Having been shot in a gun fight and put into a coma, County Sheriff Rick Grimes wakes up in hospital to find the world around him significantly changed. The hospital has been trashed, corpses are everywhere and the streets are deserted. Sort of. Long story short, there are zombies. Lots of them. After an encounter with two survivors, Grimes determines to head for Atlanta to find his missing wife and son.
After all the hype surrounding Frank Darabont’s TV show The Walking Dead, the first episode, Days Gone Bye, finally aired to record numbers. Zombies, who have shuffled around cinemas for decades, have at last discovered television. Based on the Image comic books, and produced by Gale Anne Hurd (the Terminator movies), The Walking Dead is admittedly a very familiar story; world + zombies + survivors = horror fun! But with Executive Producer Darabont, no stranger to horror, both writing and directing the pilot episode this was always going to be worth the time.
Truth be told, I don’t watch much television. I haven’t seen one episode of 24 or Lost, fell out of love with Star Trek years ago, and save my viewing time for movies. Then I read about The Walking Dead and, frankly, they had me at ‘Frank Darabont to make zombie television show’. Say no more. Having just watched the pilot episode, I’m glad I decided to set aside the 90 minutes. Okay, this is never going to win any originality awards (the genre is way past that) but all the ingredients are right there for something special. The set-up is similar to that of 28 Days Later, with the lead character waking up in hospital to find everyone gone. However, unlike the marathon runners of Danny Boyle’s infestation movie, the zombies of The Walking Dead are back to the classic shuffling undead in the Romero mould. Personally, I prefer them that way. Call me petty, but zombies should shuffle. It’s my thing.
Frank Darabont, who excelled with a TV production crew on The Mist, delivers an atmospheric and engaging pilot episode. The scenes in the hospital, as the bemused Grimes finds the first clues as to what happened while he slept, are spooky, haunting and will bring an approving smile to the face of even the most discerning zombie fan. As will the fact that television hasn’t dulled or restricted the icky factor. Darabont is incapable of overlooking the human element and there is a particularly moving scene involving a survivor and his wife. However, it was when the story moved to deserted, zombie infested, Atlanta that The Walking Dead really impressed, and I knew for certain that I was hooked. Damn you, Darabont! Now I’m one of those people desperate for the next episode! I’m a zombie!