Review: American Zombie (Lee, 2007) – CAAMFest 2014

Still from the movie American Zombie

As I’ve tweeted, CAAMFest (Center for Asian American Media [Film] Festival) 2014 is currently underway! I volunteered this past weekend and, as a result, was able to watch the re-screening of Grace Lee‘s American Zombie, a mockumentary about the “dead” living among us that both satirizes and probes at the ways in which members of marginalized communities deal with their status in society. It also explores the relationship between documentary filmmakers and their subjects and, as Lee mentioned in the Q&A afterward, the sometimes muddled ethics surrounding that relationship.

Despite these more serious considerations, however, the film stays generally light–perhaps a little disappointingly so. It never succeeds in extending beyond the realm of entertainment, though Lee claimed that her intention always was to make a zombie movie that stayed true to its genre. That it ultimately did.

The acting was refreshingly subtle, filled with genuine little quirks. I especially enjoyed Austin Basis, who plays Ivan, the teenage slob zombie, and Jane Edith Wilson‘s role as Lisa, an out-there, slightly cracked artist zombie who works at a flower shop, but all the actors were decent, with perhaps the weakest performance by director Grace Lee, playing herself.

If you love zombie movies, then for sure American Zombie is an interesting one to add to your watch list. If not, the film may just be an entertaining way to spend an evening, though with so much to watch out there I’m not sure you should necessarily go out of your way to see it. Regardless, film is still available for streaming at iTunes and Amazon, or you can purchase the DVD and watch the trailer at

Note: In the Q&A, director Grace Lee mentioned another of her projects: a hybrid documentary/fiction film Janeane from Des Moines, starring Jane Edith Wilson who pretends to be Janeane, a conservative housewife seeking answers from the Republican presidential candidates in the lead-up to the 2012 Iowa caucuses. This one sounded much more compelling to me, and I’m curious to check it out.