THE DEFINITIVE DOCUMENT OF THE DEAD
Reviewed by: Andre Manseau
George A. Romero
What's it about
In a product way ahead of its time, this documentary follows George Romero around during the filming of Dawn of the Dead to discuss his style. Originally released over 20 years ago, this new "definitive" version has some extra footage added from Romero's later films like Land and Diary of the Dead, and Two Evil Eyes.
Is it good movie?
I'm actually pretty surprised being the huge horror nerd I am that I've
never even heard of, let alone seen, this flick. Interestingly enough,
this came about as a project from film teacher Roy Frumkes. It was
designed to show his students how to properly create a documentary.
This is why this documentary is really pretty dry when you're watching
the original bits of it from 1978- this is a technically shot bit that
features the study of making the film, rather than much fun stuff going
on with the people involved with its creation.
Don't get me wrong, it's still cool to see some of the actors from the
film trying to tell detailed stories while they've covered in makeup,
but again this is somewhat technical. In fact, the whole experience can
be even more than dry.. it's just downright dull at times and doesn't
really give any true meat. There's lots of detail about framing shots
and the way the film is editing and other tidbits about filmmaking with
neat comparisons drawn between Romero's different films, but it's still
dry and dusty.
In terms of the stuff that got added, it is certainly a little lighter
in tone, but ultimately it makes the documentary a bit of an uneven
mess. There are a lot of personal discussions with Romero that often
veer away from the films and stick more with his family and life in
general. This stuff seems so arbitrarily tacked on without rhyme or
reason, from parody trailers to stop-motion clay stuff to porn
adaptations, things just seem to be thrown in.
As a straight up documentary, this is a real mess. It's goes from tight
to incredibly loose and is just all over the place with no focus. As
three separate pieces (early/middle/now) it's not so bad, but together
it's pretty messy. If you're looking for lots of zombie insight, look
Video / Audio
The video source and quality
varies quite a bit over the years, and isn't pretty.
Audio comes in Dolby 2.0 and is again, pretty
The only extra is a commentary track
with the director (and writer, and producer) Roy Frumkes. This
is really actually quite interesting, honest and revealing, as the guy
is really quite intelligent and well spoken- even he admits the added
footage is a little disjointed and messy.
I'm torn about this. I likely won't watch it again, so that's fairly
damning I suppose. With that said, there are lots of tips and tricks
about filmmaking to be gleaned from one of Horror's greatest
contributors, but the whole package is mishmash and not exactly well
put together. This is a neat thing for horror fans to have, but just
don't get super excited about it, as it might wind up letting you down.