The Horror of it all: New “Seasons”, new frights

This last week was a banner week for horror and television. How you ask? Well, one brand new show smacked us upside the sexy face and one familiar fright came shambling back to the screen. Those shows: The River and The Walking Dead.

Now you know I’m all about me some zombies. And The Walking Dead fills this bill just fine (more on that in a bit). But serving some tasty, dark icing on my chocolaty cake o’ death and doom (no ‘Cake or Death’ here — it’s all Death) was a new series served up by DreamWorks Television as a mid-season replacement (for what we don’t know and don’t care). This new series, The River,  looked initially like it was going to have the air sucked out of it before the first episode could hit the screen. The reviews were iffy and the previews gave us nothing of story, backstory, or character. What we did get was moody flashes of something that might possibly be creepy.

It delivered and delivered with delicious fright.

Now, I’m not going to go on the record to say this was near the level of American Horror Story — it’s not, but then no horror series in the last couple of decades has brought the creeptastic frights that AHS has delivered. But The River did set up a unique blend of TV show that, in some ways, spoofs reality TV with plenty of jump-cut frights, a nice mixture of filming styles, and some fairly strong acting and writing.

Here’s the gist: A TV personality (similar to the Croc Hunter) goes missing in the Amazon River. His wife, son, and a crew head out to find him. They don’t find him…yet. The show is set up in such a way that each episode will deal with the crew encountering something creeptastically frightening each week — all on their journey to find their lost chum/husband/employee/father.

Now, here’s the thing — this could either get really old really fast, or it could be stretched into one hell of a tension-filled fright-fest. I certainly hope its the latter, because if this show succeeds, it means we have three serious horror series on air at once (four if you count Dexter) — that is unprecedented in this age of reality and sitcom-sweet TV mixed with too many CSI spin offs and every incarnation of a medical show imaginable.

I have high hopes for The River. It was produced by the men behind Paranormal Activity — and they certainly know how to extract fright from the mundane.

And now…the return of The Walking Dead

I refuse to give spoilers, so fear not, I won’t give away anything. But if you remember where the last 1/2 season left off, you know it left on a cliff-hanger of doom. The intensity was insane — and this latest episode certainly did not fail to follow suit. Of course it couldn’t keep up THAT kind of intensity. But it did an outstanding job of bringing one of the main characters back to his old kick-ass self.

This most recent Walking Dead also helped to solidify its future. Prior to the half-season premier (I’m really getting tired of these half seasons by the way) it was unclear what the future held for the main characters. Would they be moving on to leave the farm behind? Would they figure out a way to stay and make a home-base at the ho-down?

But there are new questions that have come up!

  • What’s up with everyone’s favorite redneck? Why is he gone all hometown-emo?
  • When is Shane going to finally go mental, deep throat the barrel of his pistol and Jackson Pollack his brains across a wall?
  • Will XXX tell XXX he loves her back? Oh, the horror!!!
  • Now that the search for Sophia is over, what are they going to focus their energy on?
  • When is Dale going to snap and put a bullet through Shane’s head (and will he do it before Shane snaps and pulls that trigger himself? See above.)

Although this episode didn’t have the incredible intensity the end of the first part of the season had, it certainly had a dutiful sense of purpose. We are obviously getting set up for some serious calm before the undead storm.
I want to do something a little different now. I want to look at the current state of The Walking Dead from the eyes of someone who takes the zombie story fairly seriously.

I love what they are doing with the seclusion the farm is giving them. My only fear is that this leaves out a very important element of the zombie mythos — the shambling horde and the deconstruction of construction. What I mean is this — there is something frightening about the collapse of society, about the decay of concrete and the fear that looming rot and chaos brings. With where TWD currently stands, the don’t have that. What they have is the serene outdoors randomly undercut with a zombie or internal struggle between the “troups”. Of course I’m sure this will change.

And please don’t take this as a complaint! I love the show…there are just apocalyptic elements I’d like to see brought back. But that’s me, speaking through the filter of my own zombie series.

Anyway… make sure to catch The River before the season is over (it’s only 8 eps). And until we meet again, my horrific lovelies, be sexy and be afraid!