DVD REVIEW: MORE BRAINS! A RETURN TO THE LIVING DEAD (2011)
DVD REVIEW: MORE BRAINS! A RETURN TO THE LIVING DEAD (2011)
MORE BRAINS! A RETURN TO THE LIVING DEAD is the most exhaustive documentary, to this date, that I have seen on any particular movie to this day. The film is over 240 minutes long, filled with a plethora of extra features and featurettes. The documentary, narrated by Brian Peck (“Scuz” from ROTLD) and directed by Bill Phillput (KILL YOURSELF: THE MOVIE, HIS NAME WAS JASON: 30 YEARS OF FRIDAY THE 13TH, NEVER SLEEP AGAIN: THE ELM STREET LEGACY), is the only definitive, in-depth look at one of my favorite zombie films of all time. The film is considered a cult classic, taking the legacy of George A. Romero’s zombie films and giving them a large does of comedy injected into them, filled with plenty of gore, scares, and laughs. This documentary digs deep into the bowels of the film and the filmmaking process, which created one of the most memorable zombie films to this day.
The use of very atmospheric set pieces and backgrounds used during the interviews, set pieces and props from the film as well as cartoon animation and comic book-style fonts and artwork complementing the various segments gave the whole feature a very refreshing and fun look to the documentary. Some docs can get so dry and dull, filled with interview after interview and no break in the testimonies (such as PAURA: LUCIO FULCI REMEMBERED Vol. 1) and the viewer loses interest, no matter how interesting the subject matter is. A good documentary needs to have visuals and edits filled with clips or photos to illustrate further what the individual speaking is talking about…or else things get pretty dry pretty fast.
Thankfully, most of those involved on the film chose to be a part of the documentary, including Clu Gulager, Don Calfa, James Karen, Tony Gardner, Thom Matthews, Brian Peck, Dan O’Bannon, Miguel A. Nunez Jr., Linnea Quigley, Beverly Randolph, John A. Russo, and Jewel Shepard. For the most part, I think all the influential characters and crew were represented in the doc.
Since this documentary is on RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD, already a very fun and fast-paced horror film it would only be fitting for it if the documentary also had some of the style and pace of its original subject matter. While some docs just have static shots, never deviating too much from the individual speaking but director Philputt has crafted a movie that is better intended for the short-attention span viewer, one that may be suffering from Attention Deficit Disorder. The use of piecing together the various answers to off-screen questions from various individuals and adding them all together to paint a vivid picture through various sources to answer the same question or describe the same event is genius. Just because I love a film does not mean I would like to be bored to death by every little detail and aspect of it in a documentary. Thankfully, Bill Philputt sees it that way, too.
This is not the first documentary Philputt has directed that I have seen. Upon looking up him in IMDB.com I was surprised to find that he directed, wrote, and produced the movie about the New York hardcore thrash band S.O.D. (Stormtroopers of Death), entitled KILL YOURSELF: THE MOVIE. I love the band S.O.D. (as well as M.O.D. fronted by Billy Milano as well as fellow-thrashers Anthrax) and the documentary followed S.O.D. around for a year while they toured, as well as filming all the antics and craziness that happened behind the screen. I can see from watching MORE BRAINS! that Philputt has a way with crafting a solid documentary that keeps things visually and aurally appealing through its use of sharply edited scenes and use of music.
Sadly director Dan O’Bannon died more than two years prior to this doc having been made and it was very memorable to hear the final interview that O’Bannon gave within the film. The movie also plays as sort of a memorial to the great writer, responsible for writing ALIEN, ALIENS, and TOTAL RECALL (to name just a few) and ROTLD is the first feature he directed- one of only two films.
Brian Peck did a wonderful job narrating the film and one can tell that the actor had so much fun and fond memories, filling the screen up with his exuberating personality. The film does an incredible job at going in-depth in regards to the off-screen questions being asked, describing specific situations in great detail. The film does not cut any corners. I enjoyed the manner in which MORE BRAINS! goes into the personal aspects of each player involved with making the movie, adding some spice and panache to the whole back-story of the film. For instance, I never knew that one of the actors was homeless when he earned the role, or that one of the actresses was discovered in a strip club dancing just before getting a role in the film.
Some of my favorite portions of the film were the lengthy discussions on one particular scene where actress Linnea Quigley performs her infamous stripping scene in which all involved discuss the full-frontal nudity in the film and the actors’ responses to that specific scene filmed in the movie. I, personally, have fond memories of that very scene and it seems many cast members did as well.
If over 2 hours of testimonies and insight into ROTLD with all of the actors, actresses, and filmmakers involved (those still living—R.I.P. Dan O’Bannon and Mark Venturini) isnt’ enough, then how about an additional 2 hours of extra features, including a look at the sequels to ROTLD, Parts 2 and 3, as well as the final interview with the late Dan O’Bannon, a return to the filming locations of ROTLD, and a music video by Stacie Q performing the hit song, “Tonight”, which was used in the film.
MORE BRAINS! is a documentary that does a great job at digging deep into the high-points and low-points during the filming process, including doing in-depth into how it came about that the original zombie make-up artist working on the film had to be fired. The documentary also serves as a nice study on what low-budget filmmakers working on a small budget (around a few million dollars) have to go through. Dan O’Bannon has worked in Hollywood writing screenplays but this is his first job directing a movie.
I highly recommend viewing this incredibly in-depth and interesting doc on one of the most influential zombie films ever created incorporating elements of comedy. Presented by Michael Perez Entertainment and Hutson Ranch Media, one can head over to the website www.getmorebrains.com for further info on the film, as well as viewing a trailer for it.