Horror. Worldview. Faith.

Is The Walking Dead on AMC the Worst Thing to Happen to Horror?

Is The Walking Dead on AMC the Worst Thing to Happen to Horror?

Dec 11, 2010

commentary by hallo

The title of this commentary was meant to be worded in such a way to quickly grab the attention of die-hard horror fans.  If you have visited The Blackest Eyes before, you know that all of us who are team members love The Walking Dead on AMC.  I cannot remember a television series I was more impressed with (except perhaps the late, great Dangermouse episodes).  So, let’s make clear from the start that I do not want The Walking Dead to go anywhere, and judging from the incredible numbers of the first six episodes, it isn’t.

Having said that, something is a bit “off” with this AMC phenomenon.  During a podcast a couple of months ago, a reader asked if we thought The Walking Dead would bring about a bunch of low budget, poorly filmed zombie rip-offs in order to cash in the success.  We weren’t too worried about such a thing happening because zombies to not have quite the same appeal as vampires.  Having said that, I am beyond blown-away by the interest and public love of a television series that is brutal, bloody, dark, and at times extremely gross.  People should be repulsed by what they are seeing.  But they aren’t.  They are loving it.

I am listening to folks who hate horror, hate anything scary, and hate the concept of being scared tell me how much they love The Walking Dead.  I am listening to mom’s who keep up with all the latest gossip from the watered-down world of soap operas tell me how much they love it.  I am listening to men who have no idea who George Romero is tell me how much they love it.  What does this mean for the world of horror?  Are these folks going to take a look, many for the first time, at what the world of horror movies has to offer?   Are we going to be forced to add “mother-baby” rooms at next year’s horror conventions because of the massive number of zombie lovers out there?  Is Andrew Lincoln going to become the face of the man who ruined horror for the real fans?  Is this the equivalent of Metallica cutting their hair?

The answer to the last two questions is “yes and no.”  Let me explain.  I have yet to hear a single negative review of The Walking Dead from any of my friends who love horror movies.  I am sure that I could search forums and find some negative comments, but among my circle of friends and acquaintances, all I have heard is positive.  There is no doubt that the approval rating of TWD among horror fans is extraordinarily high.  If TWD continues to enjoy the huge, cross-demographic success it has already enjoyed, we will begin to see a backlash among die hard fans in 2011.  This has already happened with the series Twilight.  Among the many teenagers who I see every week, a good many of them will groan when Twilight is mentioned and these are the same students who memorized every line of the movies just a year ago.  Due to the continued success and wide-spread popularity of the series, it is no longer “cool” to like the series quite as much as they once did (although they all still secretly love it).  This will happen with TWD.  I’m sorry, but true horror fans who have been watching eyeballs getting eaten for decades and loving every last second of it will not stand for homemaker Sue giving this series the big “two thumbs up.”  Even if everything is perfect, that means something must be wrong.

I suspect at the end of the day many horror fans would have wished for a different scenario.  One where TWD is not near as successful, but enjoys a cult following.  One where the series barely survives two years of production and maybe squeaks out three.  And even though they are sad to see the series die, they secretly are happy for the DVD’s to be released so that they can enjoy the greatness of the series, a greatness that is only appreciated by a select few, from the comfort of their Iphone or Android device.

On the other hand, the success of TWD fits in perfectly with what I, and the rest of my team members, have been saying for a year now on The Blackest Eyes.  Mainly, that horror movies tell a story unlike any other genre that is important for human relationships and that more correctly understands the spiritual relationship between good and evil, human against human.  Everyone is a sucker for a good story and TWD delivers in a big way.  And that remains the singular difference between those of us who live and breathe horror movies and those who might be along for a short ride while the story is still good.  We will still be here when the train stops at “the story now sucks” station; everyone else will get off.

Case in point.  Two team members recently reviewed Piranha 3-D, myself and Danny.  I found the film to be somewhat of a disappointment, especially with the excitement I was taking into it.  Danny, on the other hand, gave the film a rather positive review.  Why?  Well, at the end of the day it certainly wasn’t for it’s great dialogue, story, or emotional attachment.  It was because Danny is a gore-hound and the movie will ultimately only appeal to those who truly love horror for all it is about.  You see, even though my love of horror is foundationally grounded in the undertones of the genre, I also love the visual impact of the medium.  Kill scenes, gore, and graphic content of the horror genre fit in with my appreciation for what it has to say.  The two must work together.  TWD is doing this beautifully!  Yes, I am blown away by the story, by the human relationships, by the weight of what they are doing.  But I am also appreciative of how that is in parallel with body parts being hung around people’s necks, flesh being torn from the skin, and people sawing their own hands off to escape.  Whereas my wife can look away from all of those aspects of TWD and still love the series, I cannot.  (Interestingly enough, she is growing more accustomed to keeping her eyes open during the gore scenes, which will be a discussion for another time).

So, one of two things can be said.  It can be said that The Walking Dead is so good that it appeals to a great number of people who otherwise would never look at the kind of images they are watching.  Or, it can be said that The Walking Dead is so awful that it appeals to a great number of people who otherwise would never look at the kind of images they are watching.  For those of you who feel like it is option number 2, I feel your pain and I appreciate you.  At this point, I would be in the option 1 category.  But only time will tell if this incredible new hit series really is the worst thing to happen to horror.

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