Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Doc of the Dead review

    Doc of the Dead, standing for "Documentary of the Dead", is the (as now) definitive work explaining the appeal of zombies in popular culture. At an hour and a half, it feels like it's just barely scratching the surface of a much-larger cultural phenomenon but it manages to be consistently entertaining and informative.

    This is one one of those rare documentaries which manages to be enjoyable to both laymen as well as die-hard fans. Albeit, don't expect to be blown away by its informativeness. Doc of the Dead is squarely aimed at the causal viewer--which isn't necessarily a flaw. If you're going to introduce someone to "the appeal" of zombies, then Doc of the Dead may not be a bad place to start after some of the more famous movies.

    Guests on this documentary include Max Brooks (World War Z, Zombie Survival Guide), Simon Pegg (Shaun of the Dead), Stuart Gordon (Re-Animator), Bruce Campbell (Evil Dead, Army of Darkness), George Romero (The "Dawn" series), Tom Savini (see Romero), and Robert Kirkman (The Walking Dead). There's plenty of other guest stars, a few who are just laugh out-loud funny in their choice as "expert" like porn star Joanna Angel.

    Doc of the Dead follows the history of the zombie in cinema ranging from its origins in adapting the titular monster of Haitian mythology to its break-out role in Night of the Living Dead. From there, it talks about how various people adapted the Romero zombie and "improved"/ruined it. Much talk is given to the infamous Slow Zombie vs. Fast Zombie debate, a conflict I've weighed upon (here), and there's even a discussion of whether a zombie apocalypse could happen in real life.

    Despite its all-star cast, Doc of the Dead seems more interested in entertaining its viewers than talking at length about the zombie. Interesting sections like a discussion of the zombie as a sociological phenomenon and how George Romero came up with his creature are thrown aside for (admittedly awesome) bits like Bruce Campbell talking about how he was asked to officiate a zombie-themed wedding. The various zombie experts seem more interested in sharing amusing stories and shooting the breeze than discussing the monster, which I am willing to forgive because none of them are ever boring.

    If the documentary has any flaws, it perhaps casts too wide of a net in order to try to cover all elements of zombie fandom. While covering zombie-walks are fun and an interesting side, there's perhaps too much time spent with a corporation which provides zombie-themed targets for shooting practice.They could have also just included more Bruce Campbell as he's, by far, the stand-out in the story. Hell, if they ever do another medium-or-higher budget documentary on zombies (and they will), they should get him to host it.

    Likewise, the survivalist interview discussing the use of bomb shelters for surviving a zombie apocalypse seems extraneous. I would have expanded the criminally short section on the use of video games to promote the zombie as a beloved horror icon. While the movie covers the, admittedly, poignant Dead Island trailer--it neglects to give anything more than a few seconds to the many franchises built around shooting the undead.

    In conclusion, Doc of the Dead is a fun and light documentary for fans of the horror genre and those who aren't too.


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