Dead Set (2008)

DVD Cover (4DVD Reissue)
Genres / Traits: Horror, Zombie Film, Reality Television
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7.7 / 10 - Overall Rating

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Review by Chad
Added: February 02, 2010
Zombie fans have had slim pickings for what seems like an eternity. It's not that there has been a lack of new releases from the genre - heaven knows that it has been absolutely flooded with low-budget pieces of shit - but as for quality films that are firmly rooted in the horror genre? It's been hard to find a lot to get excited about, and as a horror geek who has always placed zombies at the top of my favorites list, it's been rather sad to say the least. Oh, sure, our cousins across the pond gave us the brilliant Shaun of the Dead a while back, but as a horror comedy, it doesn't really fill that "zombie horror flick" craving. I've been yearning for a good modern horror flick with zombies in it for ages now, and I finally found one in Dead Set.

Originally airing as a five episode miniseries on Britain's E4 network, Dead Set plops us down in the middle of Big Brother fever. You know the show, the one that features a bunch of attention-starved wannabes who get locked up in a house for a few months? The house that allows no communication in or out, and the one that happens to be heavily barricaded against fans getting in? That's the one. The show is chugging along merrily enough, with the contestants inside that house completely oblivious to what is about to go down in the outside world. Instead of worrying about the odd riots and the drastic increase in violent crimes, these people - Pippa (Kathleen McDermott), Space (Adam Deacon), Marky (Warren Brown), Joplin (Kevin Eldon), Grayson (Raj Ghatak), Veronica (Beth Cordingly), and Angel (Chizzy Akudolu) - are more worried about the upcoming eviction ceremony, and they're not alone: the show's producer, a charming young man by the name of Patrick (Andy Nyman), is also worried about this show in particular as the news is threatening to interrupt his programming. The nerve!

As you may have already guessed, those riots and murders were the result of a zombie uprising, and it doesn't take long after the eviction ceremony before the streets are deathly silent save for the zombies tearing apart human flesh. When studio gopher-girl Kelly (Jaime Winstone) breaks into the house looking for a safe haven and lets the contestants in on the bad news, they don't believe her one bit because obviously, this is just a part of the show. They start to believe when a zombie breaks in and kills one of them, and from there, our heroes must make the tough choices: should they stay inside their barricaded fortress with no link to the outside world, or risk venturing out in search of help and supplies?

Let me just make one thing clear before I start gushing about the film: it doesn't matter if you like Big Brother or not. The film uses the premise of that show to set things into motion here, and that is the extent of the connection aside from a cameo appearance by Davina McCall. There may have been other cameo appearances that I missed since I am not familiar with the television show, but avoiding this film due to your disdain for reality television would be akin to skipping Dawn of the Dead because you hate going to the mall.

With that out of the way, let me just say that Dead Set is definitely that zombie horror flick that I have been searching for. This film was created by a couple of guys who took a look at the classics from Romero and Fulci and said "You know, we can make something like that." Unlike countless other filmmakers who have come and gone over the years, they succeeded. This film features everything that one would expect from the classics: subtle social commentary blended together with a damned fine horror movie that happens to feature legitimate scares, buckets of blood, top-notch special effects, and characters that you can get root for (or in some cases, pray for their slow deaths).

Yes, this story has been done before, but when it comes to zombie films, the simple formula is typically the best. You get a group of people holed up in one location, throw in a few subplots but keep the focus on an overall goal, insert both lovable and despicable characters, and let them mesh with the zombie horde. The Big Brother angle definitely keeps things fresh, but again, this is far from the focus of the film. The focus is kept squarely on the survivors and the zombies, just the way a good zombie flick should be.

The only negative thing that I can say about the film is that there are five or six scenes that employ the shaky-cam technique that I absolutely abhor. It's not as bad here as it is in other films as you can at least clearly make out what is going on, but it's definitely bothersome none the less. Considering that the film runs for over two hours and only has a handful of said scenes, this is not something that will break the deal.

Given an audience, Dead Set could easily become one of the classics in the genre. It may have been released as a miniseries, but watching the episodes back to back is just like watching a feature length movie, and what an amazing movie it was. The gore was plentiful, the effects were top-notch, the zombies looked fantastic, the script was perfect, the characters were well-written (Andy Nyman alone is worth a paragraph of praise), and... well, I realize that I'm gushing, but the film deserves it. This film has completely restored my faith in the zombie genre and is not to be missed. 10/10.
grain of sand #1: grain of sand - added 02/10/2010, 01:32 AM
I have only seen the fan edit "dead set serious", where they cut most the big brother stuff. Definitely any zombies fan dream show or movie, so fun.

Chad #2: Chad - added 02/10/2010, 03:47 AM
There's not much to cut, truth be told. There's like five or ten minutes towards the beginning to show who the Big Brother characters are and there's another ten or so showing the producers, but you'd expect that from any movie. Oh, and that edit cut out most of Patrick's scenes, and that is a crying shame.
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