Diary of the Dead Review
Written by: moviemaven
Okay you are going to have to bear with me on this one. I always hate having to give less than stellar reviews of directors that I love. Uncle George is very close to my shriveled heart. He practically raised me. Any time there is a new edition to his zombie films I get all twitterpated and run to see it as quickly as I can. So that's what I did here. I ran to see Diary of the Dead and while I was pleased and excited to be watching a new Romero zombie film, there are things about it that really get under my skin. So I am torn. But I have to be honest so here I go.
I'll start by running over the plot for those of you who are unaware. The idea is that this film goes all the way back to the very beginning of the bloody onslaught. Some people aren't fond of the way Romero plays around with time-lines, but that has always been one of the things I love about him. Each film is set in the day that it is made regardless of when in the disaster it takes place. That may be difficult to wrap your mind around, but you just have to go with him. So there is a guy, Jason Creed, who is making a horror film for his final project for film class. He, his crew, and his professor are in the woods somewhere in Pittsburgh working on the film, which is not going right, when the first broadcasts of the zombie outbreak reach the airwaves. Right here in the beginning is where it starts to get rough for me. I have difficulty buying everyone's reactions. For one, I think some of the acting is sub-par but other than that I have to blame it on a clumsy script. I believe Romero was wanting so badly to get his idea out there that the dialogue, among other things, suffered. I won't even mention the camera style, you all know what to expect there as it is the purpose of the entire film.
The message that he was trying to convey was not the problem, rather how he put it across. Remember the days of subtle film making? Remember when you had to use your brain to dig the political message from within the ruins of a world being ripped apart by the living dead? I fear those days may be gone for good. The message here is anything but subtle. I feel repeatedly beaten about the face by it. I get that in today's society we are hit with such a barrage of media that we are hard-pressed to know what is true and what is fabricated for dramatic effect. Not only do I get it, but I agree. I don't feel it is necessary to have it shoved down my throat so unceremoniously. In fact it is so unnecessary that I get bored with the message rather quickly which forces me out of the moment time and again. Scenes which are in fact very creepy are repeatedly overshadowed for me as I sit trying to the best of my ability to love what he is doing. I have never seen Romero be so heavy-handed. I am left wondering if he thinks we are getting more stupid or if he's just getting lazier as time goes on. Perhaps it is even all a part of his plan. If that is the case I have to say that for the first time I just don't get it. I feel that the integrity of the film has been sacrificed in order to get across a message that is blaringly obvious on its own merit. The thing I have always loved about the Dead films is that you can either watch them for the politics, which I always enjoy, or just take them as the meaty gore-fests they appear to be. Although this film is chock-full of vicious splatter scenes, it's a chore to enjoy them when you can't stop thinking about what it really going on.
That being said I can move on to the characters. Some of them are so over-the-top that I am annoyed with them right away and find myself begging for them to become Meals on Heels. I do now know though that we should apparently never "mess with Texas." If I want to read something into that I could think that perhaps he is poking at the Bush administration, of which it is well known that he is not a fan. Maybe that is the case, although it is useless to the plot as well as to the central theme. There is the English professor, constantly drunk and disheartened. He is the perfect example of cliche, but he does grow on me by the end of the film. One of my favorites is the mute Amish farmer, Samuel. He is a fun character, but sadly in the film too briefly. The remaining ones I find to be alternately enjoyable to watch and completely unbelievable as real people. I wish I could say more about the character of Mary, but I dare not in the interest of giving away too much. I will say that I find her conflicting at best.
*sigh* All right, now that I have completed my bitching, I am pleased to move on to the fun part. Here come the things I do like. Of course the gore is top-notch as always. There are some very visceral scenes that bring you back to the world of the Romero zombie film. Acid (oh boy is this one fun) and a clever swimming pool scene are just a couple of cool things to look forward to. Although I feel that the zombies are regrettably cast aside in order to get across a point that is heaped at us over and over, I do love the ones we get. My favorite shot in the entire film is the very last one. I love it.
Also there are a few things I can't let go without being said. George puts in a couple of what I feel are subtle (and not so) pokes at newer zombie films with fast zombies, perhaps the remake of Dawn itself. I've never heard him say what he feels about it, but I think I have an idea after this. And of course being the Romero fan that I am, I am all over it. Also if you pay attention, you will hear an original broadcast from Night, which made me giggle like a school girl.
So, did I like it? Yes. Was I slightly disappointed? Yes. Do I think you should see it? Duh...of course. I am ever-faithful to the films that launched my love of the zombie sub-genre. And as with Land, I am sure I will love it more as I watch it again and am able to recover from the overdose of political meanderings.