Aired in the leadup to Halloween 2008 with the finale occurring on October 31st, Dead Set is a British TV zombie horror series starring Jaime Winstone, Riz Ahmed & Andy Nyman. The series was created by Charlie Brooker & based around the set of the real television show, Big Brother. The story showcases a zombie outbreak that strands the housemates and production staff inside the Big Brother house. An interesting idea, even if zombies had been done to death by 2008.
Five episodes long, the series begins on eviction night in the Big Brother house where everyone is concentrating on making sure the show goes off without a hitch. None more so than the obnoxious producer Patrick (Andy Nyman) who cares only for high ratings. Unfortunately for him & his long-suffering staff it looks like the show might be bumped for the news. All because of mass rioting occurring across the UK.
Kelly (Jamie Winstone) works as a ‘runner’ tasked with keeping former Big Brother housemates comfortable in the green room. She is distracted about her feelings for a colleague & her boyfriend, Riq (Riz Ahmed) who is stranded at a nearby train station.
As the eviction nears, the news coming out of the TV suggests the situation is getting worse out there. Meanwhile one of the current housemates’ families are heading towards the studio with an injured driver who was attacked & bitten by a zombie. They arrive just as the eviction occurs & Davina McCall (playing herself) takes over but unfortunately for everyone in attendance the driver dies, reanimates & starts attacking everyone.
The infection spreads & soon the gathered crowd are turned into ferocious & hungry zombies. They quickly over-run the studio killing nearly everyone inside. Only a handful manage to hide or escape by barricading themselves in rooms. The house mates are safe & completely oblivious to what has occurred outside. That is until they realise the next morning that Big Brother isn’t watching anymore.
The survivors that include Kelly & Patrick realise that they have to get into the normally super-secure house where they hope they can hold out until help comes. Meanwhile Riq plans to make his way to where he thinks Kelly is.
Will the Big Brother house prove to be the safe haven it seems to be? Or will it end up being a prison for all those inside?
Dead Set is a very impressive series that has all the grittiness you might expect from a British drama/horror but doesn’t take itself too seriously. The cast are mostly great with the three leads, Jaime Winstone, Riz Ahmed & Andy Nyman really doing a great job. Nyman in particular is such a horrible git that you’ll desperately hope he gets his comeuppance by the end.
The story & setting is genuinely clever & interesting as Big Brother was such a phenomenon at one stage in the UK. The use of older/famous housemates alongside the likes of Davina was an inspired decision as it makes it feel so real. It’s also really fun to see Davina get her throat ripped out & she seems to have a blast playing a zombie.
Talking of which…the zombies. Now purists will be disappointed to know that these are ‘fast’ zombies. More akin to the infected of 28 Days Later. Whatever your preference, these zombies are pretty terrifying & there is no doubt that once they have you in their grasp you’re dead.
The make-up of the zombies looks good & although there is a bit too much shaky camera work for my liking, it does help obscure the low budget nature of the show.
Dead Set is a love-letter to some of the more classic zombie horrors throughout history. There are plenty of fun references as well as a dark look at our own ignorance regarding the events occurring around us. It’s smart writing even if the twists & turns of the story aren’t exactly original.
The series is up there as one of the finest modern-day zombie horrors. Even though a slow middle (episode 3 is a bit pointless) briefly threatens to derail things. Thankfully the excellent first episode that builds brilliantly & the incredible final episode that is shockingly brutal ensures Dead Set will be remembered for a long time afterwards.
If you’ve not seen it, check it out. It’s well worth it even if you don’t like or know Big Brother.