Monday, October 27, 2008

Season 1 Episode 6
“New Year’s Day”
Story by Steve Niles; teleplay by Steve Niles and Ben Sokolowski
Directed by Darren Lynn Bousman

Written by Steve Niles (responsible for the 30 Days of Night comic upon which the film of the same title was based) and helmed by Darren Lynn Bousman (who brought the second through fourth installments of the Saw franchise to the screen), this episode follows Helen (Step Up 2: The Streets’ Briana Evigan, soon to be seen in S. Darko, the Richard Kelly-less sequel to Donnie Darko), who awakens early morning New Year’s Day, to the sounds of sirens and a disaster quickly unfolding outside her apartment.
What we then get is a zombie outbreak (no further explanation required), as the narrative switches back and forth between Helen’s predicament as she makes her way to the man she believes she loves, James (Kyle XY ’s Cory Monteith), and the New Year’s Eve party she was at the night before.

Now, while “Family Man” was a Fear Itself episode that we probably wouldn’t have seen on Masters of Horror, “New Year’s Day” is a FI installment that might very well have been more effective on MoH.
Network television just doesn’t support zombies very well, considering the gore and bloodshed will naturally be kept to a bare minimum. And nobody wants neutered zombies, do they?

Sadly, Bousman’s direction doesn’t really mine the material for all its inherent tension.
Admittedly, it doesn’t help that since the zombie film is the horror sub-genre du jour, there are examples aplenty of genuine white-knuckle, edge-of-your-seat deadhead thrill rides all over the place. (Not to mention that those examples will also undoubtedly sport fountains of fake blood and guts, which makes for a large portion of what we love about the sub-genre…)
And while Niles’ teleplay (co-written with Ben Sokolowski) does make a narrative attempt at something more than your average zombie movie, it’s a twist that you could see coming, thus blunting the over-all impact.
The zombies here aren’t terribly scary, either, so that’s another big con for the episode.

Ultimately, “New Year’s Day” doesn’t really amount to much, and if you’re jonesing for a good deadhead fix, you’d perhaps be better served taking in another viewing of Zack Snyder’s Dawn of the Dead remake (if you don’t mind the running zombies), or Edgar Wright’s zom-rom-com Shaun of the Dead (if you don’t mind the comedy), or the 28 films (Danny Boyle’s Days Later and Juan Carlos Fresnadillo’s Weeks Later; if you don’t mind the fact that, technically, they’re not actually zombies).
Or, you could go completely old school and dig up George Romero’s classic Dead trilogy—Night of the Living Dead, Dawn of the Dead, and Day of the Dead. Land of the Dead is passable, but I’d steer clear of Diary of the Dead.
The Day of the Dead remake is also best avoided, though Tom Savini’s colour redux of Night of the Living Dead is a pretty good watch.

Parting shot: Reviews of a number of the zombie films I mention above are contained in the Archive.

(Images courtesy of

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