Netflix’s “Black Summer” is sort of a bummer

The zombie apocalypse series falls flat. It’s just another zombie show.

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Black Summer title card, Wikipedia

“Is there anything you like?” is probably what a lot of people are asking right now. It’s not that I dislike most things, I just have expectations for the content that I watch. Yes, if a film company is going to feature something, and PR the shit out of it, I expect it to be good dammit! So, now with that being said, let’s talk about the Netflix show Black Summer

I didn’t expect another zombie show coming from anyone to be completely honest. Zombies are kind of played out in my opinion. I even stopped watching The Walking Dead at some point after they got to Alexandria. Since the show came out in 2009, zombies have been on a steady decline ever since. But that’s okay. Every horror fad changes. First it was vampires, then zombies, now it seems to be turning into horror movies that have underlying messages of societal problems, much like Jordan Peele’s Get Out.

Black Summer takes place during a zombie apocalypse, following various survivors trying to fight off the undead horde sprinting after them. It features two groups of survivors that later meet towards the end of the 8 episode 1st season.

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Survivors, Digital Spy

The way the show is formatted is a bit strange. Every time there is a scene change, a black screen with some writing indicates what could potentially be the prime focus of said scene. Kind of like what you would see in a Lars Von Trier film. This wasn’t a problem at all, and I won’t take off points for it. I actually thought this was unique. You don’t see many TV shows kick it off this way. So I tagged along.

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Scene title, Buzzfeed

I’m not going to walk through the episodes. I just don’t think it’s worth it. I think the entire show can be discussed collectively.  Each episode simply does not deserve its own recap review. If you watched it, I want you to tell me if you honestly would stand to sit and binge watch that show. Would you stay tuned every week for a new episode? I wouldn’t, and quite frankly, it’ll only bore me to sit there and re-watch just to give an accurate review. And while I don’t entirely want to bash the show, a lot of stuff just didn’t work.

First off, are we gonna just ignore the amount of zombies that were not in this show? I mean, you had some good horde chases, but other than that, it was PVP the whole time. In a zombie movie, we look towards the dead or anyone who could potentially turn as the biggest threat, and the hugest action should be some zombies.

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Black Summer zombie, CST Online

However, I respect the fact that the producers maybe wanted to do something different. I am being a bit presumptuous by assuming they wanted to focus more on character development and a proper story line, which we see kinda go out the window in action films ,or when a writer wants to get to the point. It’s at the cost of a few extra 20 minutes of storytelling. But if that’s all you focus on, then you better cram it all in. These episodes were usually 20-30 minutes long at best. They had some bargaining, and it’s clear which direction they went in.

The time they spent cramming didn’t really pay off though. They filled the blank space with pointless scenes that resolved into nothing. Was I missing some symbolism? One of the characters awakes in a library of a school that has been taken over by a gang of lawless teenagers. Not taking into account that he’s in serious trouble, he picks up a copy of War and Peace. He flips through for a couple of pages and then proceeds to get freaked out by a loud bang. I understand it’s a long book, but I’ve never seen anyone so terrified while they read.

That scene lasted for a good 30 seconds, but that’s way too long in my opinion. Was he looking for a secret code in the book? A weapon? No, he was just skimming through while a gang of kids is going to royally mess up his life, and he’s fully aware of this. I ranted longer than the scene lasted. Terrible filler, pointless, and it made the whole episode kind of humorous. That same character would later escape the library and be seen running from one zombie for an entire episode. Enough said.

I said I wouldn’t rant the whole time and I apologize. Thus far, that’s all I’ve done. The show does pose like maybe 2 unique challenges which only helps a few characters (one really). One of the characters is a Korean woman, Sun (played by Christian Lee), who barely speaks any English, but can understand it. So there’s a language barrier at a time when communication is KEY. I liked Sun because she had the only conflict in the show worth following, if there were any easily identifiable conflicts at all. And in episode 6, she got trapped in the ceiling vents with a dead guy who turned after being shot (sound familiar?) Strangely, all the best things are centered around Sun (yes pun intended).

Outside of Sun, there really isn’t a general flow to the episodes. It does follow up, but the producers fail to properly use mechanics to make it happen as it should. Episode 6 had very limited dialogue with little to no context on what’s going on through heavy visuals. They stumble upon a compound, there’s a mean guy who tries to rape people, a random underground party, and zombie horde. We see from different perspectives throughout the episode as to explain different events that take place. But this one failed to woo me. I was lost most of the time.

When a new zombie movie or show comes out, I do want to tune in. Though that ship has sailed, I still want to see someone bring a different element to this classic theme. Black Summer just couldn’t do it. Nothing quite does anymore. What was different? The zombies sprinted, but they did that in 28 Days Later and The Dawn of the Dead 2004 remake. Ooh you don’t have to be bitten to turn? Yeah, been there done that.

One thing that appealed to me with this show is its attempt to start off in the earlier parts of the apocalypse, much like Fear The Walking Dead did. It didn’t start at the very beginning, but it was close enough for there to still be a military presence. They could have used this to make the show stand out, but it didn’t work. Show us a news report, people looting stores, an officer trying to keep people in order. People are already savages and they haven’t even been through hell that long. It felt like Zombieland.

And with that, I’ll say one of the main problems I see in fiction is a pacing problem between scenes and characters. I don’t think there should have been any separate gangs or Lord Of the Flies type kids, especially when there aren’t enough zombies around to explain it.

I watched it for you so you don’t have to. But if you must, keep in mind that you won’t be disturbed, disgusted, on the edge of your seat, or even biting your fingernails. On the Creep Meter, I’d give this show a 2.5/5. If you’re gonna resurrect an old theme, make it different. But what do I expect. It’s a Z Nation Spin-off.

 

 

 

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