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"Zombie Girl" is not really a movie about zombies, but about a young
girl who is directing a zombie film. The focus is a little bit on how
the film was made, but the underlying theme seems to be about family
bonding. Parents who want to encourage their child's dreams, this is a
film for you.
I came into the film with moderate expectations. I love horror and the film-making process, but was not sure if this would really be up my alley. I must say, I was pleasantly surprised. The directors took what is more or less an average family and really made them interesting, and made a fine case that Emily Hagins isn't just a girl with too much free time -- she cares about her craft and knows her stuff.
The film also gives a glimpse into the Austin film community, though this is not the focus. We meet an area critic, a film society, Harry Knowles (of Ain't It Cool News) and the Butt-Numb-a-Thon. If you live in or around Austin, this film isn't just about the Hagins family, but about your community and its promotion of independent film. I wish my community had a similar flavor, but I have to drive three hours for that.
The DVD makes a great documentary even better. There are extra interviews and outtakes, but most importantly the Emily Hagins film "Pathogen", so you get two for one (rather than buying it from her website separately). Sure, "Pathogen" is not great, but coupled with "Zombie Girl", you can see why it's not great, where mistakes were made, and use this as a teaching tool for yourself or others when you try to make your own film.
I endorse "Zombie Girl" for both horror fans, and families in general. I think even those who have no interest in horror or film could take something from this: a precocious young girl following her passion, and a family helping her to do just that. Emily Hagins is certainly a young visionary, but she would not be able to realize it without parents to drive her to set.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This is a great documentary. It's complete, from the beginning of
Emily's project until its premiere. The final product, the "Pathogen"
movie, is very poorly produced, clearly an amateur work. This
documentary, on the other hand, makes is pretty clear why that is so.
It displays Emily's will to turn her idea into something real. But as a
12 years old girl, she lacks planning, knowledge and looking ahead. She
acts much like any average adolescent: that "let's just do it now"
attitude, that takes her into troubled times.
The documentary also shows the driving force behind the cameras, Emily's mother, always pushing the idea forward. Her adult vision on organization and planning brings mother and daughter into many conflicts, as the girl believes her mother is trying to make things "her way", but she can't afford losing her support.
Zombie Girl's directors themselves also show their share of persistence, as they keep making the documentary even with the risk of the "Pathogen" project's death, being put aside indefinitely, untouched for some months.
This is a must-see for all paranoid parents who think their children may become disturbed citizens when they grow up if they watch horror movies when they're young. The important thing to keep in mind is not the subject of the child's attention, but the parent's attitude towards it. In this movie, Megan treats a Zombie movie as just what it is: a movie, a project to be executed, a career opportunity, and above all, a learning opportunity. Even if you don't like zombie movies, and don't want to watch "Pathogen", you should see this movie. It's not about zombies, it's about making your ideas happen, through perseverance and support.
This documentary focuses on a somewhat unique scenario. Emily Hagens is
a young girl who is something of a film fanatic. Nothing so strange
about this, quite a few kids her age are but where Emily differs from
the crowd is that she managed to direct a feature length zombie film
called 'Pathogen' to completion when she was twelve years old. This
film documents her as she achieves this impressive feat. It's partially
a family portrait because Emily's mother is fully behind her daughter
in her endeavour and is an ever present on set carrying out all manner
of tasks such as sound woman, special effects artist and producer. It's
a pretty heart-warming story just in this regard, as it shows a family
unit working together really well, with parents supporting their
daughter to the hilt. Emily's mother is clearly a very patient woman,
as she had to put up with a group of young teens hanging around making
a zombie epic for two years, which is even more impressive when you
realise that she had to do this after working a full time job in the
daytime. It must have driven her nuts.
The documentary ends not long after the premiere of the film. It was a pity we never saw the audience reactions to it but, even though I have never seen it myself, it's safe to say that it looks like it is a seriously ropey affair. But this isn't the point, as what can honestly be expected of such a micro-budgeted affair made mainly by kids? Film-making is a complex process, with even low budget b-movies costing many thousands of pounds to make. This was made with really next to no money and we bear witness to typical issues that are part of the cinematic creative process such as having to depend on actors, trying to achieve decent results with little money, technical nightmares with audio and of course trying to make a film when the director has to attend school by day. It's a pretty inspiring little tale and it is good to see that Emily has gone on to make several other films since this. The film ultimately shows how difficult it is to make movies on tiny budgets but it also shows it can be done with perseverance and dedication. Young Emily has given a good example to many that you just need to get out and do it and be prepared to work hard enough to ensure you finish it. Good on her.
As I have a young son who with his friends tries to make movies on
smart-phones, the finished products ends up looking like something with
kids just running and screaming.
So I watched this with him as it tells the story of a young girl Emily Hagins who was always interested in making movies and at the age of 10 writes a zombie film and by the age of 12 starts shooting the film called Pathogen on a minuscule budget but loads of enthusiasm.
I wanted to show him that if a girl around his age could write and direct a film, he also needs to focus and write his ideas down and realise it so he and his friends can make a structured film over time.
Emily has to balance school, the hazards of film making and her generally supportive parents but at times her mother could interfere a little too much.
However the documentary was only intermittently entertaining and the running time was too long. I also wondered when the documentary was actually filmed as the shooting of Pathogen took place over many months because Emily had to breaks for school work took priority as well as other reasons for delays.
If you end up thinking that parts of the footage has been enacted for the documentary then it is not a good sign or either that, when Emily was writing and making Pathogen then there was a documentary crew in tow at the same time.
It was nice to hear from the likes of Harry Knowles. It was good to see how determined Emily is and that she did finish Pathogen, won a grant for that film, show it as film festivals and she has gone on to make other films.
The documentary though did not grab me unfortunately.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
What strikes me is that despite the age and experience difference, the
problems encountered during filmmaking are all the same ones you find
on small indie sets on up the line to the big boy pictures. issues with
actors schedules, budgets, loosing light, prop mishaps, sound issues,
the wear and tear a director, 1st AD, or producer feels etc. Heck, even
the relationship between the mother and daughter is like relationships
i've been witness to between producers and directors. Despite the love
that they have for each other there is of course tension and sometimes
that tension comes to a head which is captured in this documentary.
Having help from local film critics and of course Harry Knowles, it's also interesting to see the local community help out and show their support for someone who has no experience but only the want and drive to finish a movie. Many people may not realize or just choose to ignore the fact that making a film (short or feature) is hard work. The amount of planning is staggering sometimes even to seasoned professionals. To see them come and help a 12 year old who simply has a love for the craft is something special.
I'm not going to say this is the most inspirational piece in the world and it's not like the final product was Citizen Kane but this still merits a watch in my book. I can't really put my thumb on who this documentary may appeal to but i'll venture a guess. If you're interested in the film making process (in a general sense) and like a film about passion and conviction then I think this may be something worth watching.
I'm giving this a 7 for showing me that age has no bearing on passion and that doing what you set out to do can be it's own reward.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Unlike the often self-indulgent documentaries about Big Time professionals like Francis Coppola (HEARTS OF DARKNESS) or Terry Gilliam (LOST IN LA MANCHA), or even the behind-the-scenes blunders of a pair of stoners trying to get a horror movie off the ground (AMERICAN MOVIE), ZOMBIE GIRL offers us a glimpse into the creative process of a budding movie maker pretty much unhampered by her lack of money; in fact, her greatest obstacles are a lack of willing actors and the Time to get the scenes she needs with them when they DO show. Been there, done that. (By my reckoning, I've started half a hundred shorts over the years; only a dozen have been finished- and many of them were cobbled together from bits and pieces of unrelated efforts. More often than not, actors bailing out on me proved my undoing.) (I had the entire underage cast of one epic walk away when I refused to buy them a case of beer.) THIS is why I fought so long and hard for a Public Access channel on the local cable system when I hit town: budding, would-be movie makers DESERVE a forum. (As stated elsewhere, the local cable system has just recently kicked the Public Access channel to the curb. They made room for yet another Commercial channel, which they need, now, because they've set up in a nearby mall in an outlet that boasts no less than a HUNDRED TV screens.)
This has remained my favorite documentary, and one of my favorite
movies, since I first saw a screener of it about two years ago. I'm so
glad that it's finally reaching a wider audience now.
When I was writing "The New Horror Handbook," I not only wanted to cover some of the landmark horror movies of the 21st century, but also to include a section on the effect the genre has had on up-and-coming filmmakers. When I came across then-14-year-old Emily Hagins and her zombie movie "Pathogen," and the documentary about its making, "Zombie Girl: The Movie," I had to include a chapter on both.
"Zombie Girl" does something I've never seen accomplished before -- faithfully and lovingly document the joys and aggravations of the creative process.
Sure, there are plenty of "making of" featurettes, some better than others. But this movie has two advantages. The primary one is Emily Hagins herself. This is a young girl brimming with creativity and drive, yet with enough maturity and support from her family to see her vision through to completion. Second, a refreshing lack of the manufactured drama that reality TV has made us all accustomed to. Finally, after watching this movie, chances are good that you will want to make your own movie, or write a novel, or paint a masterpiece -- whatever long-held creative passions you've carried with you suddenly won't seem so out of reach. I can't think of a greater accomplishment for a film.
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