I don’t have a lot of time to read books and the ones I do read have to be able to pull me in from page one or I’ll never finish it. I bought Book of The Dead last summer and finally finished up last week. Its not because the book is boring that it took me so long, though it does have its slow patches, its just the sheer size of this tome and the limited amount of time I had to read it. Author Jaime Russell presents quite possibly the most in depth history of any subgenre I’ve ever read. He covers the history of Zombie films from their Haitian roots in the 1930’s with films such as White Zombie to the current resurgence into pop culture.
Book of the Dead offers not only a full history of zombie films but also of the origins of zombie myth which begin in Haiti. In the early 1900’s explorers that visited the country heard stories of zombie workers and were mndlessly under the control of their master working the fields at all hours. There are even accounts of explorers meeting the undead. The legends eventually led to the earliest zombie films which did not resemble our modern ghouls in any way. Russell covers in great detail every film that has ever featured a walking corpse or entranced zombie. From Big Hollywood productions to the cheapest crap ever commited to celluloid.
Where the book really wins however is in its coverage of the modern zombie film. From Night of the Living Dead to Land of the Dead Russell covers not only their production but their place in society and politics of their time. At times the book can be bogged down by these details. Land of the Dead was a solid outing by zombie daddy George Romero, but I always felt it lacked the commentary that his previous films had. However Russell manages to wax philosophical about the meaning of almost ever moment of the film and how it tied into 9/11, George Bush, and the war on terror. While I can agree with some of his observations I felt that at times he was just finding the meanings he wanted to find.
There’s a lot of great to be found on this tome however. The coverage of the 1970’s and 80’s enlightened me to a few great zombie flicks that I had missed. Russel covers the worst shot-on-video crap the the greatest lost gems of the period. Films like the Blind Dead, Dead and Buried, and the love them or hate them zombie “splatter comedies” of the 80s get the love that has been long overdue to them. You’ll find yourself running to your Netflix account to add these films with the passing of each chapter. If you get overwhelmed there’s a great movie guide in the back of the book that covers every single zombie film with title, release date, synopsis and cast & crew details. And did I mention that this book has more photos, illustrations, and posters than you can shake a stick at? Cause it does.
This is a book that will tell you more than you could have ever wanted to know about zombie film history and is a must have for the hardcore zombie fan. You’ll easily spend hours with it and certainly learn some things you didn’t know.