“Dead Set” is a delightfully gory zombie satire

dead_set

AMC’s premiere of “The Walking Dead” may be the most anticipated horror event of the year, but zombie fans looking for an entertaining appetizer would be wise to check out “Dead Set.” After Stephen King included the British miniseries in his year-end Entertainment Weekly column listing his favorite TV shows of 2009, I’ve been anxious to see what all the buzz is about. And thanks to IFC – which is airing the horror series throughout the week starting on October 25th, as well as showing all five episodes back-to-back on Halloween night – “Dead Set” is finally coming stateside.

Set almost predominantly within the hit TV reality program, “Big Brother,” the series opens on eviction night when a zombie outbreak turns the outside world into a wasteland where the living are vastly outnumbered by flesh-eating undead. Protected inside the walls of the Big Brother house, the fame-seeking contestants are some of the only survivors remaining – and the last to hear about the zombies. But staying alive requires teamwork, and that’s easier said than done when you’re surrounded by a bunch of people who have been specifically selected to not get along.

Drawing inspiration from the likes of “Dawn of the Dead” and “28 Days Later,” “Dead Set” is still a considerably fresh entry in the zombie subgenre thanks to a few unexpected twists and a solid script that doesn’t shy away from comedy. It’s not exactly funny like “Shaun of the Dead,” but rather a dark satire that plays on the idea of the contestants falling victim one by one in a cruel reflection of the reality show they were cast in. The actors also elevate the material beyond its potentially gimmicky premise – particularly Jaime Winstone as the unlikely heroine and Andy Nyman as the asshole producer in charge of the show – but it’s the amazing zombie effects (the amount of gore packed into each episode is pretty impressive) and the breakneck pacing that make “Dead Set” an absolute must-see.

  

You can follow us on Twitter @moviebuffs and on Facebook as well.

Related Posts

Sometimes feel like the deck is stacked against you? The “Never Let Me Go” trailer might put that into perspective for you

Think you’re in a pointless, no-win situation? Did you feel at school like you were just being prepared to put into the human meatgrinder we call the rat race? Well, you’ve got it easy, kid, compared to the strangely acquiescent students and alumni of Hailsham. I’d tell you more but I understand via Cinemablend’s Katey Rich and the novel’s very spoilery wikipedia entry that the arguably science-fictional premise of Kazuo Ishiguro’s Booker Prize short-listed 2005 novel is kept somewhat hidden for a significant portion of the book. (It was revealed to me years ago, however, via book reviews and author interviews.)

That premise will also be revealed to you if you watch the intriguing trailer so, if you plan to read the book (which I think I might try to do myself, anyhow) you might want to hold off. I will say that the Japanese-English Ishiguro wrote the very non-genre “The Remains of the Day” and history and frustrated love seems to his favorite topics. This time, though, the history hasn’t been written yet.

Even aside from Ishiguro, this one has an intriguing pedigree. The adaptation is by novelist Alex Garland, who recently has turned to screenplays with “28 Days Later” and “Sunshine,” both directed by Danny Boyle, and the director is Mark Romanek. For some reason, I felt compelled to avoid his highly divisive 2002 thriller “One Hour Photo,” but he’s made some of the best videos of all time as far as I’m concerned, including the amazing and ultra-creepy “Closer” for Nine Inch Nails, the memorable “Criminal” for Fiona Apple, and “Hurt,” Johnny Cash’s moving cover of a song by Trent Reznor. And, oh yeah, Carey Mulligan is in it. Does anyone not like Carey Mulligan?

  

Related Posts

Weekend box office: “Cop Out” and “The Crazies” may duke it out for #2 (updated)

Leonardo DiCaprio and Michelle Williams in As far as I can tell and certainly the way THR’s jolly Carl DiOrio sees it, “Shutter Island” is likely to enjoy a second weekend atop the nation’s box office. Earning some $41.1 million last weekend, it would take a much bigger than average drop for it to be within range of the two new major films debuting this week, but then anything is possible.

And so it’s a showdown for the second spot between an R-rated violent horror remake and an R-rated and fairly violent if wacky homage, of sorts, to eighties buddy cop films. On his weekly video, DiOrio spectulates that either or both could make “mid teen millions or a little bit better.”

The first of these I saw myself last night. As you can see in my review of the Bruce Willis-Tracy Morgan vehicle directed — but not written — by Kevin Smith, “Cop Out“, I found the movie more bad than good. At the same time, I couldn’t deny that, as bad action comedies go, it was kind of fun. I have a feeling that audiences might be a bit less particular than me and since the movie delivers reasonably on laughs and moves along at a nice enough clip (Smith edited it himself), they may be more satisfied than not.  Still, my overall negative reaction puts me in line with the critical majority, with “Cop Out” netting a rather dismal 13% “fresh” reading on the Tomatometer, not that this kind of comedy has much to fear from critics.

Bruce Willis and Tracy Morgan in

Interestingly enough for a horror remake, “The Crazies,” based on a relatively little seen personal favorite of zombie-master George A. Romero, is getting what are at least numerically better reviews on the Tomatometer than the original film. The new version, directed by Breck Eisner, previously something of a critical punching bag with “Saharaand “A Sound of Thunder,” is getting by far the best reviews of his career with a healthy 74% “fresh” rating. [UPDATE: I failed to double check this. Turns out long-time directorial hack Peter Hyams helmed the failed Ray Bradbury adaptation, so Breck Eisner doesn’t get the blame for that one since he was only an executive producer on the film. According to his IMDb page, Eisner was also a production assistant on “Tango & Cash” and I guess he shouldn’t get the blame for that, either.]

The original version only gets 60%, though a number like that can be misleading in that it doesn’t really measure a critic’s level of passion. Also, most of the top venues seem to have skipped reviewing it at all, so the results could be skewed here by reviews from horror-friendly venues. In any case, horror films are really not critically driven, but stronger-than-average reaction could still bring a few extra bodies into the theaters from folks who enjoyed Danny Boyle and Alex Garland’s somewhat similarly-themed, critically praised disease/zombie hit, “28 Days Later.”

  

Related Posts

Celluloid Heroes: Best British Imports of the Decade

Foreign films made a big splash at the turn of the century, with many moviegoers finally realizing that subtitles weren’t so bad after all. Though a language barrier was never the reason the British film scene failed to take off, it really came into its own in the aughts with the introduction of new talent like Guy Ritchie, Edgar Wright, and Danny Boyle. As part of our look back at the movies of the 2000s, here’s a list of the best British imports of the decade. You’ll probably notice some similarities among many of the entries, but that’s just because when it came to delivering great genre films, the U.K. was king.

son_of_rambow

10. “Son of Rambow”

Movies like “Son of Rambow” don’t get nearly as big of an audience as they deserve, which is a shame, since it’s one of the most wildy inventive family films I’ve seen in a long time. And who better to make a movie that incorporates animated doodles into its character’s imagination than the director-producer duo that created the wacky, stop-motion music video for Blur’s “Coffee and TV”? It’s a match made in heaven, though much of the film’s success is thanks to newcomers Bill Milner and Will Poulter, who give child actors a good name.

billy_elliot

9. “Billy Elliot”

Jamie Bell may be all grown up, but “Billy Elliot” remains the best thing he’s done. A classic feel-good movie featuring a great soundtrack, a funny and heartfelt script, and a memorable performance from Julie Walters as the title character’s chain-smoking ballet teacher, “Billy Elliot” was nominated for three Oscars and was eventually adapted for the stage (with music by Elton John, no less) where it went on to win ten Tony Awards. Still, for as much love as the Broadway musical has received during its five-year run, the movie version is still one of the most entertaining British films I’ve ever had the pleasure to see.

sexy_beast

8. “Sexy Beast”

Though it’s best remembered for Ben Kingsley’s riveting turn as Don Logan, a venomous, high-strung gangster who doesn’t take “no” for an answer, “Sexy Beast” is a smart and energetic crime drama that also happens to be pretty damn funny. Of course, most of that humor comes from Kingsley’s expletive-laced performance, and it’s a crime that he wasn’t rewarded with a nice, shiny Oscar. Still, even though the movie is essentially the Ben Kingsley Show, “Sexy Beast” served as a nice introduction to Ray Winstone and Ian McShane, and will likely go down as one of the better crime dramas of the decade.

rocknrolla

7. “RocknRolla”

Say what you will about Guy Ritchie, but his movies are an absolute blast to watch, and “RocknRolla” is easily his most mature film to date. Though he still seems to favor style over substance, the movie still succeeds thanks to an amusing story and lively ensemble cast led by Gerard Butler and Tom Wilkinson. Plus, that bizarre dance scene between Butler and Thandie Newton is one of the funniest WTF moments of the decade (not to mention their subsequent sex scene). Ritchie’s films may never receive the credit they deserve (he’ll forever be remembered as a Tarantino wannabe, even though QT himself has been accused of stealing several times over), but “RocknRolla” is what going to the movies is all about.

Read the rest of this entry »

  

Related Posts

The Tiger’s Tail

Writer-director John Boorman (“Deliverance,” “Excalibur,” “Hope and Glory”) has never been afraid of taking chances, and that definitely continues in this witty, suspenseful, and flawed 2006 thriller-cum-family drama. “The Tiger’s Tail” reteams Boorman with his lead actor from 1998’s “The General,” Brendan Gleeson (“In Bruges,” “28 Days Later“). This time, Gleeson is a renowned Dublin real estate capitalist with a calm but frosty marriage to wife Kim Cattrall, a strained but affectionate relationship with his Marxist teenage son (Briain Gleeson, the character actor’s actual offspring), and a business on the edge of collapse. All of that, however, is just par for the course until an exact double turns-up and appears bent on the most extreme form of identity theft.

As you might expect, this is a tale full of twists and turns. Unfortunately, several of them are weirdly contrived (think “Trading Places” meets “Ordinary People” with a distasteful dash of “Straw Dogs”) and many moments are just plain overheated –- at times Boorman seems to want to bludgeon us with composer Stephen McKeon’s score. Still, “The Tiger’s Tail” is salvaged by plentiful tension, humor, heart, and some very good performances, not only from Gleeson in a showy dual role, but also from son Briain and an especially moving turn by veteran actress Sinead Cusack. Best of all is a conclusion that takes the film to a place very few thrillers go. In his mid-seventies, Boorman remains a big-hearted filmmaker and this is a messy but big-hearted film.

Click to buy “The Tiger’s Tail”

  

Related Posts