This is the tenth in a series of 'Netflix streaming roulette' reviews. Austin horror examiner Michael Taylor reviews the first horror(ish) movie off 'Netflix' streaming that he's never seen before. Wish him luck.
The horror documentary 'Birth of the Living Dead' wants to make one thing abundantly clear; 'Night of the Living Dead' wasn't just a horror movie. It was a cinematic game changer, a societal mirror, a film that created the self reflexive nature that would define every horror movie made in its wake.
Most hardcore horror fans like myself already know this, but it's always interesting to hear these facts put into context, which this documentary does exceedingly well.
Director George Romero captured lightning in a bottle when he shot 'Living Dead' in 1967. It was the first notable motion picture shot in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, but neither he or the cast and crew were prepared for its seismic worldwide impact.
Through interviews with Romero, and other filmmakers (and a elementary school class which uses the film as an educational tool), we see just how much the film changed pop culture. 'Living Dead' reflected the turmoil of Vietnam and the Civil Rights movement. But for Romero it was simply a means to an end to expand his cinematic career.
Romero is wonderfully candid and droll, downplaying his groundbreaking work. While audiences were shocked and impressed to see a black actor in a lead role, he simply explained that actor Duane Jones was simply the best actor that he knew.
But for film critics like Elvis Mitchell, the implications of Jones' casting were huge, and life-changing, and his commentary is another highlight of the film.
But just as much as the film explores the film's social commentary it also provides insight into the film's ramshackle production and harried distribution. All involved in the film wore several hats, juggling their duties exceedingly well.
The film suffers from the lack of commentary for other cast and crew involved in 'Night of the Living Dead', which would be interesting for multiple perspectives. But 'Birth of the Living Dead' states its case well; every zombie movie made in its wake owes a debt of gratitude to a grainy black and white film that injected terror and gore into audiences the world over.