Review: The Walking Dead Season 1 DVD

STUDIO: Anchor Bay/AMC | DIRECTOR: various | CAST: Andrew Lincoln, Jon Bernthal, Sarah Wayne Callies, Laurie Holden, Jeffrey DeMunn, Steve Yuen, Emma Bell, Chandler Riggs
RELEASE DATE: 3/8/2011 | PRICE: DVD $39.98, Blu-ray $49.99
BONUSES: featurettes, inside looks at episodes, extra footage, convention panel with producers, more
SPECS: NR | 292 min. | Horror drama | 1.78:1 widescreen | Dolby Digital 5.1 | English and Spanish subtitles

RATINGS (out of 5): Movie | Audio | Video | Overall

The Walking Dead movie scene

A zombie tends to his lawn in The Walking Dead.

The Walking Dead, the wildly popular AMC original zombie TV series that you’ve been hearing about (or watching) since its premiere last fall, arrives on DVD and Blu-ray tomorrow.

Based on Robert Kirkman’s popular comic book series, The Walking Dead revolves around a band of Atlanta-based survivors of a zombie apocalypse that has seemingly overtaken the world and populated it with hordes of the flesh-eating undead. Among the living are stalwart small-town Georgia sheriff Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln, Made in Dagenham), who has woken from a months-long coma a la 28 Days Later to a world gone dangerously upside-down; his wife (Sarah Wayne Callies, TV’s Prison Break), who believes her husband to be dead; Grimes’ partner and best friend in the sheriff’s department (Jon Bernthal, The Ghost Writer); and a headstrong civil rights lawyer (Laurie Holden, The Mist) and her plucky college student sister (Emma Bell, Frozen).  The characters are all established and in place by the middle of the second episode — so let the survival game begin!

Co-written and co-executive produced by Frank Darabont (The Shawshank Redemption), the excellently paced Walking Dead maintains a careful balance between drama, suspense, action and hardcore zombie mayhem (the most graphic we’ve ever seen in original, non-premium cable TV programming). The characters are varied and well-developed, as is the episodic storyline, and the show’s always-present examination of how different people react in the face of constant danger and overwhelming odds comes through in each of the six installments.

Of course, it’s the zombie factor that makes the biggest impression and it delivers big time. In fact, there’s a cannibalistic attack sequence in one of the later episodes that’s as scary, effective and disturbing as anything we’ve seen in a feature-length zombie film.

The bonus features on the DVD and Blu-ray are copious if not outstanding. Included are a bunch of adequate featurettes on the production, makeup, visual effects and “zombie acting” lessons given to the extras.

There are also rambling on-set segments with a few of the series’ stars (Lincoln describes the show as “Sweeney Todd on acid”) as well as Kirkman himself, who seems pretty psyched to be witnessing his comic book brought to life (or death, as it were). Additional five-minute looks at each individual episode by the cast and crew are enthusiastic but unnecessary.

We would have enjoyed a commentary or two from one of the series’ six directors (Darabont and the talented Ernest Dickerson and Guy Ferland, among them) so we could hear first hand about their experiences wrangling a bunch of enthusiastic extras in prosthetics for a television series that, like its titular zombies, shows no signs of dying.

 

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About Laurence

Founder and editor Laurence Lerman saw Alfred Hitchcock’s North by Northwest when he was 13 years old and that’s all it took. He has been writing about film and video for more than a quarter of a century for magazines, anthologies, websites and most recently, Video Business magazine, where he served as the Reviews Editor for 15 years.