The movie was a German movie called Hell and the series was the second season of The Walking Dead.
I saw Hell in my local DVD store at a bargain price so I bought it in the hopes of discovering an unknown gem. The blurb sounded intriguing...
"It was once the source of life, light and warmth. But now the sun has turned the entire world into baked and barren wasteland. Forests are scorched. Animal carcasses line the roads. Even the nights are dazzling bright. Marie, her little sister Leonie and Phillip are heading for the mountains in a car with covered windows. Rumor has it there is still water there. Along the way they run into Tom, a first-rate mechanic that becomes indispensible. But can they trust him? Tension grows in the small group. As if things weren´t bad enough, they are lured into an ambush. Their real battle for survival begins..."
Now that was enough to get me to buy and when I started watching the movie, I first thought I had found a nice little undiscovered gem. A post-apocalyptic tale of survival in a world where the sun has become lethal. The story started with the main characters facing the problems of a sun-baked world....travelling in a car with covered windows, wearing protective clothing, searching for water and gasoline.
So far, so good.
If you are thinking of seeing this movie, don't read on. I have to reveal the plot to examine what I thought went wrong with Hell.
After a while, the characters, who are travelling through the sun-ravaged world looking for a safe haven, are captured by a family of farmers who don't have any livestock but eat humans instead. Now the entire movie shifted focus to the characters trying to escape from the farmhouse.
At this point, the movie lost sight of its concept.
Characters trying to escape from a farmhouse full of people who want to murder them has nothing to do with a world where the sun has gone super-hot and people struggle to survive. Now the movie could be any other horror movie...it could even be a World War 2 movie. The sun and its dangers were totally removed. It simply became a story of flesh-eating farmers and the characters' atempts to escape bing eaten. The sun problem simply became a gimmick to set up the rest of the movie...which was a generic "escape the farm" flick.
Don't let your concept be reduced to a gimmick.
This movie could have been so much more but the post-apocalyptic survival in a sun-baked world promised in the blurb (and on the cover) simply degenerated into a plot that could be found in any horror movie from the past thirty years.
Now onto a a TV series that I think also lost sight of its concept. The second season of The Walking Dead.
Take a look at the trailer for this season...
See all those zombie encounters and the main characters in seemingly-constant peril? That's what you should expect from this series because The Walking Dead is a series about survival during a zombie apocalypse.
In the second season, the characters spend most of their time on an isolated farm which is relatively zombie-free. They literally escaped from the main concept of the series. This season was more like a soap opera. Will Rick find out about his wife and Shane? (he did but apprarently didn't care). What is the secret that was whispered into RIck's ear at the CDC in season one? (that everyone is infected and if you die, you become a zombie...the standard zombie lore in any George A Romero movie)
In many ways, the main concept...the zombie apocalypse.. became nothing more than a gimmick to keep the characters on the farm and present some preil when they left it. Overall, season two was a soap opera about people living on a farm. The zombie became a secondary consideration to the relationships between the characters.
Now there is nothing at all wrong with character development....but The Walking Dead is a zombie series. The character development would have been much more effective if it was done within the realms of the concept the show set itself...survival in a zombie apocalypse.
It was only at the end of the season that it lived up to the promise of its concept.
So what can we learn from this? If you have a concept for your series that is original and interesting, use it to its full advantage. Make sure it permeates the characters at every level and is a constant in the plot.
Don't let your plot regress into something that is interchangeable with any other story. Your originality is your greatest asset....use it to its potential and your story will stand out from the crowd.