In the rather overcrowded zombies apocalypse genre, it can often be quite a daunting task to try and avoid the duds from the gems. Even big budget or high profile sequels like Army of the Dead and Peninsula, were disappointments. Lurking quietly in the background is this series Black Summer which somehow escaped my radar when it was first released some two year ago. Now that I have finally discovered this series, I have to say that it is the best zombies series since The Walking Dead.
One of the most powerful aspect of Black Summer is the simplicity and effectiveness of its approach. The series has minimal dialouge and often have extended sequences of people frantically trying to outrun and escape from zombies. This means much of the focus on just “survival”. Little background story is provided, taking its time to reveal key plot details as the series progress. One character, a Korean girl, speaks almost entirely in Korean with no subtitles offered to help the viewer understand what she is saying, forcing us to experience what her fellow other characters are facing. The action is each episode is relentless, and merciless. Even though there is far more restraint shown here on the level of gore and graphic violence compared to The Walking Dead, the impact is no less grusome. In fact, I would say that this is definitely not a series for the faint at heart.
Another unique aspect of the series is how its story is presented. Scenes are often shown repeatedly from different characters’ perspectives. Sometimes, the time-lines are also mixed up in a manner that slowly reveal key plot points with its revelations from scenes that took place earlier. This clever and fresh style of direction keeps the viewers on thier toes in between the manic scenes of running and fighting off zombies. The zombies here are also much more energetic and stronger than the slow and lerthargic zombies in The Walking Dead. You need to be a super fast runner and make quick decisions on which direction to run from these ragging dead. The humans here are also far less skillful in killing the zombies with multiple misses from gun shots. These inadequecies serve to raise the stakes for the humans against the zombies.
So far the two seasons have similar approach but a distinct change in environment. Season one takes place during the summer during the early days of the zombies infection. Season two takes place in the icy winter cold, with the recurring characters having developed hardened personalities as a result of their constant confrontation with struggling to survive. Both seasons cover events that take place over a relatively short period of time. Both also have no mercy in killing off key characters making the whole series very unpredictable.
All the episodes were directed by John Hyams and Abram Cox. They demonstrate a very acute skill in scaring the s*** out of the viewers. Whether its the fast paced rush to escapre attacking zombies, or in the claustrophic buildings devoid of lights, and the quieter scenes in isolated buildings and long corridors, we are kept on the edge of our seats all the time. One typical episode has enough creative thrills than many full length movies in the genre. There are simply to time for jump scares here. The terror that lurks are always justified.
Like, Season One, Season Two ends with a nailbiting cliffhanger. While Season One’s ending offered some level of closure in terms of the reconciliation for a key character, Season Two’s ending leaves us with some major unfinished business and the uncertain faith of a number of characters. Black Summer earns itself the distinction of being the best zombies series on TV today. It makes many of the other zombies movies or tv series out there look like kids stuff in comparison! Every episode is very well directed, and acted, and have high production values from its excellent use of the surround sound effects to provide an added dimension to the action scenes, to the contrasting beauty of the natural landscape in the background. If you are a zombies movie fan, and haven’t discovered this series yet, I strongly recommend you do, You will not regret it.