Small Screen Big Frights: Dead Set
The start of the new millenium in the UK promised to be an exciting time. The Conservatives had been out of power for three years and Tony Blair’s Labour party were still riding on the wave of their last landslide election. A new TV show was launched on British screens and took the country by storm, and that show was Big Brother. The formula was simple, put strangers in a house with cameras in every room and film them 24 hours a day with the public voting out a person every week. At first it was supposed to be a sociological experiment but quickly turned into a way for people to get their 15 minutes of fame. Many times I sat and wished, as I do about many “reality shows”, that something horrific would happen in the house and in 2008 Charlie Brooker (Black Mirror) answered my prayers with Dead Set.
Set on an eviction night at the Big Brother house, the story is that a zombie outbreak has engulfed England and heads to the studios where the TV series is being filmed. And when a zombie gets into the crowd and starts biting all hell breaks loose back stage, but the contestants in the house are oblivious to it. There is also a side story with Kelly (Jaime Winstone) having a one night stand with a co-worker the night before and in the middle of telling her boyfriend over the phone all communications go down leaving her still tortured but unsuspecting of what lies ahead, until she is attacked by her one night stand that it all starts to reveal itself.
Set over five episodes, Kelly gets into the house and tries to get people to come and help and also get out, with so many awesome, gory kills along the way. The show is shot and has a similar vibe as 28 Days Later, and gives you the same sense of despair and helplessness that Danny Boyle achieved. The way the camera moves and the close up shots of kills wouldn't be out of place in a film, but the familiarity of the Big Brother house and the way the show is portrayed makes it hit home that this could be real, especially when you have real life host Davina McCall having her throat ripped out and becoming a zombie who is stalking the trapped people in the studios.
As you can imagine there are a clash of personalities with the housemates anyway, but when this is combined with fighting for their lives these are exacerbated as the struggle continues. This is evident when the producer of the show Patrick (Andy Nyman) ends up being trapped in a room with the latest evictee Pippa (Kathleen McDermott) who he has spent most of his time voicing his hatred for. Their sequences highlight the worst qualities in both especially when Patrick has to take a shit in a bin in front of her!
The show was well received when it went out on air and is currently sitting with a 7.8 rating on IMDb and is one of Charlie Brooker’s finest pieces of work. Jaime Winstone is great in her roll and deserved the plaudits she got. I only wish more TV shows I hate would be made into a zombie apocalypse, just to give me that warm, satisfied feeling I got from Dead Set.