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.
American Psycho Meets Creep – Strawberry Flavored Plastic Review
Starring Aidan Bristow, Nicholas Urda, Andres Montejo
Directed by Colin Bemis
Recently I wrote up an article here on Dread Central which was basically an open letter to anyone who was listening called “I Miss Found Footage.” Well, it seems like someone WAS listening, as I was then sent the link to an all-new found footage film called Strawberry Flavored Plastic from first-time writer-director Colin Bemis.
The film follows the “still-at-large crimes of Noel, a repentant, classy and charming serial killer loose in the suburbs of New York.” Basically, you could think of the flick as American Psycho meets Mark Duplass and Partick Brice’s Creep. That, or you could think of it as “Man Bites Dog in color!” However you choose to label Colin Bemis’ psychological thriller, just make sure you check out the film once it hits in the future.
As I alluded to above, the film is basically a found footage version of American Psycho. But that said, the film sports a twist on the charming serial killer subgenre that I have yet to see play out in any of the above-mentioned classics. I’m not going to go into spoiler territory here, but I will say that the film introduces an element to the tale that spins it into much more of a character drama than a straight horror film. Not that there is anything wrong with that!
Truth be told, the film’s turn from serial killer flick into a layered character study might have been its kiss of death, but this slight genre switch is rendered a minor issue as the film’s central narcissistic antagonist is played by Aidan Bristow. Bristow is an actor you may not have heard of before this review, but you will hear his name more and more over the years to come, I promise. The guy gives (no pun intended) a killer performance as the film’s resident serial killer Noel Rose, and time after time surprised me with how chilling, charming, or downright vulnerable he chose to play any given scene.
Bristow’s performance is, in the end, the major element the film has going for it. But that said, as a fan of found footage, I was smiling ear to ear at first-time director Colin Bemis’ understanding of what makes a found footage suspense sequence work.
In Strawberry Flavored Plastic director Colin Bemis is confident and content to allow full emotional scenes to play out with the camera directed at nothing more than a character’s knees. Why is this so important? Because it keeps the reality of the film going. Too many found footage directors would focus on the actors’ faces during such emotional scenes – no matter how contrived the camera angle was. In this film, however, Bemis favors the reality that says, “If you were really in this emotional state and holding a camera, you would let it drop to your side.” I agree, and it is small touches like that which make the film feel authentic and thus – once the shite hits the fan – all the scarier.
On the dull side of the kitchen knife, the film does feel a bit long even given it’s short running time, and there doesn’t seem too much in the way of visceral horror to be found within. Again, graphic blood and gore aren’t a must in a fright flick, but a tad more of the old ultra-violence would have gone a long way in selling our main psychopath’s insanity and unpredictability. But all the same, the film does feature a rather shocking sequence where our main baddie performs a brutal home invasion/murder that puts this film firmly in the realm of horror. In fact, the particular POV home invasion scene I’m talking about holds about as much horror as you’ll ever wish to witness.
In the end, Colin Bemis’ Strawberry Flavored Plastic is a must-see for fans of found footage and serial killer studies such as American Pyscho, Creep, and Man Bites Dog. I recommend giving it a watch once it premieres. If only to be able to point to Aidan Bristow in the near future and tell all your friends that you watched (one of) his first movies.
Lead actor Aidan Bristow turns in a star-making performance in Colin Bemis’ Strawberry Flavored Plastic, a found footage film that plays out like Man Bites Dog in Color before introducing a new element to the charming-serial-killer subgenre and becoming more character study than a straight horror. Think American Psycho meets Creep.
Who Goes There Podcast: Ep 148 – Inside (2017 Remake)
We’ve all heard the old saying, “in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” Well, I’m here to tell you that’s only partially true. It seems there is a third certainty that had been omitted from the original quote, “It is certain, if you enjoy a movie, at some point someone will remake that movie.” Now is the time when one of my favorite movies gets reimagined, “for an American audience”.
In the late 2000’s an explosion of “French extreme” horror films was released. Martyrs and or High Tension can often be found on any number of lists of the “most fucked up horror movies ever”. Unfortunately, the vastly superior Inside is often forgotten (as well as Frontier(s), but that’s a whole ‘nother rant). Now, ten years after it’s initial release, Inside has been Americanized. Don’t worry, we watched it so you don’t have to. You’re welcome.
Mommy says you’re not dead. Is that true? It’s the Who Goes There Podcast episode 148!
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Totem Review – It’s Not Always A Bad Thing To Look Up From The Bottom Level, If You Like That View
Starring Kerris Dorsey, James Tupper, Ahna O’Reilly
Directed by Marcel Sarmiento
Following the untimely death of a family’s matriarchal figure, a young woman finds out that managing to hold all of the pieces in place becomes increasingly more difficult when otherworldly infiltrators make their presence felt. We’re going to have to work our way up this Totem, as
17 year old Kellie is the leading lady of the home following the passing of her mother Lexy, and with a needy father and tiny tot of a baby sister, she still keeps things in working order, regardless of the rather large hole that’s been left in the dynamic due to the death. Kellie’s dad after a while decides to ask his lady-friend to move in with the family, so that everyone can move onto a more peaceful existence…yeah, because those types of instances always seem to work seamlessly. As fate would have it, Kellie’s sense of pride is now taking a beating with the new woman in the mix, and her little sister’s new “visitor” is even more disturbed by this intruder – only question is, exactly who is this supernatural pal of sorts? Is it the spirit of their dead mother standing by to keep watch over the family, or is it something that’s found its way to this group, and has much more evil intentions at hand?
What works here is the context of something innately malicious that has found its way into the home – there are only a couple moments that come off as unsettling, but the notion of having to weave through more than half the film acting as a sullen-teen drama is rather painful. The presentation of the “broken family” is one that’s been done to death, and with better results overall, and that’s not to say that the movie is a complete loss, it just takes far too much weeding through at times stale performances and even more stagnant pacing to get to a moderately decent late-stage conclusion to the film. Under the direction of Marcel Sarmiento (Deadgirl), I’d truly hoped for something a bit more along the lines of a disturbing project such as that one, but the only thing disturbing was the time I’d invested in checking this one out. My best advice is to tune into the Lifetime channel if you want a sulky teen-melodrama with a tinge of horror, or you could simply jump into this one and work your way up…but it’s a LONG way to the top.
Sulky, moody, and ridden with teen-angst buried in the middle of a supernatural mystery – SOUNDS like a decent premise, doesn’t it?
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