Every now and then, the planets align just right and a horror-themed night like no other becomes possible. Such was the case last night, when I trekked into Manhattan for a rare evening of ghouls, demons, beers and tenebrosity.
My schedule was as follows: Head down to the 92Y Tribeca for an 8pm screening of Zombie Girl: The Movie, along with the divine Tenebrous Kate and her Baron, self-proclaimed overlords of the Tenebrous Empire; Consume mass quantities of fermented grain starches at a nearby tavern; Proceed north to Times Square for a midnight showing of the hottest ticket in town, Paranormal Activity.
Not a bad way to spend an evening, right? Well, let's start at the beginning.
If in four years, my daughter is just like Emily Hagins, I will be a very happy dad. This kid is just about the coolest tween I've ever seen in my life. She's also the subject of Zombie Girl, an endearing little documentary about a 12-year-old with a passion for film, who fulfills the dream of making her very own zombie movie.
Emily knows her stuff. During filming, she rattles off references to Kubrick and talks about blocking out her scenes. Yet at the same time, she is also completely unassuming, with all the wide-eyed enthusiasm and naivete one would expect from a kid her age. As she's being interviewed in her room, check out the background for the Shaun of the Dead poster tacked up right next to a row of Care Bears...
This girl is awesome. And best of all, she has two of the coolest parents I've ever seen.
In some ways, this movie is very much a counterpoint to My Kid Could Paint That, the 2007 doc about a little girl who supposedly could paint exquisite works of art. Whereas in that film, it turned out that her parents had coached her and were really pulling all the strings while the girl truly had only the painting ability of an average little girl, in this case we have a truly inspired young woman, who is the one in charge. And she has talent to spare.
Emily's parents are there for her, providing support every step of the way. More than just okaying her wild dream, they take a very active role in helping to make it happen, especially her mom Megan. As a parent, I really felt for this woman, as it's clear she loves her daughter deeply and earnestly supports her. Even though they have their share of fights, and Megan's exasperation becomes more and more evident as the production wears on, it's never in doubt that she's fully behind her daughter 100%.
The actual film Emily made is called Pathogen (check out the trailer at Day of the Woman), from a script she wrote herself when she was 11 years of age. A devout film fan, Emily and her mom are regular patrons of the legendary Alamo Drafthouse Cinema, and in the course of her adventures, Emily gets taken under the wing of Peter Jackson and that godfather of geek culture himself, Harry Knowles. The master of Ain't It Cool News in particular is all over this documentary, pontificating in his typical fashion...
Pathogen itself is your typical tale of a zombie virus/uprising, imagined from the point of view of a 12-year-old girl with a genuine love of horror. Although I haven't seen that actual film in it's entirety, it's safe to say of course, that it isn't exactly Citizen Kane--nor does Emily make any claims to its greatness. But that's not at all the point--rather, as Emily's mom says at one point, the film is a record of where Emily was artistically at this very early point in time.
I'd say there's a very real chance that one day Emily Hagin will be an honest-to-goodness grown-up movie director. By all accounts, her first feature film is an earnest and competent work, and certainly at a level way beyond what the average 12-year-old would have the interest or ability to pull off. And Zombie Girl is a charming look at how it all came to fruition.
I can't stress enough how disarming and endearing young Emily is. Her unpracticed demeanor and utterly genuine passion are what make Zombie Girl so fascinating to watch. And while it may not be the best thing in the world that anyone with a Macbook can make a movie these days, in Emily's case it's truly a blessing that the technology exists to make her dream a reality.
I was certainly grateful that the 92Y Tribeca made it possible for me to check out this documentary, which otherwise I'd probably have to hunt down on DVD. I was also grateful for the exquisite company of Lord and Lady Tenebrous. But this was far from the end of the night for me. For awaiting me in just a few hours was the film I had heard was the most downright terrifying horror experience in years. And due to a ticket purchasing mishap (way to go, Kate!) I would be experiencing it ALONE...
To be continued....
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