Sunday, July 13, 2014

Horror Documentary Review

Doc of the Dead (2014):  From the guys who brought us The People vs. George Lucas comes this heartfelt if not breezy look at the history of zombie films.  Breezy because the focus wavers from the cinematic to the sociological.  While interesting up to a point, I'd have preferred footage over frivolity.  For example, an inordinate amount of time is spent on why zombie walks are popular.  Do you care?  I don't.  Also, we all know where the concept of zombies originated (imported to Haiti from Africa) so why rehash it in a doc about zombie flicks?  They didn't need filler.  There are literally hundreds of films to discuss and show clips of.  So why were so many overlooked?  Only one explanation makes sense: those who own the rights refused to participate.  That said, Doc of the Dead isn't awful by any means.

It begins with Bruce Campbell and Simon Pegg reading fake news stories (Ash and Shaun!).  You know, how the news might sound at the beginning of the zombie apocalypse.  It's cute but the filmmakers wisely don't push it too far.  After that, we have the George A. Romero lovefest.  At least half the doc is dedicated to the creator of the iconic Night of the Living Dead.  And rightly so as he's the father of the modern zombie movie.  I enjoyed the little-known facts, such as Romero didn't want to call his creatures zombies but rather ghouls.  We're then taken through his next two films, Dawn of the Dead and Day of the Dead, in some detail.  They only touch on Land of the Dead.  I don't think either Diary of the Dead or Survival of the Dead is mentioned. 

Much is also made of The Walking Dead.  Interviews with the creator of both the comic book and TV show are fairly extensive.  So what does The Walking Dead have to do with zombie movies?  Beats me.  I'm a fan of the show so I'm not complaining as much as scratching my head.  Given how it's become this insanely popular cultural phenomenon, I reckon they had no choice but to talk about it. 

As a card-carrying member of The Zombie Research Society myself, it was nice to see an interview with its founder.  One would imagine his earnestness on the subject would be quite tongue-in-cheek.  One would be wrong.  The man truly believes his own press.  Gotta respect that. 

Wondering what films were and were not featured in this doc?  Notable ones that were:  World War Z, Dead Alive, Shaun of the Dead, Warm Bodies, Army of Darkness, Reanimator, Resident Evil, and Romero's, of course.  The likes of Evil Dead and 28 Days Later were eschewed because, in my nerdy opinion, neither are true zombie flicks.  Demon possession and pandemic, respectively.  More unforgiveable, however, is the dearth of foreign zombie films in this documentary.  From France, The Horde is one of the best ever made.  It ranks up there with Romero's best.  No joke.

Should you see Doc of the Dead?  Well, yeah.  You'd have to be brain dead not to.

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