Directed by: Alexandre O. Philippe.
Written by: Chad Herschberger & Alexandre O. Philippe.
Zombies are everywhere right now. As popular culture icons, they pretty much disappeared in the 1990s – after decades of movies by the likes of George A. Romero, and a host of imitators, the genre seemed to have pretty much died off. But the early 2000s brought them back in a big way – first in films like Danny Boyle’s 28 Days Later and Edgar Wright’s Shaun of the Dead, and then onto the Walking Dead comics by Robert Kirkman – and the insanely popular TV show it inspired. Zombies are everywhere now – they’ve gone mainstream again. A good documentary about the phenomenon could easily be made – and some of Doc of the Dead is fascinating. But a lot of it isn’t. Perhaps a feature documentary wasn’t needed – a short would have done.
Doc of the Dead goes back to origins of the genre on film – breezing through the first 7 decades of cinema in a few minutes – from The Cabinet of Dr. Cagliari (1919) to White Zombie (1932) to I Walked with a Zombie (1943) through some sci-fi of the 1950s. Quite quickly it gets to George A. Romero and Night of the Living Dead (1968) – which pretty much invented the zombie genre as we know it today. It then walks through Romero’s films, and its many imitators, and show how zombies have gone mainstream – with books, comics, movies, TV shows, and everything else – and then showing the conventions, zombie walks and everything thing the die-hard fans of the genre have done.
Some of this is fascinating stuff. I didn’t think very much of the analysis of the movies – which basically sticks the big hits, and doesn’t tell us anything new or unique about them (Dawn of the Dead is about consumerism? Who knew?) and doesn’t even delve too deep into any of them either. I was much more interested in some of the things I didn’t know – the origins of the zombies in reality, and the possibilities of a real zombie outbreak (it may not be possible for the dead to come back to life, but perhaps an infection could create real, zombie-like people).
Unfortunately, the stuff that’s of real interest to me about the film is about a third of the movie. Another third is going over the movies and books that anyone who knows anything about zombie movies already knows all about (but hell, if you think zombies begins and ends with The Walking Dead, then by all means educate yourself). And then another third is downright embarrassing – strange re-enactments, and stuff that is just plain boring.
A good documentary about zombie culture could easily be made. But Doc of the Dead, directed by Alexandre O. Philippe – who directed the far better The People vs. George Lucas, about fans who hate the man they once adored (which was strangely fairer to Lucas than I thought it would be) – isn’t that film. It seems to be made for people who know nothing about zombie culture – and if they know nothing about zombie culture, then why the hell would they watch a documentary about zombie culture? The film quite simply isn’t good enough.