Sunday, June 17, 2012

TV Review - Dead Set 9*

This is by the way of being a double review, as well as watching the excellent Channel 4 mini-series Dead Set I viewed it via a free month's introductory subscription to Netflix.  I don't watch much television, and I hardly ever get to the cinema, largely due to being at work when anything worth watching is on.  The Netflix advantage of being able to watch programmes on my laptop without being tied to recordings on the Sky box at home seems like a good idea.

So far I have seen a selection of films; The Devil Came On Horseback - a harrowing documentary about the Janjaweed in the Sudan, The Woodsman - Kevin Bacon stars as a convicted paedophile struggling to adjust on his release from prison, Black Sheep - horror and laughs as flesh eating mutant sheep run riot in New Zealand, Ghost World - a nicely quirky and offbeat drama where Thora Birch's high school drop out becomes increasingly infatuated with oddball Steve Buscemi, and Dead Set.  Netflix is currently priced at £6 a month, rather less than a single visit to the cinema and pretty good value.

Jaime Winston as Kelly in Dead Set

Charlie Brooker wrote the script for Dead Set and set the tone for the rather extreme gore fest when he said "There's no point making a 15-certificate zombie flick. Money shots, that's what you want. And that's what you'll get. I sincerely hope some of you vomit."  Dead Set is violent and gory, incredibly so, from smashing a zombie skull in with a fire extinguisher to seeing Davina McCall getting her throat ripped out, it's a full on bloodbath all the way.

There are two sorts of accepted zombies now, the stumbling and slow Dawn Of The Deaders, and the much more terrifying running, screaming, tireless 28 Days Later monsters, Brooker has opted for the latter. The relentless zombie horde, which appear with no explanation, are truly scary in their unstoppable quest for fresh flesh.

Although the scripting for Dead Set is mostly very high quality, there are one or two moments that let the series down a little.  The incident with the armed policemen felt like a pointless and arbitrary caricature of the police, Kathleen MacDermott's endlessly stupid character Pippa became a bit wearing, and Andy Nyman's portrayal of Big Brother director Patrick was a little over the top in places.  On the positive side though, Jaime Winston as Kelly was great throughout and Liz May Brice, Riz Ahmed and Warren Brown provided very believable supporting roles.

The action comes thick, fast and gore drenched, Brooker inverts the whole ethos of Big Brother from having (to the contestant's minds) the whole world looking in they become an island amidst the horror, looking out for salvation. Brooker has his characters muse on the fickle nature of talent free fame, sometimes in darkly comic style and as the zombie horde closes in on the Big Brother house we are reminded that even with the world reversed in the throes of a zombie holocaust the Big Brother contestants are in demand not because they offer anything special, singular, intellectually stimulating or creatively exciting, but just because they are alive.  Fresh flesh for zombies or fresh faces for the easily amused watching public, Dead Set neatly underlines the nature of these forgettable and fleeting celebrities.

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