Review: Diary of the Dead (2007)

Diary Of The Dead (2007)
Starring: Joshua Close, Scott Wentworth, Michelle Morgan
Directed by: George Romero
Written by: George Romero
Rated: R
Rating: **** (four stars out of five)

Romero revolutionized horror films with his classic (I’d say timeless) Dead trilogy: Night Of The Living Dead (1968), Dawn Of The Dead (1978), and Day Of The Dead (1985). The trilogy chronicled mankind’s attempt to survive a never-ending onslaught of slow-moving, flesh-eating, brain-loving zombies. Needless to say, the movies are bloody and full of fantastic scenes of gore, but they also contain a significant amount of social commentary, but this review isn’t about that. In 2005, Romero brought us Land Of The Dead, which failed to meet the expectations of most fans, mine included. Thus, while I love Romero, when I heard a new Dead movie was to be coming out, I was extremely hesitant.

Fortunately, I loved it.

Taking a page from the modern filmmaking cliche of using handheld cameras for a first-person POV, Romero has crafted a fine zombie flick. While Cloverfield (2008) failed with it’s nauseating over-use of the handheld style, Diary avoids that same pitfall by mixing in static security camera footage and stable news shots in with the first-person perspective. It’s put together extremely well as far as that goes — my only complaint with the technique was that the editor use the “blip” effect way too often, streaking snowy lines across the screen for some effect that missed. Anyone who’s shot in HD knows that the digital cameras don’t “blip” like that.

The premise is all to simple: A group of college filmmakers at the University of Pittsburgh and their sophisticated, alcoholic professor, document the arrival of the undead as they attempt to travel to ones family home. Simple, but enough to throw in some zombies. Deb (Morgan) is concerned about her parent’s well-being and they begin driving towards Scranton, PA, in their friends RV. The characterizations are obvious, from the unbeliever to the softy-who-can-kill-when-needed.

The worst case of unoriginality is Jason Creed (Close), who is the man behind the camera for much of the 95 minute runtime. He inability to empathize and his refusal to set the camera down is painful to listen to at times. However, this is Romero throwing in his subtext again. This film is partially about our numbness to things and the way that numbness grows. While Creed is unoriginal and largely boring, his character does, admittedly, serve a purpose.

There have been few horror films recently to bring any new witticisms or frights to the screen. Most of the garbage put out today just recycles the well-known jumps, scares, and gross-out effects, and (subtext aside) we have become numb to them. Thank God for Romero and his touch of dark originality. There are some unique scenes in this movie, and one or two that I will remember for a long time. Everyone knows at this point that destroying a zombie’s brain is the only way to take it down (would it then the un-undead?). Most movies stick with bats, guns, and sharp things to achieve this. Romero had the audacity to ask “What about highly concentrated acid?” And most movies stay away from children zombies, let alone watching them get brutally re-killed. Again, thank you, George Romero, for saying “to hell with that tradition.” My favorite scene is with Samuel — I will not ruin it, but Samuel has a fine introduction and a glorious finish.

I recommend this film, whole-heartedly, to the horror lovers of the world. Is it perfect? Nah. Is it somewhat heavy-handed? Yep. Is it still worth watching? Yes! The unique scenes that Diary bring to the screen are worth it alone.

Like it? Share it!