Wow. The Walking Dead is one deliciously creepy hour of television. Frank Darabont (The Shawshank Redemption, The Mist) is on old hand at horror and he intelligently guides this pilot, working every moment of silence, slowly and deliberately building a sense of tension, inserting creepiness both overtly and with things as subtle as a crow’s caw, and deftly sprinkling in a couple of genuine moments of surprise. This is horror as it should be – smart, well paced, and with just the right amount of gore. It would have been so easy to go over the top in this pilot, but this show is in no way campy – Darabont hits exactly the right note of realism, which only adds to the horror.
I was frankly amazed at the scope they managed to give this pilot on a cable TV budget. The makeup is phenomenal – it has Emmy written all over it – and the wide city shots and full on zombie horde are just fantastic. AMC is fully behind this effort, and it shows.
At its core this show is a thriller, as only good horror can be. Not to say that it’s lacking in the horror department – we get plenty of blood spatter, fly encrusted bodies, and even a feeding frenzy – but The Walking Dead takes its time and invests in its characters. This is not an action hour, this is a show that is going to spend time on relationships and backstories – think a more serious Justified with zombies. Granted, a few of the character beats felt a little on the nose – especially with the wives – but this is early days. I’m intrigued by what I’ve seen so far and am very much looking forward to watching it develop.
Andrew Lincoln is the perfect choice to play the lead, Rick Grimes. He brings a genuine charisma and down to earth sensibility to the role, which grounds the entire series. Actually my favorite scene in the pilot is one brief moment when Rick tries to wake himself up, hoping it’s all just a nightmare.
The Walking Dead is a taut hour of television that will both make you want to own a gun and have you clamoring for more. It premieres Halloween night on AMC.