Review of Dead Set (2008)
Apart from the peerless Ghostwatch, there has been little in the way of decent British made-for-television Horror in the last 20 years. Like Ghostwatch, which was broadcast around the witching time of Halloween, Charlie Brookers ‘Dead Set’ was broadcast on the UK satellite channel E4 over 5 nights, leading up to the gripping, bloody and grim denouement on Halloween night.
An interesting concept, this consecutive (nightly) serial format perfectly suits such a high octane action horror like this, where the fast moving events mean the lag of a (traditional) week from one episode to next can dull the dramatic edge. It will be interesting to see how this format fits with the 2009 version of Torchwood, when it concentrates on one story over 5 consecutive nights. If it carries as much drama and action as the mean and lean Dead Set, it will be the best Torchwood season yet.
The first extended episode set the scene without too much exposition, and before too long the zombie epidemic was upon the UK. The following episodes established a terrifying adversary, an impossible situation and the determination of the human to defy odds and logic and survive in the face of overwhelming odds. The ending was a fitting one, with the desperate and terminal situation played out as Kelly makes her final stand. Her screams felt real, the desperation, anger and determination all condensed into that chilling call. I thought Jaime Winstone was excellent throughout and is a real acting talent, effortlessly displaying a whole range of emotions throughout the series, while being believable in the action scenes as well. She never outstayed her welcome. The whole casting of the show was near perfect, with the dependable Kevin Eldon and wickedly disagreeable Andy Nyman standing in particular standing out. There was not a bad performance from any of the cast, and that is a real testament to the overall quality of the show. Even the ‘celebrities’ played their parts with out too much scenery chewing – Davina McCall looks like she had a lot of fun as the one of the undead, as did Brian Belo, who looked very scary when he became reanimated.
What Charlie Brooker and Yann Demange have accomplished is a definitive brit apocalypse serial, and a worthy addition to the zombie genre. While there was nothing particularly new with what was on offer, what it did do brilliantly was put the constituent parts together to form a coherent, exciting whole. There was enough tributes (Patricks final moments on screen were plainly based on a famous scene from Romero’s ‘Day of the Dead’ and knowing nods to keep the fanboys happy while playing out as a commentary on the culture of Celebrity (in much the same way Romero used ‘Dawn of the Dead’ as a commentary on Consumerism).
It is out on DVD now, with extra scenes etc. I’m sure you know somewhere it can be purchased from. It is a necessary addition to any fan of Horror or Zombie.