Alas, my FrightFest experience has to come to an end, and such a blast it has been. I may not have gotten top marks for quantity, but quality I would say was on my side and I hoped that that would keep up with my final film: Doc of the Dead from The People vs. George Lucas director Alexandre Phillipe.
It seems like these days you can’t take ten steps without stumbling into something undead. Zombies have come to shamble into every part of pop culture: movies, TV, games, clothing, cookie jars, slippers, etc. But what is it about the rotters that we keep coming back to? Phillipe examines this by looking at the origins of the zombie even beyond Romero, going back to White Zombie and including the Haitian folklore beginnings. He touches on all the major movie milestones: Night, Dawn, the Russo films, Shaun of the Dead (although not as much on that one as I would have liked, but then again I am biased) and of course the recent success of The Walking Dead and the World War Z movie. I was expecting this, an overview of zombies in fiction and cinema.
There’s certainly a line-up of great interviewees to cover everything: George A. Romero, Simon Pegg, Bruce Campbell, Judith O’Dea (Barbra, of “they’re coming to get you Barbra” fame), Robert Kirkman, Max Brooks, and many others. All very interesting and entertaining. They also show various clips from a lot of short zombie films, including one called Cargo that is on YouTube (which you should go and watch after reading this because it’s great).
What I wasn’t expecting was the depth of the look into the fandom and community aspects of zombie culture. Zombie walks are covered here, as is live action role playing. They look at zombie plans (Bruce Campbell is not all about saving the family) and the survivalist side of things. They even get psychological on us, looking at why we might be attracted to zombies on a… baser level. Yes, that includes covering the Walking Dead porno briefly, and that is something I will be disturbed by for a while. Apparently they kill the zombies by having sex with them. Because porn logic.
What it all really comes down to is that zombies work because they can be used on multiple levels. As a straight movie monster, they work because walking corpses eating our friends and family is pretty scary, and when it’s executed well, you’re in for a good time. Then there are the times when zombies are given a meaning; they are societal breakdown, they are consumerism, they are the fear of conforming, they are the inevitability of death given a physical form that will never stop coming after you. When something like that is done and done well, then you get something really special.
There might be a couple of areas that will be glossing over familiar territory for the true zombie die-hard, but I would say that Doc of the Dead looks at the pop culture phenomenon with non-judgmental eyes and with a nice dose of humour.
FrightFest ran from August 21-25 in London, England.