From what I understand, the show Big Brother was an even bigger reality show in the U.K. than it was in the U.S. The 2008 U.K. “mini-series” Dead Set (really just a 3 hour movie broken into segments) imagines what would happen if there was a zombie outbreak that took over the planet and the only ones who remained undead were the cast in the Big Brother house, who have been cut off from any forms of communication with the outside world (no phones, television, computer, etc.). The film stars a selection of actual cast members and the host of the real U.K. show. I don’t know which cast members of the movie were cast members of the show because I’ve never seen the U.K. big brother, but it’s pretty clear these reality stars had dreams of becoming actors, because the acting is superb.
Having just watched it, I can say that Dead Set is officially one of my favorite zombie films of the Y2K decade. All your worst zombie nightmares come true in this flick, which is ripe with fan in-jokes (of both Big Brother and horror movies) and familiar zombie conventions—yet with some unique variations that make it stand out in the zombie genre. The film actually takes on some real life “issues” and “complications” that you’d never bother thinking about when watching a zombie movie, but that would definitely be of serious concern if it really happened!!!
Just like on the show Big Brother, many of the characters here are flawed (and stereotypical) to the point of being unlikable, but at the same time, just like on the show, these characters make moves to survive that can earn your respect even if you don’t like them as people. It pains me to be “deep” about a zombie movie, but this film really is a sort of metaphor for the dog-eats-dog conditions in the Big Brother house, simply replacing the dogs with zombies and humans…. And unlike George Romero’s “satirical masterpiece” Dawn of the Dead, this satire is actually frightening with terrifying zombies.
The only complaint with the film is how a too-dark picture is combined with some of the most infuriating shaky cam ever. It’s definitely a product of the established style of zombie films from its decade—we have 28 Days Later to thank for the obnoxious camera technique that guarantees that we don’t know what the frick is happening on screen at crucial moments. Honestly, just deal with it. Dead Set is filled with tension, perfect doses of humor, suspense, and scary shit! The gore effects are phenomenal. Wait until you see the major dismemberment and disemboweling scene—which is far from the cliché fashion in which it is presented in most zombie films….