11.01.2010

HORRORTHON '10: The Walking Dead, Ep. 101: Days Gone Bye (Frank Darabont, 2010)

Robert Kirkman's ("Battle Pope", "Invincible") comic book epic, "The Walking Dead", which began in 2003 and currently stands at seventy-eight issues, isn't about zombies the way something like Night of the Living Dead or Resident Evil is about zombies. Oh, sure, re-animated shamblers skirt the series and propel its plot, and with any given page one of your most beloved characters could be gruesomely dispatched, but at its core "The Walking Dead" is about society and morality in the absence of government and law. Honestly, it can be rather soap operatic at times, but I eat up every drop of ink.

Frank Darabont's opening installment in AMC's hotly-anticipated television adaptation may not be as visually stark as its black and white source material, but it captures a similar vibe with frequent musical silence. Darabont is not a slave to source and sets an initially quaint stage for this sprawling tale with ideas translated between media to have similar effect through slightly different means. Design-wise, though, the props, costumes and on-screen talent are direct ports.

Perhaps the most promising aspect for fans of both rookie and veteran varieties is how Darabont, who also penned the teleplay, expands upon scenes, moods and themes - a rarity among print-to-screen adaptations, as most tend to simplify. Revisiting a familiar story in a new way here feels less "been there, done that" and more "hey, I'm getting even more out of this, now!" Right off the bat, certain zombie clich├ęs are presented, but I'll be damned if they aren't handled with more gravitas and emotion than I've seen before - a true sign this is definitely the "Walking Dead" I know and love.

It's only the beginning. Rick has still only just arrived in Atlanta. Knowing the trials and travesties that lay ahead, I can already see throngs of new fans seething about recent events and frothing for more. If careful standards set by this pilot maintain, AMC's The Walking Dead will be a classic.

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