Wednesday, March 16, 2011

THE WALKING DEAD - THE COMPLETE FIRST SEASON (Blu-ray)

Based on a popular comic book series by writer Robert Kirkman and artists Tony Moore and Charlie Adlard, THE WALKING DEAD (2010) is basically the soap opera version of George Romero's NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD and sequels. By that, I mean that Romero had to end his film(s) after a couple of hours, but Kirkman's comic - and the AMC television series based upon it - can keep on going. Characters live, characters die, characters come in, characters die... it's basically a character-driven (melo)drama set in Romero's world of cannibalistic animated corpses. (Right down to the detail of having to shoot them in the heads to "kill" them.)

So, it's not particularly original... but that doesn't mean it's not good.

Small-town police officer Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) is shot and wounded in a gunfight. He is hospitalized, comatose when an unexplained zombie apocalypse occurs. When he awakes, he finds the countryside overrun by flesh-eating undead. Determined to find his wife and child, he sets out for Atlanta, and after a series of hair-raising encounters, is finally reunited with his family, who have taken up with a small band of other survivors.The series chronicles this group's struggle to survive in a radically changed world, and what that struggle does to them, emotionally.

When the first, six-episode season of the THE WALKING DEAD premiered on the basic cable channel AMC, it was immediately embraced by horror fans and mainstream audiences alike, garnering sizeable ratings and effusive praise. I don't have cable, so I didn't get a chance to watch the show until the DVD/Blu-Rays came out, and by that time, I was frankly a little skeptical about the show being able to live up to its hype. Also, my wife and I are both fans of the comic book, so we both had our own ideas about how it should be adapted. As it turns out, THE WALKING DEAD pretty much deserves everything good that's been said about it.

Under the guiding hand of producer Frank Darabont (THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION, THE GREEN MILE) and comic creator Kirkman, DEAD is a remarkably well-crafted show, with engrossing, intelligent scripts, feature film-quality production values, an extraordinary cast (including Darabont regulars Laurie Holden and Jeffery DeMunn, Sarah Wayne Callies and Steven Yeun), and some of the best zombie make-ups and effects I've ever seen on film - and I've seen a helluva lot of zombie flicks. In fact, the show looks a lot better than George Romero's last few living dead films, and that's just not right.

The Anchor Bay/Starz Blu-Ray includes all six episodes of the first season on 2 discs, in 1.78:1 1080p HD widescreen and Dolby TrueHD audio. Bonus features include several behind-the-scenes featurettes covering various aspects of the production, including the fantastic make-up effects, a WALKING DEAD "trailer," and short "On The Set" videos with Kirkman and select cast members. There is also a standard-definition DVD version available in anamorphic widescreen, with the same features.

For fans of zombie flicks, THE WALKING DEAD is a weekly dose of horror action, and for everyone else, it's a compelling, serialized drama with interesting characters. It looks great, is well-written, and keeps you on the edge of your seat. What more could you want?

Highly recommended.

BUY: The Walking Dead:  Season One [Blu-ray]

BUY: The Walking Dead: Season One [DVD]