Black Summer is non-stop creative and thrilling ride through zombie town.
Although Black Summer is created by the same team responsible for the action fantasy zombie Syfy series Z Nation, and plays out in the same universe, the two series aren’t otherwise related. Where Z Nation has some hilarious over the top humor, crazy zombie fun and a big fantasy vibe, Black Summer is all about the thrilling ride when all zombie hell breaks loose.
With not entirely original or new ideas regarding zombies and a zombie outbreak, the creative and excellent montage and cinematography brings some exciting thrilling zombie survival action, where everybody can and probably will die.
This first season consists of 8 episodes with each a duration of 20-44 minutes. It’s a series that plays out as just one long film and you’ll need to binge-watch it, you really want to, it’s just one big rush with cliffhangers you can’t resist.
After a zombie outbreak six weeks ago, Rose and her husband Patrick and daughter Anna are on their way to a military pickup station to bring them to safety. But when Patrick is tested positive and in the chaos Anna is taken, Rose has to find her. With a small group of other people she tries to reach the football stadium but has to fight hordes of zombies, take shelter and they’ll have to help each other in order to survive.
Why you should watch it
The way in which the whole series is filmed is one big roller coaster witnessed from up close. It’s hectic, chaotic and full of raging fast zombies. Each short episode covers a different character, hereby overlapping scenes with other characters. There are some key points and locations where most of them pass each other without knowing, later on to be united in one group.
Each perspective is a little part of the whole puzzle, resulting in a great storyline, each time adding something new to the scene. This very lively and chaotic way of filming adds to the engaging feel of the series and the different perspectives make the series a fun watch.
The viewer is constantly taken on a wild trip with a character, knowing only what that character knows, sees and experiences. There’s no helicopter view where the viewer knows exactly what’s going on. That definitely adds to the tension.
The structure is very intriguing, making a simple flight from the suburbs to a check point and then to the stadium a very thrilling and edge of your seat ride. Lots of running, cars crashing, hit and runs, all very dynamically shot. There is never a moment of relief, and when you rest, you’re dead.
There are five main characters whom we each follow until they unite to work together. They each add something unique to the storyline. It’s a varied group, in gender, race, background and culture which is a big asset to the series. Their different characters make the survival trip a realistic and engaging one. Each character also adds different tones and atmospheres, making the story lively.
Rose, who’s looking for her daughter and has just lost her husband. Ryan who is deaf (in real life as well) and therefore has to rely on his visuals and on others. Sun is an Asian girl who doesn’t speak English. Barbara is a middle aged woman, who picks up William a reliable tough guy. Lance who is a zombie magnet. And finally Spears a mysterious man.
A little bit of paranoia starts to rise, who can you trust? Some immediate alliances are formed. Some are scared, some are brave, some are extremely unlucky and some stay focused and rational. This fun bunch is a perfect mix for a journey through zombie town.
Each episode has a unique little story to tell, presented as little chapters. One episode almost completely plays out in a car, which is hectic, and dynamic and introduces different characters to each other. There’s a school episode where the kids run the school in a very brutal way.
The episode that takes place in a diner is full of paranoia where two groups are facing each other full with distrust and paranoia and shows how quickly alliances are made to survive and the ‘us’ versus ‘them’, where them aren’t the zombies but other survivors, are quickly established. The zombies also represent the underlying theme, of a society infected by prejudice and hatred.
In another episode the group plans a heist to steal wapens. Each episode brings in something very different in atmosphere and tone and keeps things interesting.
But a lot of the time we also have to lose a member of the group. It’s the zombie approach to ‘And then there were None’ and it’s never done in a fun way. There have to be made difficult moral and ethical choices. It’s always harsh and sad, sometimes just bad luck, sometimes as a sacrifice, but never comical.
It’s a series with a lot of action, chaos, dynamics, realism, but also some absurdism, moving moments and of course hordes of deadly zombies and crazy survivors.
My favorite part
I really loved the way the series is shot. It’s so full of action, different perspectives which eventually all come together, a lot of dynamics and different characters make this an above standerd zombie series. Especially the first part of the series when they all still have to form one big group, but now are just alone or in pairs or form a group of three, all running in the same direction. It really reels you in and the cinematography is excellent. The shifts in tempo and perspective and atmosphere are great and enthralling.
The episode ‘Drive’ is by far my favorite, where some characters literally step into each others cars and drive and flee for zombies and other survivors who want to steal their car. The different camera views within the car, give an intimate look at the three characters. I liked Sun and her ‘silent’ perspective, while she can’t understand them and they can’t understand her, but they manage and it is a unique point of view, sometimes almost surreal.
I also feel for Lance, who is constantly followed by zombies who are relentless. It’s a little absurd, but also kind of funny, but you can’t help but feel for him. This special episode is especially interesting because he only says two sentences, creating a different dynamics in the series all together.
It’s a very diverse series in many different ways and herein lies the strength in an otherwise pretty standard zombie series regarding themes and topics and tropes.
Thrill factor: ★★★★☆
Originality factor: ★★★★☆
Gruesome factor: ★★★★☆
Entertainment factor: ★★★★★
Cast and crew
Black Summer is created by John Hyams and Karl Schaefer. It stars Jamie King (Rose), Justin Chu Cary (Spears), Kelsy Flower (Lance), Christine Lee (Sun), Sal Veleze Jr. (William), Mustafa Alabssi (Ryan), Gwynyth Walsh (Barbara), Erika Hau (Carmen) and Edsson Morales (Manny).
Music: Alec Puro. Cinematography: Yaron Levy, Spiro Grant. Edited by: Andrew Drazek, Chris Bragg. Production company: The Asylum, Go2 Digital Media, Alberta Film projects, Local Hero. Original network: Netflix.