Doc of the Dead review

There was a time in the not too distant past where you might easily have found people who didn’t know what a zombie was. These were people who had never seen a zombie film, people who had no idea what the zombie ‘rules’ were, and people who had no opinion about whether zombies should be fast or slow.

Zombies used to be something of a niche cultural artefact.

But now zombies have ‘crossed over’ and become a mainstream cultural concern, and the fact that you have seen ‘zombie movies’ or have some interest in the walking dead no longer marks you out as a die-hard horror fan.

We now have huge blockbuster films featuring zombies, like World War Z; The Walking Dead is one of the biggest hits on US TV; and my mum even plays a game featuring zombies on her phone. And there’s zombie merchandise everywhere too, multiplying mindlessly.

Zombies provide an interesting case study in the way in how something iconic but still within a niche can become a very successful pop culture commodity, then go beyond this until the undead horse has been flogged so much that all that remains is zombie-like mushy flesh.

Doc of the Dead purports to explore ‘zombie culture’ but does not offer any insight or interesting detail regarding the success of the genre, and instead simply exists as another zombie artefact. It’s more fodder to be consumed unthinkingly, before plodding on with your appetite far from sated.

While this documentary should have taken a step back from the flogging, it’s just joined the pack, another hand to take up the whip and beat away.

Doc of the Dead‘s director, Alexandre O. Philippe, previously made The People vs. George Lucas, a documentary that also tapped into a wildly popular cultural phenomenon but had very little to say about it. And much like The People, this new film is essentially a talking head documentary.

Philippe has managed to coax a number of pretty high profile figures to interview, including George A. Romero, Stuart Gordon, Max Brooks, and Robert Kirkman and. They’ve been invited, I would assume, to speak about their involvement in defining zombie culture and their thoughts on the phenomenon.

But given just how smart these people are, it’s disappointing to see so little actual substance end up on screen. Instead, Doc of the Dead feels like a whistle stop tour through the rise of the zombie icon, stopping every now and again for little more than a pithy remark.

So, for example, an interview with Joanna Angel, who directed the hugely popular The Walking Dead: A Hardcore Parody, seems like a great opportunity to explore what made a porn film featuring zombies so popular, and why it happened now. Instead, her involvement is leveraged for nothing but an amusing anecdote. There’s no more to this than somebody saying “Wow, did you know they even made a Walking Dead porn film?! Crazy, huh?”

Interspersed amongst the talking heads are a number of music video segments and, as the film was produced under the RedLetterMedia banner, some interludes featuring their Mr. Plinkett character. These might have broken up the monotony a little, but they’re largely annoying and entirely unfunny.

There’s still an interesting documentary to be made about this particular quirk of pop culture history, but Doc of the Dead isn’t anything close. This is a tiresome affair and lacks insight, ultimately amounting to nothing more than just “another one for the fire.”

Doc of the Dead is released on DVD in the UK on March 30th, 2015.