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Hercules Loves Frank Darabont’s Gory, Brilliant New AMC Zombie Series THE WALKING DEAD!!

I am – Hercules!!
AMC’s “The Walking Dead” and HBO’s “Boardwalk Empire” are easily autumn’s two best new series. I can’t quite decide which is better; both series have about six episodes left in their first seasons, so we’ll just have to see how things play out. (For the record, I believe Ain’t It Cool mastermind Harry Knowles, who has seen the first two episodes of "Dead," vastly prefers the AMC series, at least so far.) A riveting new sci-fi action adventure series from writer-director-producer Frank Darabont (of “Shawshank Redemption,” “Green Mile” and “The Mist” fame), “Dead” features zombies that move fast. Not as fast as the zombies in Zack Snyder’s outstanding remake of “Dawn of the Dead,” but they definitely keep the humans on the run. And run the humans do! The series is set soon after a zombie apocalypse has decimated civilization. The national guard and their helicopters and well-trained snipers somehow met their match in the sheer number of shambling corpses. (Where did they all come from? Did “Kill Bill’s” heroine overstate the difficulty of rising up through six feet of dirt?) Based on the acclaimed graphic novels by Robert Kirkman, the series plays by “Night of the Living Dead” rules. The “Walking Dead” zombies are hungry for more than brains. Any flesh they can get their hands on will do. If they bite you, you turn zombie too. They’re attracted to loud noises, so sneak attacks with crossbows and machetes are often a better idea than guns. These zombies can only be killed by destroying their brains. The series starts strong, and keeps getting better. Things get gory and scary, more than one expects from a basic cable series, even if it does air after 10 p.m. I was plenty hooked by the third episode, which shifts the focus to the social dynamic shared by a tiny community of survivors who have found a tenuous refuge in the woods outside Atlanta. Not to give too much away, but things get very agreeably complex. The project eventually evolves into an ensemble piece, but its central character is Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln), a Kentucky lawman whose story could initially remind viewers of “Day of the Triffids” and “28 Days Later.” Late in the pilot we come across a survivor played by Jeff DeMunn, a veteran of Darabont’s “Shawshank,” “Green Mile” and “Mist.” In episode two we meet a survivor played by Laurie Holden, the blonde female lead from “The Mist.” And the elements episode two shares with “The Mist” do not begin or end with Holden gazing with horror at a cracking glass storefront. SPECIAL NOTE: Kindly watch Sunday’s “Walking Dead” pilot, but also record it. Because on Monday Herc’s Monday Giveaway is giving away some rare “Walking Dead” swag now sitting on the desk of “Walking Dead” mastermind Frank Darabont. And that recording could prove useful. Time says:
… judging by the first two episodes of its six-episode debut season, the scariest part of the series is not what the animated corpses do but what the surviving humans are driven to do. … If The Walking Dead can build on its promise and run with these ideas, along with unflinching gross-out thrills, it can tell a doomsday story with all the things zombies crave: brains, guts and heart.
Entertainment Weekly says:
… a success as a comic-book series written by Robert Kirkman, and deserves to be an even bigger success in this clever, gross, humane AMC version. …
TV Guide says:
… packs a raw, emotional punch while delivering the creepy and queasy thrills all genre fans truly crave. …
The Wall Street Journal says:
… has a pilot episode so good that it has hooked even a zombie hater like me. …
USA Today says:
… It will be a hard sell for some viewers, but for people who love monster movies or zombie comic books, Dead may be just their cup of blood. …
The New York Times says:
… surprisingly scary and remarkably good, a show that visually echoes the stylized comic-book aesthetic of the original and combines elegant suspense with gratifyingly crude and gruesome slasher-film gore. …
The Los Angeles Times says:
… seamlessly stitches together grand American traditions including the western, the separated-family drama and, of course, the post-apocalypse tale, creating the first zombie epic, with sprawling storylines, archetypal characters and imagery to rival "Gone With the Wind." … like any good horror tale, still believes in the importance of monsters, perfectly balancing the struggle of basic human decency with those palsied four-in-the-morning moments when we are convinced that everyone around us is trying to eat us alive.
The Washington Post says:
… Darabont and his cast excel at conjuring up a taut social study, but let the horror scenes fall oddly flat. Being a big fraidy cat myself, I can only puzzle over why "The Walking Dead" fails to cause my usual reflexive responses, such as putting my hands over my eyes and still watching what happens through parted fingers. I hope it gets scarier. Despite that, the show is undeniably intriguing and creepily contemporary, tapping into the national paranoia: Can I trust you? Are you one of them? How do we go on, now that we're surrounded? The things all Americans ask, every day, amid the din of moaning. …
HitFix says:
… Going into the show as someone without deep affection for either the genre or the source material, I still found myself riveted by the pilot episode, which will air in a 90-minute timeslot on Halloween. Written and directed by Darabont, it’s a master class in suspense filmmaking, of dread and atmosphere and grief. … becomes a more conventional, less interesting zombie story. The technical work remains impeccable ... but the story, the suspense and the characters (Lincoln’s co-stars include Sarah Wayne Callies, Jon Bernthal and Jeffrey DeMunn) all begin to feel familiar quickly - not just from the comic, but dozens of zombie and/or post-apocalyptic yarns. …
TV Squad says:
… unquestionably a cut above most scary fare … There are those who may prefer the intensity of 'The Walking Dead's' pilot, but for me, it was a relief when the second episode of 'The Walking Dead' dialed down the suspense and turned the show into a more recognizable "band of survivors on a mission" tale. If 'The Walking Dead' had sustained the first episode's level of tension indefinitely, the show would have lost me. …
The Boston Globe says:
… so fully dynamic and engaging. … delivers extended sequences that are riveting despite the small amounts of dialogue — note his strategic use of bunny slippers on a little-girl zombie in the first minutes of the premiere. Darabont also gives us a lot of opportunities to bond with his characters, something too many sci-fi TV shows (“The Event’’) fail to do. Without screaming or sobbing or schmaltz, the characters have moments when they convey a sympathetic sense of emotional devastation. …
Variety says:
… Although we've seen no shortage of zombies and post-apocalyptic stories, producer-writer-director Frank Darabont has deftly tackled the seemingly perilous task of adapting a comicbook about zombies into a viable episodic series. Arising in the wake of the brainy "Rubicon" and "Mad Men's" stellar fourth season, "Dead" demonstrates AMC's creative team has plenty of life in it. … what "The Walking Dead" has done most shrewdly is to take what could be a stale premise and enlivened it in a way that feels unexpectedly fresh. …
10 p.m. Sunday. AMC.
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