It's hard to imagine a time when the word "zombie" didn't exist. The Walking Dead is a show that seemingly everyone talks about now. People are so into this fad that they'll even dress up as zombies to take part in a "zombie run". But as with anything popular, zombies run the risk of overexposure.
Before 1968, zombies didn't exist. Night of the Living Dead sparked an awakening in the horror genre on a whole other level that nobody had ever seen before. Director George A. Romero introduced the world to zombies and every which way to kill them. People were so accustomed to vampires, mummies and werewolves, that zombies became something refreshing. The amazing thing about Romero's debut feature however had less to do with the birth of today's most common of monsters, and more to do with the effect it had on society at the time.
The film was revolutionary for the period, because of the brilliant social commentary it was talking about. The film was released during the height of both the Vietnam War and the Civil Rights movement. The film had the character of Ben played by Duane Jones as the hero of the film. To see an African American man in such a role was unheard of at the time. Romero's film broke both racial and political boundaries by being much more than "just another monster movie".
That's what the documentary Birth of the Living Dead is about. The documentary details how Romero came to make the film, what challenges and difficulties arose and what kind of impact it had on audiences. The documentary is a fantastic account of the filmmaking process. Not only is it informative and entertaining, but also Romero's story is one that's inspiring. Young independent filmmakers looking to carve their own path should take note of what it is that Romero talks about here.
Filmmaking isn't easy, but the documentary shows both sides of the same coin. It educates in all of the hardship that the crew had to endure, but it also shows just how much fun everyone had making the film. It was a really low-budget operation, but one made out of pure love. Most horror movies today unfortunately aren't made that way anymore. Where studios only see dollar signs and profit margins, filmmakers like Romero see only the fulfillment of their cinematic daydreams.
Birth of the Living Dead paints an intimate portrait of George A. Romero and his undying love for film. With a little bit of money, a little bit of luck and a whole lot of passion, you can do anything you set your mind to.
4 stars out of 5