Slugfest Special: The Walking Dead

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Sheriff's deputy Rick Grimes wakes up in the hospital after having been shot while on duty and discovers that while he was in the hospital, something has happened which causes the bodies of the dead to reanimate and attack the living. The town he lived in is mostly abandoned, with many dead roaming the streets at night. Believing that his wife, Lori, and son, Carl, have most likely fled to safety in nearby Atlanta, he grabs a stock of weapons from the locker of his police station, and sets out to find them

Justin Carmona:
Ace Masters:
Robert Tacopina:
Maxwell Yezpitelok:

Justin Carmona
In This Episode: One of the most highly anticipated shows of the fall season, The Walking Dead, finally makes its small screen debut and to say it was well worth the wait is like saying that zombies are scary as all hell... well, duh. Based on Robert Kirkman's comic book series of the same name, which is often described as "the zombie movie that never ends", The Walking Dead focuses on Sheriff Deputy Rick Grimes as he wakes up in a hospital bed after being in a coma, only to find that the world around him has gone to hell. The world he once lived in is now nothing but a sick distorted reflection of what he once knew... the dead now roam the earth and will stop at nothing to feed on the living.

The Good: Right off the bat, it is obvious that acclaimed writer/director Frank Darabont (The Shawshank Redemption, The Green Mile) has a sincere love of Kirkman's original source material. He approaches the series seriously and respectfully keeping his script true to Kirkman's original vision, while adding a few touches of his own which help expand on the world the comic book series sets up. Sheriff Deputy Rick Grimes is wonderfully portrayed by actor Andrew Lincoln who gives an honest performance, keeping the character of Grimes grounded and not once ever overselling the part. Every character we meet feels genuine and reacts true to their circumstance. The drama dial is cranked all the way up never putting style (or should I say, gore) over substance. What is most impressive though is the high production value of the show.

If you've come here expecting to find cheesy looking zombies, cheap set pieces, crap editing and poor cinematography, well then you certainly have come barking up the wrong tree. The look and feel of the show has"Big -Budget Hollywood" written all over it. The amount of zombie extras alone is impressive enough to rival anything Tinsel Town can dish out. And that's exactly what this type of show needs if it's expected to have a long life as a television series.

The Bad: This is a tough one. It's hard to be surprised by every twist and turn on a show when you are already so familiar with the comic book series it's based on. Even though Darabont added to the story and expanded on key scenes, it just wasn't enough to keep me at the edge of my seat, but like I said, this is coming from someone who is a huge fan of The Walking Dead comic series, so I'll chalk it up as a very minor negative.

The Bottom Line: With wonderful acting, compelling drama and amazing production value, The Walking Dead is one television series not to be missed. Period.

Ace Masters
I'm begging someone to start a post-apocalyptic story that doesn't have someone waking up in a hospital bed to find the world has changed - and not for the better. 28 Days Later did it, others have done it, John Wyndham's classic novel Day of the Triffids started it. This lead us down and oft traveled and very familiar path.

If you have seen 28 Days Later, or most recent zombie films, The Walking Dead isn't all that different. Sheriff's Deputy Rick Grimes wakes up from a coma in the hospital - caused by a gunshot wound - to find everything he knows has changed. After leaving the hospital he comes across a father and son trying to survive the Walking Dead.

When he learns that Atlanta is a supposed sanctuary, he races off to find his wife and son he hopes is there. What he finds is not a sanctuary, but a dead and rotting city whose only citizens are the Walking Dead.

What saves The Walking Dead are the excellent production values (as one would expect from a production that includes Frank Darabont as Director and Gale Anne Hurd as a Executive Producer) and the acting.

Andrew Lincoln is believable as Rick Grimes, a man who wakes up to find the world has changed from what he knew. He displays the right amount of awe, wonder, fear and confusion that gives the character depth. Something missing from many other actors performances in similar roles.

Overall, The Walking Dead is typical zombie fare. But this was only the pilot, how it will go from here only time will tell.

Robert Tacopina
Captivating! Compelling! Heart-wrenching! Epic! Any positive adjective is an apt one in describing the debut of the Walking Dead television series which premiered Halloween night on AMC. This property, which began as a comic book from Image Comics and creator Robert Kirkman has now truly hit the big time by making its way to television. Now that isn't to say that as a comic book TWD isn't successful because it is, extremely so. Rather the point is that TV simply has a much more far reaching grip on society and is more accessible to the average person than a comic book. Even I, as a comic fan, have to admit that this medium is a much more convenient way to relay the greatness of the series and even somehow surpassing the excellence of the comic.

For the uninitiated, The Walking Dead is the story of a small-town police officer named Rick Grimes who, after being shot on the job, awakens in a hospital only to find himself apparently all alone. As Rick gains his bearings and starts to investigate he notices is that he isn't quite as alone as there are many rotting cannibalized corpses strewn out within the confines of the hospital. Unfortunately for Rick, however, some of the unlucky have been stricken with a virus that has turned them into zombies. Rick scared and alone, manages to get away and head to his home to find his wife and son. Of course they aren't there and Rick heads off to Atlanta, which was deemed the safest and smartest place to gather everyone, to search for them and any semblance of society that he may find on the way. This begins the opening journey of The Walking Dead.

The pilot episode actually managed to improve on the content originally found in the comics while staying true to the source material. Perhaps this can be ascribed to the amount of time that has passed since issue #1 premiered in October 2003, but the development team really has taken the time to fine tune an already-polished script and simply make it that much more appealing in terms of the overall scope. They added more personality into the product with the extended opening scene between Rick and Shane which hinted at the notion that Rick and his wife Lori going through some relationship difficulties. Additionally the plot underwent a streamlining of sorts which it definitely benefited from as it gave the story a more steady flow, gradually building up the tension and drama.

They also procured some fine acting talent who not only possessed the looks to remind those of us familiar with the comics of whom they were portraying but also genuinely delivered an impressive performance in their respective roles. Andrew Lincoln as Rick Grimes was a surprise in the starring role of the series. He exhumed a varying range of emotions over the 90 minute episode "Days Gone Bye" and he looks like the real deal. Lennie James as Morgan Jones, who along with his son finds and rescues Rick, was a truly sympathetic character and did a damn fine job of relating that to the viewer. His scenes dealing with his personal loss due to the virus certainly tugged at the heart strings. The only other mainstay with significant screen time was the Jon Bernthal delectably portrayed Shane Walsh, Rick's partner on the force and close friend.

The special effects were downright amazing with the zombies looking as great as you could possibly imagine, creating a spine chilling atmosphere. It also wasn't for the easily unsettled as there were many graphic moments of the grotesque whether it is the appearance of the zombies or the nature of the violence depicted. walking dead, gun play, and the always spectacular displays of zombie feeding managed to makes its way into the episode and added to the ambiance. Your adrenaline jumped when a horse riding Rick rounds the corner of desecrated downtown Atlanta to find himself staring down a mob of hungry zombies. The sense of dread is ratcheted up higher when Rick is on the verge of taking his own life to avoid being bitten by the zombies who are closing in around him.

There were many tension filled moments where you would cling to the edge of your seat just waiting for that frightening moment that would have you jump out of your seat. However, that isn't what this show relies on. The real scare is the mind games that make the show and comic so entertaining. The psychological scares are the ones that tend to scare me more than the mere shock ones, and there were plenty of those to go around without a doubt. At its heart though this is the struggle of humanity to gain a foothold on a world that has gone to hell in a handbasket and the images and scenarios definitely nailed that fact home.

I sat with my family after a night of trick-or-treating and this was the exact perfect way to just enjoy the rest of the night. Those who are newbies into The Walking Dead, much like the females in my family, enjoyed the presentation just as much as we seasoned pros. Most importantly, we are all salivating for Sunday to arrive and bring us a fresh taste of zombie greatness in The Walking Dead.

Maxwell Yezpitelok
I'm just gonna come out and say it: I've never read a single page of The Walking Dead. So, if this reads like an uninformed review, that's because it is.

I've heard great things about the comic. In fact, I've had it recommended by so many people I trust that I already have a good opinion of it. Without reading a single page. So I was really looking forward to watching the adaptation ("My favorite comic I'm not reading, coming to TV!"). What did I think of the first episode? Well, it's okay.

I mean, it was pretty enjoyable great effects, believable acting, a tense closing sequence, and so on. I love the visual of the guy in the horse going into the city (am I the only one who hoped the horse would become a regular character?). But my main problem is... none of this is very original, is it? At least so far. The chit-chat at the beginning is from every Tarantino movie ever (and their endless derivates). The sequence in the Hospital and the initial walk around town are from 28 Days Later (yes, I'm the guy who brought that up). The scene where the best friend makes out with the wife made me think of the 80s Captain Atom comic, of all things. These things, coupled with the restrained pace of the episode (something I'm usually thankful for), made the whole thing feel extremely predictable to me. I couldn't help getting ahead of the plot, which isn't quite as enjoyable as actually knowing where it's going and anticipating it (like I imagine the readers of the book must have done).

What's that? The comic came out at roughly the same time as 28 Days Later? And the cheating and the chit-chat weren't in it? Okay, but that's the comic. The series should be judged by its own merits, and so far I'm not that impressed with it. And if the comic came out today and the first issue was exactly like the first episode of the series, I'd ask all my friends who recommended it what the big deal was. Um, sorry.

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