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The "Dead" Taken Into A Media POV-Style Perspective

  • Aug 25, 2010
Being a George Romero fan, of course I was very excited to see “Diary of the Dead”. I didn’t particularly care for his previous film; “Land of the Dead” (Romero’s big budget outing) but hey, even great directors have their bad moments. With a very small budget, Romero’s latest film seem to have captured the documentary style “gimmick” that have plagued other films. I never really cared for this style, I’ve always thought it was a one-hit wonder with “Blair Witch Project”. Armed with a measly budget, can an acclaimed director pull off the dead end gimmick of a first person view? It almost feels blasphemous to give a critical review to a George Romero film, but some friends like Dave Kaye and M have done it, Jenny, Main Man, M.B Cole and Chris Blackshere are on the middle ground while T-man loved this film. I’ll give it a go. The issues with “Diary…” isn’t all cosmetic, it was discipline.

The film is supposedly a documentary that is shot by a film student named Jason (Joshua Close) and narrated by his girlfriend Debra (Michelle Morgan). The film’s main premise is that while they are in the woods with an alcoholic film professor (Scott Wentworth), the news of the dead coming back to life and feeding on the living breaks out. They pack up, gets in the RV and try to head home. In their journey, they encounter zombies, a militant group, zombies, a deaf amish, zombies, ex-national guardsmen, zombies, meet up with a friend, zombies…sounds repetitive doesn’t it?

                       Shawn Roberts in George A. Romero's "Diary of the Dead."

As with Romero’s other films, “Diary of the Dead” contains a social commentary. It is quite a powerful message as to what we humans are, and how we are sometimes defined. The commentary is real ambitious and nope, it is not subtle at all. This message seemed to have taken the audience by its neck and kept on shaking until we passed out from boredom. It deals with the fact that because of the internet, more folks from all walks of life are reporting on current news and events, the more videos, the more the truth gets blurry until we don’t know just what the truth is anymore. As usual, Romero uses the ‘undead’ to make such a statement and fans are undoubtedly split on its preachy tone. The drunken film professor never runs out of alcohol and never runs out of insights about the past war and the philosophical aspects of mankind’s inhumane actions seem to be a little out of place when he shoots a zombie with an arrow and feels nothing about it. There are also some attempts at satire with a deaf Amish but it seemed so cheap and incongruous. The SFX sometimes looked realistic, then at times looked very fake. It wasn’t consistent in its delivery of the ‘undead’.

               Joshua Close in George A. Romero's "Diary of the Dead."

              Joe Dinicol in George A. Romero's "Diary of the Dead."

Romero also makes a bit of subtle coaching (he is the proclaimed zombie guru) to aspiring filmmakers when the characters discuss the workings of a horror flick; why is it women always loses their shoe, they trip over something, gets their clothes ripped to show a bit of skin? Then as a touch of irony a girl does trip, loses a shoe, gets her outfit ripped to show some breasts when she was being chased by a zombie. Romero also criticizes the more modern zombie flicks when he expresses that the ‘undead’s’ bones and joints are so brittle from decomposition that if they move fast, their ‘undead’ bodies would break apart; therefore “moving slowly” or “shambling” is a necessity for all ‘undead’ stars (imagine that).

The problems with “Diary..” is that suspense is none-existent as the DV camera gimmick kills all attempts at such. The film also suffers quite a bit from the feeling that we’ve all seen it before, and we’ve seen it done better. The film also gets repetitive and their sense of purpose doesn’t really provide any sense of credibility, which is further emphasized that the characters are so wooden and one-dimensional and the acting looks like they’re reading the script out of the cue card. There is also a very annoying scene where Jason just kept on shooting his camera while a colleague was being chased by a zombie that displays his obsession with the documentary itself. This feeling of annoyance gives the character a very unlikable impression, much like the characters in “Cloverfield”. It was quite annoying and nauseating to watch someone be so insensitive and at the same time dull. Perhaps this was an attempt (another commentary) to point out the indifference of everyday folks to the plight of their fellow men; such as Homelessness, poverty, etc. Yes, I get it, but the delivery wasn’t at all aided by the wooden acting.

                     Scott Wentworth, Joe Dinicol, Amy Lalonde, Joshua Close, Michelle Morgan and Chris Violette in George A. Romero's "Diary of the Dead."

                    A scene from George A. Romero's "Diary of the Dead."

My point to all this is while I agree that nobody mixes in social commentary with zombies as a vehicle better than George Romero; halfway through the film it was just too much and turned out so boring. This is a horror film and if and when I want to watch social preaching, I’ll watch something else. The film is so darned predictable that as I expected, characters will make bad decisions, drive somewhere, they’d encounter zombies, narrowly escape, split into groups, then get trapped somehow and encounter zombies again. While I did expect the film to be full of cliché, I just wished Romero could have given it more thought in concentrating on giving thrills and chills (or even more gore) to cover it all up than merely stooping to a “commentary“ about current society.

Instead, the film is an overload of annoying scenes and an overkill of the same ole’ stuff to cover up its very hollow execution. Body counts are aplenty but none of them were inventive, making the film very forgettable. It is not subtle at all with its message that in the end it just left a very bitter taste in my mouth. I love social commentary but remember, it should be all about the crisis and a realistic feel, and not a commentary that just beats my head up with it. I really wanted to like this film and maybe one day, it will grow on me.

Die-hard fans will still praise and applaud this film just because it was made by George Romero; isn’t it ironic that this film comments on the truth becoming jumbled when too many eyes are involved? Maybe it was the expectations and the hype that killed the film‘s enjoyment?

RENTAL [2 ½ Out of 5 Stars]

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August 27, 2010
This one has grown on me and I actually like it, although I can see the point in everything you said. Like I said it grew on me.
August 27, 2010
I really have mixed feelings about this one. I really disliked it the first time I saw it, I saw it again on HBO and I liked it a tad more, but when I saw it again, I dunno, I really couldn't get into it. Ambitious movie, just too bad its execution was lacking.
August 25, 2010
Yeah, Romero seems to have done about all he can with his zombies films. I still think he should have stopped after "Day of the Dead".
August 25, 2010
I dunno, I read the series THE WALKING DEAD and that is just full of UNDEAD EPICNESS! I think Romero is either losing his touch, not having a budget (Land of the Dead had a huge budget) or he has gotten lazy by believing his own hype.
August 25, 2010
I think he just needs to move onto other subjects. I think he's milked zombies for all they're worth.
September 05, 2010
He did Monkey Shines which was alright. Though I didn't like the original THE CRAZIES.
September 05, 2010
Really? I loved the original "The Crazies". So dark and depressing. Ooooh, it just makes me euphoric thinking about it.
September 06, 2010
Yeah, it was alright, but admittedly I only saw pieces and bits of it. I saw the whole thing in pieces but I never sat down and concentrated on it.
September 06, 2010
I actually consider it Romero's #3 best film behind "Night of the Living Dead" and "Dawn of the Dead".
September 06, 2010
really? looks like I do need to buy the darn thing and sit down and concentrate on it.
September 07, 2010
I just think it's a brilliantly subtle and character-driven horror film. They don't make them like that anymore.
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About this movie



Director: George A. Romero
Genre: Horror, Action, Adventure
Release Date: February 15, 2008
MPAA Rating: R
Runtime: 1hr 35min
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