The zombie has become the monster of the 21st century, encompassing all our foetid woes of death, infection, geo-politics, economy issues, even anxieties around gender, sexuality, and pets. Alexandre Phillip, the man who brought us The People vs. George Lucas, peels back years of zombie history to poke around at the inner-workings of a lucrative and mind-boggling global craze in Doc of the Dead.
Doc of the Dead spends a lot of time covering ground most horror fans will have considered for themselves or heard elsewhere (perhaps in zombie doc Birth of the Living Dead last year), but its still an enjoyable watch, including fantastic clips and comparative case study. Even though it dodges the nitty-gritty around a flourishing industry/community, it does manage to conjure some interesting ideas about the walking dead’s lingering appeal. The zombie is able to absorb multiple political discourses because it is the monster most like us. A pity then that the worldwide appeal and reincarnation of the zombie is somewhat abandoned with very few non-British or American films discussed. Zombie culture has burst the banks of cult following and successfully navigated the blockbuster environment but it relied on worldwide saturation of the form, rarely explored here.
Phillipe is quite clearly a zombie fan and often lets his boyish enthusiasm parade on screen. Short sketches of zombie reportage and survivalism upset the balance of a well-cultivated series of interviews and observations. Phillipe’s overexcitement in the presence of zombie icons is appreciable but hardly keeps the discussion as concise as it could have been. Featuring interviews with the likes of Tom Savini, George A.Romero, Simon Pegg, and Max Brooks, Doc of the Dead pulls it out the bag when it comes to a star-studded genre cross-section. It could have done more though. Phillipe seems more interested here in examining the evolution of the zombie through artists’ work, which is interesting, but leaves you hungry. More exploration of the zombie’s reactionary function would have been enough to put more bite in this pleasant, often-hilarious, but meandering examination.
The definitive zombie culture documentary has perhaps not quite arrived, but Doc of the Dead is a great look at the development of the western zombie. A terrific selection of well-edited interviews and clips is at the forefront of this eclectic exploration.
Dir: Alexandre O. Philippe
Stars: George A. Romero, Tom Savini, Simon Pegg, Max Brooks, Bruce Campbell, Stuart Gordon, Greg Nicotero