MVFF: Zombie Girl: The Movie (A-)

If you’ve ever directed anything, even a school play, you’ll love Zombie Girl: The Movie. It’s one of those ‘making of’ documentaries with a few twists. Most notably, the documentary itself is a high production-value film about the making of a very low-budget amateur movie. In this case, it’s about Emily Hagins’ middle-school zombie film, Pathogen, which she started at age 11 and completed at 13.

Zombie Girl works well on so many levels. At the top of that list is watching Emily’s confidence grow over the course of the project. The film opens with her being asked about the shot list for the day. She doesn’t have a clue. “Oh, I think a wideshot and maybe a few closeups.” Later on she’s whimpering orders such as “Where do you want to die?” But by the last day of filming, she’s tellin’ ’em where to go and what to do.

On another level, it’s all about Emily’s relationship with her parents, particular her mother who is at once extremely supportive of Emily’s project, but at the same time owning too much of it herself.

Along the way, it’s entertaining, funny and sometimes agonizingly painful. There are great side-stories, too, such as the involvement of a local Austin film critic and a friend of Peter Jackson’s. (Emily wrote to and received a reply from Jackson when she was in the third grade.) The pacing is excellent until the last 15 minutes or so, when the film seems to have trouble calling it a wrap.

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