A zombie apocalypse is raging and it is eviction night on the popular reality show, Olimpo, The House of the Gods in Rio de Janeiro. While all is wet, squelchy carnage outside, the stars of the show— TK (João Pedro Zappa), Augusto (Leandro Daniel), Marcos (Gabriel Canella), Veronica (Natália Rosa), Madonna (Wallie Ruy) and Cleide (Arlinda Di Baio) are blissfully unaware of the mayhem. It takes a gopher, Nina, (Ana Hartmann) to break the news to the clueless housemates.
Reality Z is the Brazilian remake of 2008’s Dead Set (also available on Netflix), which was created by Charlie Brooker of Black Mirror fame. There have been heated debates about which is better. Reality Z while being more grisly, expands on the British mini-series. Dead Set ended in five episodes. Reality Z, on the other hand, uses Episode 5 as a mid-season break, even calling it ‘The End’ before picking up the threads in Episode 6 to introduce new characters and crises.
The premise for the reality show, kitting out the contestants as Greek gods, is sly. There is no dearth of slime balls on Olympus from producer Brandão (Guilherme Weber) to politician Levi (Emílio de Mello) and his assistant Cristina (Julia Ianina). The end of the world also brings out the best in people. Team good guys include Nina, Leo (Ravel Andrade) who comes to Olympus with his mother, Ana (Carla Ribas). Ana is an engineer who built Olympus and so knows all the building’s secrets. Teresa (Luellem de Castro) posted a picture of the police snorting cocaine and is shackled to the vehicle the police are transporting Levi in. Robson, (Pierre Baitelli) one of the policemen travelling with Levi, starts off as one of the wicked but has a chance to redeem himself despite vast quantities of cocaine going up his nose.
Jessica, (Hanna Romanazzi) who was evicted, has the misfortune of being stuck with Brandão as he tries to get away from ravenous presenter, Davina McCall (Sabrina Sato, a contestant on Big Brother Brasil 3) and deal with an upset stomach (ewww).
- Season: 1
- Episodes: 10
- Run time: 30 – 35 minutes
- Creator: Cláudio Torres
- Starring: Ana Hartmann, Emílio de Mello, Carla Ribas, Ravel Andrade, Guilherme Weber, Luellem de Castro, João Pedro Zappa, Hanna Romanazzi, Jesus Luz, Pierre Baitelli, Leandro Daniel, Gabriel Canella, Natália Rosa, Julia Ianina
- Storyline: As zombies attack Rio de Janeiro, reality TV show contestants stuck in a studio must deal with the outbreak
Zombie guru George Romero’s Dawn of the Dead (1978) had survivors holed up in a mall with the undead milling about outside and was a damning indictment of conspicuous consumerism. Using a reality show as the centre of action is a smart move as two decades into the new millennium, we are the stars of our carefully curated social-media-ready posts.
If the characters do stupid things (haven’t they seen enough zombie movies to know better?), that is par for the course. After feeling all superior to the mindless, meandering zombies, the living go and do equally silly things. The symbolism is clumsily obvious and surprisingly subtle by turns. For every decapitation and stereotype, there is also a far shot of the Christ the Redeemer statue and one of an out-of-control plane elegantly plunging into the mountains in a bouquet of flames.
Max Brooks’ The Zombie Survival Guide tries to make sense of zombies’ appetite — they are dead and obviously their digestive systems don’t work. Brooks writes of zombies who have literally burst apart from eating too much. The zombies in Reality Z have hearty and indiscriminate appetites but seem to maintain their figures—must be thanks to all the running around they do. They definitely don’t shuffle about. The chances of season 2 are doubtful given the way Season 1 ended.
The music is lovely including the haunting ‘Rosa De Hiroshima’, Pink Floyd’s incongruously peppy ‘Fat Old Sun’, The Who’s ‘Love Reign O’er Me’ and Joe Cocker’s ‘With A Little Help From My Friends.’ India popping up as the survivors trawl the satellites for news is a fun detail. Alongside the United States and Japan, there is the tricolour and the cryptic “Sawdhani Barte” in Hindi.
All who polished their Spanish swear words watching Narcos, can extend their vocabulary to Portuguese with Reality Z. Fans of all things zombie (like yours truly) and end-of-the-world scenarios will find much to enjoy in Reality Z. Only keep in mind the show doesn’t work as an accompaniment for a TV dinner.
Reality Z is currently streaming on Netflix