Davina McCall -
Liz May Brice
OTHER SCARY TALES
It's eviction night on Big Brother and one of the housemates on the reality tv show are about to get kicked out, but there are bigger problems afoot in the country. Outbreaks of random violence are escalating into riots and the show itself might be bumped off the air to cover the brewing crisis. Kelly, a runner on the show finds herself caught between her boyfriend and someone she fancies on the production team, but that quickly comes to mean very little as the big eviction party is gatecrashed by zombies. The production crew are wiped out, leaving the contestants ignorant of what has been going on.
NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD set the ball rolling, but it is DAWN OF THE DEAD that is generally regarded as the pinnacle of zombie films. Back then, the zombies were slow and stupid and overwhelmed the survivors by relentless pressure of numbers. Times have changed and 28 DAYS LATER introduced a new kind of zombie, one that could run and could think, well sort of, and it's this kind of zombie that causes the devastation in the studio.
It's actually an inspired choice of setting for yet another zombie story. Horror always works better when its set in the world that we can recognise, that we can relate to and what could be more normal, more ubiquitous than the most successful reality TV show of all time? Using Davina McCall, the real presenter, and bringing back familiar past housemates is again inspired, giving the setting a veracity that then runs through the whole production. You can believe that this is what it is really like behind the scenes of Big Brother and you can believe in the characters, so you can believe in the horror stuff as well.
The cast do really well coming across as real people (or as real as any Big Brother housemate can be considered), though only Jaime Winstone's Kelly gets the screen time to really give her a character. The rest are perhaps caricatures, but then isn't that what Big Brother contestants are? Besides which, there is so much happening that the deeper character stuff can wait. First, there's a zombie apocalypse to get over.
There is a lot of blood in this opening hour long episode, but the wobble-cam filming reduces the need to linger over entrails being pulled out by the teeth whilst still giving the effect of violent and bloody death. This is television, after all. There are some genuine jumps along the way and some laughs early on (the odious production manager ensures that). The ending isn't quite a cliffhanger, but then we only have to wait until tomorrow night for the next episode so perhaps it doesn't have to be.
There isn't anything new done for the genre in this episode that we haven't seen before, but it's done well and with style.Top
The zombie apocalypse has happened and the world is waking up to the aftermath. Riq spent the night on a rural train station, but soon encounters the undead and holes up in a shop where he encounters a woman with a rifle who knows how to use it. Unfortunately, their car turns out to be less reliable. In the Big Brother house, reality is a road outside the compound crowded with zombies. One of the contestants has a bad bite to the leg and needs medical supplies. They are available nearby, but that means going outside. Patrick and Pippa find themselves trapped in a room by zombie Davina and there's no toilet.
After the full on action pace of Episode 1, things calm down a bit and the show settles into a half hour format. There are flashes of the manic violence, but this is more about the oppression of being trapped. Riq's trapped in a shop and then a house. Pippa and Patrick have the bloodied Davina McCall patrolling outside, grating on their nerves almost as much as each other and the Big Brother housemates finally start acting as a team against the small horde of zombies outside.
That's still a lot to get into a half hour (with break), so the characters still aren't coming through too strongly, although Riq gets more screen time and Kelly's resolve and resourcefulness come to the fore. Patrick remains an archetypal pig whilst Pippa coonsoles herself by reading fashion magazines. They are all still the right side of caricature though (with the possible exception of Patrick).
The ending, when it comes, is again not much of a cliffhanger, but as it's only a 24 hour interval before the next one that's not such a big problem.Top
The raid on the supermarket's pharmacy comes too late for the housemates left behind. Kelly's team find themselves confronted with a couple of cops with itchy trigger fingers and Riq learns that his girlfriend is still alive and in the big brother house.
The Patrick/Pippa storyline is kept mercifully short and this episode concentrates on the housemates both inside and outside the compound. There is tension in the initial foray into the supermarket that explodes into unexpected violence with the, admittedly cartoony, cops. The matter of the bitten housemate comes to its expected end in a short burst of violence before everything sort of just stops.
There are flashes of deeper characterisation (a voyeurism scene, the reaction of Riq's new friend to the news that his girlfriend is still around), but this is primarily still incident (as opposed to plot) driven. It's still entertaining stuff, but with less depth than we might have liked.Top
Patrick and Pippa finally get out of the hospitality lounge and get a message to the housemates who bring them in. Once there, he comes up with a gory escape plan. Riq, meanwhile, finds a way get to the house, but with the countryside peppered with zombies and no way of getting a message into the house he can't know what sort of welcome will be waiting even if he gets there.
The scene of Patrick, who continues to be the most loathesome man on the planet, slicing up one of the dead housemates for bait to lure away the zombies from the gate is the most squirm-inducing one to date. More disturbing is the way in which Space gleefully takes potshots at the zombies from the rooftop, as though it was all a video game.
The slow down in the action means that there is more concentration on the characters, but there isn't enough time in a half hour slot to do justice to them properly, making their fates less vital to us. It's still fun to see a major television celebrity get a lamp through her head.Top
Riq finally makes it into the compound, but the word he brings on the state of the world beyond dashes the housemates' hopes of escaping to a better place. Patrick refuses to listen and determines to go ahead with his plan to escape in the van. He might get away, but in doing so the gates will be open and the studio will be swamped by zombies. The rest of the housemates therefore have a difficult moral decision to make, but have they underestimated the wily producer?
Is the murder of one man justified to save everyone? If society is threatened does it not have the right to defend itself against the madman by whatever means necessary? This is an interesting debate, but it barely gets going before the show's need for activity takes over and someone cries 'Havoc'. Pity, because it was the one time that the show stayed still long enough to come up with something interesting to say.
Still, this is horror and horror is not the usual resting place for deep philosophical musings. It's the resting place for those attacked by zombies and Patrick's end is a suitably horrific one for such an odious character. It's also the only time that the show has lingered on the gore.
As for the rest, well horror is not also the place to usually find happy endings and one thing is for certain, not everyone's getting out of this alive. The ending is not exactly unexpected, but it is powerful enough to linger in the memory.Top
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