Comments on watching and making films.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Diary of the Dead

George Romero has made a career off of zombies, whether he wanted to or not. Starting with his first zombie film, and debut feature, Night of the Living Dead, Romero invented the entire genre, laying down rules that would be closely followed by almost every zombie filmmaker afterwards. Romero, throughout the years, has heartily attempted to break free from the world that defined him, but to little or not avail. His biggest outside success was probably the Stephen King authored Creepshow, though many of his other films were hardly a blip on the radar.

Previous to Diary, Romero had made four zombie films - Night of the Living Dead (a cinema classic in every sense of the word), Dawn of the Dead (an AMAZING 70's film that is as good, or possibly better, than its predecessor), the debatable Day of the Dead (a film whose script was supposedly pillaged before they were able to start shooting), and the respectable Land of the Dead. Each film got bigger and more expensive, though, not particularly better. With Diary of the Dead, Romero is trying to kick-start the series that he felt had gotten away from him. He's trying to bring it back to it's origins of a small, homemade film. Well, he succeeds at that, if only at that.

The story follows a group of art school students who witness the birth of the zombie invasion first hand, with filmmaker Jason recording the events, to show a "true", "unbiased" view of the events. We follow them as they pack into an RV (which I find incredibly odd, and way to convenient that they have access to such a vehicle), to drive from Pittsburgh to, eventually, one of their fellow students houses in the country. Along the way, they run into zombies, crazed military officers, lots of people with guns, and more zombies.

My major problem with this film is its first person point of view. The concept of someone being so obsessed with shooting footage of everything around them, to the point where they don't even step in when someone is in danger of being killed, is ridiculous. If Jason is that lost in what he's doing, I find it hard to believe that he would be able to hold down friends, much less a girlfriend. Romero has always made his characters as smart as the average "real-life" person, instead of dumbing them down like so many horror film director's do, but, in Diary, these kids come off as cliche idiots, more at home in a Friday the 13th, than in a Romero zombie film.

I understand Romero's point, about how we are so media obsessed that we can't even break ourselves away from it, but the story is so ridiculous that one has to wonder what he was thinking when he wrote it (or was it a situation of - "Hey George Romero, here's a bag of cash. Go out and make us a zombie film!").

I didn't enjoy this film at all. Thee acting was bad, the story was ridiculous, and the zombies were not interesting in any way. Apparently, the days of Dawn of the Dead's "personality" zombie's are long gone. It's a shame, too. I see Diary as the worst, by far, of a line of films that started out on an incredibly strong note. I hope that if Romero makes another zombie film, he'll find a way to look past the painfully obvious, and make something that reflects the skills and ability that he should have gained in a forty year career.

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