Reviewed by Uncle Creepy
Starring Andrew Lincoln, Jon Bernthal, Sarah Wayne Callies, Laurie Holden, Jeffrey DeMunn, Steven Yeun, Chandler Riggs, Norman Reedus, Emma Bell, IronE Singleton, Michael Rooker
Created by Frank Darabont
Based on The Walking Dead by Robert Kirkman
Directed by Various
Distributed by Anchor Bay Entertainment
Let me be clear … up until a few years ago I hated reading comic books. They just didn’t grab me. Then I got my claws into Robert Kirkman’s The Walking Dead, which I read at first only for the fact that it had zombies in it. From page one I was taken in. From then on I was like a insatiable fiend devouring page after page, trade paperback after trade paperback, one after the other. The characters were so well drawn. Their arcs amazing. I laughed, I cheered, at one point around Volume 8 I nearly needed a therapist because of the horrors that had befallen these fictitious characters I had grown to love so very much. This is what it’s all about, folks. Powerful horror storytelling at its finest.
When the announcement came that AMC would be creating a series based upon Kirkman’s master work, my heart sunk and I was near ill. I could see this happening on HBO, but AMC? No way! Then things took a turn. Started looking good. The great Frank Darabont got involved, as did Kirkman. Images of gore and zombies started littering this very site, and everything was looking even more badass than I ever could have imagined. Could lightning strike? Would justice be done? Is it even possible to recapture the heart and magic of the original graphic novels? AMC’s “The Walking Dead” defied the odds and delivered on nearly every count, turning into a huge success for both the ballsiest cable network around and fans alike.
For those unfamiliar with the story, it’s pretty simple (yet incredibly complex). In a nutshell Officer Rick Grimes (an amazing Andrew Lincoln) is shot down in the line of duty and hospitalized in a coma. He awakens weeks later to find something is seriously amiss. Mainly the hospital has been deserted, there’s blood and signs of a struggle everywhere, and the halls and eventually the streets and surrounding neighborhoods are littered with corpses. But there’s yet another problem to contend with … thousands of said corpses are very much up, shambling, and looking to feast upon the living.
Slightly disoriented and with nowhere else to go, Rick heads home to check on his wife (Callies) and son (Riggs), who have since evacuated their premises. From there his journey to find his family begins, and along the way we meet some really disturbing flesh-eaters and all manner of colorful characters both friendly and really unfriendly. Really, that’s all you need to know because the beauty of this series is watching how things unfold.
In terms of casting it’s as if some of the characters just walked off of the page. We’re talking pitch perfect for the most part. When I see actors Steven Yeun and Jeffrey DeMunn onscreen, there’s no doubt in my mind that I’m looking at Glenn and Dale. The same goes for Laurie Holden as Andrea and several others. Part of what makes them so good is the fact that their characters do not stray from who they were in the comics. We’re talking incredibly true to the spirit that came before them. Andrew Lincoln is so spot on as Rick that it’s nearly impossible to ever think that he was someone else before this. Purists will complain about some of the new characters and plot lines, but you know what? It keeps things moving and fresh.
The only thing negative I can say about “The Walking Dead” is that the characters are so established in the heads of fans who know what type of excitement and lunacy that’s upon the horizon for them, anxiety actually begins to set in as we wait for things to get really cooking. The newer characters and plots serve as a much needed distraction, and for my money they’re very welcome.
In terms of whether or not the TV series is neutered in any way, rest assured it’s not. In fact, it’s probably one of the most violent things I’ve ever seen on TV or otherwise. AMC is absolutely fearless in what they let go, and hats off to them for having the guts to let this adaptation be exactly what it needed to be to become successful.
In terms of the DVD and Blu-ray, though they share essentially the same special features, if you have the tech, this is a no-brainer … Blu-ray takes it. Hands down. Black levels and skin tones are totally on the money, and except for a bit of grain here and there, the overall image quality is razor sharp. You can see every single bit of rotting flesh and grue in sometimes startling detail. There are a few moments of murkiness here and there, but really? Totally nitpicking here.
As for the sound, the Dolby TrueHD 5.1 surround mix is nothing short of stellar. The dialogue never gets lost amongst the action and score. Gunshots, the sounds of flesh tearing, and panicked screams are so realistic that you’re likely to have your neighbors calling the police on you if your system is too loud, but damn it, it’s really hard to resist cranking the volume up on this baby!
In terms of the supplemental features, plan to be busy for quite some time. It’s all here, and it’s all good. The goodies are all found on Disc Two of the Blu-ray, and they’re broken down into two categories – featurettes and extra footage.
Before we get into those, let’s cover the only disappointment here … there’s not a single commentary present. At the very least it would have been nice to have one for the pilot episode, but alas, it was just not meant to be. Oh, well. Spilled milk and all that.
First up – The featurettes – Things kick off with the near thirty-minute long The Making-of “The Walking Dead” featurette, which as you’d expect is home to the cast and crew expounding upon every detail from page to screen. From there we have an inside look at all six episodes, which runs around five minutes each. Then the really good stuff kicks in. What you’ve been waiting for … The Behind-the-Scenes Zombie Make-Up Tips featurette. Arguably with this series F/X creator Greg Nicotero and company have created some of the best damned looking zombies the big or the small screen have ever seen. My only complaint is that we only get about seven minutes of goodies here, but holy shit are they good. This could have been three hours long and I wouldn’t be complaining. Next up there’s a five-minute long A Sneak Peek with Robert Kirkman featurette, which, while thoroughly entertaining, feels a bit redundant after you’ve already watched the initial extensive making-of and inside looks. Tack on twelve minutes of footage from “The Walking Dead” panel at Comic-Con and the trailer, and we’re done.
Well. Not really. On to the extra footage. Here we have six quick bits of video supplements that never run longer than five minutes each. They’re all listed below, and their titles are pretty self-explanatory so there isn’t much need to go into detail. Think of these as gravy on a steak dinner.
Simply put, “The Walking Dead” is the best damned zombie epic we’ve seen in the last three decades. This is a show and a story with something for everyone to dig on. Relationships are built, some are torn apart, and humanity at its finest and darkest are all explored. This is a home video package not to be missed as the good folks at Starz and Anchor Bay have given this series the respect that it deserves.
Where will you be when the zombie apocalypse comes? Whose side will you be on? Can you put down you neighbor if the need arises? Your best friend? Your wife? And most of all – who exactly are the walking dead? The zombies or the humans just waiting to become meat for the beasts?
Bring on Season Two!
4 1/2 out of 5
4 out of 5
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