"Diary of the Dead" Review - Zombies in “the Internets”
An unaired recording of a local newscast shows a reporter in front of the house of an immigrant family, where apparently the father has murdered his wife and son and then has taken his own life. On the background, the camera caught the moment when the paramedics are transporting the corpses. That’s it until the corpses start attacking anybody around them.
A voiceover from a girl named Debra (Michelle Morgan) explains to us that a zombie epidemic has taken over the world and that the mass media is just feeding chaos, instead of broadcasting the truth.
Debra then presents us a found footage (more like a controlled and edited footage) of her boyfriend Jason Creed (Joshua Close), a film student who has always wanted to be a documentary filmmaker, but who has decided to make a horror mummy-movie for his final project.
And just when we are completely confused before the meta-narrative (Is this a dramatization of a dramatization?), we finally get it: the mummy-movie shooting is interrupted by news reports about the undead epidemic (wait a minute, wasn’t the media hiding the truth?).
The cast and crew decide to wrap filming and go to their respective homes to check on their loved ones. Jason, however, decides to enter into a full-blown documentary mode and is now determined to record everything he can from now on.
The fifth entry of George A. Romero “Living Dead” series is not a direct sequel to any of the previous movies but, in his own words, a story that happens the same day of the events of Night of the Living Dead (1968), but in the present day.
And if that setting seems confusing to you, you are not alone. Diary Of The Dead is full of that kind of inconsistencies on many levels.
Diary Of The Dead is definitely a 2007 movie. This is George Romero in awe of a technology that allows bloggers, “hackers” (that’s how Romero calls a capable Internet user) and ordinary citizens, of generating information with their smartphones and computers.
In a sense it's a good thing that Romero still tries to be a "current" social critic long after Dawn of the Dead.
This is a “Living Dead” entry focused on the “emerging media” and only for that, it deserves an interesting place in Romero’s filmography and in the history of the genre.
However, instead of embracing the cinema veritas, making the actors record the actions (or at least have a genuine handheld camera on set), Romero decided to technically complicate things, by emulating the feel with a cinematographer and all the lights, rigs and “toys.” What should have been genuine movements, ended up being really a very detailed and complex choreography.
And although technically, that’s a praiseworthy and admirable effort (and to some extent another reason to watch this film), it defeats the purpose, generating a false and rarefied atmosphere in a story that should feel natural and genuine.
Romero ends up defeated by the generation gap, not really understanding the emerging media. Openly, Romero refused to emulate The Blair Witch Project (perhaps the most successful movie of all time in its cost-box office ratio) for considering that “it did not quite make sense”.
That way, Diary Of The Dead is the cinematic equivalent of a sexagenarian aunt who tries to be cool by sending Tweety memes on Facebook.
What's Your Rating For Diary of the Dead?
Other serious errors are derived from this paradox of wanting to emulate found footage with a traditional technique. The cast is not composed of great talent, so their performance feels stiff, fake and cringy. The best talent of the ensemble, Tatiana Maslany (Orphan Black), is horribly wasted when her character is quickly killed off.
I’m not exaggerating. After 30 minutes, I was convinced that I was watching a comedy that had just taken a long time to start. 5 minutes later, I understand (again) that this wasn’t a comedy. That’s how unstable Diary Of The Dead is.
However, any of that mean that this movie doesn’t have entertaining moments. Even with the high load of cheap CGI, this film has a lot of creativity when it comes to sprouting the blood of its characters. And this is where we have to make a special mention to the deaf Amish Samuel (R.D. Reid) and his fantastic use of the scythe. Romero even recycles–with relative success–one of his best-written scenes, when a group of gun-loving rednecks cruelly practice target shooting with a group of undead, prompting the question “are we worth saving?”.
Due to its contradictions and its beginning-of-the-century thematic relevance, this is an essential film for Romero’s completionists and genre enthusiasts. Although Land of the Dead was also a kind of failure, it was at least still a load of fun.
But for those who want to see a true horror zombie found footage movie, they have an infinite better option in another 2007 film: [REC], directed by Jaume Balaguero and Paco Plaza.
Zombie Movie Details
Title: Diary of the Dead
Release Year: 2007
Director(s): George A. Romero
Actors: Michelle Morgan, Joshua Close, Shawn Roberts, a.o.
© 2019 Sam Shepards