THURSDAY Night Flix: Doc of the Dead

dod4Welcome to Friday Thursday Night Flix, where there’s never a need to leave the couch or put on pants. Each week I’ll recommend an under-the-radar movie currently available on one or more of the major streaming platforms. They won’t all be classics, but every selection is guaranteed to be 100% watchable or your money back.

Happy Fourth of July, America! And what’s more American than the zombie movie? Well, in truth, tons of stuff. Zombies are African by way of Haiti. You may have known that already but you’ll likely still find some interesting tidbits in Doc of the Dead (Netflix).

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After an awkward scripted segment (there are many of these, some funnier than others) this charming little doc breezes through White Zombie, casually racist representations of the undead from the 40s, and the sci-fi sensibilities of the 50s. After that it’s on to the main course: Romero.

Perhaps I’m showing my ignorance but I never noticed that the shambling ghouls in Night of the Living Dead weren’t called zombies. According to his interview in this movie, Romero himself didn’t even know he was building on zombie myths from previous films and folklore. And yet he was. Almost entirely by accident, he gave us the basis of the zombie mythos for decades to come: death and transformation by infection through bites, plague-like spread and, of course, the hunger for human flesh.

It’s especially nice to see credit given to Night of the Living Dead for its famous gaffe and, perhaps, most important contribution to horror: the failure of its producer to renew its copyright. That’s why you see it playing on every TV in low-budget horror movies. It also explains why we’re enjoying such a huge variety of zombie entertainment now, because it was so readily accessible to a generation of kids who grew up and are now making movies, comics and games.

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But the whole doc isn’t jsut about zombies in entertainment, though most major entries are covered from the original Romero material through World War Z and Warm Bodies. The next step is talking about the impact of zombie movies on pop culture. Through interviews with Stuart Gordon, Robert Kirkman, Romero, Simon Pegg, Bruce Campbell and a bunch of zombie academics that make me question my lifep ath, we see the broader impact of zombies on the real world. Maybe you know all about zombie runs and zombie theme weddings, but you haven’t lived until you’ve seen a doomsday prepper announce that liberals will be the first to turn into zombies.

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Added Bonus: A Walking Dead porn parody apparently is a thing that exists, complete with hardcore sex scenes between humans and zombies in full prosthesis and makeup. “It’s been some day. We got lost and then reunited. I had a threesome with your mom and my best friend. Carl, i gotta know, do you have it in you to go over there and fuck that girl….and kill her with your cum?” Sweet Jesus I can’t believe I just typed that. Happy holidays!

Friday Night Flix: Blackfish

blackfish5Welcome to Friday Night Flix, where there’s never a need to leave the couch or put on pants. Each week I’ll recommend an under-the-radar movie currently available on one or more of the major streaming platforms. They won’t all be classics, but every selection is guaranteed to be 100% watchable or your money back.

Documentary time, everybody fall asleep! Just kidding, don’t fall asleep. The orcas know when you sleep and their long range vocalizations can kill humans. Okay, not really. But you should totally pay attention because Blackfish (Netflix) is fucking horrifying. You may have heard about this movie earlier this year because Sea World, the subject of the doc, responded with both barrels when it came out. We’ll get to that in a minute.

blackfish1I don’t usually like one-sided documentaries because, convincing though they always are, few documentarians seem able resist the impulse to spin a situation even more in favor of their position than objectivity might allow. I don’t know a great deal about documentary filmmaking. (Or filmmaking in general. Or anything, really.) Still it seems to me there ought to be something of a journalistic obligation to present the facts in support of both sides of an argument. It’s why Michael Moore and Morgan Spurlock infuriate me so much. It’s not that their movies aren’t compelling, it’s that I have a hard time trusting the merits of their arguments when theirs is the only side I hear.blackfish4

Anyway, Blackfish is an exception. It is transparently and 100% anti-Sea World. (See, e.g., interviews with whistleblowing former trainers in full make-up standing in front of idyllic fields.) Yet despite my general mistrust of such things I was fucking sold.blackfish2

I’ve seen animals at the zoo and thought for millisecond how depressing their lives must be living in pens when they instinctively need to be roaming the savannah. That usually lasts as long as it takes to walk briskly past the enclosure to the next exhibit. But to see how smart killer whales are and how intensely they love their young, and then to see how monstrously Sea World and other exhibitors treat them, it’s just disgusting. I have a hard time imagining a counterargument that makes any of that seem okay.

Added Bonus: Once you’ve seen the movie, be sure to check out Sea World’s point-by-point response to some of the film’s more damning claims. Know which one isn’t addressed? The one about how a 12,000 pound orca ate two trainers because his lifelong captivity drove him insane. blackfish3