Doc Of The Dead (2014)
Dir: Alexandre O. Philippe
Written By: Alexandre O. Philippe, Chad Herschberger
Starring: George A. Romero, Bruce Campbell, Simon Pegg, Max Brooks
UK release: Frightfest 2014
This love letter to the zombie genre includes testimonials from experts such as Romero himself, and a guide on how to survive the apocalypse, should it abound any time soon.
A documentary on the overdone zombie genre, from the man who brought us the entertaining The People Vs. George Lucas, featuring interviews with everyone from George A. Romero to Simon Pegg sounds like a right laugh. There’s a hundred years of material to excavate, and millions of fans all over the world, not to mention the fact the un-dead are hotter property now than ever before. Unfortunately, unless you’re really into zombies – like, name your first born Barbara, into them – then this is going to feel like a particularly long hour and a bit.
To be fair, Alexandre O. Philippe kicks it all off well, with fake news footage proclaiming a zombie outbreak, along with testimonials from randomers who chat while the supposed un-dead lurk behind them. This is followed by some interesting insights from Romero, Pegg, Bruce Campbell and later Max Brooks, son of Mel, who penned the hugely-popular Zombie Survival Guide, along with World War Z. There’s decent footage of panels and some discussion about the insane popularity of the genre, the breakthrough hits that started it all, and where it could possibly be headed in the future.Unfortunately, where Doc Of The Dead starts to sag considerably is when Philippe explores other areas, such as zombie beauty contests, zombie walks and, weirdest of all, the multitude of zombie survival supply stores that have sprung up, seemingly overnight, in the US to cater for an outbreak. None of it is particularly enlightening, the message of everyone involved gets quite repetitive – zombies are big money right now, we get it – and, considering the majority of patrons for this kind of documentary will be choosing it because they love Dawn, Night, Shaun, etc., there isn’t quite enough information on that side of things at all. Given the amount of interesting people willing to chat to Philippe, he doesn’t exploit their knowledge, nor does he make any of them the subjects of the piece.
Much too long is spent in the company of various purveyors of zombie holocaust survival goods, a group of people who would be interesting if the fact they’re profiting off the paranoia of others wasn’t so deplorable. It’s weird that these things exist, but not so weird that a substantial section of a documentary should be dedicated to picking their brains (no pun intended). There are some interesting insights from the experts, for example Romero didn’t think of his monsters as zombies until they were called as such, even though he’s responsible for re-writing the zombie rulebook. 9/11 is seen as the tipping point for zombie culture at large, and many people believe the attraction to the un-dead is based off our own desire to have a dress rehearsal for what’s to come.
The interludes with the Geekscape group save Doc Of The Dead from lulling into a coma, but it does lapse significantly in the middle, and it ends with a thud as opposed to a bang. It’s not clear whether this is due to a lack of focus – zombies, as an area of study, is pretty expansive – or because the director thinks information such as why there are zombie weddings is more exciting than it actually is. Even Romero wonders who zombie fans actually are, and, watching this film, you’d be forgiven for thinking everyone is. Passing reference is made to those who don’t appreciate the “z” word, such as 28 Days Later director Danny Boyle, but these avenues aren’t explored. As far as Philippe is concerned, everyone loves zombies.Unfortunately, this all amounts to little more than an ill-defined retrospective that aims to decipher why zombies are so popular. As for the future of zombies, well, apparently we can expect them to become even more prevalent in popular culture.
Doc Of The Dead professes to be the definitive documentary on the un-dead. If it is, then there isn’t as much life in the old guys as we thought.