Director: Rob Kuhns
Cast: George A. Romero, Mark Harris, Gale Anne Hurd
By Brian M. Sammons
Playing the film festival circuit right now is a new documentary about what is arguably the single most influential movie (not horror movie, but overall movie) in the last 50 years or so, Night of the Living Dead. What, you think I’m overstating things a bit? Name another movie from that period that spawned its own subgenre, and if you can do that, name one that was as far reaching as this one. Can you really do that? Now, in this age were zombies are everywhere and have invaded movies, TV shows, books, video games, cartoons, commercials, toys, t-shirts, etc. etc. etc. Before Night of the Living Dead there were no zombies, at least not as we know them now. After NotLD, the horrorverse was changed forever. The ramifications of that one, micro-budget, independent movie are still keenly felt today. Hell, its offspring is more popular now than ever before. That’s something that even much more vaunted game-changing movies, like Star Wars for example, can’t claim. And all that, this entire wave of zombie love that has washed over the world, can trace its way back to Night of the Living Dead. Maybe that’s why there are so many documentaries about that film. Well here is the latest one. Is it worth a watch by more than the most diehard Deadheads? Does it have anything new to say after all these years?
Thankfully the answer to both questions is yes.
Unlike some other docs, this one solely focuses just the one …of the Dead film, the one that started it all. The star of the show here is, appropriately, George A. Romero as he gets the most of the airtime. Sadly, none of the others who were involved with making Night are seen here at all. Sure, some of them have passed away, but there are still others who are alive and well and their absence here is a bit of a downer. That being said, it is the only down side to this movie that I can think of, so that tells you something about how good the rest of it is.
Birth of the Living Dead focuses on all aspects of Night of the Living Dead. From the time before it was even a thought in anyone’s head, to the stuff that influenced the story behind it, to all the obstacles that the filmmakers had to overcome just to get it on film, and then all the trials and tribulations that came afterward. However, where this movie really shines is looking at the social and political turmoil that was rife in America when Night was being made and how that influenced and was reflected in the groundbreaking movie. I mean, you’ve always heard about the ‘deeper meaning’ behind Night of the Living Dead, well this documentary fully explores all that and so much more.
In addition to Romero, various experts pop up here to give their opinions on the film and its relevance in both cinema and social history. Actor/director Larry Fessenden, super producer extraordinaire Gale Anne Hurd, film critic and radio host Elvis Mitchell, film editor Samuel D. Pollard and more all chime in here. Additionally, news footage and scenes from Night of the Living Dead itself fill out the rest of this documentary.
If you’re a fan of zombies in any way, shape, or form, you need to watch this movie. Night of the Living dead is where it all started folks, there’s no denying that, and this film is one of the most extensive, informative, and even entertaining looks at that film. As such, consider it very highly recommended.