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Friday, November 23, 2012

Day 328: Diary Of The Dead

Diary Of The Dead
Dear diary: AAAAHHHHH!!!

It's no secret that I love George Romero's zombie movies. There's just something about the original Night, Dawn and Day of the Dead movies that he gets so perfectly right. They have the right amount of blood, gore, action, humor, and social comedy. So many movies try to emulate what he has done and about 95% of them fail. While I've reviewed some of Romero's non-zombie horror movies, they just don't compare to his ...Of The Dead series. I was absolutely thrilled when it was announced that George Romero would be making new zombie movies. While Land Of The Dead wasn't as good as the previous three movies, it still had plenty of good moments. Romero stuck by his formula for the most part and was able to squeeze out an entertaining, if flawed, movie. Could the same be said for his found footage follow-up?

Diary Of The Dead is a 2007 zombie movie written and directed by George Romero. The movie stars Joshua Close (The Exorcism Of Emily Rose, K-19: The Widowmaker) as Jason Creed and Michelle Morgan (Stargate: Atlantis, Heartland) as his girlfriend Debra Moynihan. Jason is filming a horror movie with his friends and adviser Andrew Maxwell (Scott Wentworth, Law & Order, She's The Mayor) for college credit at the University of Pittsburgh when the dead begin to reanimate and eat the living. Chaos quickly descends across the land, so the group, sans Francine and Ridley, hop in their RV and heads back to their dorm. Jason finds Debra and they head out of town towards her home in Scranton, taking back roads to avoid danger. Zombies start to fill the road and the driver Mary, a quiet, religious girl, is forced to run them over. Overcome with grief, she shoots herself, but does not die. The group bring her to a hospital, which appears to be abandoned. They encounter multiple zombies and learn to shoot them in the head in order to stop them. Jason continues to film everything with his camera rather than help, infuriating Debra and the rest of the group. They continue on the road until they encounter a problem with the RV's fuel line. They are helped by a deaf Amish man named Samuel, but are overcome by zombies and once again hit the road. Outside the city, they meet armed civilians who take them back to their compound. Jason edits and uploads his footage to the internet, which receives a large amount of views within minutes. Using the internet, they are able to see that the zombie outbreak has spread across the world. On the road, the are robbed of their supplies by National Guardsmen (who are the main characters from the follow-up "Survival Of The Dead"). With the world falling apart around them, how will the group survive and will anyone be around to see their footage?

"Oh no! She shot herself with Raspberry jam!"

Though Diary Of The Dead is the fifth "...Of The Dead" movie by Romero, it is not a sequel to Land Of The Dead. It is, in fact, a reworking of the basic zombie myth. While this could be good for a Romero newcomer, it is a little disappointing that the previous four movies are essentially ignored, in terms of story. There are references to previous movies, such as a news report from Night Of The Living Dead playing in the background. The zombies look good and are thankfully of the slow variety. There is some good violence and plenty of blood and guts. Romero didn't succumb to the trend of sprinting zombies, but he did make the movie in the found footage style. Unlike other found footage movies like Apollo 18 and Paranormal Activity, Diary Of The Dead has some music and quick edits. I give Romero credit for, through Debra's narration, explain why their is music and edits. Most movies would have just ignored that part. While it does give a unique first-person vantage and throws the audience into the middle of the action, it doesn't add much to the story itself and comes off as a rather unremarkable gimmick.

One of the biggest reasons why I love Romero's zombie movies is because of the social commentary. He never pulls his punches and the parallels between zombies and humans is eery and occasionally startling. The problem with Diary is not that it lacks commentary, but has too much of it. I felt dizzy from being bludgeoned over the head with obvious lines and thinly-veiled shots. The big target in this movie is society's love affair with technology and being connected at all times. It's good commentary and has only gotten worse with the explosion of cheap smartphones. There's just way too much of it and it takes away from the zombie part of the movie. It feels like every couple of lines, a character is saying something deep and heavy, when in reality they should be focusing on survival. Zombie movies need a good balance of horrific gory violence and smart commentary. Diary Of The Dead occasionally forgets the violence and makes me feel like I'm having a finger wagged in my direction. The acting is rather weak in some parts and the characters are fairly annoying. Jason is a complete douche from the start, which puts the audience in a weird position considering we're seeing the story through him essentially. Debra isn't much better. It would have been nice to actually like some of the characters. If I was part of their group, I probably would have tossed them to the zombies and booked it to Canada.


Diary Of The Dead retains many of the themes and essence of the traditional Romero zombie movies. There is plenty of fun violence and gore with enough of a story to keep things moving. There is a lot of social commentary which can feel more like a lecture at times. I don't disagree with what Romero was saying in regards to our obsession with technology and always being "plugged in". There was just too much of it. I didn't particularly care for the found footage style of the movie, though it did add a few more scares than if it were a regular movie. The acting is lacking in parts and some of the characters are incredibly annoying. While it's not the best from the "...Of The Dead" series of movies, Diary Of The Dead still has enough good moments to keep the audience entertained.


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