Points docked for realism: Dead Set

This weekend I finally watched Dead Set, a British miniseries I’ve been dying (oh my god I’m sorry) to see since I heard about it last year. It takes place on the set of British Big Brother, and recounts the events that take place in and around the house throughout a zombie outbreak. They even got the real host of Big Brother UK – Davina McCall – to play herself.

Entertainment value? A million. Realism? Not so much. I got a strong Dawn of the Dead vibe, where the creators were much more concerned with making a statement about the economy or whatever than they were about staying true to the genre. (And by genre, I mean the hundreds of zombie movies and tv shows that have butchered Romero’s original intent and made them about real, horrible, terrifying monsters who have no interest in shopping. That’s the stuff I’m into.) It’s too bad, because if you’re not concerned with authenticity – all the zombie movies I watch are for preparation, so personally if it’s not realistic or there are gaping plot holes I get frustrated – I’d recommend this show wholeheartedly.

Anyway: let’s dissect all the issues with it, because I love ruining people’s fun. Warning: there may be spoilers ahead. (Spoiler alert: there are zombies and people die.)

1. Fast zombies. I won’t go too much into this one, since this is my complaint with 99% of zombie movies. Yes yes yes, I know there’s a good chance they could be fast right after they die, but they show zombies at least 24 hours in who should *not* be sprinting after people with such breezy abandon. (Wikipedia says rigor mortis begins at 3 hours and reaches its peak around 12. Just saying.)

2. Lightning-fast resurrection. For the most part, they leave it to our imagination how long the zombie virus takes to kill and turn a person, but there are a couple telling moments that I wish they’d just left out for my sanity. One scene in particular, which shows two of the main characters dying in the backyard, lets us witness their deaths and rebirths all in one take. It takes literally seconds for one dude to be bitten, die, and wake up to start snapping his jaws at his housemates. Come on. I know there’s no real answer about the proper timeline, but just physiology-wise it doesn’t make sense for any virus to have such a massive effect that quickly. Here’s a related Yahoo Answers thread to distract you from the fact that I don’t have anything to back up this complaint. I know, right?

3. Neck biting. This is a pet peeve of mine. I’m always jerked back from my horror into reality when the actors portraying zombies do this shit. If you’re a person pretending to attack another person with your mouth, of course it makes sense to push their head to the side and bury your face in their neck and groan. If you’re an actual zombie, I’m pretty sure you’d just go right for the face (or whatever body part was closest to you). Zombies don’t care about your face, dude. Also – and I’ve said this before – I think the eye sockets would be an especially good point of entry, certainly much better than the neck, if your target was someone’s brain.

4. Watching TV. Again, I get that the director’s point was “Ooooh, society, we’re all so hypnotized by television, Big Brother is terrible, our brains are rotting metaphorically and the zombies are just some twisted analogy I’ve lost hold of and can no longer explain but I’m going to run with it anyway” – but come on. You’re making a zombie movie. I don’t care what your agenda is, you could have just made a movie about regular people if you wanted to comment on the sad state of modern society, but you didn’t. So don’t have your zombies watching the people on the tv monitors as if they understand what that means. A zombie would look right past a tv. They’re looking for human flesh, not abstract entertainment. This is just silly.

5. Zombies can’t swim? This brought up a big philosophical question for me which distracted me from about 15 minutes of the movie – hopefully it wasn’t the 15 minutes of the movie where they explained away all these stupid devices. Anyway, they threw a lady zombie in a hot tub and it rendered her harmless. She was trapped in the 3 foot deep hot tub, splashing around and screaming. Ok, problem a) she could have just stood up and walked out. But problem b) is more complex. Why the hell can’t zombies swim? I guess you could argue it’s because it’s an acquired skill that a zombie would forget once she’s dead… but couldn’t you say the same about walking?? And I suppose you could say it’s a complex motor skill, but for heaven’s sake they have these zombies sprinting around like they’re Olympic gold medalists. It just don’t make any sense. Similarly, gates that the main characters had no trouble hopping over somehow magically stopped hundreds of zombies in their tracks – I just don’t buy it. They’d climb on top of each other or push it down or keep grabbing at it so relentlessly that I think they’d be able to breach it. Same with swimming. I do not recommend trying to push a zombie into a hot tub.

6. Smiling zombies. This is my least favorite one. They showed a bunch of zombies grinning as they sprinted towards their prey. Zombies wouldn’t smile, obviously, they don’t make any faces. They’re dead. They don’t have personalities or likes and dislikes or emotions. But mostly I didn’t like this because I really don’t need the zombies in my nightmares to start laughing at me. Thanks a lot, creators of Dead Set.

Anyway, you should watch it because it’s fun. But don’t let stupid movies affect your survival plan. (I repeat: do not assume that you’re safe because a zombie has fallen into a hot tub.)

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