Although it will receive its US premiere on October 25 courtesy of IFC, the UK miniseries Dead Set had its cherry popped way back in 2008 by many of our B-D readers from across the pond. You lucky British bastards! You sat in your respective flats, eating crisps by the bowlful, in front of a telly broadcasting 140 minutes of the best zombie shite around. And then you dared to deprive America of this horror excellence for two long years!?! What’s your damage, guv?
I suppose I’m just jealous. Dead Set is the real deal, an insanely riveting zombie apocalypse story that hits the ground running and doesn’t let up. Most of the miniseries takes place on the set of the reality series Big Brother, as a live broadcast of the show‘s “Eviction Night” happens to coincide with a worldwide zombie outbreak. A buttload of characters are introduced in the first episode…too many to keep track of, really. But every episode cranks along at such a frenetic pace, it doesn’t really matter. This thing cooks. The miniseries is split into five episodes. While the first episode clocks in at 45 minutes, the remaining four episodes average about 25 minutes a piece. That may sound too short, but it turns out to be the perfect length for Dead Set‘s brand of action. The brevity of the segments really tighten things up––if they were stretched to an hour, the whole thing would feel way too baggy.
Shot on raw shaky cam video by Yann Demange, Dead Set uses its sprinting, snarling zombies to expand on the cinema verite aesthetic of 2002’s 28 Days Later… In fact, Dead Set could easily be a spin-off of Danny Boyle’s neozombie classic. It’s got the same boundless energy. The focus pulls are simply amazing. It’s genuinely scary. The gore is the strongest I’ve ever seen on a TV show. Let the comparisons to The Walking Dead begin…
Dead Set effectively ditches the saddlebags of character development you would normally expect from a first episode, which works to its advantage. Don’t you hate it when you’re forced to endure the lengthy back story of a horror film character, only to watch them get killed off in the next scene? Dead Set don’t play that. Once the zombies attack, it’s straight to survival mode. Some characters hide in the sanctuary of the Big Brother house, others attempt to escape in search of supplies, and within the first couple of episodes their various alliances and allegiances become perfectly clear. I don’t want to give away too much about the plot, as the narrative twists and turns provide much of the pleasure, but you‘ll soon find out what the Brits have known for years: When it comes to zombie horror, it doesn‘t get any better than Dead Set.