On this blog, we talk about a lot of geeky things; video games, pro wrestling, comic books and so on. However, there’s one thing that I don’t get, “Why are Zombies so popular?”
Sure their fun films that take up a few hours of your time on a stormy night, but some of the extremes that fans go to confuse me. Then again, I watch grown men pretend to hurt each other while a corporation tries to get me to buy their T-shirts and TV Stations, so maybe I’m the fool here.
So maybe I need to be educated on the subject? Maybe Doc of the Dead will help me fill in the blanks?
Let’s find out.
Doc of the Dead is a film directed by Alexandre O. Phililppe (The People Vs. George Lucus) and written by Philippe and Chad Herschberger.
Like the title suggests the film is a documentary that focuses on Zombies films and pop culture as a whole. While the popularity of the film genre started with Night of The Living Dead playing on Basic Cable Channels and drive-in theatres the Zombie has grown a great deal since then.
The film features interviews from filmmakers/actors like Simon Pegg (Shaun of the Dead), Bruce Campbell (Evil Dead) and George A. Romero (Living Dead films), writers like Robert Kirkman (Walking Dead) and Max Brooks (World War Z) as well as fans that have found ways to let their love for Zombies to run into their businesses, marriages, music videos and other everyday life subjects.
Over the course of the film’s 81 minute running time it touches on some of the larger elements of Zombie culture, from the origin of the creatures in Haitian culture, to it’s use in film and eventually TV with the Walking Dead.
While these interviews make up a great deal of these interviews, the film has a number of sequences that break up the film in different ways. To help push the film forward the filmmakers use a great deal of footage from zombie films/TV shows like Walking Dead show or the Living Dead series as well as some original segments from Geekscape Productions and RedLetterMedia.
While the Geekscape moments more feature an actor dressing up for zombie walks and events, interviewing everyday people on their zombie knowledge or even shooting commercials, RedLetterMedia goes in a different direction. The Milwaukee based production team shot a series of shorts featuring their Harry S. Plinkett character. While these are few and far between, they end up being the most original part of the film and while that might be great for fans like me who adore the production company, it doesn’t help the film.
Ultimately Doc of the Dead is a documentary that doesn’t follow any type of narrative structure. While the normal tropes of documentaries aren’t the only way of telling a story, DOTD needed something to get it’s point across.
The film doesn’t really know what to do from the outset with the beginning of the film featuring scenes of actors pretending to be news anchors laced with some of RedLetterMedia’s footage. DOTD then just jumps awkwardly into some of the larger points of culture, weaving in and out of topics aimlessly sometimes even having to retread back to previous ideas.
For example, the origin of Zombies, is quickly brought up in the films opening moments only to be dropped for 20 plus minutes until the film examines the word itself. Why break up the two parts? They could of easily been used to open the film. This is just one of the many questions that should’ve been asked during the editing process of the film.
Don’t get me wrong, there’s a great deal of interesting information presented in this film, but it’s spaced out between long interviews with people saying little new or interesting about the genre. If the film had taken more time to craft out a story starting with the full origin of zombies then move to films like Night of the Living Dead and so on then the film would end up being a better product.
Or another idea that could’ve helped would be to start the film with a question; “Why are Zombies so popular?” Then form a narrative around that with fans and filmmakers alike discussing the undead ghouls. Instead the film just throws interviews together and doesn’t really say anything.
Adding to the frustration are the scene’s created by Geekscape Productions. While some of these parts are funny, they fail to break up the film in any way that should make sense. They’re more or less presented randomly after we get 10 minutes on a topic.
The only conversation that was introduced through an insert was the debate about slow or fast zombies. This section was brought up after one of the few RedLetterMedia clips in which Plinkett pokes fun at the trope. Had all of the inserts worked that way the film would have come out much more clearly and, again, formed some type of narrative/structure.
In the end, DOTD seems like it had no idea what it wanted to be. Was it going to focus on fans? Maybe it wanted to be a historical breakdown of the genre? Or maybe an outsiders look at the undead trope?
Instead, the film feels more like a collection of interviews put together with little story or connection between them. Like a random snap shot lost in a shoe box full of random photos. The film doesn’t even try to answer why Zombies are popular, in fact it just kind of assumes that if you’re watching it then you’re in the club. Sadly for the filmmakers, that won’t always be the case.
While some of the interviews and insert scenes are fun and interesting to watch, collectively it lacks any complexity. If you’re really looking for something undead to watch on a late night, I’d dig up a copy of Resident Evil: Afterlife before I’d watch this again.
Doc of the Dead was produced by Exhibit A Pictures, Geekscape Productions and RedLetterMedia.