The full froth of IN THE FLESH’s zombie apocalypse is delivered mostly in flashbacks, with present-day action situated in a kinder, gentler place. The United Kingdom, having developed a cure for the so-called Partially Deceased Syndrome, is already in the bureaucratic lather of reintroducing its former zombie hordes back into polite society.
Predictably — human nature being what it is — not all of society is feeling very polite about this new government initiative.
The most violent resistance comes from the remnants of anti-zombie militias known as the Human Volunteer Force — the HVF. There’s little doubt that these bands of zombie hunters once saved lives but, in a post-epidemic reality, the HVF have become little more than an ugly reminder.
The wider citizenry are eager to move on, even if they’re still not quite ready to share a meal with the PDS-afflicted. The HVF that remains is a shadow of its former glory, largely made up of village bully boys, town drunks, disaffected teens and aimless PTSD sufferers.
It’s into this confused landscape that Kieran Walker (Luke Newbury) returns to his rural home to live with his family. Successfully rehabilitated from his brain-munching aphasia, he must now navigate the tensions of his new partial-life.
His relationship with his younger sister Jem (Harriet Caines) is drastically marred by her affiliation with the HVF and their entrenched xenophobia. His presence in the community alone is enough to makes his parents the target of aggressions both unspoken and overt. And the social dynamics of the new world are not black and white.
Among Kieran’s fellow-cured, many hold resentments against the fully living, who persist in treating them as second-class citizens. It’s a environment seething in spite of itself, a conflict mirrored by Kieran’s own guilt and alienation.
We can be thankful that the evolution of the zombie trend into a fully fledged genre has had the effect of generating more nuanced fare. It could so easily have remained in a mire of increasingly less relevant rehashes. Instead, like WARM BODIES — but with substantially more creativity and emotional heft — IN THE FLESH lifts zombie fiction to an exciting new level.