In 1968, a small group of independent filmmakers from Pittsburgh set out to make a horror movie about the dead coming back to life and eating the flesh of the living. This is the story how the legendary "Night of the Living Dead" came to be.
Horror movie documentaries are at an all time high right now. I'm not sure what the reason behind it is, but it has gone as far as to have not only a documentary covering the entire "Friday the 13th" franchise in one 7-hour swoop (a great documentary, I might add), but also in production is a documentary covering "Friday the 13th part III" specifically. We've seen a number of movies and franchises receive the documentary treatment (such as "A Nightmare on Elm Street", "Return of the Living Dead"), but it doesn't really end there. Filmmakers, producers, FX artists and actors get their documentaries too. Add to that the number of documentaries covering the VHS fascination, collector's mentality and the horror conventions craze. Yes, horror is covered extensively in documentaries right now. One filmmaker, or at least one series/trilogy of films that have been covered plenty through-out the years, is George A. Romero and his zombie trilogy. Now we have "Birth of the Living Dead", which focuses on the time before and during production of "Night of the Living Dead".
"Birth of the Living Dead" focuses on several points that many zombie/horror/Romero documentaries haven't before, mainly because its focus is "Night of the Living Dead". This is something that I am actually geniunely excited about as it's my favorite zombie movie. The movie does a good job at giving us an inside look at the troubles and worries that went into creating the masterpiece that started the modern zombie subgenre, but at times it fumbles about with certain things that only come to drag the documentary down. A few parts where a film teacher is showing kids "Night of the Living Dead" feel really interruptive and silly despite possibly having something to say about how the movie is even sparking questions among kids.
Most of the documentary is through an interview with George A. Romero and footage from the times (1960s) and from "Night of the Living Dead", and there really isn't much more that's needed. If there was any footage or photos to show from the making of it, then that would have been great. But I strongly doubt there is much more than what's on show here, and in that sense it does the best it can - which isn't bad at all.
The documentary goes a lot into the possible messages of "Night of the Living Dead" and other political issues of the times, such as racism, the Vietnam war and a more conscious generation blooming. "Night of the Living Dead" fits right into that, as its one of the early movies that completely embraced a much more modern method and idea of filmmaking and film structure. Alongside movies like "Psycho", this is a movie that took us away from the sci-fi or gothic tales of the early days of film, and one of my favorites to do so.
"Birth of the Living Dead" is worth watching if you love the movie in question, the filmmaker behind it, or just zombies in general. There are other good documentaries around Romero's work and zombies, but this is one of few times that you get a good idea of what really went on during the making of the very first modern zombie movie. This is one of the good documentaries to come out recently, but at the same time it's not exactly groundbreaking or all that memorable (aside from a few facts you'll keep with you because you love the subject) due to feeling like a special feature for a DVD, and also seems to focus heavily on what messages people thought it was representing, what it could be representing, and less what Romero actually intended.
Njutafilms release of the movie also comes with "Night of the Living Dead" as a special feature, in case you for some reason don't own it yet!
Note: I took out the ratings, as they serve little purpose for documentaries.