Ah, September; when the last humid exhalation of summer brushes up on the cool tip of autumn. Soon the trees will loose their leaves, the nights will get longer and we will all start thinking more about the things that might be lurking in the long shadows.
One thing that will shamble out of the darkness this Halloween is the long awaited premier of The Walking Dead on AMC. AMC has quite the stable now. Mad Men, Breaking Bad and Rubicon are all thoughtful, genre defying shows. A show about surviving a zombie apocalypse seems almost a strange choice.
(I have to pause a moment to make special mention of Rubicon. This week, as the plot finally picked up the pace, it threw out a Legend of Zelda reference and showed the cover of an old issue of Batman and the Outsiders on screen. Coupled with the Invisibles covers seen in the premiere, I think that puts Rubicon in the running for smartest and subtlest geeky show on television right now. But I digress. Back to The Walking Dead)
There has been talk about a small screen adaptation of Robert Kirkman’s comic book for years now. While the comic story follows the same big beats of the zombie genre (they came, they took over, they will eventually get you), Kirkman seemed far more interested in the relationships between his character as well as the ways they coped with their depressingly bleak situation. Early on, the series was free of many of the blockbuster conventions that had snuck into the genre over the years and reveled in a cold, cruel realism.
Somewhere a long the line, a girl showed up leading a couple jawless zombies on chains while carrying a samurai sword. It was right about then I lost interest in the series.
I’ve thought for a while that we could use a zombie TV show. We’ve had plenty of aliens and vampires, superheroes and even some werewolves (does anyone else remember the short lived 1987 Fox show Werewolf?) but I wasn’t sure The Walking Dead was the right one until I heard Frank Darabont was attached to the production.
Mr. Darabont has a special kind of magic. He takes things that I somewhat like and somehow transmogrifies them into things that I love. Take The Blob for instance. The original is a classic 1950s sci-fi movie and that’s pretty much good enough for me, but it’s hard to be terrified by a mean dollop of Jell-O. The same can’t be said when it dissolves a kid in the 1988 remake that Darabont wrote. As a director, he took The Mist, a terrifying short story by Stephen King with a typically underwhelming King ending, and made it into a masterpiece of a horror film, perfect in color but even more chilling in black & white. (Looking back, Darabont’s oeuvre has a lot of dead children in it, these, Nightmare on Elm Street 3: The Dream Warriors, The Green Mile. I wonder if this is something we should be concerned about.)
If anyone can make The Walking Dead something special, Darabont is the man. I’ll be tuning in, at least until the chick with the katana shows up.