There have been many documentaries about the making of movies, especially about the horror genre, but Roy Frumkes' 32 year-old classic documentary, Document of the Dead, stands out as one of the very best ever made about the horror genre, period. Actually this review is about the re-edited, updated, and repolished 2011 version with new footage and new interviews.
This is a brilliant showcase of director George A. Romero's legendary career, spanning from the late 1960s with his famous zombie flick, Night of the Living Dead in 1968, to his masterpiece 1978 sequel, Dawn of the Dead, which is mostly what the doc is about. It also takes a look at some of his films, including clips and exclusive footage from not just his very underrated, 1973 post-modern vampire flick Martin, but also Monkey Shines, Land of the Dead, Survival of the Dead, and Diary of the Dead. There is also great narration by actress Susan Tyrell
First, there is behind-the-scenes footage of Dawn, which takes a look at stunts, makeup/gore footage, and Romero himself directing. Since I'm kind of a gorehound, the footage of Tom Savini (the king of makeup effects) performing the more gory moments, such as the screw driver in a zombie's ear, and a machete in another zombie's head is one of the documentary's best moments and gives fans a shocking, but real look at why Savini is the go-to gore guy. There is a famous shot of Frumkes, who played a zombie in the film, getting a pie in the face. For the most hardcore fans of Dawn in particular, and of horror films in general, it is really gnarly, exclusive footage.
There are many interview snippets of Romero himself discussing his style of filmmaking. He is really intelligent to listen to; he knows what the horror genre means to people, how it always stigmatized, and how the horror is absolutely essential to film itself. Just like Hitchcock and John Cassavetes, Romero is one of the masters of the modern film movement.
There is a great clay animated prologue and a funny disclaimer at the beginning. I think everyone who already owns the DVD or wants it will definitely enjoy it. I don't want to give away more information because I don't want to ruin the many surprises that this great documentary will bring to anyone who loves horror films and loves the way they are made, which means the blood, sweat, and guts (no pun intended) that are put into horror movies, especially the movies that are independently made.
Like I said about the DVD earlier, it contains the remastered, updated version that was released in 2011, and it looks great. Sadly, the only special feature is an all-new commentary by writer/producer/director Roy Frumkes, but it is really amazing to listen to, as he not only he goes into deep analysis of just the original version of the documentary, but the also the new footage/interviews. I just wish that for such an awesome, entertaining, and terrific documentary, that there would have been more bonus features, but you could do a lot worse.
So, to Mr. Romero himself, thanks for all the great movies that we still watch and get terrified of.