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It’s crazy to me to think that George A. Romero is now on his fifth zombie film after creating the sub-genre back in 1968 with NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD. What’s even more insane is that with each film – and nearly each decade – he finds something new to comment on. After LAND OF THE DEAD in 2005, who would have though that he’d find something significant once again so quick? Returning to his roots, DIARY OF THE DEAD is by far Romero’s best film in nearly 20 years capturing a unique flavor that’s been missing for years.
The film will follow 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.
After a miserable experience with Universal, Romero took the independent route once again. What’s unique about DIARY is that it’s a unique blend of THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT and NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD. The film is a quasi-prequel that picks up with the first zombies coming to life. Footage on the internet and news display victims of a family murder returning from the dead and attacking paramedics and police. The epidemic is born. In a time where video blogging makes an average Joe more popular than CNN, Romero has one of his main characters pick up a camera and swear to document the events until the very end. His girlfriend intros the film as if she took her boyfriends footage and edited it together to tell “the truth”, but who’s truth are we watching? Who’s vision are we watching? This is just one of the underlining contexts Romero brings to the plate.
Shot on various camera – including cell phones – DIARY feels very much like BLAIR WITCH as we are watching the found footage of our documenter. One major difference between the two is that DIARY looked phenomenal and was extremely well directed. -there was not a moment of motion sickness through the entire film. Another difference is that Romero had the lead narrate over the entire film, which to me one the single biggest flaw in the film. It was so incredibly annoying hearing her talk over the sequences and used as an anchor between scenes. No joke I thought I was watching TERMINATOR 2 at times, “Hi, I’m Sarah Conner… this is the apocalypse.” Blah blah blah, just show the me the goddamn movie. I honestly think that Romero can re-edit the entire film without the narrator and it would be far superior. Another small problem with the film was the all-Canadian cast who struggled to keep their Pittsburgh accents and keep in character. They weren’t “the acting killed the movie” bad, but enough to be annoyed at moments. I also think that there were a few very unrealistic moments written in the screenplay, specifically when the group of students stumble on a warehouse where the people inside so graciously gave them anything they needed.
Sans the small problems here and there, DIARY OF THE DEAD is a fantastically entertaining film. I loved a lot of the set ups (especially how the film opens), and the gore… oh the gore!!! The practical effects were mixed with some CG, but barely noticeable. The gun shots to the heads were mind-blowing (pun intended), and some of the zombie kills were off-the-wall amazing; we get zombies split in half by swords, heads melted by acid and some shot with arrows… and just wait until you see the zombie fish bowl (a pool filled with zombies!) The locations were also wonderful, especially the mansion and the hospital… this movie screams video game adaptation!
DIARY OF THE DEAD might be flawed but the fact that it’s an independent film gives many of the problems a free ride. In the end this is Romero at his finest, a special little film that all fans will be pleasantly surprised with. The only thing better than a new Romero zombie film is seeing it with 1,200 screaming fans… hopefully we’ll see this in a theater sometime in 2008.