Dead Set is a thrilling mini-series that combines two of the most popular things going in TV and movies today, the reality TV show (in this case Big Brother) and zombies. The style in which this 5 part story is told is similar to Danny Boyle’s 28 Days Later series, complete with shaky camera-work and ravenous, feral running zombies. Personally, I have found the “28” series of zombie movies very underwhelming, and I also haven’t been too big a fan of the idea of running zombies. Dead Set, however similar to the aforementioned films it may be, sets itself apart, and is, as far as I can tell, a hidden gem of a horror genre, at least among American audiences.
Dead Set starts off showing the inner workings of reality television. It’s sort of a nice behind the scenes look which I’m sure has been slightly exaggerated for dramatic effect, but still feels very genuine. We are introduced to a gaggle of characters, some more important than others. You’ll immediately begin playing the “Who’s gonna survive game” in your head, which is always a good thing, because it means the actors and the director have already made empathetic characters early on, which winds up being one of the main reasons this series had me in the clutches of suspense for almost 3 hours.
After we get a look at “Eviction Night”, where one of the house guests is sent home, no longer eligible for the prize that awaits the final contestant, we are plunged into a crisis happening right outside the studio, which is an apparent (and unexplained, a classy touch. No need to always explain why there is zombies) zombie apocalypse. Chaos ensues, and different sets of the relatively large cast get separated and wind up having to find ways of surviving in and around the studio.
Seeing as house this is a 5 part mini-series, I was slightly skeptical going in how the director and writers were gonna keep up the frenetic pace they started off with. Fortunately, a combination of clever nods to classic zombie flicks, interesting scenarios and obstacles, and the rule of “anyone can die at any time” meant that I was fully engaged, and holding my hand over my mouth at the conclusion of each episode that always seemed to be a cliffhanger.
Special effects also helps elevate this to near legendary status, with a COMPLETE ABSENCE OF CGI (FUCK YES) and awesome practical gore such as this incredible exploding head.
There are other surprises as well, all of them really bloody and particularly brutal. I won’t ruin them for you, but they rival some of the best kills I’ve ever seen in the genre and really stand out. Make no mistake, just because this is “made for TV” doesn’t mean it wimps out on the hardcore stuff. its R-Rated goodness should put smiles on the faces of even some hardened horror fans.
Solid, if not a little trendy, directing, good acting, and a storyline that doesn’t wear out it’s welcome while also exploring many possibilities a shorter, 90 minute zombie flick wouldn’t have time to touch on make Dead Set a solid recommendation for someone wanting zombie goodness, with a European flair. For zombie fans, this is a must see.
Big Brother is watching, and so should you.