience that wouldn't normally, necessarily, seek out a zombie film to watch.”
There are currently 12 volumes of collected editions of The Walking Dead comic that are available, with a 13th due out in November. The six episode The Walking Dead series is set to premiere Halloween night at 10 P.M. on the cable channel AMC.