Who knew when we were watching George Romero’s midnight movie sensation “Night of the Living Dead” that the flesh-eating zombies he created would prove to be one of the biggest influences in the horror genre for more than 40 years?
Romero himself reworked the idea in a series of sequels that had little of the sick kick he brought to his gruesome 1968 picture about the recently dead rising up to kill and consume the living.
In the past decade, there have been homages both comic (“Shaun of the Dead”) and serious (“28 Days Later”) as well as an endless stream of movies with the sort of over-the-top splatter effects that got everybody talking about Romero way back when.
Tonight at 10 p.m., AMC is debuting a heavily promoted five-part miniseries, “The Walking Dead,” produced and partially directed by the Oscar-nominated filmmaker Frank Darabont.
The 90-minute pilot is perfect Halloween night programming, but will the rest of the series excite AMC audiences the way that the channel’s breakout hit “Mad Men” did?
(AMC’s “Breaking Bad” has earned fine reviews and a loyal audience but hasn’t gotten nearly as much ink as the 1960s period piece about the advertising world).
I watched an advance screener of the first two episodes of “The Walking Dead” the other night and found them to be well-made and gripping, but have little or no interest in seeing how this pop culture retread plays out in episodes three through five. (I wonder if AMC will stick to the miniseries notion if the show gets a strong audience response?)
Darabont has given “The Walking Dead” movie-level production values and I couldn’t find any fault with the cast of largely unknown actors, but after a few minutes of man vs. zombie conflict — in contemporary Georgia — I felt that I had been down this road way too many times.
“The Walking Dead” has the Romero-inspired entrail-munching scenes we have grown to expect from this genre and a set-up that “borrows” from the Danny Boyle picture “28 Days Later” in a manner that could inspire an ungenerous filmmaker to call his lawyer (the hero is hospitalized, goes into a coma and wakes up into a nightmare world that has been decimated by a zombie plague).
The AMC series pushes the basic cable violence envelope — which may startle TV viewers who have not seen a zombie flick before — but this horror genre has been worn out through endless repetition.