Giving a groundbreaking film its due, though I would have preferred even more George…

Martin’s Grade: B+

While I am certainly no fan to zombie films in general because the genre has been WAY over-saturated in recent years, I have enjoyed a few of the films and understand that they still are very popular and important films despite my misgivings about many of the recent films.  So, because of this, the new documentary Birth of the Living Dead is well worth seeing and is rather timely.  It is THE granddaddy of all modern zombie films—the one that led to subsequent generations of such pictures.    In fact, it’s one of the most important movies of the 1960s and it’s one every film student and horror fan should see and appreciate.  It managed to overcome its low production values and humble origins to become a cult favorite.

Not surprisingly, the creator of the original film, Night of the Living Dead, George Romero, is featured in this documentary.  When he’s being interviewed is when the film is at its best.  His tidbits about the making of Night of the Living Dead are really interesting and I wanted even more of this than Romero provided.  Additionally, a variety of experts are interviewed and they discuss what they love about the movie.  Also not surprisingly, various clips from this seminal film are shown throughout this homage.  Among the topics covered are the director’s expectations as well as how he made the film, the impact of the film on pop culture, the reaction of the critics (both immediately after the film was released and later after many re-assessed the movie), the political and racial themes in the film (whether intended or not) and how the film was groundbreaking as well as how it mirrored the times in which it was made.

This documentary certainly is well worth seeing and I recommend you see it provided you first see the old film it’s based on—otherwise it might be a bit confusing.  However, it’s not a perfect making of film and could have been a bit better.  As I mentioned above, the inside information from Romero was great but too often various ‘experts’ (and I have no idea what constituted this in many of the folks chosen to discuss the film) talked a lot more about hidden social significance (something that Romero revealed is NOT always in the movie) and the times instead of talking more about the original movie itself and how it was made.  Still, despite this, the film is reasonably well made and kept my interest throughout.  For horror fans and film students, it certainly should be a film to watch.

by Martin Hafer