LONDON: UK miniseries “Dead Set” had critics falling over themselves to praise writer Charlie Brooker’s skillful blend of pop-culture satire and blood-drenched zombie horror-comedy. Over a decade later, “Reality Z” rehashes the same premise — albeit relocating the story to Rio de Janeiro — for an international audience on Netflix.
During the early stages of a zombie apocalypse, contestants on a reality TV show are unaware of the carnage going on outside. Caught up in the chaos, members of the production team soon come to the realization that the studio represents their best chance for survival.
Unfortunately, while “Dead Set” was a pacey, edgy and darkly humorous riot, this Brazilian adaptation lacks any of the nuance, suspense or satire of its source material. Instead, the cast turn in performances that are either irritatingly hysterical, alarmingly clichéd, or simply one-dimensional. The first five episodes mirror the UK show exactly, so there is at least an engaging narrative arc. Five subsequent episodes, however, take the story off into uncharted territory, and the show soon wilts under the weight of its own unresolved plot holes.
There is, at least, some visual gloss to enjoy — the zombie effects, set pieces and sweeping vistas of Rio are impressive and hint at a bigger story that could perhaps sustain the show in the second series that is posited in the closing moments. For the most part, however, the show comes across as a lackluster facsimile, devoid of the charm and succinctness that characterized “Dead Set.”
The multiple covers of prog-rock anthems used to soundtrack many of the skull-splitting action sequences sum it up best: close enough to the original that you can tell what they’re aiming for, but never quite good enough to be convincing.