Think back to when you were twelve years old, undoing decades of cognitive behavioral therapy* if necessary. What were you up to? I was listening to a lot of Ozzy Osbourne cassette tapes and hanging out with my best (and only) friend, an albino transfer student who I idolized for her blacklight poster of the cover of Iron Maiden's "Number of the Beast," and who in turn idolized Jean Claude Van Damme.
*Yeah, I DO giggle every time I see this abbreviated to "CBT" for reasons that I won't link to here, lest I break the PG-13 rating I aim for in this blog.
In short, I was only a tiny, fractional, itty-bitty bit like Emily Hagins, subject of the documentary "Zombie Girl," an ambitious young woman who, at the tender age of ten, scripted her own zombie film and, at the age of twelve, premiered her completed movie at that shrine of cinematic geekdom known as the Alamo Draft House. Persuaded to venture out to the screening this past Friday night at 92Y Tribeca by the Mysterious And Sinister B-Sol** of The Vault of Horror, I wasn't sure how I'd process a documentary about a girl who was kind of like a much more driven, smarter and braver version of what I wanted to be at the same age. Would it frustrate me on some basic level? Or would it be an inspiration to achieve future excellence?
**Who, in addition to being one of the hardest-working bloggers out there, is one rad dude. Thought y'all should know that.
"Zombie Girl" avoids cheap sentimentality--it isn't a Rocky Balboa story of triumph over impossible odds, or a coming of age tale that methodically tracks a young woman's journey of self-discovery. It's the chronicle of a very lucky young person who, by sheer dint of her overwhelming fandom, managed to be in the right place at several right times and, as a result, was able to achieve what seemed like a crazy goal to many of the people around her.
Emily Hagins, simply put, is the coolest twelve-year-old ever to walk the planet. I say this not just because her awkwardness and genre-film-fandom fill my black little grinch-heart to swelling, but because she appears to have the patience of an ascended Buddhist monk along with a capacity to see a project through to completion that few people three or four times her age possess. After seeing the "Lord of the Rings" films with her mother, Emily writes a letter to director Peter Jackson, outlining her dream of directing her zombie script "Pathogen." Jackson puts her in touch with Harry Knowles of Ain't It Cool News, who in turn puts Emily in touch with a group producing an independent horror film. With the experience she gained during her time assisting on-set, Emily sets out to film her own movie, employing family and friends as cast and crew.
Watching Emily work her way through the complicated process has its funny moments--holding the film clapper, for example, proves an unexpected challenge. Overall, though, one can see this young woman's innate talent. She's patient with her cast and displays a willingness to take advice from more experienced parties--the girl is like a sponge, soaking up genre-movie-making wisdom!
The focus of the documentary is on the filmmaking process, and towards the end several scholars and filmmakers are consulted for their thoughts (B-Sol and I exchanged a knowing glance when one observed that perhaps it's NOT such a great idea for anyone with a video camera and a bunch of pals to make his or her own zombie film). Some commenters mentioned Emily's gender, but it was interesting to me that, for Emily anyway, her gender had nothing to do with her vision or her interest in film. God bless her for putting GEEK FIRST--THAT, lieblings and liebchens, is what *I* call prioritization.
"Zombie Girl" is currently making the film-fest circuit, and I just can't recommend it highly enough. Watching Emily's love of horror movies made ME love horror movies all over again.
My pals at Liar Society have devoted a series of posts to "Zombie Girl," including a great interview with star Emily Hagins!
Check out the trailer here--be forewarned that you'll need to have a heart of stone NOT to be charmed.
Extra-Special Misspent Youth Bonus Feature:
Yep, that's me in the November 1996 issue of Seventeen Magazine. The editors were doing a series on fashion in high schools around the country. I should probably be more alarmed that I'm still dressing like that, but instead I'm just kinda getting the douche-chills about the fact that the editors decided to highlight my penetrating insights on SELF-EXPRESSION (as one does when one is about to go into art sk00l):