This post contains affiliate links.
In this case study, I will share why and how I had to make an effort to like the horror series (by The Asylum and Netflix) Black Summer, but how I ended up enjoying it.
What’s This Case Study About?
I will make a no-frills evaluation of Black Summer, a no-frills horror series that doesn’t benefit from a no-frills, apathetic audiences approach. Like my particular approach to it. In the next section I will give some background about why it was important for me personally, and how I abandoned after the first two episodes. After that I will explain what made me return to it. In the last section of the study I will evaluate its worth for fans of the zombie sub-genre of horror.
If you believe that the zombie genre can’t fail you, even after watching a couple or a handful of Black Summer episodes and still being unconvinced that it’s worth your time, please read on.
Also, go ahead and continue watching the series, because you may be able to see its positives like I did and greatly enjoy it. Somewhere around the fourth or fifth episodes of season one.
My Zombie Entertainment Journey
As related to Black Summer and when exactly in my zombie media watching journey it appeared.
It took me watching three or four episodes of Netflix’s Black Summer to begin liking it. I was already watching The Walking Dead for three years already; when I watched the first episode of this series.
The first impression wasn’t good for me, the first episode felt okay, but by the second I was feeling that Black Summer was a serious downgrade from The Walking Dead.
Also, I felt that I should try to get into it only after I finished watching Z Nation. Because I thought that the production values of Z Nation were an in-between that would ease me down, and prepare me to watch a no-frills, low-budget zombie series like Black Summer, that to me seems to have a lower budget than Z Nation.
I have always been a lover of everything zombie. Still, as with everything else, I was not what you would call a hardcore enthusiast that has to get to know everything as soon as it is released.
To be like that was much more important if you like the zombie sub-genre from before it became highly popular. I sense that until The Walking Dead (the TV series) came around, there was a limited quantity of zombie audiovisual media.
Sometime before 2010, it must have been 2007 or so if my memory doesn’t fail me, I was possessed by a kind of zombie fever. I realized that how I loved the subject wasn’t balanced by a knowledge of the genre through at least several different media types.
That’s when I made zombie audiovisual media a mainstay of my horror purposes. It took me 2-3 years to begin inquiring into the comic book area. The first comic books about zombies I read were just two different lines, and they fell flat with me.
All the while, I was ignorant of the existence of TWD as both a comic going on since 2003 and right then and there as a new zombies series. Unfortunately, I got acquainted with it in late 2013 only.
All this to say that since the year of the zombie fever when I adopted the zombie horror sub-genre as one of my favorite branches of horror up until 2013 I didn’t want to think of the possibility of a TV series about zombies. The superficial knowledge of the fact of not a single series about zombies did exist (up to then) was a pain and a lack that was too difficult to bear.
On a side note, I’m a head for apocalyptic media. The apocalyptic factor present in the zombie series of the last years is a thing of beauty for a horror fan like me, who happens to also love the cyberpunk genre.
One of the highlights of Black Summer is that while subtle, the apocalyptic factor is greatly recreated through what isn’t shown or heard, and lets you wondering.
My problem was that I couldn’t get it, expecting to see more sights and experience more character development. That’s why I thought I wasn’t ready, and that I needed to finish watching Z Nation before watching Black Summer.
How I Went Back to BLACK SUMMER
When I was a Netflix noob I considered The Walking Dead as its killer offer; that having Netflix was justified if only to watch it.
When Black Summer came along, I watched the first episode of the series in or around the time it was released. Since it was only 25 minutes, I watched the second back to back with the first and I felt I wasn’t ready for it.
Like I wrote in the intro of this study, I simply thought that it would be much more beneficial for me to go through the whole Z Nation first, so I will not see the different approach of Black Summer, to what I was accustomed to, the big media franchise of TWD. I just wanted to get into it without thinking it was something inferior.
The solution to this prejudiced assumption was blown to pieces by a high-quality post by someone on Reddit that told a few things about The Asylum, giving Black Summer (among other things) as an example and proof for the content of the post.
I wasn’t doing my homework and I didn’t know that it was by The Asylum. And that post on Reddit changed my way of seeing Black Summer, it suddenly became greatly interesting.
As I wrote elsewhere on this site, I’m interested in everything by The Asylum because I was told that the horror screenplays I wrote and cared to share were a good fit for that company.
BLACK SUMMER: Worth Watching for Zombie Media Fans?
Even though I’m not yet done with Z Nation, I watched Black Summer and I loved it. It’s such a far cry from TWD and even from Z Nation.
The two things that I think are mighty different between Black Summer and TWD are the zombies’ modality and the scripts of each episode.
The script approach of Black Summer is less Hollywood (mono-myth) style, much more art-house (even if TWD has its arthouse moments), and much more economical at the dialog level.
I say great, because the effort to make it more visual and action-based, and less talky, is evident. Some episodes have long sequences with zero lines of dialog that are extremely fun to watch anyway.
Some may see this, its apparent lack of character development due to fewer lines of dialog per minute, as something that justifies calling it an inferior product, but it is not that way, at least for me.
There is a nice balance between the dialog-heavy parts and the series’ characteristic, shocking action sequences.
Some may say that precisely there is where a balance is lacking. That there are long dialog-less sequences, and then long scenes of backstory-dumping and character-background-dumping dialog. Also, that’s not the way I saw it.
The long talky scenes of this series are also spread very sparsely through the narrative. It’s not that a by-the-numbers injection of scenes with extra lines of dialog is there in each episode to balance the dominating action and lacking in dialog long scenes. No, it’s not.
I guess it’s a zombie horror example of the Netflix trend of ‘understated’ media. Still, others may see it for what it (apparently) is only: a low-budget co-production, by a low-budget company and a VoD.
For me, it has a style that feels both interesting for how different it is from the majority of horror series, and at the same time immersive.
After finishing season two, I still don’t know much about the world or its characters.
There is something about the tense, disturbing, and shocking scenes that reinforces the dread produced by a lack of knowledge of the background of the series’ universe and characters.
To be forced to an attitude of not rooting for practically any of the characters, like Black Summer almost forces you, makes you detached from them. Once you don’t care whatever happens to anyone you begin to expect other things from it.
Like how and when each of the characters is going to meet their maker. This creates a morbid feeling about the series that seduces you to binge on it, and continue watching it.
Maybe because of a coping mechanism of one’s psyche, that one feels entitled to extract something from each fictional character one gets to know. Even if it is about wanting them to go out with a bang.
For me, Black Summer was a question of, for not being able to know the universe (beyond what’s shown) or the characters, to like them, to root for them, one may accept them as tragic heroes and binge on the series just because one can’t wait to see how their lives will end.
Do You Know Other Good Low-Profile Netflix Horror Series
Black Summer taught me that is not just that the publicity of a determined horror series didn’t reach me what may make overlook a horror series. It taught me also that you need to invest a minimum of time with those that you start watching and at once think they aren’t for you. That’s why I think some horror series could be called low-profile, because they don’t amaze you or capture from the beginning, like Black Summer does, but that have the potential to become much more enjoyable after more episodes.
© Bholenath Valsan 2021 — BLACK SUMMER Case Study – Horror Series