TIFF Review: Another Look at Romero’s ‘Diary of the Dead’!

With all of the news breaking this evening we figured now would be a great time to introduce yet another review for George A. Romero’s Diary of the Dead (first review), which was just acquired by the Weinstein’s for US theatrical release. Read on for the review! The film follows a group of college students shooting a horror movie in the woods who stumble upon a real zombie uprising. When the onslaught begins, they seize the moment as any good film students would, capturing the undead in a “cinema verite” style that causes more than the usual production headaches.
Review by: Mike Pereira
Score: 9 out of 10 Skulls

George A. Romero’s “Dead” films are the most refreshing and enduring series in the horror genre. Each is a separate entity but still manage to go together beautifully. The common thread has been Romero’s though-provoking commentary on the time period in which each film released theatrically. The unexpected pleasure of this franchise is how they’ve managed to stay relevant to this day.

Cut to 2007 and Romero has once again brought back his zombies in the highly anticipated fifth installment, “Diary Of The Dead”. What makes this film particularly special is that the legendary filmmaker has returned to the low-budget, indie roots of his earlier work. From the very first frame, the viewer can instantly feel Romero’s rejuvenated and enthusiastic passion. It brings the storytelling back to basics and returns to the night in which the dead come to life. The film is not set in the same year of the original, “Night Of The Living Dead” but in the present day. The viewer follows a group of young film students who decide to document this life-changing event while they struggle to survive the night.

Romero adapts the documentary style but unlike “The Blair Witch Project”, this film consciously stays cinematic in its form and structure. It is cleverly presented as a documentary made by the students with a voiceover throughout and an alternate title, “The Death Of Death”. The development of the characters and the plot structure stays true the classic language of feature film storytelling while constantly appearing to be a documentary. Romero never falters in his execution. He clearly understands why a film like “The Blair Witch Project” hasn’t stayed relevant and effective over time. While novel in its appearance and feel of a documentary, “The Blair With Project” is ultimately driven by a gimmick. The moment the audience realizes that they were fooled and the film is a work of fiction, the effect is over. It works brilliantly on its first experience and is a fascinating film to dissect on its second view but sadly fades out of our consciousness afterwards. Romero also avoids the nauseating handheld camerawork of previous docu-style films. “Diary Of The Dead” brilliantly appears to have a seemingly improvised look but still manages to feel calculating in its compositions. The building of tension and the execution of scares follows the cinematic techniques like an old pro. Romero’s masterful direction is simply a delight.

The cast is solid and give appropriately, low-key performances. The make-up effects look terrific. Like “Land Of The Dead”, Romero utilizes CGI to enhance the gore and it’s even more effectively realized here. There is a moment with a zombie’s face melting which is particularly convincing. The zombie kills are as inventive as any one from the previous “Dead” films.

The one constant strength in Romero’s work is his social commentary and “Diary Of The Dead” is no exception. The film is his most personal work in ages. He captures the world’s present obsession with blogging and our search for the “real truth” perfectly. Like any great filmmaker, Romero makes a potent comment on our society but never spoon-feeds a solution to the audience. He presents the cause and effect of the outsourcing of information. The film is made up of multiple forms of media; radio, internet and television. It captures the chaotic flow of information and misinformation without ever defining which one is which.

At the very end, Romero’s message is appropriately ambiguous and frightening. Ultimately, one outlet (the media) or infinity outlets (the internet) of information, is a Catch-22. There is no possibility of an absolute truth…not in this day and age. Romero also, takes a look at the documentary in itself. One cannot shake the feeling of Michael Moore whenever the voiceover shares its opinion. Once “Diary Of The Dead” ends, the viewer might question who’s viewpoint is presented in the fictional, “The Death Of Death”.

George A. Romero’s desire to blend provocative substance with good old-fashioned entertainment is what sets his work apart from the rest of genre filmmakers. There is no denying this film will provoke discussion long after the end credits have rolled. “Diary Of The Dead” is another great entry in a truly unforgettable series. Amazingly enough, Romero has successfully returned to the spirit of “Night Of The Living Dead” but still manage to give it a fresh and constantly surprising new spin. It is equally funny, thrilling and genuinely moving in a way that only a George A. Romero zombie film can truly achieve. “Diary Of The Dead” is hands down, the horror film to beat this year.

P.S. George A. Romero’s “Diary Of The Dead” and Brian De Palma’s latest, “Redacted” would make the perfect double bill. These filmmakers who started their respective careers in the 60’s have returned in 2007 with docu-style films which provocatively comment on the state of our world today. Two of the best films in 2007.

Source: All TIFF Reviews