Welcome to 2014 – where twerking exists, Pharrell looks like Smokey The Bear, and zombies have become a major staple in everyday societal culture. Yes, brain-munching, decaying, vile, mindless zombies have risen in popularity and weaseled their way into every facet of modern life. There are zombie walks where cosplayers sport their most grotesque and creative festering wounds, overtaking major city streets as a pack of undead supporters, zombie 5K races (which yours truly ALMOST survived) – hell, the most popular show on TV is a drama about zombies (depending who you ask). So what’s the big deal with zombies all of a sudden? That’s exactly the question that director Alexandre O. Philippe (The People Vs. George Lucas) attempts to answer with his newest horror themed documentary, Doc Of The Dead.
Bringing together a team of genre veterans to talk all things zombies, Alexandre leads us chronologically through zombie folklore, starting with early black and while material that dates back years before Night Of The Living Dead and continuing until this very moment in time – most recently World War Z. All the big names in zombie fame are here – George A. Romero, Tom Savini, Greg Nicotero, Stuart Gordon, Robert Kirkman, Max Brooks, Simon Pegg, Judith O’Dea, Bruce Campbell – the list goes on. We sit back as they discuss the true implications of a zombie apocalypse, how the genre has evolved over time, the difference between slow walkers and fast runners, and why such a strange fetish of sorts has exploded into this global phenomena. Zombies have been around for decades, but why are they only now graduating into mainstream normalcy?
As a zombie fan, personal curiosity carried me into Doc Of The Dead, excited to hear some of my favorite horror stars try to dissect current pop culture trends while going back to where zombies all started – witch doctor rituals and voodoo secrets. We’re talking 1930s style zombie movies like White Zombie – that’s where all this living dead insanity started, and Philippe makes sure to educate viewers with the proper timeline of zombie creation. George A. Romero may be recognized as the “Godfather” of the zombie genre, but he isn’t the first one to have attempted such a film – he’s just the first one to popularize the now famous horror monsters.
Of course, Doc Of The Dead‘s bread and butter should have been debating zombie rules that have existed since Romero’s first Commandments, but no one ever truly expresses heartfelt opinions on topics. I would have absolutely loved to see numerous talents enter a room and discuss via a roundtable exchange such examples as fast moving zombies, zombie plagues, and even The Walking Dead zombies where once a person dies, whether they turn or not, their life will inevitably continue as a shambling walker. Each talking head is full of insight and personal experiences, but some are rather flat and full of fluffer material, anecdotes and obvious points that most die-hard zombie fans know or have heard before.
Aside from our talent’s assessment of zombification, our host guides us through short little vignettes meant to add comedy, such as running his urine through a handheld water filter to see if it become drinkable, but most of these segments fall flat while trying to make fun of zombie norms. I understand our creative team wanted to break up the interview segments with laughs and oddities like introducing America to a gun target company specializing in exploding zombie targets – but again, some of these segments run entirely too long, and instead of revealing what crazed zombie hypnosis people have fallen victim to, these weightless moments detract from the true analysis that could be underway.
Doc Of The Dead is a wonderful beginner’s guide to the zombie apocalypse, but more hardcore fans will only be treated to more of the same fleshy tastes. Sure, fans can enjoy listening to their favorite undead creators and heroes discuss what tactics are necessary in a real zombie apocalypse, but there’s also a thin veil of acknowledging the ridiculousness of such a scenario that might actually deter hardcore survivalists. People believe zombies are only mere years away, ready to overtake planet Earth, and Alexandre O. Philippe plays around with wackier characters preparing for an undead takeover – but there’s more entertainment here as a playful introduction to zombie horrors than hard-hitting documentary. Zombie porn – enough said.
Doc Of The Dead isn't exactly a hardcore zombie fan's Holy Grail, but it works well as an introduction to one of horror's most iconic monsters.