Anymore, it seems the word "zombie" is synonymous with a well-placed sigh of exasperated annoyance - garnished with a complete and total hatred of the unimaginative hipsters and low-budget filmmakers who have taken something that used to be underground and cool, only to have turned it into a dull and tired affair. In America, television execs decided to jump on the living dead bandwagon and create a series about a post-zombie apocalypse world. The result, of course, was The Walking Dead - and is in every way identical to what one might envision would happen were George A. Romero, the godfather of the flesh-eating zombie universe, to commission a TV show to a bunch of boobtube folk.
Elsewhere, across that stretch of sea commonly known as The Pond, the British decided to make a zombie series of their own. One where brains are for writing, not for eating. One where an amusingly plausible approach to what would probably happen were the dead to rise is taken. One where heartbreak is still possible, even when your heart no longer beats in a literal sense to begin with.
Yup. Leave it to the Brits to make zombies human again.
In the Flesh delivers us the plight of a tormented teenage lad named Keiren (Luke Newberry), who had slit his wrists not too terribly long before The Rising - wherein the recently deceased of the world began to come back to life and eat the living - took place. But that, of course, is all in the past. The governments of the world have since put a stop to the rising - and those who became zombified have been attributed with the politically-correct condition of having Partially Deceased Syndrome (PDS) and have been completely rehabilitated via breakthroughs in medicine. So, with the former flesh hunters back to "normal," it's time to send them home.
Sadly, for our suffering anti-hero Keiren, home is a small fearful town full of trigger-happy morons who seemingly live solely just to kill the dead. Donning skin-colored makeup and contact lenses, Keiren returns to the tense household already bid adieu once before - and the fearful, judgmental community that caused him to commit suicide in the first place several years earlier. Were that not bad enough, "Ren" (as he is called by some) is plagued by nightmares of the heinous acts he performed in his pre-medicated days when he just wasn't himself. Meanwhile, several locals - living and PDS suffers alike - undertake their own dramas, from prejudices to grievances, which are presented here in three one-hour episodes that co-star Steve Cooper, Harriet Cains, Marie Critchley, Steve Evets (the man with the palindrome name), Emily Bevan, David Walmsley, and Ricky Tomlinson (Cracker).
Now, as a thoroughly-jaded individual who prefers to watch the more classic zombie movie (you know, back when they were cool - before the hipster apocalypse), I found this series to be highly inventive and intelligent. It deals with the pain and anguish of coming to know one's self in a world of intolerance and fear mongering, and gives you something vibrant and brainy that you can sink your teeth into (pun possibly intended). Frankly, three installments of In the Flesh just wasn't enough, so it was nice to do a little online research and discover that a second, longer series has been commissioned to be broadcast in 2014. So don't look at his as a short-lived series without a solid resolution, think of it as a beginning of the soon-to-be cult classic zombie series America should have made.
BBC Video brings us the entire first series of In the Flesh (which is not labeled as a first season, since it was probably unknown whether or not a second go would be given the green light upon production) on a single dual-layered disc, with only stereo sound and optional English (SDH) subtitles accompanying it. Apart from a few bumpers and promos for other BBC titles on home video (that play upon boot-up), this is a barebones affair, and the artwork is not the most catching cover I've ever seen, and hopefully will not force oblivious store owners to round it up with the many z-grade direct-to-video zombie movies we release in the US on a seemingly weekly basis. Unfortunate, yes - but it shouldn't prevent anybody else who's had it up to any portion of their anatomy whatsoever in all things zombie-like these days.