03rd Feb2015

‘Doc Of The Dead’ DVD Review

by Mark Allen

Featuring: George A. Romero, Charlie Adlard, Joanna Angel, Robert Kirkman, Simon Pegg, Max Brooks, Bruce Campbell, Fran Kranz, Greg Nicotero, Jacqui Holland, Tom Savini, Traycee King | Written by Chad Herschberger & Alexandre O. Philippe | Directed by Alexandre O. Philippe

Doc-dead-dvd

I like zombies just as much as the next person. Well, okay, maybe a little more, but probably not by much. While my friends and I, as teenagers, discovered the walking dead from satirical horror movies sought out in movie rental shops, most new initiates to the delights of the undead can simply leave their TV on for ten minutes and chances are there’ll be a zombie on it at some point.

Zombies have taken over the world. While the irony of their mass appeal is most certainly lost on them, it isn’t lost on Alexandre Philippe and Chad Herschberger, who decided the best way to deal with the oversaturation of the walking dead in popular culture was to make a documentary about the history of zombies and their oversaturation in popular culture.

That said, I wasn’t altogether certain that Doc of the Dead was a documentary for the first few minutes, as it plays with original and stock footage of zombie attacks mixed in with faux-newsreader announcements about the impending apocalypse. It’s a little shambolic – the newsreader stuff is far from professional standard – and by the time Simon Pegg shows up onscreen it’s pretty obvious this isn’t going to last long, but it’s a cute enough way to begin what is largely a clips-and-talking-heads-show.

The structure of Doc of the Dead (which sounds like a Looney Tunes slasher movie) fairly steadily follows the history of zombies in the twentieth century; from their roots in voodoo culture to early films like White Zombie and the creation & dissemination of the Z-word we’ve come to know and love as revealed to the world by George Romero and John Russo in Night of the Living Dead. Most of the interviews with famous folks and zombie scholars – Bruce Campbell, Romero, Max Brooks, someone who was in the Walking Dead porn parody – are light on insight and heavy on gushing over how terrifying zombies are and how great they are as a malleable metaphor. It’s all interesting enough IF you’ve never seen a zombie movie before or spoken to someone who has an opinion on 28 Days Later, but for the rest of us it’s all a little been there, done that.

The fake-narrative element crops up later on in a couple of well-meaning and supposedly informative skits regarding such divisive topics as fast vs. slow zombies and the stupidity of characters in zombie movies. I found them a little wearisome and amateurish, but I’m glad the makers tried to give their doc a unique spin. They needed something more, but at least they tried.

In the end, making a catch-all documentary about something so globally popular as zombies was perhaps something that demanded more consideration, as it’s hard to imagine the audience for Doc of the Dead being anyone other than undead-loathing masochists. I would have preferred both more specificity in the aims of the film and a deeper look at where the genre has expanded to in recent years – such as in videogames, which are given lip service but little else – as the whole thing feels very slight. That said, it’s entertaining and inoffensive enough, and a brief look into fan culture reveals the film’s most charming (if fleeting) moment: a zombie-themed wedding that Bruce Campbell himself officiated. Rather reluctantly, it seems.

That and footage of the annual zombie walks done all over the world give an impression of what a documentary made about hardcore zombie fandom in a world where everyone’s a ‘fan’ would be like, and that’s a movie I think I’d much rather have seen. Doc of the Dead has brains coming out of its ears, but not quite enough heart.

Doc of the Dead is released on VOD on 23rd February. The film hits DVD on March 30th.

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