Oh what fun…
Television shakes up the drama genre next week when SBS screens the UK horror series Dead Set.
Set in the actual UK Big Brother house, this is a twisted and tasty story of zombies unleashed on the reality housemates.
Inside the house are a cast of colourful, suitably vacuous housemates, cocky for camera time, alpha-male arguments, and vibrant costumes. All the stereotypes are there: the buff handsome one, the flamboyant gay one, the flirt and more.
Equally, behind the two-sided mirrors there are other stereotypes: an obnoxious producer, the overworked production assistant and the automatic pilot host (UK host Davina McCall playing herself).
We open on Eviction night. The housemates are dressed in their most overt outfits. Diehard fans are gathering outside, with placards, cowboy hats and everything except bunny ears. Production Assistant Kelly is trying to make sense of a crew member who is hitting on her in the middle of the show. Producer Patrick is berating his crew, barking for the best shots and taking calls from the network, which threatens to pull the live show to cross to Breaking News of riots somewhere in the real world. It’s a juggling act where nothing makes sense in the pursuit of making ‘reality’ television.
Meanwhile runner Sophie is escorting one of housemates’ mothers in a car to the Big Brother location. On the lonely country roadside she finds what appears to be a car accident. But it’s a far more sinister surprise awaiting her.
What she discovers will follow her all the way back to the Big Brother house, where reality television will turn inside out -literally.
It isn’t long before the entire compound, audience, crew, and even Davina McCall are walking, stalking, terrifying zombies.
And as the ‘real world’ society disintegrates into zombie-mania, ironically it is the isolated housemates of Big Brother who are safest in their cocoon. In 2001, American Big Brother housemates were similarly cut-off from the terror that swept the world on September 11th. In one of the show’s rarest breaks from house rules, they were told about the World Trade Centre disaster.
The horror scenes here are gory television at its best. Frenetically filmed, there is blood, body parts, gizzards, entrails and more blood. Like a small screen 28 Days Later, this is a furious mix of manic visuals skewered through a meat grinder. The fact that it is parodied against an iconic reality television backdrop is all the more hilarious, although Dead Set never slips into comedy, with its characters absolutely believing the terror that unfolds.
Dead Set is certainly not for the queasy and is suitably shunted to a late night slot with an MA rating. But there’s nothing else on the box with this much nasty teeth.
Dead Set airs 10pm Monday on SBS ONE.