Zombie Girl: The Movie (2009)
Studio: Bob B Bob Productions
Directed By: Aaron Marshall, Justin Johnson, Erik Mauck
Cast: Emily Hagins, Megan Hagins, Jerry Hagins
Review By: Marc Patterson
Austin tween Emily Hagins is a movie junkie, and she wants to make a zombie film. Hagins is the kind of girl you don’t see too often. She takes in 3-4 films a week at the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema, many of which are films you wouldn’t expect to see a young kid at. She dreams of zombies. But she’s not an oddball social outcast, drabbed in black, listening to morbid goth music. She looks like any other 12 year old girl, but with a streak of high ambition. When she decides to write and direct a full feature length film she attracts the attention of the local media, national film critic Harry Knowles (Ain’t it Cool News) and documentary filmmakers who track her two year journey of up’s and down’s as she struggles to realize her vision. Along with Emily is her devoted mother, who sacrifices much of her personal life to see the dreams of her daughter brought to life. Zombie Girl: The Movie is the definitive “behind the scene” chronicle that follows the journey of this young horror hound from pre-production to her premiere, as she balances school, her mothers work schedule, and her own personal life to see her feature film get made and in front of an audience.
First and foremost Zombie Girl is an endearing film, capturing the challenges of not just making a film, but doing so through the eyes of a twelve year old and the perspective of her parents who tirelessly support her. I found it wonderful to watch the ever changing dynamic between mother and daughter as mom Megan tirelessly works for Emily on the set, but when it’s time to be mom, the filmmaking ends and the parenting begins. All the while the Jerry, Emily’s father) lends his support and strums his banjo’s in the background.
There were moments when Zombie Girl struggled to become more than just a behind the scenes feature film, but during my screening my own ten year old daughter sat with me throughout. At times I would look over at her and I could see the wheels turning inside her head. I believe this is brings us back to the true point of this documentary, which was to not just showcase this young girl and her challenges, but to also inspire others to go out and make their dreams a reality. More to the point, Zombie Girl doesn’t portray Emily as a youth prodigy who exhibits a perfection of the art of filmmaking. Her foibles and fumbles, and awkward hesitancy to over-direct, or simply call “cut” were equally on display alongside her exquisite vision, and assiduous spirit.
While the end result of her film Pathogen is likely one fraught with the errors and mistakes of a first time filmmaker, it’s an issue that is beside the point. We don’t get to watch the film, and that’s okay. Here it’s not about whether or not you’re going to change the face of cinema, or produce the next multi-million blockbuster. It’s about getting out there and doing it. Make art, no matter what that is, and follow it through to completion. It’s a wonderful lesson not just for kids, but for also for adults.