Movie Review – Birth of the Living Dead (2013)

The 2013 documentary Birth of the Living Dead, directed by Rob Kuhns, traces the seminal zombie film Night of the Living Dead (1968) from its modest origins to its eventual cultural influence. Along the way interviews with George Romero and various academics trace the filming process, which was itself pioneering of modern independent cinema, and the context in which it was made and released. It’s eye-opening to realize just how involved the cast was in other aspects of the film and how much they worked to ensure its success.

The film effectively sets the stage for 1968 and persuasively examines why various elements of the film resonated so deeply with contemporary audiences, taking into account such turbulent events as the urban race riots or the media coverage of Vietnam. Focus is especially and rightfully paid to the performance and dignity of Duane Jones as Ben and the impact this character had on African-American viewers at the time.

Birth of the Living Dead is an informative and entertaining documentary that will give fans a deeper appreciation for an already much loved classic horror film. I think it’s a stronger and smarter film than the more popular zombie documentary Doc of the Dead, which released the following year. Be sure to stick around for a post-credit interview with the late Bill Hinzman, the original Cemetery Living Dead.

Grade: C+

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