Documentary filmmaker Alexandre Philippe has been obsessed with zombies for some time now, but when the rest of popular culture started getting in on the act with successes like “The Walking Dead,” “Warm Bodies ” and World War Z,” he realized the phenomenon warranted an examination. Hence “Doc of the Dead,” his chronicle of all things undead, which is now running on Epix.
What was the first zombie movie that got you hooked?
It was the original “Night of the Living Dead.” But there were three horror films when I was a kid that really affected me. That’s one, plus “Scanners” and “Eyes Without a Face,” that really affected me deeply as a kid and then opened the floodgates.
When did the idea for “Doc of the Dead” strike?
Initially the idea came to me five years ago, at the 2009 San Diego Comic-Con. I was walking around and there were an unusual amount of zombies. But I was still working on “The People vs. George Lucas,” and then “Paul the Psychic Octopus,” but in fact I’m really glad that it took this long. As it turns out, I think it’s coming out at the best possible time, because I think if we had made it three or four years ago, obviously it wouldn’t have included a lot of the most important elements to zombie culture right now.
Zombies really have gone mainstream. You have “World War Z,” a PG-13 zombie movie that did great at the box office.
As George Romero says in the movie, he could never imagine that zombies one day would be that big, that Hollywood would be spending so much money on the zombie genre.
Where do you fall in the debate over what does and doesn’t qualify as a zombie?
I’m more inclusive. I think there’s a lot of different definitions of what a zombie is, and I would even go so far as to say that a movie like “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” is on the periphery of the zombie genre. There’s the mind control type of zombie and there’s the person who dies and comes back to life and wants to eat your flesh, and that’s a completely different kind of zombie. I love the fact that people are having this debate because debates are what make people talk, and when they talk they’re having fun, and when they’re having fun it helps keep it alive in culture.
So where does the zombie genre go next?
There’s so much that’s been done, but also I think there’s no limit to it. I mean, you can pretty much do whatever you want with zombies because they’re so versatile, and that’s the bottom line. I think that’s another reason why they’re so popular, because they can stand for so many things.
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