Combustible Celluloid
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With: Emily Hagins, Megan Hagins, Jerry Hagins, Harry Knowles, C. Robert Cargill, Tiger Darrow, Kate Dawson, Rebecca Elliott, Alec Herskowitz, Kirk Hunter, Rose Kent-McGlew, Tim League, Phillip Thomas Martinez, Jay Giovanni Ramirez, Neil Reece, Alex Schroeder, Elisabeth Sikes, Kevin Triplett, Tony Vespe, Jurgen Vsych
Written by: n/a
Directed by: Justin Johnson, Aaron Marshall, Erik Mauck
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Running Time: 89
Date: 01/16/2009

Zombie Girl: The Movie (2009)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Takes Brains

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

The three directors behind this remarkable documentary plant themselves like flies-on-the-wall and capture a very intimate atmosphere; the subjects appear to be comfortable and natural at all times, including Emily's mother and father. Emily especially comes across as adorable and nerdy, slightly shy and a bit naïve (she forgets to call "cut" after her first take).

After seeing The Lord of the Rings and an Australian zombie movie, Undead, 12 year-old Austin, Texas resident Emily Hagins writes a screenplay for a feature-length zombie movie, Pathogen, and sets out to film it herself. She enlists her mother Megan as sound recordist and special effects person, and several local kids as actors. The movie starts shooting on weekends and school holidays, but the production gets pushed back to one blow-out week during summer vacation. Despite the many locations, actors and effects shots, as well as arguments with her stressed-out mother, Emily perseveres. Will she get sick of her zombie movie, or will she eventually finish it and see it projected on a big screen?

Moreover, the material is expertly shaped to build a dramatic and emotional story. The movie shoot is boring, frustrating and fraught with unforeseen troubles, and yet it has the occasional moments of triumph and excitement. The movie also wisely settles its focus on the loving, but tense relationship between Emily and her mom Megan during the shoot. Of course, there's little doubt in the viewer's mind that Emily will actually finish her movie, but that doesn't make her feat any less remarkable. It's like a junior version of American Movie (1999), both novelty and inspirational.

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