Alexandre O. Philippe is known for his documentary work that tends to focus of geek-culture. By taking items that are prominent in popular culture and analysing their success and their fandom, he has created several films that excellently discuss the role of the fan and ultimately the rise of the nerds and their interests. In George Lucas vs. The People he explored the impact of the Star Wars film franchise and its global success and reception. What resulted was an amusing discussion about Lucas’ genius but also his betrayal of fans in making a product that is now a merchandising industry in its own right. Philippe returns to the big screen at this years Edinburgh Film Festival with Doc of the Dead a fun but foolish look at zombies and their return to mainstream social prominence. It is a film of two halves. One half will interest fans of film and cinema history and the other will entertain the hardcore zombie fans who squealed and giggled around me as George A. Romero’s face appears on the screen, as well as other contributors to zombie entertainment features such as Simon Pegg and the creators of The Walking Dead. Now, I have to address the important truth that I have very little interest in the zombie and the fan culture it drags along with it. I adore Night of the Living Dead and that’s about it. I also like Danny Boyle’s 28 Days Later which I have now been told doesn’t count as a zombie film, taking my interest back down to one movie. The first half of the film educates us about the origins of the zombie, particularly within cinema and, more crucially, African folklore. The film then rambles on and on about the likely-hood of a zombie apocalypse and how we should prepare for it. For the fans that surrounded me in the screening this was highly amusing but for me it grew dull and self-indulgent. Of course, I appreciate that I am not the target audience for this documentary and that’s absolutely fine. It is a documentary but also a comical celebration of a public fascination that fans will rejoice in.
The director has done a good job of getting some crucial names of board. As he stated in the Q and A that followed the screening, “If we didn’t have Romero we didn’t have a film”. For me it seemed as though Romero actually contributed very little to the film. In my eyes he is a film maker who made one truly outstanding movie and accidently invented the zombie that we know today. Romero has very little opinion about zombie culture and its growth over the last 45 years. He comes across as a man who got swept up in a world that he did not know the extent of. I couldn’t help but wonder why Romero is so adored by his audiences but the likes of Lucas is so despised by his. Still, Doc of the Dead happily walks us through some hugely popular zombie related experiences that are available – the zombie walks being the most prominent example. An amusing debate that arises in the film is that of ‘slow vs. fast zombies’, demonstrating how passionately people feel about the living dead. The film also highlights some fascinating ideas as to what the zombie represents, and has previously represented, since their first appearance in White Zombie (1932). Doc of the Dead will thoroughly entertain zombie fans everywhere, loyal fans who are willing to look past the film’s flaws. As a film fan, and not a zombie enthusiast, sadly I could not. Doc of the Dead was mildly fun but mainly just highlighted how irritating zombie culture is to a boring old film snob such as myself.
Thanks for reading and let’s all keep supporting our beloved film industry.