Wednesday, 9 July 2014

DOC OF THE DEAD - Review By Greg Klymkiw - Ho-Hum feature-length doc on zombies a lame DVD extra at best.

How can a self-respecting documentary purporting to be the ultimate of its
kind, not deal with the astonishing zombie output from poverty row studios
that gave us classics like KING OF THE ZOMBIES with Mantan Moreland?
Doc of the Dead (2014) Dir. Alexandre O. Philippe *

Review By Greg Klymkiw

I have no idea who this movie is for.

By purporting to be the ultimate feature-length documentary about the zombie phenomenon in popular culture, it sets itself up for the big fall. This woefully inadequate picture fails miserably on all counts. It doesn't even cut the mustard as a glorified DVD extra which it most closely resembles. On the zombie movie front, it includes nothing any self-respecting genre geek wouldn't already know (leaving out tons of important references) and worst of all, meandering all-over-the-place when it leaves the movies behind and delves into the cultural aspects of zombies.

The historical and anthropological notions of zombie-ism (eg. voodoo and its relationship to zombies in Haitian culture and the like) gets short shrift in favour of ludicrous notions about apocalyptic zombie visions coming out of 9/11. Spending way too much time dealing with fan-based loser-dom is also beyond the pale. If the movie is not just supposed to be about zombie movies, then sadly, it doesn't even begin to the scratch the surface of what would have been truly fascinating. Never mind voodoo, what about Santeria, somnambulism and other weirdness in the real world that are tied ever-so fascinatingly and inextricably into the whole fabric of living dead activities?

As far as its attention to zombies in the movies, Doc of the Dead pretty much blows chunks. It spends far too little time on early zombie movies of the White Zombie variety and commits the ultimate sin by proclaiming it as the first to delve into the "living dead" when such elements like corpse reanimation and (yup, my favourite) somnambulism run rampant through silent cinema (The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, anyone?). The doc indulges in an equally egregious blasphemy by skipping over a wide swath of zombie or zombie-like elements in 40s, 50s and early 60s movies, especially some truly great work from the poverty row studios and independents. It doesn't delve deeply (if at all) into the Italian, Spanish, Asian, Mexican and even Soviet zombie cinema until finally settling into the birth of the contemporary zombie movie phenomena via George A. Romero's 1968 classic Night of the Living Dead and onwards.

Not that Romero's film is a slouch in that department. I first saw it as a kid on a 16mm film print at the age of ten and it not only scared the living shit out of me, but it holds up to this day as one of the creepiest horror movies of all time. My major quibble is just how much zombie material in cinema Doc of the Dead ignores.

Of course, it's always fun to listen to irascible old masters like George Romero, Tom Savini and Bruce Campbell talk at length and happily, the movie doesn't skimp in this direction. I could, however, have used less footage from panel discussions and I found the whole fast zombie versus slow zombie and infection versus reanimated corpses debates, deathly dull - wearing out its welcome to distraction.

I could also have used less of Simon (Shaun of the Dead) Pegg. I love the man's movie, but his manner of addressing the subject annoyingly wavers twixt self-serious and tongue-in-cheek and proves to be more bothersome than insightful. I pretty much even objected to dealing with the "World War Z" phenomenon, especially considering that the film version ranks as the worst zombie movie of all time.

And really, I've always had no use for the knot-headed fans who doll up in their zombie finery and engage in zombie parades (or zombie walks as they're most often referred to). I'm sorry the movie even bothers with them. If I wanted to attend a Star Trek convention on film (but with zombies instead of Kirk and Spock lookalikes), I'd probably be in the market for a cheap razor and hot bath.

Life, even after death, seems a tad too short for this movie. I had to see it. You don't.

Doc of the Dead is in theatrical release via Kinosmith.