The Blood Sprayer has been pretty supportive of Emily Hagins’ work. Call it a fascination, call it a puzzling curiosity, but whatever it is, the idea of a 12 year old making a feature length documentary should cause even the harshest of horror fans to crack a smile. While Ms. Hagins has begun the maturation process into a teenage filmmaker (which is funny to think about), her first feature “Pathogen”, is what brought her to the forefront of horror fans’ minds. Filmmakers Aaron Marshall and Justin Johnson documented all the happenings of Pathogen and have whipped together a cool documentary called “Zombie Girl The Movie”.
While we all see the end product and are quite entertained by the notion of a very young lady making a zombie flick, it can cause us to forget about the craziness of shooting an indie horror flick. Now, add to the troubles a group of inexperienced (albeit quite mature) pre-teen kids and things can get really hairy. The documentary does a fantastic job of telling the story of how Hagins become engrossed in the lure of zombie films (a festival screening of the grossly underrated Aussie film, “Undead”) and then set out to make her own feature length movie. As a horror film fan, I loved seeing someone so young doing something so ambitious. It’s truly inspiring seeing a kid go after something with such gusto. But the most captivating aspect of the film is seeing the parental side of all of it. Emily’s mother (Megan Hagins) ends up being a jack of all trades throughout the process. At first, you almost feel as if mom is too involved to the point of being overbearing, but upon further inspection it becomes clear that Mrs. Hagins had the worst job of anyone involved. As any great parent would do, she wants to support her daughter’s dream. The unfortunate part of this is organizing all the shoots, getting the okay from parents of the young actors featured in the film, making sure people were fed, things are done on time, all the equipment is there, etc. Essentially, she ended up producing a film that was not going to be a walk in the park. There are very real moments of frustration on the part of her mother and rightfully so. The parent in me could definitely empathize. You’re proud of your child and the things they want to tackle in life, but you’re also aware that you’re asking a lot of people by spending long hours working on someone else’s dream. It’s a difficult line to walk, and despite how she may have looked at points during the doc, in the end she was all about helping her daughter make this movie a reality.
As a documentary, the film does a great job of not stepping on the toes of natural progression. You don’t hear the documentarians’ voices at all. What you see is the process of making “Pathogen” evolving naturally. It’s more of a fly-on-the-wall viewpoint and it lends itself to being more realistic in that regard. Whereas most documentaries have a slant on the story (usually leaning toward the filmmaker’s opinion), “Zombie Girl” stands back and lets you look right into the film’s creation. Some of the moments feel as if they came right out of a feel-good script, like Peter Jackson writing a letter BACK to Emily (which unfortunately put Harry Knowles in the picture…), and Emily winning a grant for independent filmmakers in Austin. Lots of good feelings all around and in the end, we’re gaining a fresh new filmmaker in the genre.
Since the film, Ms. Hagins has continued to work and is getting a 3rd film under her belt. As the film brilliantly recaps, Emily has become, better, stronger, faster as a moviemaker and looks to not have burnt out on it. We could have very well witnessed the beginnings of the next generation of horror. This makes for a nice snapshot of her first time out. R-Squared Films has been on top of some white-hot shit in the genre lately, and this doc is no exception. “Zombie Girl” is a blast for genre fans and a great motivational piece for any young people with an artistic streak tearing through them. Emily Hagins’ work is proof that it’s not beyond a 12 year old to make a horror flick. If anything, this documentary could start a trend…a trend none of us could complain about.