SHOULD I? Status: Would Watch

Availability: On Netflix

Zombies + Big Brother. British accents, a collection of cads. Who’ll be killed off next?


  • No CGI, moderate jump scares
  • Zombie genre, NOT found footage, surprisingly
  • Zombie Deets: moderate speed, not daylight sensitive, drawn to ?? energy??, life??, not sound-oriented
  • Black humor

Bechdel? NOT SURE Blackdel? YES


I really liked the concept of Dead Set; it’s about what happens on the Big Brother set when a zombie outbreak infects England. When I saw that, I started the miniseries immediately. That’s right – Dead Set isn’t a movie but a 5-part miniseries. Don’t let Netflix fool you with its “1 season” garbage. The series was released in 2005 and besides, Episode 5 doesn’t leave much room for hope.

Overall, I think Dead Set is a success. There’s a wide variety of personalities across the characters, who are complex while also believable. The unfolding zombie drama is interspersed with enough short flashes of comedy to lighten the tone, at times, somewhat. That’s a needful thing in this grim scenario, where nearly all our surviving characters are trapped on a set with no outside world contact and no knowledge or hope that anyone else is alive out there.

Because the characters have such strong personalities, the audience gets a nice glimpse into several possible reactions and different characters’ attempts to come to grips with their new situation. This is pretty satisfying, as it provides multiple options for any internal “What would I do?” which might be happening.

However, Dead Set isn’t a total home run. The major problem is, simply, time. Over the series’ first two hours(4 episodes), a lot of care is given to characterization, development, and connecting with the audience. This is successful; the first four episodes are genuinely interesting, build on each other, and increase their hold on our attention. Unfortunately, that leaves 30 minutes to deliver the whole of a satisfying conclusion, and that just doesn’t happen here. It’s a tall order, to be sure. Instead, the 5th episode devolves into shrieks and conflict noises so quickly as to become shrill, and the dialogue devolves until you might as well spare your ears and turn the volume down. Watch it if you’re want to, if you’re really really curious, but I found it a total turn-off.

If you like Big Brother, you’ll get a kick out of Dead Set.




SHOULD I? STATUS: Close the tab, open Amazon, and watch MURDER PARTY right now.

Available from Amazon with a Shudder add-on subscription


The 30 Rock of 90-Minute Horror Comedies

  • High on Originality, Plot (Plot is both cohesive and entertaining/constantly moving forward), Dark Humor, Tight Script
  • Low on CGI, Budget, Jump Scares; Official Indie Darling
  • Scares: 4/10
  • Hilarity: Through the roof


I didn’t think I really dug the “horror comedy” genre until I watched Murder Party. Yes, I’d seen Cabin in the Woods before, and yeah, it was Joss Whedon, and clever, and funny, but I’d also tried a couple of movies like Stitches (a clown movie), Birdemic, S. O. B., even Dale and Tucker… and…well, I was amused, but i wasn’t impressed. Before Murder Party, Cabin in the Woods was probably my favorite, but it was an ambivalent favorite. Surely, that couldn’t be the best there was, right?

Murder Party changed my mind. Murder Party does so much so successfully – heck, let’s call it impressive.

There’s a lot to love in this film. Both script and plot are completely cohesive – everything “makes sense,” as it were, from why each character’s present in the movie to why they’re doing what they’re doing. The movie’s rife with clever nods at several essential horror movie tropes, as well as references to cult classics. The minds behind Murder Party seem to be not only horror enthusiasts, but general movie fans as well. That combination of love for the genre, plus comfort with the medium (especially style and method), really results in something special here. If you want to get sly-grin-clever with meta-analysis here, this is when you’d point out that Murder Party proves to be a satisfying, low budget indie breakout in Halloween disguise. At first glance it’s another cheap horror flick, a B-movie at best. But underneath this facade hides 90 minutes (or so) of genuine entertainment. You will not regret these 90 minutes. I promise.

What do I love about Murder Party? Honestly, what isn’t there to love? But I’ll try to highlight a few key strengths.

First off, (in the first 20 minutes, really) our main character/would-be victim here, Christopher, is not only endearingly characterized, but skillfully so. I fall in love with his utter relatable-ness in fifteen minutes, every time. So much of his personality and life is conveyed with one, maybe two, simple and straight-forward scenes which contain no other human characters. The film’s denouement is spectacular, and sets us up for an evening where the events and character action follow, with complete sense, from its inception. Have I mentioned how rare of a quality this is, especially in horror?

Every character in Murder Party is gifted with a complete personality, individual motivations and (some) backstory, and actions which nearly always make complete sense – even if you don’t agree with them, at all. Many of the characters are selfish; many are lying, to themselves or others; and each one schemes towards some higher goal throughout the course of the movie. It’s this goal which drives them each to the film’s resolution, and creates many amusing twists and turns in the plot along the way.

For every jump scare some other “favorite horror movie” pushes onto its audience, Murder Party has a smart moment, a funny reference, a clever tidy movement of plot. It’s low budget but not obviously so, which is incredibly hard to pull off in this genre, where special effects often drive movies more than they ought – SFX, really, exist as embellishment, and should influence the film as such. No more. It is a pity so many directors and producers go computer-mad with their recorded product, as if impossible mists and digital monsters are really what’s scary in the world.

No. Murder Party knows the truth. It’s not fiction that we should be afraid of. It’s the capabilities we all have, the ones that lie in each other. What would the person next to you do, if you were between them and a million dollars? Or a lifelong dream? Or true personal fulfillment?

No one has nightmares about blood that creeps out of walls at its own desire. They have nightmares about interactions with others. Unknowable, oblique others.