Thursday, November 4, 2010

Halloween Premiere Weekend: Werewolves and Zombies and Internet Sensations, Oh My!

Last weekend was a great time for some geek-tastic TV premieres.  The Syfy channel premiered Red: Werewolf Hunter and AMC finally premiered the Walking Dead series.  Any card-carrying nerd can tell you why these two premieres have been hotly anticipated since their initial announcements, but if you have been under a rock or failed your official Nerd-License Exam (keep trying, you can do it!), I'll tell you why.  First, Felicia Day.  The Guild writer and star has been on fire over the past few years, with her own show and prominent guest spots on hit shows like Fox's House and Lie to Me.  Second, The Walking F'ing Dead.  The multi-Eisner award winning comic series by Robert Kirkman being made into a live-action series by the station that brought us Breaking Bad & Mad Men?  No brainer.  So, lets get down to the details.  How did each of these shows live up to the hype?  Read on...

Red: Werewolf Hunter
All of the camp, none of the guilt!

Couresty of SyFy

This is a Syfy Original Film...
Normally that'd be enough to end any credible review, but in this case we have a unique exception.  Sure, Syfy has a long-standing reputation of quality films like Sharktopus & Mega Shark Versus Giant Octopus, but we won't let their record (and apparent sea-creature fetish) taint our judgment. The main attraction for this gem is its red-headed star, Felicia Day.  As I've mentioned, Felicia has recently been putting out an impressive collection of work, but this film is different for a few reasons.  First, it's a leap into the world of science-fiction action, which is not necessarily new to her, but definitely out of her niche of awkward comedy.  Second, she's taking the lead in a full length (for TV) feature.  Her most note-worthy roles are in web-based short episodes, and I mentioned her guest spot on House; however, we all know that all the sick person ever gets to do is fall over, then convulse after a wrong-guess diagnosis.

The plot of the film is a spin on the Red Riding Hood tale, and promises to be the first in a line of fairy-tale exploitation films from Syfy.  It starts with Red (Day) introducing her fiance to her family and eventually their family tradition of hunting werewolves.  What starts out as a fun weekend with the folks turns hairy (sorry) when Red's man gets himself snacked on by a werewolf and begins to manifest his own transformation.  From there it becomes a Romeo & Juliet tale of love versus family loyalty.

Any movie that starts with "Syfy Original" is going to have some issues with writing, but despite that, the cast was able to deliver some decent performances and some memorable moments.  I particularly enjoyed Rosemary Dunsmore's performance as the rifle packing Grandmother.  All-in-all the movie lived up to the hype by delivering a fun experience.  The IGH crew actually had a lot of fun playing our own little Riff-Trax session while watching.  Let's face it, we all watch the awful Syfy channel movies anyway, at least this time we can say it was to support Felicia (my love!).  So in closing, I'd give Red: Werewolf Hunter an IGH rating of 7 lycanthropes.

The Walking Dead
In a perfect world all apocalypses would look like this.

Courtesy of AMC
To start, I'm a huge fan of the Walking Dead comic series.  I first picked it up when they were around issue #50 and I've been a steady reader ever since.  If you haven't looked at it yet you owe it to yourself to pick up the first trade.  Robert Kirkman's epic "horror movie that never ends" has set the new standard in horror/suspense books and garnered an immense fan following as a result.

The story begins with our protagonist, Sheriff Rick, waking from a gunshot-induced coma in an abandoned hospital.  Confusion turns to cold-blooded panic when he finds he's not alone in the world, but instead there are hordes of walking undead dying to invite him to dinner (I really can't help it!  Sorry!). After meeting some warm bodies, Rick sets off to search for his missing family, and from here the series will lead us through the story of Rick and the many survivors he meets along the way.

The series is being directed by Frank Darabont, who also brought us classics like The Shawshank Redemption and The Green Mile.  It's obvious from the first episode that he has studied the source material and has a deep respect for Robert Kirkman's original vision.  So many scenes were ripped right from the book and the direction and acting made it seem completely natural.  I was fortunate enough to be at the Walking Dead AMC panel at San Diego Comic Con and got a first-hand account of how Robert and Frank have been working together.  The collaboration has clearly paid off big time.  We all know the pitfalls of comic book adaptation, especially to a TV series, but what the Walking Dead has pulled off is nothing short of perfection.  I personally cannot wait to see how the rest of the series plays out, and how far they'll get this season.

When it comes to living up to hype, this show not only lives up to, but surpasses expectations.  I would, with confidence, give AMC's The Walking Dead the patented IGH rating of 18.9 head shots.

I hope you've enjoyed these shows as much as I did.  I also hope you enjoy my review.  Let us know what you thought on the comments, or send a tweet our way @IGHInsider.

Mata atode aimashou!

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