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artisanal film reviews | by maryann johanson

a few thoughts on ‘The Walking Dead’: “Days Gone Bye”

So, I’m not really seeing so much that’s new in this The Walking Dead thing yet. Except that it’s pretty gory not only for TV but also for some zombie movies I’ve see. Seems to be lots of lingering on head shots and blood spurting out in slow motion. Monty Python’s Sam Peckinpah would be proud.

The sheriff shooting the little-girl zombie in the head at the gas station in the beginning was pretty shocking. We don’t see little kids get killed in pop culture, even in the most graphic of horror movies. Even if they’re zombies. So that was surprising.

When it opened with the cop driving around in the afterscape of abandoned cars and discarded baby dolls and such, I did think: Cool, they’re just gonna go with the zombie apocalypse as a given, skip right over the whole how-did-it-happen bit. Which would have been new… because if they couldn’t have a good new original reason for the world turning zombie (and maybe they will in the long run, but we didn’t get it here), best to skip right over it. Except then they rewound and still didn’t give us the whys — we just got to watch the sheriff wake up in the hospital, where he managed to escape the bitey zombies. Which 28 Days Later — which predates the Robert Kirkman graphic novel this is based on — did first. And then he wanders around in a daze and stares at half-eaten human corpses and stuff for a while.
It’s all stunningly graphic for TV. But that’s the only thing that’s surprising about it. So far. I suppose that’s enough for some: I’ll admit the half-there zombie corpse dragging itself around the park was horrific. But I need more than that.

I thought Andrew Lincoln — the actor playing the sheriff guy — was Tony Goldwyn at first.

I was really hoping that sexist sheriff who never met a woman who would turn off a light was gonna get eaten. (Seriously, dude? Meet some other women.) But I suppose we’re gonna see more of him, since he turns up later with a little band of survivors outside Atlanta… and with a new girlfriend who pisses him off. At least she can’t go around leaving the lights on with the power off everywhere.

I’ve always liked Lennie James (he was one of the more fascinating characters on the late lamented Jericho), and he’s fantastic here: there’s something so grounded about him, so competent and trustworthy (which was a bit scary on Jericho because it clashed there with the idea that perhaps we shouldn’t trust him, that maybe he was one of the bad guys). The bit where he’s drawing out the zombies by shooting into the street, hoping to see his zombified wife so he can put her out of her misery was a nice new touch, I suppose: movies don’t usually have time for such drawn-out character moments. I hope James turns up again.

Poor horsey there at the end. I was afraid that was gonna happen…



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