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Day Zero Brings the Post-Apocalyptic Drama for The Walking Dead Fans

Robin | On 19, Apr 2013

Based on the comic book by Robert Kirkman, The Walking Dead was turned into a TV series by Frank Darabont (director of The Shawshank Redemption). It’s not the first story to imagine a global disaster reducing humanity to little more than animals and it won’t be the last, but it is one of the best. Likewise, Day Zero is not the only web-series to try its hand at the sub-genre, but it is one of the most successful, as its awards show.

At heart, both of these are zombie stories in the tradition of George A Romero’s Night of the Living Dead, and, like Romero, they have chosen to find a rational explanation for the zombies. While Romero had the dead brought back to life by radiation, Walking Dead’s ‘zombies’ were killed by a virus which then reanimates their bodies. Technically the ‘infected’ in Day Zero are not zombies because they are not dead, they are the victims of biological warfare, but it does make them act like zombies. In Walking Dead and Day Zero, therefore, the living can be turned into zombies, which really up the stakes; the survivors are at risk from more than just death.

Both series center on groups of survivors struggling to stay alive in a world where society has completely fallen apart, and in which they are constantly at risk. In fact, the dynamics of these groups give both series their most potent source of drama. No matter how big a horror fan you are there’s only so many times you can see a zombie’s head split open before it starts to get boring, an ongoing series needs more. What both series are really about is people under pressure. Different characters deal with the situation in different ways; some are leaders some are followers, some lash out and create conflict, some try to build, some just want to get drunk, have sex and enjoy the end of the world. The tension between the protagonists is as important as the tension of whether or not they survive.

Day Zero spends a great deal of time on these interpersonal scenes, partly because its limited budget means that realizing the vast hordes of zombies that Walking Dead boasts is not really possible. Budget is where these series most differ, portraying the end of the world realistically on a shoe-string is not easy. That said, by focusing on the people and keeping the threat of the zombie’s largely implied, Day Zero creates a taut and tense drama which fans of The Walking Dead will recognize and appreciate.