Saturday, 13 November 2010

'THE WALKING DEAD' 1.2 - "Guts"

Saturday, 13 November 2010

I don't begrudge people having their fun, but "Guts" was further evidence that The Walking Dead has little that's fresh and, more importantly, interesting to impart to its readymade audience. On a superficial level of watching people fend off masses of shuffling zombies, it has its entertaining moments, but nothing you can't see done a million times better in the movies Walking Dead blatantly steals from. I could accept "Guts" taking place in a department store as a homage to Dawn Of The Dead, were it not for last week's homage's to many other movies. So far, The Walking Dead's best ideas are unoriginal and less successfully reprised, and its new ideas are plain stupid. That's not a great position to be in, seeing as this is only episode 2 of a series that's likely to be around for a good few years to come.

Continuing from last week, Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) is trapped in a tank that's being swarmed by hundreds of zombies on an abandoned street in Atlanta. The impressive aerial shot confirms his jeopardy and impossible odds of escaping from confinement, so God knows why there's no sign of commotion from inside the tank itself. Do they have sound-proof tanks? Acting on the advice of a mysterious voice on the tank's radio (which boils down to "get out of the tank and the swarms of zombies from the establishing aerial shot will be magically reduced to a few shuffling bystanders you can kill, then proceed to run into an alley and climb a ladder to the rooftop, because zombies have forgotten how to climb"), Rick finds himself with a group of ethnically diverse survivors who've taken refuge in a department store. The black guy, the Mexican, the blonde woman, the black woman, the white supremacist, the Asian, etc. They were waiting for an everyman Caucasian, so Rick showed up just in the nick of time!

There followed an hour of the survivors trying to implement a plan to escape their besieged store, before the zombies break inside. After a pointless attempt to access a sewer (seriously, what a pointless moment), Rick instead decides to drag the corpse of a zombie inside, dismember its body (with the most cartoonish squelches imaginable), then smear himself and rescuer Glenn (Steven Yeun) with the poor man's blood and entrails. This should disguise them from the zombies wandering around outside, who will be fooled into believing Rick and Glenn are dead, because of their rotting smell, giving them enough time to reach a truck and use it to rescue their waiting friends. But, uh oh, the regular as clockwork 5pm shower might put the kibosh on that plan. We all know how quickly rain cleans the smell of rotting flesh and dangling feet, right?

Once again, you can't fault the production itself. This show has a big budget, and it's therefore pulling off movie quality scenes of desolate city streets and a multitude of actors in zombie make-up. It's not too shy about the gore either, which I'm sure pleases a lot of people. But, really, if this was a movie people would be tearing it apart as a lazy rehash of George Romero's Greatest Hits and frustrated by the limp, stereotypical characters. Are we even supposed to like Rick's wife Lori (Sarah Wayne Callis), seeing as she's having sex with her husband's best friend, what, a few weeks after Rick was left to die in that hospital? It's either very bad storytelling (as the writers have no idea how a recently widowed woman would react to the death of her husband), they want us to hate Lori, or they've been having an affair since before the zombie apocalypse. If it's the latter, I retract my complaint, but it's still not a great way to introduce those characters.

Overall, "Guts" was distinctly average and I can't see why anyone who's seen Dawn Of The Dead (which is, surely, most people who would tune into Walking Dead) would hold this up as a great twist on the genre. So far it's been nothing but a lazy copy, which I'm sure the writers, director Michelle MacLaren (Breaking Bad), and the actors all had fun creating. I think the zombie genre is one that's more susceptible to repetition than any other horror genre, so there needs to be strong differences, or fresh ideas, to keep people gripped. But, after two episodes, The Walking Dead isn't delivering for me. The characters are either clich├ęs (what a waste of Michael Rooker!), dull (sorry Andrew Lincoln), unlikeable (Sarah Wayne Callies), or vacuous (everyone else). Bring back Lennie James from last week, that's what I say.

WRITER: Frank Darabont
DIRECTOR: Michelle MacLaren
TRANSMISSION: 12 November 2010, FX/HD, 10PM