The Definitive Document of the Dead


Before the event of DVDs there were very few documentaries of the making of films especially when it came to cult and horror cinema. Occasionally there would be a promotional behind-the-scenes look for the major studio blockbusters screened on TV but nothing compared to the insight and analysis we have come to expect now. Document Of The Dead and Fangoria’s feature on Tom Savini Scream Greats Vol 1 have always held a special place for me as they were my first glimpse into what went on behind the scenes of some of my favourite horror flicks. I’ve always liked how they were shot in the thick of it all and are a great document of the time without the benefit of hindsight.

Street Trash writer Roy Frumkes takes us on a candid journey behind the scenes into what would become one of the most iconic and revered horror films Dawn of the Dead. Document Of The Dead gives us an all access pass to Romero at his prime helming arguably his finest achievement. We get a look at all facets of the film’s production from conceptual art/storyboards to post production, plus cast and crew interviews. I enjoyed how the interviews weren’t just the usual bland talking head we’ve come to expect and were more candid and biting. The documentary also covers the evolution of Romero’s style fromNight of the Living Dead to The Crazies and Martin. Document Of The Dead really gives you more of an insight into the trails and tribulations of the low budget film maker. This set wasn’t a cushy lavish Hollywood production with all the trappings, everyone behind this film shed some blood sweat and tears to deliver the finished product. The highlight for me was Tom Savini’s demonstration of the zombie make-up application process.

Since Document Of The Dead’s move to the digital world it has had the inclusion of later era footage of Romero such as on the set footage of Two Evil Eyes and a few other bits and pieces. This has never really sat right with me and I’ve always wished they’d just left the original documentary intact in its original form. To me this would’ve been more effective and been an interesting time capsule. The extra footage just seems uneasy, less focused and tacked on. It succeeds somewhat at rounding off Romero’s career to date but I feel it would’ve been better left as it was. Essential viewing for fans of Romero’s work as its a great dissection (or should I say disembowelment) of his style and vision as a director.

Over the years I’ve watched Document Of The Dead in various formats and running times and this version is definitely the best. Its come a long way since my first viewing of it as a shoddy 3rd or 4th generation bootleg tape. My complaints of the insertion of the newer footage aside, Document Of The Dead is a definitely a worthy addition to your horror movie documentary collection. After all this is the one that started it all and it easily holds its own alongside recent efforts such as Going to Pieces: The Rise and Fall of the Slasher Film and Never Sleep Again: The Elm Street Legacy. Now where’s that definitive edition DVD/Blu-ray of Scream Greats Vol 1?

The disc is another great release from Synapse who are one of the best sources for those overlooked cult classics. Although it’s a little light on extras with only an audio commentary with Roy Frumkes included in the special features it’s a nice looking package with some awesome artwork.

DIRECTOR(S): Roy Frumkes | COUNTRY: USA | YEAR 1985 | DISTRIBUTOR(S): Synapse | RUNNING TIME: 102 minutes

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