Sunday, June 08, 2008

Review: Diary of the Dead

We live in fortunate times. We only had to wait a few years between films this century for George Romero's next zombie film, Diary of the Dead. How does it compare to Land of the Dead, which was a fairly well received entry into the "Dead" series? Read on.

First of all, I apologize for the delay in seeing this movie. It was only playing in northern Jersey and I never got a chance to go up there. Then the movie came out on dvd and I completely forgot and when I did buy it, I didn't get a chance to watch it until this weekend. On the bright side, me and the baby made a day of it and enjoyed it very much. I have photos of her with the dvd case whilst wearing a Misfits onesie I might be allowed to post later. We enjoyed it thoroughly.

Coming in a much lower budget and without any real name actors, Diary of the Dead takes a look at the living dead outbreak through the eyes of a documentary filmmaker. We start out with the director and his crew filming a horror movie. When they take a break, they hear on the news that all hell is breaking loose with the dead coming back to life. They hightail it onto the road and start heading home. It doesn't take long before they find their first zombie and the crew finds themselves documenting the zombies and humanity at each other's throats. They encounter looters, survivors, military men gone bad and of course, zombies--filming all the while.

Done completely in documentary style with one camera at first and then a second as they progress, the film captures what you might expect a zombie outbreak to be if done in a more realistic style. Unlike the year's earlier documentarian effort, Cloverfield, Diary of the Dead manages to keep the action in frame and crystal clear, capturing every gory moment. The acting is done well, with several standouts such as the drunken film professor accompanying them on their endeavor.

You care for the crew for the most part but you end up hating the director, who stays behind the camera for most of the movie. He'd rather film than help, stuck behind the viewfinder and unable to act, as if he's only watching the movie instead of living it. Therein lies the commentary that Romero injects. Where the previous movies dealt with themes such as people fighting each other rather than the horror around them, consumerism, social apathy, greed and the like, this time around it's documentaries and the youtube generation, who capture and post every minute of their lives online, promoting a voyeuristic obsession with the lives of strangers. This is subtley done for the most part but there are a few scenes where it hits you over the head like a shovel killing a zombie.

While the movie lacks the majority of the action sequences of Romero's previous films, it's certainly a worthwhile effort and well worth seeing for zombie afficianados for its grisly and up close and personal scenes of death by the undead. And acid. And a scythe. Seriously, it's pretty fucking cool. Watch it now. Cassandra says watch it too.

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