My first web series review! Thanks for coming. There will be spoilers. As I said last week, I’m staying in my comfort zone for the first write up. Zombies! Hey if you can’t be comfortable with the undead, then who can you get comfy with?
I could describe Bite Me, but I think the IMDB entry sums it up nicely.
“Three die-hard gamers find themselves in the middle of the zombie apocalypse and realize they have to use their gaming chops to survive, rescue their friends, and ultimately save the world. ”
Bite Me is produced by Epid Level Entertainment & Machinima (apparently with some help from Lionsgate), and distributed by Machinima & Fear Net. At least that’s what I can glean from the bumpers at the head of the program. The final episode of season 2 was released earlier this month, on May 10, bringing the total episodes up to 15. Overall, I genuinely enjoyed the series. I play some video games, I dig zombies. I wouldn’t describe myself as a fanatic for either, but the show definitely caters to my tastes. That being said, it’s not perfect, and there are some flaws that got to this viewer.
Let’s talk about the good stuff. The show is very well shot, lit, and edited. Season 2, in particular, has great cinematography, and I’m not just saying that cause I know someone who worked on the camera crew (good job, Stephen and the rest of the crew!). The camera work and lighting definitely set this show apart from other web series I’ve seen. The lighting, shadows, camera moves, etc are all well planned and executed.
I am a sucker for spacial montage (split screen and the like) and for motion graphics so I enjoy the pacing and style added to the show through some creative editing and graphics choices. Some are obvious (using a freeze frame with video game like stats to introduce characters), while others are a bit more ingenius (motion comics sequence to catch us up on what happened between seasons and what is possibly the best approach to showing an IM chat on screen that I’ve ever come across). Personally I’m just a sucker for this kind of stuff.
We follow our heroes, Greg, Jeff, and Mike as they deal with a suprise zombie outbreak and discover their years as hardcore gamers has prepared them to deal with such a catastrophe. Gamers, meet your destiny. All your hours of shit talking in co op while slurping down Four Loko will pay off, so keep training.
Color coded! Very video gamey (or Power Rangery – although for a guy my age it’ll always be Voltrony).
The actors do a good job. Consistent, motivated and I don’t get bored of them. And I mean that for all the actors beyond our three leads. But I do have some issues with the writing and directing. For one thing, our main characters are played realistically (although their repetitive bickering can get tiresome if you watch too many episodes in one sitting) while much of the side characters are written as absurd stereotypes and overacted. In season 1 we’re introduced to Devin, a very “Jersey Shore”-ish douchebag who dies between seasons and is replaced by party bro equivalent Derrick. Both characters are written so over the top for me, it pulls me out of the show. It feels like a high school geek getting back at the popular kid by writing the worst version of him possible. And sure, the audience of this show would likely be that geek who’d enjoy seeing those popular Ed Hardy wearing jag offs get taken down a notch, but for me, it didn’t work. It also became glaringly apparent when examining other characters in their over-acted absurdity that this approach is not confined to those characters. General Joseph McRuby (the villain who emerges during season 2) could work if he wasn’t so clumsily written and over-acted. He comes off as a simplified verson of a character that I’ve seen many times over. While I wanted a bumbling overly pompous yet diabolical mix of Carroll O’Connor in Kelly’s Heroes crossed with a criminal mastermind, what I saw delivered was a one dimensional uninspired and unbelievable caricature. At least Ricco Ross redeems the dialogue by chewing up the scenery while he chomps on that cigar. I genuinely laughed when he made a “fuckin promise” to his son to treat him to a chocolate milk before running off to kill our heroes. I do want to mention that Derrick’s character eventually integrates into the group as mechanic and rescuer, giving him more substance and purpose. But these two and other similarly treated characters had me rolling my eyes for over half the series. I personally think the dialogue would have worked better if played realistically and let the humor happen, rather than pushing it through over playing for laughs.
The two main girls in the show, Shawna (Dani Lennon) and Lauren (Risdon Roberts), aren’t much more than eye candy in the first season (along with cougar neighbor Marcy). I was willing to accept this as par for the course, assuming the target audience is gaming males that rarely see the sun, let alone a female that isn’t delivered to them through wifi. One way to keep them watching is to treat them to a little gratuitous girl parts.
Season 2 brings more substance to the girls’ characters and, thankfully, a departure from indulging in shots like the one above.
The show carves out its own little universe by containing the zombie outbreak to Los Angeles. In fact, the country cuts off LA to contain the epidemic, making it more of a disaster piece than an apocalypse piece. Our trio set themselves up in a Ghost Busters – like situation, taking emergency calls with Shawna as dispatcher (really would have loved a little Janine reference as she answered a call… maybe in season 3), which puts them at odds with the local military force. Why exactly they’re at odds with the military eludes me. The General’s motivation is to weaponize the zombies for combat, but that never struck me as a determiner for why he wants to kill our boys. But it’s what happens and that’s the trip we’re taking. It’s a good trip, I’m happy I bought a ticket, but I do have one big complaint to put on the comment card….
There’s not many zombies!!!!! For a handful of episodes of season 2 we aren’t treated to seeing the actual zombie killing missions the team goes on. We see them leaving and arriving. Consequently, there’s a serious zombie deficiency during some of the second season. Sure the Walking Dead backed off on zombie killing for a portion of season 2 in exchange for character development and it worked for me, but this ain’t the Walking Dead. In fact, the lack of zombie killing footage is emphasized by constant references to their missions and new breeds of zombies, such as sprinters and jumpers (or maybe it was leapers). I have to say I think this is bad filmmaking. First off – show, don’t tell. Second off – don’t tell me and then not show.
None of the flaws I found sunk the show for me. I like it and I’d recommend it if you’re into zombies, sci-fi, gamers or a fun time in short bursts. I wouldn’t recommend watching the whole thing at once. I think it works better in 1, 2, or 3 episode bites (see what I did there? eh? eh?).
My Favorite Parts
S1 Ep 2 • Meeting a Zombie through Craigslist (you know there’s some weirdos on there! be safe, kids!)
S1 Ep 4 • Killing the Cougar Zombie w/Flare Gun
S2 Ep 8 • Interrogation Montage
S2 Ep 10 • The Aforementioned “Fuckin Promise”
S2 Ep 10 • Some Evil Dead ishness when a hand ‘goes bad’ and a big ass mutant zombie that had a very Sam Raimi looking style to it.
Least Favorite Parts
Lack of zombies during Season 2’s missions.
AND NOW FOR SOME LINKS!
I watched Bite Me through a Machinima app on my ipad, but you can catch it here on their youtubes.
Zombie crap I enjoyed, but not quite relevant
I shouldn’t have to recommend The Walking Dead (tv show OR comic), so I’ll throw a lesser known, decent zombie comic your way, Raise the Dead by Dynamite Entertainment. At least look up the covers. I like the Norman Rockwell & Hitchcock zombie adaptations.
Lost Zombies social media site.
Dude in Miami might be patient zero. Stay up North, my friends.
That’s it for this post. I’ll be back within the next week or two with another review of another web series. I haven’t picked it yet, but I’m looking to make this blog a variety of show styles, so it won’t likely involve the undead or chopping off heads.