REVIEW: BIRTH OF THE LIVING DEAD / CERT: 15 / DIRECTOR: ROB KUHNS / STARRING: GEORGE A. ROMERO, LARRY FESSENDEN, MARK HARRIS / RELEASE DATE: MAY 12TH
Romero's 1968 classic Night of the Living Dead arguably changed the face of horror cinema forever; giving the undead a voracious appetite for human flesh, and presented in a bleak, almost matter-of-fact style. In this new documentary about the making of the film, Kuhns gets the truth about the trials and tribulations that went into making a low budget horror film, which would eventually end up in the Library of Congress' National Film Registry for films which are 'culturally, historically or aesthetically significant'.
Even though the entire doc is purely about Night, it never feels as though it's been padded out. There's a little background on how Romero got into making movies via the advertisements he was making in the early '60s, plus how they found the funding for the film and the importance of having a committed crew. Romero's anecdotes, some of which have no doubt been heard before due to the abundance of articles, books and features made over the years, are always entertaining as he is a natural raconteur; even giving a shrug of resigned acceptance at the error which made the film fall into the public domain, meaning no one made any money from it. While discussing the casting of Duane Jones, he reveals the actor's race had no bearing on anything, they simply shot the script as it was written. He does admit, however, that he might have done that differently now to make a bigger point. The film seemed to reflect the troubled times in which it was made; Martin Luther King was actually assassinated the day they were taking the finished film to New York to find a distributor.
Cult actor/director Larry Fessenden (Jug Face, Stake Land) executive produces as well providing some fun and insightful comments, as do Samuel D. Pollard (who edited several Spike Lee films) and film critic Elvis Mitchell. Proving the evidence of the influence on today's zombie output is The Walking Dead producer, Gale Anne Hurd. While it's a shame not to have any interviews with the main cast, there is a touching clip of 'graveyard zombie' William Hinzman (who passed away in 2012) after the end credits.
Despite some of the more familiar stories, Birth of the Living Dead is still a fascinating and engrossing work. It's made in such an informative and entertaining manner that even the most casual horror fan would enjoy it. Naturally, it's not one you should watch if you haven't already seen Night due to the abundance of spoilers, but would be a perfect follow-up for when you do. Which, of course, you should.