It might be hard to believe, but once upon a time, the undead were considered too strange and disgusting to be accepted by main-stream society. Many of the films made in their honor were, in my opinion, little more than spoofs drawing laughter and eye-rolling from fans and critics alike. I longed for a film that could be taken seriously by more than just the true zombie fan.
Then...somehow...zombies started becoming popular. Now they're nearly everywhere, and zombie films are drawing BIG name actors instead of just those looking to break into the business. If you don't believe me, grab someone off the street and ask them if they've seen ZOMBIELAND. Most likely they'll not only say 'yes' but they'll then draw you into a conversation about Bill Murray's scenes in the film. Bill Murray in a zombie flick....seriously, who saw THAT coming??
I definitely enjoyed seeing zombies grow in popularity, and I really enjoyed ZOMBIELAND.... but I wanted more. I wanted a serious, realistic look at what might happen to the average person who woke up in a zombie apocalypse.
Instead of the heroes driving across country in a hummer with a bottomless gas tank and seeing only one or two zombies per town, I wanted the protagonist to stink from no showers....I wanted them running out of gas in the middle of nowhere, forced to find alternate means of travel.....I wanted them using blunt instruments because ammo is scarce....and I wanted them to unwittingly stumble into a SEA of hungry, moaning undead.
I got my wish....in a television series.
AMC had the courage to take a chance on a comic book series by Robert Kirkman and bring THE WALKING DEAD to mainstream television. (I am ashamed to admit that I had not heard of the comic before the series started. I was into comics at one time, but have "lost my way" in the last few years.)
This series is everything I wanted. Real. Dramatic. And at times, frightening.
The director of this series is the one and only Frank Darabont. You might know him as the director of such films as THE GREEN MILE, and THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION.
This partnership of Kirkman and Darabont has created something truly amazing that I thought I would never see on the big screen, much less television. The character interaction and back stories are compelling and exciting, while the use of the undead is just enough for zombie fans like myself, but not so much that it would turn away the casual viewer. And the gore factor? Delightfully and disgustingly realistic . Hats off to KNB EFX Group.
I was so pleased with THE WALKING DEAD that I wanted to contact Mr. Darabont to thank him for his work and offer my own little slice of zombie-ism as a thank you gift…..one of my shirt designs. (The "Zombie Friendly: Do Not Eat" to be precise.)
I sent the package to his production company address and was delighted to receive a wonderful thank you note in the mail some weeks later. I giggled like a school girl when I received it, which made my family a little uncomfortable, but I just couldn't help myself.
It read: "Brett! Man, you are too darn kind. I can't thank you enough for the thoughtful gift, but even more so for the great letter. A pat on the back never sucks. Best, Frank Darabont"
And he's right….indeed, a pat on the back never sucks. Especially when it's as well deserved as that one.
So, if you haven't already, check out the first season of AMC's THE WALKING DEAD now on DVD, or go to http://www.amctv.com/shows/the-walking-dead for more information.
And as always…
Aim high. Run fast.