A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this documentary about a 12-year-old girl who writes and directs her own feature-length zombie movie explores the two-year movie-making process, including ups and downs, triumphs, arguments, and failures. Remarkably, Emily sticks with it and finishes, making her a great role model for tweens and teens. The movie includes some harsh language, including one "f--k," and some violent, gory scenes, mostly in clips from an Australian zombie movie that inspired Emily. (Note: the DVD includes Emily's finished movie, Pathogen.)
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What's the story?
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?
Is it any good?
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).
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 an inspiration for all teens that are interested in making movies.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the gore and violence shown involving zombies. Since this is not a traditional horror movie, how did these scenes affect you? How did seeing the makeup, special effects, and fake blood change (or not change) the impact of these images?
How would you describe Emily's relationship with her mother? Are they respectful of one another? Do they support one another? What about when they're arguing or angry?
How unusual is it for a 12-to-14-year-old to finish the movie after such a long time? How many other young people that age would have given up? What qualities does Emily have that would push her to do so? Were her rewards worth the struggle?
Does Emily seem disturbed or upset from watching or making horror movies? What are the possible effects on someone so young?
For kids who love documentaries and zombies
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