Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Now Screaming: "Birth of the Living Dead" (Movie Review)

In 2005, one of the days that I and my three fellow senior friends were supposed to be in school, we decided we were going to make a movie.  We brainstormed a company name (Krazy Yolk Productions).  We all signed a contract making the company official.  We even commissioned our buddy in CAD class to create us a CG company logo intro.

That was a great night, but that's where the story ended.  I tried to work on the script but I'm not sure if it ever went anywhere.  We all graduated, moved away from each other, and I'm probably the only one who remembers Krazy Yolk or that Josh made us all egg sandwiches with perfect hockey-puck shaped huevos by tossing them in a Tupperware and microwaving them.

I imagine many other creative individuals have similar childhood stories.  Few of these movies are ever made.  Fewer of those made are any good.  Almost none become one of the most important movies in horror, and all of 20th (and especially 21st) century pop culture.  This is the story of Night of the Living Dead; and how a bunch of kids screwing around created a masterpiece.

Birth of the Living Dead is a great documentary, not only because it covers this young creative composition, but because it also dives into the sociocultural impact of decisions young George Romero made.  Things like casting a young black actor in the lead, not changing the script at all once said actor was cast (despite the roll calling for a white woman to be slapped), and the similarities between the roaming, zombie-killing posses and the white purification mobs of the south are all covered.  Even better, George himself is interviewed and able to give his own thoughts at the time as to what was and wasn't intentional in the film.

Honestly, George's interviews are worth the price of admission.  I'd put him alongside Stan Lee and Betty White in the pantheon of kick-ass, influential old people that can dazzle you with charming conversation. Despite being almost solely responsible for today's most popular monster (I realize, internet commentators, that such a statement is rife with debate fodder, but please allow me some hyperbole) he seems like a real down to earth human.

If anything, though, I'd have liked to see more about the production itself.  I loved the bits where Romero was talking about how a random person involved did explosion effects or how the actual local reporter ad-libbed a news report.  This content was all great, and although the snooty English major in me loved all the greater cultural narrative of this piece, it would have been great to get even deeper into the actual making of the film.

If you are a fan of movie making, horror cinema, zombies, or just have an hour and change to kill and have a Netflix account, I recommend Birth of the Living Dead.  It gave me great perspective on one of my favorite films and made me really miss the days of Krazy Yolk productions and the wonderful potential of youthful creativity.  They may be coming to get you Barbara, but you should watch this flick to know why and how.

Grade: A-
Available On: Netflix. 
Running Time 76 MIN.

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