Nick Leshi

Nick Leshi
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Bronx, New York, United States of America
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December 13
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Writer, actor, media professional, fan of entertainment, pop culture, and speculative fiction. Contact nickleshi@aol.com for more info.

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NOVEMBER 9, 2010 3:30PM

Even Zombie Haters Seem to Like The Walking Dead

Rate: 11 Flag
I hate overly-gory horror and I hate the over-done zombie trend, but I begrudgingly recorded the new television series The Walking Dead on my DVR.  The buzz was strong, the critics raved, and my wife and I finally watched the pilot episode last night, and I must say that the praise the show has generated so far is well deserved. 

The first episode, called "Days Gone Bye," was a great example of perfect storytelling.  It certainly helped to have Frank Darabont (who gave us The Shawshank Redemption, The Green Mile, The Mist) as one of the writers of the series and as the director of the pilot.  (Other episodes in the first season were directed by Michelle Maxwell MacLaren, Gwyneth Horder-Payton, Johan Renck, Ernest R. Dickerson, and Guy Ferland.)

The pacing, the dialogue, the action, the cinematography, the performances, all added up to a captivating debut.  The best part was how the story unfolded in a gripping visual style.  Some of the greatest moments were during the silent scenes when no words at all were spoken, with the images on the screen so artistically composed that they burned into my mind, hard to forget even hours later.

Tales of a zombie apocalypse are a dime a dozen, and ever since George Romero set the standard not too many people have been able to offer anything really fresh to the genre, in my opinion.  Although I enjoyed movies like 28 Days Later and books like World War Z, how many times can you really endure stories about trying to survive a plague of undead flesh-eaters?  Yet, The Walking Dead, based on the comic book by writer Robert Kirkman and artists Charlie Adlard and Tony Moore, manages to provide surprises at almost every turn, with real emotion, making the absurd zombie premise quite human and believable.

The talented cast brings it all to life (no pun intended).  Andrew Lincoln is a strong lead, playing the part of Rick Grimes, a sheriff injured in the line of duty who wakes up to a hellish new world.  Lennie James, memorable from his solid role in Jericho, had some wonderful and powerful moments in the first episode as Morgan Jones, trying to protect his son and dealing with the loss of his wife.  Appearances by Jon Bernthal as Rick's friend, deputy Shane, and Sarah Wayne Callies (from Prison Break) as Lori, promise even more good things to come.  Even the many actors who portray the nameless monsters have their chances to shine, each bringing something unique to their specific cursed zombie, making them all much more than just a faceless mob of freaks. 

The series airs on American Movie Classics.  According to DarkHorizons.com, "AMC has officially announced a thirteen-episode, second season renewal...Debuting on Halloween, the Frank Darabont-produced series has broken ratings records and pulled in more adults in the key 18-49 demographic than any other show in the history of cable television. The series premiere scored 5.3 million total viewers with 3.6 million viewers in the key demo. The second episode saw only a small drop."

It is good to know that the series will continue into another season.  If the great visual style, excellent performances, and good storytelling keep up, we might have a long-term classic on our hands.

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It's cool to know Walking Dead will be around for a while. I enjoy the zombie genre of horror, but I also like quality; the show has both.
I was really impressed with how visually the story unfolded. Hope the other directors of future episodes can keep it up.
Have to admit, I had my doubts, but it draws one in, like an orgy of so-so looking people.
r.
To your point Ms. Stim doesn't like horror, but she liked the pilot (2nd episode is sitting on the DVR). Already with Mad Men and Breaking Bad, AMC is putting the networks' drama lineups to shame.
I am over the zombie trend myself, but the reasons to avoid this show are decreasing by the day. I am hearing raves from many, and your argument might force me to set my own DVR at the ready.
The only Zombie movie I have ever seen was Zombieland, I loved it.
I will give this show a try.
rated with thanks
I'm loving it so far. Socially speaking, it's perfect timing for a show of this nature.
I second that emotion

and congrats on making the cover of Big Salon
Thanks for the recommendation, Nick. If you liked it, I probably will too.
anything about zombies, i am in!
The original graphic novel tells a good story, but the dialog is much better in the show.
"Walking Dead" is further proof of my belief that you will get everything you ever wanted, when you no longer want it -- or at least, you aren't into it quite so much. Man, if this show was around when I was 13, it would have shattered my gore addled, Fangoria reading brain! I was surprised at how good "The Walking Dead" is. Maybe it's a good thing it wasn't around when I was 13. I'm not sure I could have taken it. Maybe Lucio Fulci's "Zombie" was enough.
Bob, I feel the exact same way about the current superhero movie trend!
Nick, for the last time and the Luvagawd, 28 days later is a contagion film, and definitely not a zombie movie. 28's ghoulies are living, rage infected homicidal maniacs; zombies are the re-animated dead drawn irresistably to human flesh for dining purposes.

28 is fully explainable: the gov't's unleashed a rage virus to make better soldiers and the populace has, by happenstance and stupidity, become infected with it. The "charm" of the Dead movies is that the cause of the fantastical rise of the dead is never explained.

The only thing 28 and the Dead movies share is that both inhabit the SF sub-genre of Apocalyptic Horror that Romero single-handedly created with Dawn of the Dead and, to a lesser extent, the Crazies .
Part of the reason Zombie fiction works so well, is not because of the gore or even the lifeless monsters, it is because it is often about the humans. I think you are selling the genre short, because while there are bad zombie films, when the genre gets it right be it in horror comedy or horror drama, it gets it really right and speaks to our culture in ways other movies often fail. Why is Night of the Living Dead such an iconic film? Because it speaks volumes about racism in America. The most frightening part was the ending, not the onslaught of the undead. Zombie films explore the human condition as well, this is especially the case in zombie comedy, Shaun of the Dead spoke to the nature of friendship and family for example.

Sure there are stinkers in ANY genre, but Zombie movies when handled by a skilled director transcend horror as a genre. The gross out factor is not important nor is the horror. If you want to see a scary movie see a Japanese ghost movie, Zombie movies when done right go for more than scares or gore.
Sorry About the Above, here's what should have been posted:

beyond:"Sure there are stinkers in ANY genre, but Zombie movies when handled by a skilled director transcend horror as a genre. The gross out factor is not important nor is the horror. If you want to see a scary movie see a Japanese ghost movie, Zombie movies when done right go for more than scares or gore."

Exactly, Beyond. Night's sub-texts re race and the national unrest of the sixties were just two of the things to recommend it but, at bottom, it was a horror film, albeit one of the greatest horror films--and movies, period--of all time. Yes, it did set a template that showed that zombies could be much, much more than catatonic walkers but the genre really came into its sociological own with Dawn of the Dead. The sense of dread that movie engendered was not so much because of the gore and the undead ghoulies but the pervading feeling that gov't--and just about any existing mid-t0-late 20th century institution--, in the face of an apocalypse, was as useless as wet toilet paper. For me, the Dead Movies, Dawn and, later, the unjustly maligned Day of the Dead, were scarier, more forbidding and much more infused with a sense of hopelessness than the Nuclear Apocalyptic films like On the Beach, the Day After and Testament.

I saw Dawn when it first came out and I remember saying, some several year later, that, along with Blade Runner and Who Framed Roger Rabbit, I had immediately recognised its first fifteen minutes were the most powerful filmic commentaries on race I'd ever seen.
dfs, I wish you and Lim would take yer sorry, spammin' selves off this website.

I quickly scanned down to your handle without reading your contents (I think alot of others do the same thing). Go get a website or something.
@rocky57 Don't forget Richard Matheson's "I am Legend" with its end of the world vampire plague, or the first film version of it -- "The Last Man on Earth" with Vincent Price, which came out four years before Romero's zombies tore up the outskirts of Pittsburgh.
Rocky, I wish the zombies could eat some spammers' brains (although it's probably not that nourishing). I've done my best to delete the spam posts and keep the flow of the great comments going. Thanks for your feedback.

Regarding 28 Days Later and 28 Weeks Later, yes, of course, you are correct. But the SYMPTOMS of the infected in those movies are certainly zombie-like, and it does fit into the "zombie apocalypse" style genre. It's frenetic, high energy style is a nice, fresh take on thezombie monster cliche. If true undead zombie stories are considered horror/fantasy, then I would label 28 Days Later as a "science fiction" take on zombie lore.
"@rocky57 Don't forget Richard Matheson's "I am Legend" with its end of the world vampire plague, or the first film version of it -- "The Last Man on Earth" with Vincent Price, which came out four years before Romero's zombies tore up the outskirts of Pittsburgh..."

Right, Bob....I guess what distinguishes "Dawn" from Matheson's film incarnation, for me, is that the former shows the apocalypse happening while "last Man" etc., show the aftermath. It was fascinating to see as most--hell, nearly all--horror films up to that time show the "unspeakable horror" being vanquished by the hero, whether he or she lives or dies, and/or limning post apocalyptic scenarios (one of the things which most recommended Zack's Dawn as a worthy homage to the master, but more, was his panoramic view of civilisation collapsing with skyscraper funeral pyres, careening cars and exploding gas stations) . That fascination begins with George R. showing degenerating housing projects, panic stricken "voices of authority" and equally devolving police forces.

And, there is no turning back. The undead hordes will win. You get that sense from the beginning: it's come down to a simple matter of survival. That puts the frosting on Dawn and distinguishes it from, say, a similar tableaux in a Godzilla movie.

And, need I say, unlike most--with a few notable exceptions-- of the later movie versions of Shelley's memorable monster, there is the element of poignancy mixed with the horror of the undead that ratchets up the dread in these movies: they are us--with a few bad breaks, of course.

Throw in the fact that the Dead movies somehow seem the perfect vehicles for social commentary and observations of the human condition and you have one helluva ongoing classic genre.
Nick:"...But the SYMPTOMS of the infected in those movies are certainly zombie-like, and it does fit into the "zombie apocalypse" style genre...."

I hearya , Nick.
I usually shy away from the zombie genre, as blood and gore isn't my thing. However, I'm watching The Walking Dead on Hulu now and it's actually good. I'm trying to use this comment as an excuse to pause the show--it's suspenseful; scary.