Thursday, 25 November 2010

The Walking Dead 104: Vatos

Vato: The word Mexicans use for homeboy(sic).
The Urban Dictionary

Not to be confused with the Hispanic street gang Vatos Locos.

400 years ago Guy Fawkes tried to blow up the Houses of Parliament. To celebrate his failure the British burn effigies atop bonfires every November 5th. The fires burn at public gatherings and in private backyards to a firework display finale. Bonfire night aside throughout the year people use fireworks to celebrate a myriad of occasions: sporting events, the openings of restaurants, nightclubs, birthdays. Other countries celebrate with fireworks too. The fact is human beings are mesmerised by flashing lights in the night sky. Just like the zombies in George A Romero’s Land of the Dead 2005.

The Walking Dead is a fireworks display: all smoke no mirrors.

Monsters 2010 is an apocalypse-set film in the tradition of Cloverfield 2008. Whereas the latter positions itself in the horror genre the former is set firmly in drama. Monsters tells the story of two Americans stranded in Mexico who attempt to walk their way through the ‘infected zone’ back into the United States. In this apocalyptic world the characters have nothing left but time – and a survivalist’s urgency. It is a time to re-examine themselves. It is time not afforded to us in our world of capitalism and consumerism. There comes a tipping point in that time where the characters realise that this is the end of the world and all hope is gone. At the end of time will people gravitate to each other out of lust or despair?

The Walking Dead attempts to position itself as drama yet after more than three hours of broadcast television it has failed to establish tone. There is not a sense of static time or hopelessness. Rick Grimes’ quest seems to be leading to a point but post Armageddon all points are futile. The show does not convey this. Civilization would have to start over but these characters act like they’re waiting for a rescue. The series balances itself between horror and drama – Atlanta and the campsite – with no equilibrium. The last two episodes have seen the drama fail at camp. This episode sees the horror fail in Atlanta.

The fail is the writing. Time and again the program makers waste the pre credit sequence. Rather than establish the episode they signpost the climax – with a bludgeon rather than a blade; the conversation between two blonde women about fishing tackle is at best inane at worst sentimental. These two characters then expose the series as fraud. Where did that boat come from? Did a refugee carry it on their back whilst fleeing escaping flesh eating zombies? How long have these people been in camp because they act like this is the first time the sisters have caught fish. Yet the girls are lifelong amateur fishermen. They catch a bounty bigger than the Cornwall fishing quota.

Jim wanders off and occupies his time digging holes in the ground. That causes consternation amongst the campers. Apparently he’s scaring Lori’s son and Carol’s daughter. Notably his digging is not scaring Juan’s children. I guess the only time a white man scares them is when he wants to deport them. Nevertheless we must protect the (white) children so Shane handcuffs Jim to a tree.

Do not be deceived. This episode does not deal with the inevitable nervous breakdowns following Armageddon or even the camp dynamics. Jim’s ‘sunstroke’ is a setup for the conclusion. A society can be judged by the way it treats its mentally ill. How would Shane or anyone else treat a liability who screams at night as a beacon for the walkers? Why hasn’t anyone challenged Shane his leadership position especially after Ed’s beating in 103 and now Jim? There should be murmurings and grumblings of a coup d’├ętat most likely from Lori. Alas this show has no interest in human motivation and condition. This is soap opera and General Hospital has been running for 50 years.

In Atlanta the racist stereotyping continues. The only good Injun is a dead one but these Latinos are good guys. They may come across as gangbangers but they’re really just looking after their grandmothers – for shame. Atlanta is a majority African-American city but in the wonderful world of white fantasy where are all the black zombies?

They’re unemployed.

There is a token black zombie. T-Dog is given a gun. He gets to use it as well. He gets to shoot a zombie. Guess which one.

I’m your worst nightmare.
I’m a n— with a gun badge.
Eddie Murphy
Another 48 Hours

Read more Thrill Fiction: The 100 Best Horror Films #1
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