Doc of the Dead (2014)
Directed by Alexandre O. Philippe
Zombies have taken over our society. No, not in the end of the world apocalypse type of way, but in the they’re everywhere you turn type of way. “The Walking Dead” is the most popular show on cable television, and World War Z made well over half a billion dollars at the box office this past summer. Indeed, zombies have taken over our society.
With this knowledge in hand, noted documentary filmmaker Alexandre O. Philippe (The People vs. George Lucas, The Life and Times of Paul the Psychic Octopus) set out to make the most thorough, well-rounded and informative zombie documentary possible. With loads of incredible guest stars speaking from decades of experience on the topic of zombies, Doc of the Dead is simply the be-all and end-all of zombie information.
Headlined by the man credited from bringing the modern zombie to life, George A. Romero, Doc of the Dead offers a lineup of experts that is simply outstanding and easily the greatest part of this movie. The list is absolutely insane. You hear from Romero and Tom Savini, Greg Nicotero and Bruce Campbell, Matt Mogk and Max Brooks, Robert Kirkman and Simon Pegg…and that’s just a small sample. Doc of the Dead sits with an amazing number of people from Hollywood movie stars to porn stars and creators of some of our favorite zombie movies and television shows to zombie walk organizers. Every base is covered.
The film takes viewers on a history of the zombie movie, starting with White Zombie and moving all the way up through World War Z, hitting on a few high points in between. However, the real discussion starts when George A. Romero is introduced early in the documentary, and many of the commenters like Pegg, Kirkman, Brooks and Stuart Gordon talk about how Night of the Living Dead was the movie that ushered in the zombie as we know it today.
From here Doc of the Dead dives into Romero’s films, discussing how society is so wonderfully mirrored in them and how our collective fears are also addressed. We hear how the movies highlighted fears of consumerism and The Cold War among other things, and Kirkman talks about how Romero’s movies influenced him to create The Walking Dead comic in the hopes it could be the zombie film that didn’t end.
And this would have been a fun documentary if that was all it touched on. A history of the zombie in film, evolving from the early works up to the box office juggernaut we had this past summer. But that’s not it. Doc of the Dead is so much more than just a discussion of zombies in film. It’s a discussion of the zombies all around us.
After a wonderful debate on the age-old and always amusing topic of slow vs. fast zombies where Romero, Nicotero, Savini and a slew of other experts chimed in, Doc of the Dead begins to move into all sorts of other topics that aren’t movie related. We meet David Hughes, an assistant professor of entomology and biology at Penn State University, who discusses how we could expect real, hive-minded zombies to behave. Sex therapist Dr. Susan Block has some rather unique items to discuss, and we even get to see a brief (PG-rated) clip from The Walking Dead: A Hardcore Parody. That’s right, a porno based on your favorite zombie television show.
At one point Romero wonders why pop culture is drawn to zombies. He says, “What is it that appeals to zombie fans?” This turns out to be an excellent lead in to the next segment of the film that deals with zombie walks, zombie runs, zombie marriages (yes, Bruce Campbell did preside over one), zombie car washes and the growing popularity of all these things. Romero compares the zombie walk enthusiasm to the punk rock movement in a very intriguing moment of the documentary. From here the film talks to survivalists and businesses that stock all sorts of weapons, rations and anything else the average citizen would need to protect himself should the zombie shit hit the fan. There was no mention, however, as to whether you would need an oversized sheriff’s hat for your child.
And still the movie rolls on with more great footage. Many of the celebrity guests are asked how they would deal with a zombie apocalypse, and there are some really fantastic answers. From here we get much more scientific, and Professor Hughes and other experts talk about whether a zombie plague is possible, what factors could cause it and which of those factors are already in place. Professor Hughes also talks about zombie-like occurrences in the animal world. Things like rabies and mad cow disease could certainly be the starting point when discussing mind-altering infections that could be the gateway for the next big plague coming along.
Every possible zombie detail is attended to. Even the soundtrack is loaded with zombie-themed music like “The Living Dead” and “They’re Coming to Get You Barbra” by No More Kings and “The Zombie Song” by Stephanie Mabey. Simply put, Doc of the Dead claims to be the definitive zombie culture documentary, and it absolutely delivers on that promise completely.
There are so many unique and thought-provoking theories brought up in Doc of the Dead such as how the September 11th attacks and Hurricane Katrina helped create this explosion in the zombie’s popularity, as they gave people a very real look at the possibility of a post-apocalyptic situation. It was truly an impressive job done by director Alexandre O. Philippe. Anyone who can bring together discussions of some of the most tragic events of the past 20 years and weave them with a passionate discussion of slow zombies vs. fast zombies is certainly doing something right.
If you wanted to capture the entire zombie phenomenon in some sort of film so it could be put away in a time capsule for people in the future to better understand our society, this is the film you would want to be there. It’s incredibly thorough and amazingly informative with guests who are talented and full of experience and information on the subject. It’s also really funny at times, creative and amusing. This is a wonderful documentary for anyone who’s ever had the slightest inkling of an interest in zombies. And it so multi-layered that those new to the zombie world can be greatly amused and entertained while the grizzled veteran horror fan gets plenty out of this one as well. A very impressive work.