No disrespect to the British (insert standard British dental humor here), but I am not a huge fan their television programming. Allegedly there are some decent gems like COPPER, ORPHAN BLACK, and DOWNTON ABBEY, but in the case of the latter, I still thought as of five minutes ago that it was “DownTOWN Abbey”, so that shows you how savvy I am in regards to the Brits. British television tends to annoy me with seemingly low production values and depending on how ‘British’ of a British show one is watching, the accents can be so heavy that it supersedes any form of comprehension.
The sole exception is MONTY PYTHON which is ironically super-ultra-uber-British, but I guess eclectic tastes run in my blood.
I had been hearing about IN THE FLESH for a few weeks now and it premiered last night on BBC AMERICA to little fanfare outside of the few horror blogs randomly yakking about it. In fact, it’s pretty amazing that I remembered it at all. But it’s a darn good thing that I did, because it is a genuinely outstanding take on the stereotypical zombie genre.
Much more inside!
IN THE FLESH is a three-part miniseries that occurs post-zombie outbreak after humanity was victorious in finding a cure for the virus and are actively working on curing all that were affected to re-acclimate them back into society. Not every zombie takes well to the cure, but the ones who do slowly regain their brain function until they are operating at a normal human level. The catch to the cure is that they must be dosed correctly every single day, or their zombified state starts to return. The one thing that does not regenerate from the cure is their physical appearance, so they have government issued flesh-colored makeup and contact lenses to cover up their lack of eye color and attempt to make them look normal. The former zombies suffer from debilitating nightmares and memories of their zombified past.
Public reaction to the re-acclimation is mixed, with some families being excited (albeit hesitant) to accept their family members again, and former zombie hunters (called the Human Volunteer Force) still wanting to kill every last one of them. There is an amazing contrast between the ultra-politically-correct liberal lawmakers who want to reeducate the zombies and the extreme ‘god and guns’ religious conservatives who are oiling up their rifles in anticipation for war.
Hyper-liberal lawmakers make a huge point to come across that the zombies weren’t zombies, rather suffering from “Partially Deceased Syndrome” and could not possibly be accountable for their actions. As much as they try to calm the public that “protocols are in place” for daily medication or lack thereof, most people are not having it.
Don’t go into this show expecting a WALKING DEAD level of horror and gore, this is pure story-driven drama rather than some action packed thriller. That being said, it is extremely deep, realistic and thought provoking. There are some genuine moral questions being raised here and regardless of how anti-WALKING DEAD it is, it was an incredible show to slowly digest while viewing.
The main character is Kieren Walker (note the ironic last name), played outstandingly by LUKE NEWBERRY who was very recently cured of his zombification and returned to his family in the little village of Roarton. His sister (whom he was most excited to see again) is part of the HVF and shuns him completely on his return. Watching Kieren try to get acquainted with regular life again, you genuinely feel bad for him. But is it worth feeling bad for him? Days earlier, he was a bloodthirsty zombie.
One great scene has Kieren and some of his partially-deceased counterparts in the middle of a therapy session trying to get past their PTSD-laden memories of themselves as zombies. One of the ‘partially deceased’ gets into a rant about how they kill people and get hunted, but the hunters kill them and get praised. It puts a whole new spin on the genre showing that zombies still cling to a bit of humanity.
Near the end of the first episode, the HVF rounds up their members to go hunting for an alleged ‘partially deceased person’ who was seen in town. It winds up being the wife of Kieren’s neighbor who they drag out onto the street and execute all the while she begs for her life. It was another very powerful scene that also adds the dose of realism into the show.
IN THE FLESH raises some profound questions that lingered in my mind far into the day today after watching the first episode last night. Where is the line drawn here between “good” and “evil”? Are the zombies merely the equivalent of mentally disabled people and do they deserve to be hunted like animals or treated like second-rate citizens? Are the members of HVF ‘bad people’, or are they merely acting in the best interests of their fellow living citizens?
On a “Britishness” scale from 1-10, this ranks pretty high up there at an 8. So you need to get over some of the thick accents, funny cars and bad teeth (British dental humor +2!) But if you are able to get past all of that, it is an extremely inventive and thought provoking show. I almost wish this was budgeted up a tad and tastefully redone for an American audience so that more people can experience it.
The first episode gets a solid ‘A’, and I am extremely excited to watch the next two (tonight and tomorrow night).
Did anybody else catch this show? Thoughts/interpretations?