Slamdance Review – Zombie Girl


Zombie Girl

Directors: Aaron Marshall, Justin Johnson, Erik Mauck
USA, 2008, 91 mins., Colour

“Emily Hagins is making a zombie movie. It’s feature-length, it’s bloody, and the zombies don’t run; just like it should be. But there’s just one difference between her film and other zombie movies: Emily is twelve. With the help of her mother as agent, crew, and biggest fan, Emily launches an epic adventure in genre filmmaking, battling everything from budget shortfalls to self-doubt, all while coming of age as a teenager. Emily has the vision, and her mom has the driver’s license. Together, their journey is an enlightening look at a growing world of young moviemakers and the bloodiest mother/daughter story you’ve ever seen.”

Zombie Girl was on my good side before I even stepped into the screening room. I love documentaries about filmmaking. American Movie, Hearts of Darkness, Lost in LaMancha…all amazing. What does Zombie Girl bring to the table? Well for starters, this struggling filmmaker is a 12 years old girl named Emily Hagins; and she happens to love horror films. Perfect! Kids making horror movies can be the funniest and most charming shit ever! (Or the worst shit ever) Emily decides to aim high and begins production on a FEATURE LENGTH film called Pathogen. That’s right, we get to watch a 12 year old attempt to make a feature length zombie movie. With the support of her friends and family, Emily tries to balance her film production with her homework, shooting on weekends and whenever possible. The most amazing part of it all is the support of her mother. I have to say that this woman is one of the most endearing ‘characters’ I’ve seen in a documentary. She will do anything to make her kids dreams come true. She ends up working the sound for the entire shoot, jerry-rigging her own improvised boom mic using a paint roller pole and some bungee cords.

As with all of these types of films, things don’t always go as planned. As Emily tries to keep the production together, she sometimes realizes she might be slightly in over her head. Filmmakers will squirm as you watch her make some bad decisions; opting to keep the muzak on during the grocery store scene and forcing a group of 15 or so extras to wait outside of the shooting location in zombie make up as they shoot all of their interiors. There’s also eventually some moments where Emily’s age shines through. She’s occasionally short tempered with her Mother, but what 12 year old isn’t? After all, it’s easy to forget how young she really is.

It’s clear that Emily has the talent and passion to become a great filmmaker, but what really moved me about this film is the support she receives from the people around her. Even fellow Austin Texan Harry Knowles steps in and provides her with some advice (and voice over work). Her Father is always around to help out, and her Mother almost seems as though she missed her calling as she collects props, manages the kids and cleans up after everyone. Zombie Girl is a great film about the pursuit of passion and the people that help out along the way.

Zombie Girl Trailer

Pathogen Trailer