Saturday, 5 June 2010

Dead Men Walking

The Walking Dead is one of the best comic books currently running at present. Robert Kirkman is the creator of this epic, on-going survival story set in mid-west America, which follows small-town police officer Rick Grimes, his family and a group of survivors who have banded together to survive an onslaught of zombies when the world is overrun by the dead. As the story progresses their personalities shift under the stress, particularly as their search for a new homes brings them into conflict with a crazed dictator called The Governor who runs a makeshift city and tortures Rick and his group, pursuing them when they escape and becoming more dangerous than the corpses they were originally trying to evade.

Of course, none of this is new. Zombie apocalypse is as old as horror itself, and the themes of man being more of a threat to one and other than the dead have been explored in everything from George Romero’s classic Night Of The Living Dead through to 28 Days Later. In fact Kirkman is unashamedly pillaging from the best of Romero for his tale. It works because if you get your kicks from the whole end-of-the-world scenario then you know pretty much what to expect, but it’s the ride that’s the fun part. And The Walking Dead is one hell of ride. Brilliantly illustrated and superbly written, filled with characters that are easy to like, villains that are easy to hate, enough pop-culture reference to keep the geeks happy, gore and violence, and a storyline that you constantly crave a new fix of. So far there have been 72 monthly issues and it shows no sign of stopping. It also shows no sign of fatigue - this is one book that can run and run.

Now cable channel AMC are producing a six-episode season based on the book, due to air Winter 2010, based on the first 12 issues. A Cable channel doing a horror comic? Which naturally means we can go down the True Blood/Dexter/Sopranos route of much sex, violence and splatter, essential if the book is to be done right. But the real ace in this bloody hole? It’s being written, produced and directed by Frank Darabont. Genius director of The Shawshank Redemption and The Green Mile, Darabont is a lifelong horror nerd who has searched for the right zombie material for years. And if you think the man who had Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman hugging on a beach can’t do horror, then you should go and watch his adaptation of Stephen King's The Mist again. Probably one of the most underrated movies of the last ten years, this was a (for Hollywood) low-budget production that could have easily passed for high-budget TV. It was also grim, bleak, nasty and didn’t compromise itself for a traditional happy ending. The Mist fucked with you, and I have no doubt that Darabont will be happy to let The Walking Dead do the same. Thrown in Gale Anne Hurd as producer (The Terminator, Aliens, Tremors) and no CGI, practical gore effects from the maniacs at KMB (Day Of The Dead, Kill Bill, and a hundred other films you’ve squirmed at) and this promises to be very, very cool indeed. AMC have released a few production shots that show some nice looking dead that could easily be lifted from the pages of the book. Your humble writer is, it’s fair to say, damn excited at the prospect of this on his tube.