Dead Set (TV Mini-Series 2008): A Unique Blend of Comedy, Drama, and Horror

Shelley Conn in Dead Set (2008), image courtesy of Zeppotron

As Celebrity Big Brother returns to the United Kingdom, many eagerly wait to see how the new contestants will survive the house. However, horror fans know just how chilling Big Brother can be as they relive the 2008 E4 series, Dead Set.

With a healthy mix of satire, horror and gore, Dead Set is a thrilling and horrifying experience that paved the way for Charlie Brooker’s ground-breaking series Black Mirror.

Overview of the Storyline

Dead Set TV series begins on eviction night at the Big Brother house, with the production team, audience and housemates all swept up in anticipation of what the night will offer. As the next housemate is evicted, their moment in the spotlight is short-lived when the house becomes overwhelmed with a blood-curdling horde of living zombies.

The main protagonist, Kelly, played by Jaime Winstone, a runner on Big Brother, finds herself trapped in the studio with the current group of housemates. She becomes the group’s leader, relying on her sharp mind and quick wit to help them navigate the challenges of the apocalypse.

Critical Commentary Through Satire

A group of five distressed individuals, splattered with what appears to be blood, stand with expressions of shock, concern, and fear. The background is a clear sky with clouds, indicating an outdoor setting. From left to right: a man in a striped shirt with a fearful expression, a woman with short hair and blood on her face and neck looking intently to the side, a blonde woman with a pink top and a look of distress, a man in a red shirt with a furrowed brow, and a young man in a blood-stained gray shirt with a stern expression.
Dead Set (2008) still of Beth Cordingly with Kevin Eldon, Jaime Winstone, Warren Brown, Adam Deacon, image courtesy of Zeppotron

Brooker is well accredited for his commentary on life and critique of modern culture. In Dead Set, he uses the Big Brother setting to comment on the toxic nature of reality television. Each housemate represents a characteristic often associated with reality television, such as excessive narcissism or ignorance, highlighting the problematic nature of this form of entertainment.

Furthermore, the series also critiques how society has become dependent on the over-consumption of fruitless entertainment. Taking inspiration from George A. Romero’s film Dawn of the Dead, the zombies are not merely mindless creatures seeking flesh but represent the insatiable drive society has created to consume, often at the expense of more important things.

Terrifying Spectacle of Horror

Despite Dead Set’s commentary on reality television, the series is truly a horrifying and gnarly experience. The zombies are fast, aggressive, and relentless, creating intense moments. Additionally, the series does not shy away from gore and violence, with many scenes of many characters meeting a gruesome and tragic end.

Taking inspiration from the 2002 film 28 Days Later, Brooker moved away from the traditional, slow-moving undead, rigour mortis-ridden zombie popularised by George A. Romero. Brooker chose this direction to avoid comparisons to the 2004 film Shaun of the Dead and to create a grounded sense of threat.

The Reception and Legacy

A scene from the TV Mini-Series 'Dead Set' (2008) showing a close-up of a person with a distressed expression and blood on his face, looking at a television screen that displays a blurred image with red patterns and a figure in white.
Dead Set (2008), image courtesy of Zeppotron

Since its release, Dead Set has been acclaimed by critics and viewers, remaining a must-watch show for horror fanatics.

In the summer of 2009, E4 re-released Dead Set as a Halloween feature-length film, a year after the series’ initial release. The series was also nominated for a BAFTA for “Best Drama Serial” the same year.

In 2020, Netflix released a Brazilian television series called Reality Z, inspired by Dead Set. The show follows the contestants, cast and production staff of a reality show called Olympus, who are forced to take refuge in the studios when a zombie apocalypse takes over Rio de Janeiro.

The Precursor of Black Mirror

Despite the differences in tone and genre between the two shows, many have accredited Dead Set as a predecessor to Brooker’s later series, Black Mirror. In both shows’ episodes, Brooker uses science fiction, horror, and dystopian genres to explore complex themes that deal with the impact of modern culture, human behaviour and the consequence of choices.

Additionally, Brooker has started experimenting with supernatural horror in Black Mirror, releasing Demon 79—the fifth and final episode of the sixth series—under the label Red Mirror. By subverting the audience’s expectations of the Black Mirror structure, many viewers have expressed that it would be a perfect opportunity to explore the universe of Dead Set in future instalments.

Final Thoughts

Dead Set is available on Netflix’s streaming platform and can be purchased on Amazon Prime Video.

Dead Set is a truly unique experience and fictional series that combines the zombie apocalypse with the world of reality television. It is a biting satire and a gripping and intense horror series. With the new instalment of Celebrity Big Brother coming to a screen near you, now has never been a better time to dive into the horror of this twisted series. For those who have yet to face Dead Set, it remains a must-watch for horror enthusiasts across the globe.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Written by Charles Buttle

Meet our writer, Charles from England, a horror expert and enthusiast of unearthly tales. Growing up in a real-life haunted house, he developed his interest in the unknown at a young age. Charles has always been fascinated by the horror genre and what it tells the audience about human psychology and modern culture.

From gaming, film/television, creepypastas, and urban legends, Charles has explored every horror aspect and uses his expertise to create informative, engaging, and high-quality articles for his readers.

In addition to his work with Horror Obsessive, as a freelance journalist and content writer, Charles has contributed to various publications and websites, covering a diverse range of topics and stories.

A screenshot from the video game Until Dawn on PlayStation, showing three characters engaged in a Ouija board session. They are gathered around a wooden table under a single light source, which casts an eerie glow on the board. Two characters are touching the planchette, while the third, wearing a beanie, looks on intently. A sense of suspense is conveyed by the focused attention of the characters and the dimly lit setting.

Until Dawn Film: A New Dawn in Horror Entertainment

A dreamlike still from the movie 'Cannibal Mukbang (2023)' showing a softly lit room with diffused sunlight coming through the windows. The scene features four figures in a hazy, surreal atmosphere. A woman with red hair sits regally on a furry throne in the center, dressed in a dark corset and skirt, her expression enigmatic. Surrounding her are three people in motion, all adorned in golden accents, with one blowing a cloud of dust or smoke, adding to the ethereal quality of the scene.

Interview: Aimee Kuge, Writer & Director of Cannibal Mukbang