Charlie Brooker is, depending on your view, either an obnoxious git or a satirical genius through his TV shows Gameswipe, Newswipe and Screenwipe and Guardian column Screen Burn. As a writer and presenter he is scathing of celebrity culture and the vacuous nature of the entertainment industry that ironically he is part of.
With Dead set he turns his scatological gun on reality television, with the contestants on Big Brother being perfectly placed to survive a zombie outbreak, cocooned as they are in a safe house which is purposely designed to keep intruders out.
Dead set begins on eviction night where Big Brother producer, Patrick, is concerned that their ratings may be affected by riots across Britain and that the show may even be 'bumped' for the news. Whilst evictee Pippa is being interviewed by Davina, the signal goes dead, along with the telephones. Blissfully unaware that the s*** has hit the fan and a zombie outbreak is beginning to overrun the country are the six remaining contestants, who assume that Big Brother's silence is some sort of challenge.
With Pippa and Patrick trapped in a room by the zombie Davina and production runner Kelly trying to avoid the walking dead and reach her boyfriend, Riq, who is at an abandoned station trying to get to her. As time goes by, the zombie hordes assemble at the house gates because of 'a primitive instinct' and the infection gets inside the house, pitting contestant against contestant in a battle for survival.
Brooker is clearly a man who has watched far too much Big Brother, as the characters are fantastically well observed. They perfectly mirror a real BB from the vacuous tart with big tits after a Heat front cover to the Northern wide boy, the flamboyant homosexual and the semi-compulsory boring intellectual who takes it all far too seriously and considers his presence a comment on the show itself! The actors are perfect in their roles and if I didn't recognise Kevin Eldon as the pretentious Joplin, then I'd have thought they were real contestants. Best of all is Andy Nyman as Patrick, whose acerbic put-downs are just superb and it's Charlie Brooker's words coming out of his mouth.
This isn't just a satirical sideswipe at BB, but an outright horror with plenty of blood, gore and gut-munching. There are obvious nods to Night of the Living Dead and Dawn of the Dead when one of the characters mimics a zombie and says "They're coming to get you, Barbra!" and Joplin observes that the living dead are standing at the gates because it was an important place when they were alive. It doesn't scrimp on the brutal, graphic violence and there's as much here as in any horror film that I've seen recently.
As a five-part mini-series, you can skip through the recaps at the beginning of each episode and watch it as a long horror film - there are no credits until the very end as each episode finishes with deadsetcredits.com instead.
I absolutely loved this and watched it in one go, unable to stop as I had to go on to the next episode. This will satisfy horror fans and Brooker fans alike.
There is no section for the bonus material as it is spread across the five episodes meaning you have to click through the individual episode menus to find the sundries.
There's a ten minute feature on Davina McCall, showing her in makeup, discussing her involvement, then some behind the scenes footage of her acting. There are also three brief features on how the gore effects are done with particular attention to prosthetics and props and one on the apocalyptic ending. The interviews with Yann Demange and Charlie Brooker (6 minutes each) are funny and revealing as they talk about their experiences with zombie movies and the inspiration for the project. Booker also gives a guided tour of the house, showing how they cheated and guessed at certain aspects. In I Am Patrick, Hear Me Roar Andy Nyman chats about his character and it seems that he is a hybrid of Nyman and Brooker.
Also included are four deleted scenes, which are worth a watch.
An extremely clear transfer of a show that employed different shooting methods - some scenes are very steady and look like they came from film, whereas others are more frenetic and have that slightly noisy 28 Days Later DV look.
The gore effects are fantastic and rival anything from a high budget feature film, really adding to the horror and plausibility.
You get both Dolby Digital 5.1 surround and 2.0 stereo with the latter as the default option, so if you have a surround setup make sure you choose the 5.1, which is the better track as the surrounds are used really well to involve you in the action and add to the tension.
Both are very clear and there are English HoH subtitles, should you require them.
I was completely unaware that this was on TV but this disc is a great opportunity to watch the mini-series in its entirety. Everything about it is high quality and Dead set is intelligent, scary and funny. Highly recommended.
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