AMC adds brains to zombie genre
Zombies are alive.
The television adaptation of Robert Kirkland’s graphic novel Walking Dead is turning heads and attracting a mass of viewers to the cable channel that used to primarily show classic movies starring actors who often had already died.
It’s the perfect setting for a zombie takeover.
AMC has already found success with dramatic hits Breaking Bad and Mad Men, but a show about the undead seems ambitious even for them. But with Shawshank Redemption director Frank Darabont and Terminator producer Gale Anne Hurd behind the scenes, the show’s creative resume is more than impressive.
Darabont’s Shawshank experience is not the sole source of the Stephen King feel the show gives. Instead of chaotic and constant barrage of enemies, Walking Dead is a show more about isolation than anarchy.
As a character rides a horse on an empty highway into Atlanta, viewers familiar with The Stand and The Gunslinger can’t help but see a strong influence from those works.
Dead is somewhere between a survival movie and a western, with the modern world turned into an untamable, desolate wasteland.
The series follows Sheriff Rick Grimes, who awakes from a coma to find that the town he once had jurisdiction over is now run by flesh- eating corpses. A gunshot wound in the first act causes him to sleep through whatever led to the mass spread of some horrible disease.
Viewers don’t know how the outbreak happened or how the vast majority of all people were killed, but, like the sheriff, they are thrust into the remains of the former life.
Grimes’ biggest hope is to find his wife and son, who viewers learn is hiding out with his deputy Shane. The strained wife has assumed the sheriff is dead. She copes with her grief in the arms of the deputy, setting up a fierce and inevitable conflict between the lawmen.
Grimes is portrayed by Andrew Lincoln, who told the Los Angeles Times that the desire to play a zombie-fighting cowboy was too strong of a temptation to resist.
“I went to work, and I put on cowboy boots, a Stetson, a bag of guns, and got on a horse called Blade and rode into an apocalyptic Atlanta,” Lincoln said in his interview with the Times. “That was my job for the day, and it was astonishing.”
What makes Walking Dead special is that it is among a very small group of zombie works not so much about the zombies. They are a backdrop to more intimate stories – a broken family – a father and son grieving the loss of a mother – a racist’s life in the hands of the man he persecuted.
Walking Dead is about human emotion in times of terror and fear. The dead are the only fantastical part of the show, providing an unreal backdrop for characters that are remarkably relatable to the viewers.