6WH: Documenting Horror

Documentaries are not particularly scary, but there are a plethora of documentaries that are worth taking in during the Halloween season. Many of these are focused on chronicling the making of certain movies or a particular genre, and those are great for when you want to explore something in depth yourself (a good list of movies to tick). But the best documentaries really get at the heart of something and try to tackle the questions every horror fan asks themselves: Why am I watching this junk? Of course, those are few and far between, but it’s worth seeking them out. Here are a few horror documentaries I checked out this Halloween season:

  • Doc of the Dead – This doc covers the history of the Zombie movie, starting with the original voodoo zombies of the 30s and 40s (think White Zombie or I Walked With a Zombie) but quickly hitting the trope codifier of modern zombies, Night of the Living Dead. It covers a fair swath of zombie films after that, including all the typical debates (fast versus slow zombies, to eat brains, or not, etc…), and a solid cast of talking heads, and good production value, but it doesn’t particularly achieve the breadth or depth that you would expect out of a documentary like this. It covers most of Romero’s films, and the most obvious and famous zombie films, but not much in the way of obscure or underrated stuff. This doesn’t make it hard to watch or anything, and I found it a good introduction, but considering that I’m not a particularly big fan of zombie films, even I found a fair amount of gaps in the analysis. Still, I imagine big zombie fans would get a kick out of it, and it would also make a good introduction for someone who wants to get into zombie movies. **1/2
  • The American Scream – This movie follows three families in one town as they create haunted houses in their backyard for Halloween. This might sound a bit pedestrian, but these are serious people, ranging from one guy who seems to be better than the pros (and might drive himself or his family crazy in doing so), another that seems to have his priorities straight, and a third that doesn’t seem quite with it. All in all, it’s an interesting and well executed documentary. Movies like this have to walk a fine line between documenting what’s going on while not seeming like they’re being mocked for what their doing either. This movie hits the edge a few times, especially with that third guy, but it never goes overboard and it actually has an interesting and hopeful ending. I was ultimately rooting for all of these guys, so I think the movie accomplished what it set out to do. ***
  • Going to Pieces: The Rise and Fall of the Slasher Film – I watch this every year, so I have little else to say about it, except to compare it to Doc of the Dead. This movie doesn’t go too deep into any one movie (possibly excepting Halloween, for obvious reasons), but really demonstrates a love for the sub-genre in the sheer breadth of films it covers, from popular stuff like Friday the 13th, to more obscure stuff, like The Prowler. It seems I find a new movie I need to catch up with every time I watch this movie, which says a lot. It’s certainly not perfect, but it covers the full slasher story, which is more than I can say for most similar films. ***

And that’s all for now. I think this weekend (sadly, the final weekend of the Six Weeks of Halloween) will have no discernible theme, followed by the usual Speed Round. It’s hard to believe it’s almost done.

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