Zombies are my absolute favorite fictional creature. I was on the zombie bandwagon before the craze of The Walking Dead TV series, and it was all because of…Zombieland. Yeah, my fandom hit just barely before The Walking Dead, but the comedic horror film sparked an interest that sent my movie collecting brain into overdrive and I sought out all the zombie films I could find. That’s when I became a George A. Romero fan, and Birth of the Living Dead, which has a 7.0 out of 10 stars on IMDb and 96% on Rotten Tomatoes, is a really great look into the cultural and cinema graphic impact that Night of the Living Dead had on the world.
The documentary tells the story of George A. Romero’s early career working in the industry making commercials or short films for Mr. Rogers with his small company out of Pittsburg. It moves into his production of Night of the Living Dead and the process they underwent being indie film makers before that was a thing. The documentary ends discussing how the film was distributed, its initial reception, and its impact on the world. Lots of great interviews including a teacher that teaches literacy through film to elementary kids (yeah they watch Night of the Living Dead, so what) and scenes from the 1968 movie.
I found this documentary to be very compelling as it’s a genre of film I love that was created by a director who I respect and how that film had ideas in it that I’d never really contextualized. For example, the lead of the 1968 film is African-American at a time when that was unusual. The characters in the film never react to his race as they wrote the character without a race in mind. When a black man was cast they didn’t do any re-writes to make that prominent making him a human and not locked into any racial stereotypes or displaying a racial tropes. The film speaks on the idea of revolution and fear that was running throughout the country. The documentary introduces all these concepts in a very compelling way that makes Night of the Living Dead seem far more than just a mere film, but an important piece of modern art.
An interesting aspect of this documentary are the various animated scenes. It adds a fun vibe to the story telling of the doc and I think it works to fill in gaps where no other footage was available. Lots of stock photos are used from the race riots, clips from the Vietnam war, and clips from the film are mixed nicely with interviews. The visual presentation of the film is fun, and Romero’s personality really shines.
I think fans of modern zombie films, Night of the Living Dead, George Romero, the film industry, and well-made documentaries should definitely check this one out. It’s currently on Netflix and is a quick watch. I give Birth of the Living Dead 8 out of 10 Braaaiinnnsss.