In Netflix’s The Last Kids on Earth and Daybreak the Zombie Apocalypse gets Younger

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As someone who loves All Things Zombie, anything that shows the possibility of flesh being eaten peaks my curiosity. Netflix is currently offering two such feasts, both of which are set in middle and high school. This is somewhat odd, as most zombie films lead toward a more adult audience. Children and high schoolers tend to be either menaced or victimized in the Zombie Apocalypse. Case in point, The Walking Dead begins with a little zombie girl and her dolly, moves on to Sofia in Hershel’s barn and finally, takes Carl away.

But now, the script is being flipped.

 

 

“The Last Kids on Earth”

(The Apocalypse has begun with monsters, zombies and who know what else as Jack Sullivan and his friends try to survive this new reality. Animated.)

Taken from Max Brallier’s best-selling series, we follow the adventures of thirteen-year-old Jack Sullivan. He is a middle school student whose foster family runs out on him when a giant hole appears in the sky, bringing monsters to the small town of Wakefield, as well as turning many of the remaining adult population into zombies. Through his first couple of chapters, Jack is alone. To keep from getting down, he begins to live life as if it were a video game, collecting awards for things like stealing the hats off passing zombies and exploring 50 abandoned houses. As time goes on, he finds his best friend, meets up with the school bully and rescues…we’ll leave that out (spoilers).

The books, which now number five in the series (and a Survival Guide), are profusely illustrated by Douglas Holgate and are a fun read, especially if you are in that age range (which I am not), or haven’t grown up yet (which I refuse to).

 

 

Netflix has turned this into an animated series, apparently using each book as an hour-long episode. The first book is currently showing with what looks to be more episodes coming. Jack is portrayed by (mostly) voice actor Nick Wolfhard, who captures the character beautifully. According to IMDb, Bruce Campbell is also in there somewhere.

This first episode follows the book (yes, I read it) almost to a tee.

“Daybreak”

(High school students try to cope in a world where their parents are zombies and their peers are dangerous.)

Now, for those who are further along in high school, Netflix offers the series “Daybreak.” This is based on a graphic novel by Brian Ralph (which I have not read).

During a football game at Glendale (California) High School, a bomb is dropped on the town. Anyone young is spared. Adults are either liquified, or turn into zombies. Some animals are also mutated (cue the giant mutant pug!).

The story centers around Josh Wheeler, high school nobody. He is portrayed by Colin Ford, whose credits include “Supernatural” and “Under the Dome”. He also lent his voice to episodes of “American Dad”, “Family Guy” and “Jake and the Never Land Pirates.” He is the first of the narrators of the episodes. I say ‘first’ as this series pays no attention to the “Fourth Wall”. A character is telling you the tale of the episode. They know you’re there. I’ve seen about five of the ten episodes and every character gets a turn, which in one case is hilarious. Oh, flashbacks and backstory are in great supply.

(left to right) Ms. Crumble, Wesley, Angelica & Josh

 

What does this show have to offer me, you ask? (Well, maybe not. Just play along.) There is one of Jack’s bullies that has become a peaceful samurai, wielding a katana. There is a ten-year-old hellion with long blond hair. She manipulates people and plays cruel jokes, as well as becomes one of the high school’s favorite drug dealers. Her name in Angelica. I believe this to be an homage to Angelica Pickles of “Rugrats” fame. The principal is played by Matthew Broderick. Imagine, Ferris Bueller running the show at a high school. He is one of the few adults that isn’t fully affected by the bomb. There is a “Mad Max” style villain, Tribes of Bling-conscious teens, a golf team whose member’s names all rhyme, possible references to video games, especially “Left 4 Dead”, most of the action takes place in a mall, and more. It’s a cornucopia of Easter Eggs. Normal zombie tropes are noted, and often, thrown through out a nearby window.

Also included in the ensemble cast are English actress Sophie Simnett as Sam, the love interest; Alyvia Alyn Lind as Angelica; Austin Crute as Wesley, the Samurai; Cody Kearsley as Turbo Bro Jock, villain (he also played Moose on “Riverdale”); Jeante Godlock as Mona Lisa, second in command to Turbo; Gregory Kasyan as Eli, “owner” of the mall; and Krysta Rodriguez as Ms. Crumble, teacher and part-time witch.

 

Both series carry menace and mayhem. “The Last Kids on Earth” is perfect for the little monster at home who wants heroes his or her own age, something that is in short supply in television and movies today. “Daybreak” can be a bit uneven, but it hits the mark more times than not. It has the right number of adult themes to make it interesting and enough humor to keep you laughing through most of the episode.

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About Ernie Fink

Ernie Fink has been a fan of film, mainly in the genres of horror and mystery, in equal parts, for over fifty years. His love of horror in the cinema begins with "King Kong" and in literature with Edgar Allan Poe and Bernhardt J. Hurwood.  With mysteries, he skipped from the Hardy Boys right to Hercules Poirot, only to find John Rebus and Harry Hole waiting in the wings. He has been known to read subtitles extensively, and rarely leaves a theater until the lights come up.
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