Zombies. Man, aren’t we overloaded with the undead these days?
Shuffling through the mire of pop culture and clogging up the place with their decomposition, and brain hungry antics, it’s getting a little passé even for the most die hard of fans to keep the faith.
It used to be a nerdy little niche to be into zombie movies. Finding out someone you knew was also a George Romero, Lucio Fulci fan, or read Robert Kirkman comics, was such a bonding experience; now with remakes and television adaptions it’s just another thing that everyone is into. It’s like when you’re into a band and suddenly everyone else is listening to their album, it kinda takes the shine off just a little bit …
Most of my favourites have been remade (and ruined), and though we’ve had Zombies vs Strippers/Vampires/Cowboys/Cockneys, etc, we all know that these days their diet is pretty much white American teenagers, pneumatic blondes, and porn stars, which I’m sure gives the poor things indigestion; and me, well it gives me the reason to avoid the films like a the water in Cabin Fever.
It’s all been done before, hasn’t it? Mayhem at the prom, the wedding, the strip club, the strip mall, the holiday villa, the big brother house; the large scale, the small scale, the big dollar, the small dollar, the funny, the serious, the good, the bad and the hella ugly. Done, Done and Done.
Of course it’s hard to find a new spin on things, new dialogue new faces, new situations, and interesting angles on the plots, but an audience can tell when you haven’t even tried to attempt it. When you’re sat down to watch yet another white wash of a cast with a token black character, no gays, and the same old story line ad nauseum, you aren’t just losing your audience, you’re making yourself look like a coward who is too scared to challenge the status quo and challenge boundaries.
Dummy or coward, you aren’t impressing anyone dude.
And then something comes along that helps to renew your faith in the whole genre.
In the Flesh was that something for me.
The little village of Roarton was the first place the dead started rising. Four years on local boy Kieren Walker is returning home as a newly medicated Partially Deceased Sufferer being reintegrated into the community. Adjusting back into the family fold after killing his sisters best friend when he was rabid , is difficult to say the least, without the growing political unrest over the ‘rotters’ being treated like one of them after the violence of the last few years.
In the Flesh is perfection. Dramatic, gory, violent, emotional, and heartbreakingly funny; it keeps you on the edge of your seat from the very first scene. Most of all it is horrifically frightening, in a jumpy, Boo! Kinda way, yet also in a quiet, insidious way that will give you chills.
It’s scary because there are zombies, ripping flesh from the bones yeah, but it’s more than that. It is far too close to home. It addresses real issues with such sensitivity and dark humour, so that by the time the credits are rolling you feel like you’ve been through an emotional roller-coaster, that leaves you gripping your ticket with white knuckles and ready to get straight back on afterwards. Suicide, isolation, heartbreak, ignorance, intolerance, sexuality, grief … all strong themes running through the show alongside the scared , tooled up villagers learning to adapt to this strange, new era of change.
The acting is superb. Luke Newberry and Emily Bevan in particular, stand out in particular as the troubled, young Kieren and his esoteric companion Amy Dyer, but the whole cast is perfectly understated yet dripping with the kind of casual intensity that is rare to find.
Original, twisted and dripping in irony, In the Flesh is completely deserving of its recent BAFTA wins, I can only keep my fingers crossed for a third series and hope that more film makers and writers take inspiration from this sort of thing by thinking outside of the coffin, and humanising the dead more, to give the zombie genre the reanimation it so dearly needs.