A long, long time ago, when The Walking Dead was just a phrase and zombie movies only had a cult following, George A. Romero came along and created one of the most iconic horror movies in history – The Night Of The Living Dead. Many people consider this title to be where the zombie genre was created, marching forward in time towards becoming an unstoppable pop culture juggernaut, but that’s not ENTIRELY true. Yes, The Night Of The Living Dead really put zombies on the map, but variations of Romero’s creatures existed for years beforehand – something you’ll learn by watching a documentary called Doc Of The Dead.
Filmmaker Alexandre O. Philippe (The People Vs. George Lucas) has been watching zombies claw their way into every aspect of our daily lives, and he found it necessary to properly educate audiences on how zombies became the iconic figures that they now stand as. Not only addressing the recent massive obsession with zombie culture in today’s society, Philippe takes a look back in time with a slew of famous names and faces to dissect zombie movies piece by piece, offering a chronological history lesson for horror fans everywhere.
I caught the film at this year’s South by Southwest film festival, and I thoroughly enjoyed hearing the likes of Max Brooks and Robert Kirkman talk about what zombies mean to them. The icing on the cake, however, was getting to interview director Alexandre O. Philippe and a special guest of honor – Mr. Tom Savini. I tried my best not to burst out in a fit of nerdish fanboy love, an almost successful accomplishment before spewing a slew of words in a ten second time frame that I’m hoping made sense to Tom. I haven’t been given a restraining order yet, so I guess I’m OK? In any case, enjoy my conversation with Alexandre and Tom, where we discuss our favorite and least favorite moments in zombie history, learn why the hell zombie pornography is a thing, and reveal our fictional zombie-killing survival teams – the important questions.
WGTC: So the big question – why did you feel it necessary to make a zombie documentary now, at this point in time? What made you think an update on zombie culture was needed?
Alexandre O. Philippe: This is the perfect time to release a zombie documentary – there has never been a better time to release a zombie documentary. It had to be done. If you just look around, zombies are everywhere. When zombies are showing up in Sprint ads, that’s when you know the time is now. The good thing is the timing of it. I really wanted to start making this film five years ago, but I was wrapping a film and had to go to another one, so I had to wait another three years. Epix came to help us, and they made it happen – so I’m just glad it’s coming out now.
WGTC: [To Alexandre] So I’m assuming you are a die hard zombie fan, having made a documentary about zombies…
Alexandre O. Philippe: Oh yeah, for sure…
WGTC: [To Tom Savini] …and we all know what you’ve accomplished, but I’m curious – what is your favorite era in zombie history?
Tom Savini: Favorite era where there were zombies? I always have trouble with the word favorite, like people ask what’s my favorite effect or what’s your favorite horror movie – it’s almost an impossible question to answer. Especially the favorite horror movie question, I can’t name even my top ten. As far as my effects go, they’re all my children so I can’t pick one – but my favorite era of zombies? For me it has to be Dawn Of The Dead, the 70s. Look at the line they say when they’re hovering in the helicopter – “What the hell is that?” “It looks like a shopping center, one of those big, indoor malls?” Are you kidding?
If you think of a zombie movie, most fans think of Dawn Of The Dead as THAT movie.
Alexandre O. Philippe: I’m going to go out on a limb here and say my favorite era is going to be the next five years, in the sense that I’m always looking forward to what is going to happen. It seems that with zombies, everything that possibly can be done has been done, but I’m sure that’s not the case.
Tom Savini: We thought that before World War Z! Totally unique concept.
Alexandre O. Philippe: …and Zombeavers is coming out!
Tom Savini: Cockneys Vs. Zombies, Zombienado maybe?!
Alexandre O. Philippe: I’m always excited when a certain side of pop culture gets to where it’s everywhere, because now it really needs to get creative. I’m not saying it hasn’t been. To be perfectly honest, I look at the classic Romero trilogy and it doesn’t get better than that, but I’m really looking forward to what’s coming out.
Tom Savini: Ok, we’re nerds and geeks, right? What about someone who is not, someone not following zombie culture and watching this documentary. Somebody who isn’t a nerd or geek and is suddenly watching television when that Sprint commercial comes on, and they’re wondering, “What the fuck is a dead guy doing in a Sprint commercial?!”
Alexandre O. Philippe: That’s why they need to watch Doc Of The Dead! They’re going to at least get some kind of sense.
Tom Savini: Unless you live under a rock – I mean if Brad Pitt is making a zombie movie, he’s tapping into a cultural phenomena.