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Thursday, June 4, 2020

Before “Black Mirror,” Charlie Brooker Paid Tribute to George Romero With “Dead Set” [TV Terrors]

Horror and science fiction have always been a part of the television canvas, and constant attempts have been made over the years to produce classic entertainment. Some have fallen by the wayside, while others became mainstream phenomena. With “TV Terrors,” we take a look back at the many genre efforts from the 80’s, 90’s, and 00’s, exploring some shows that became cult classics, and others that sank into obscurity.

This month we travel back in time over ten years to hang out on a “Dead Set.”

  • Aired in 2008
  • Aired on E4

“Does this mean we’re not on Telly anymore?”

Reality Television has reached the evolutionary point to where it’s definitively no longer a fad, and now completely embedded into the DNA of modern television. It’s also essentially become a part of the DNA of the populace that’s crept in to just about every facet of how we operate. The world has been obsessed with the idea of voyeurism for decades, and we’re now at the state where everything happens on a screen with its pale glow glimmering on us. Everything from dating and marriages to talent competitions are on display for all to see.

In “Dead Set,” we get to see the world and civilization fall apart before our eyes. Craftily formatted to look a lot like an extended episode of the UK smash hit reality series, “Dead Set” was a five episode horror miniseries set during the post-show of “Big Brother.” Inexplicable events unfolding within cities in the UK spark a spree of violent attacks and riots, and they become so chaotic that they’ve drawn the attention of the military and the government. This hasn’t deterred studio manager Patrick, who insists on airing the big finale for “Big Brother” despite the insistence that they end the show and switch to the local affiliate news and emergency broadcasts.

This lack of crucial information spells doom for the massive crowd of viewers and fans, all of whom are attending a live airing of the final eviction, just hungry for drama. This crowd works completely against any hope of survival, ironically, as hordes of sprinting flesh-eating zombies infiltrate the event and begin wreaking havoc, tearing in to party-goers, fans, reporters, and bystanders alike on live TV. Before long, the entire station is overcome with armies of flesh-eaters as random station hands and TV personalities scatter about, looking for safety within the confines of offices and halls.

The big catch is as blood splatters, flesh is consumed, and the dead rise, the remaining housemates within the “Big Brother” household are completely oblivious to the outside carnage. Unbeknownst to them, the “Big Brother” house with cameras pointed toward them has become their only safe haven from the zombie apocalypse. With the help of producer Kelly (Jaime Winstone is incredible), who is struggling to make it to the house to make some sense of the horrendous situation, they have to figure out how to escape. This is easier said than done as the front gates of the studio are packed with hungry hordes of zombies, prepared to pounce at any moment. 

An absolutely brilliant mélange of pure horror, dark comedy, survival action, and pointed social commentary, “Dead Set” is a very cleverly constructed horror series that almost never allows the audience to breathe. Like Romero’s Dawn of the Dead, Charlie Brooker (the mind behind “Black Mirror”) spends very little time explaining the undead, and leaps right in to the carnage, introducing us to an extraordinary situation that becomes more and more hopeless by the minute. The tension even before the dead emerge is thick as pea soup as we’re given various sub-plots and have to see how the characters ultimately decide to make it out alive. If they even make it out, mind you. Brooker introduces us to myriad characters, including protagonist Kelly who is initially stuck in her office after a mate is attacked by a zombie and transforms before her eyes. She quickly realizes the only actual glimmer of hope she has of making it out alive is by reaching the “Big Brother” set.

For five episodes writer/creator Charlie Brooker and director Yann Demange drop us head first into an unrelenting fast-paced campaign of violence, gore, and tons of genuine scares. A la Romero, there is also some sharp social commentary that still echoes today that explores our obsession with television, how the Heisenberg effect ultimately dictates the welfare of house mates during this carnage, and the ironic way reality plays out like a reality series. Brooker was apparently inspired by Dawn of the Dead, and that’s not at all surprising as much of “Dead Set” has Romero’s DNA ingrained in every story beat and character, despite the insistence on implementing sprinting zombies.

Not only does Brooker stage a ton of visual nods and winks to the original Romero trilogy (especially in the finale), but the whole series allows for an evocative take on how media tends to dictate much of our lives, even as the world sinks to zombie carnage. “Dead Set” crept up on horror fans in 2008 and since then has risen in well deserved cult status ever since. It’s a series I checked out by word of mouth and it stuck with me for long after its blood soaked finale. If you’ve yet to check it out, it’s an experience you won’t forget, especially if you fancy yourself a “Black Mirror” fan.

Is It On DVD/Blu-Ray? Thankfully, “Dead Set” can be viewed in full and uncut on Netflix, but for physical media collectors shockingly there’s never been an actual official release in the states on Blu-ray or DVD. You can, however, buy an All Region DVD of the entire series. Speaking as someone who owns a copy, it’s a decent consolation, even if the series warrants a huge deluxe edition with bells, whistles, and so much more.

Editor’s Note: New Netflix series “Reality Z,” arriving June 10, is a remake of “Dead Set.”



source https://bloody-disgusting.com/editorials/3619094/black-mirror-charlie-brooker-paid-tribute-george-romero-dead-set-tv-terrors/

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