“The Walking Dead” failed at the ability to successfully deliver the supernatural elements that drive a horror film/show, and instead constructed a massive emotional rollercoaster that tells rather than shows. The show had the necessary crew assembled to produce a well-rounded zombie apocalypse with dark emotional undertones (note the prefix under-!) and groundbreaking special effects not seen on any TV show; that in itself is a grand failure for not using what you have to its fullest extent.
When I heard that KNB Effects were on board to helm the special make-up effects for the series, I was more than ecstatic. What more can you ask for when it comes to Greg Nicotero and Howard Berger, protégés of the master of illusion, Tom Savini? Nicotero and Berger both have some amazing resumes that include, among others, “George A. Romero’s Day of the Dead” (1985), “Evil Dead II: Dead by Dawn”, “From Beyond”, and “Bride of Reanimator”. “The Walking Dead” was a slam-dunk for aesthetically pleasing make-up and eye-popping visual effects. If readers are familiar with Nicotero and Berger’s work, it’s evident that not only do the special effects compliment the film/show, but the special effects are their own character.
Where this area of the show fails (and how could it!?) is in the hands of the script and subsequent cinematography. KNB’s work is not shown and given its credit; it is hidden amongst the wide angled shots of the doomed city (where the art direction and production design units shine), the claustrophobic zooms that try in vain to collect every bit of unrestraint emotion from the actors, and the CGI gunshots and bullet holes (Savini taught these boys the art of squibs and blood filled prophylactics…why not indulge?!).
“The Walking Dead” firmly established itself as a vehicle for drama within the first few minutes of the pilot episode—which is a great way to immerse an audience and enthrall them into submission. The failure, once again, is in the emaciated attempt at constructing the living dead as the antagonists. “The Walking Dead” is keener on letting the survivors emotionally invest within each other, and then deconstruct themselves into a pile of psychological debris. For a more successful run at a television program that is employed with the task of “giving the dead their day” on network TV, the zombies must become more of a catalyst in the psychological breakdown of our pitiful survivors. This is where Romero delivers and why his films are filled with such intellectual gusto. But then again, this is Romero…comparisons definitely pale (no pun intended….again)!
- Ray of the Dead