Oh Romero, Romero, Romero… How can a filmmaker that I like so much make a movie that I dislike so much? I’m talking about 2007’s Diary of the Dead. Normally I’m a sucker for camcorder movies or movies that purport to document real events. But this one just didn’t do it for me. Not at all. I really, really want to find some kernel of this move that can redeem it. The effects are good. There. Greg Nicotero produced the effects so you know they’ll at least look good.
Essentially, the movie is a reboot of the “Dead” franchise. It’s not a real sequel in the sense that the events take place after Land of the Dead. The movie starts with a news crew covering a murder-suicide in the projects. This film was supposedly uploaded by the cameraman to the Youtube so we’re seeing everything in its raw glory, including cops making remarks about immigrants. Looks pretty clean for raw footage. Oh, and there’s a voice-over letting you know that this is raw footage in case you couldn’t figure it out. The entire film treats the audience as if we’re very dumb and in an intro to media studies class.
Now we meet our main characters. They’re a crew participating in a student film for Jason Creed’s final project. A mummy chases a maiden in a white dress and then we realize it’s only a movie within a movie. Then we’re treated to some meta tongue-in-cheek commentary about the horror genre. That was totally funny…in 1996 when Scream did it. The characters are so broadly drawn that I can’t bring myself to care about them. Jay is the obsessive film-maker who sees the world through a lens. Elliot is the quirky nerd. Tony’s the tough guy from Queens. Mary’s religious and sensitive. Traci’s the pretty blond. Gordo’s the guy dating her. Ridley is the wacky rich guy and also the mummy. Francine doesn’t say a word and we never hear from her again. And their professor is a drunk Englishman who seems kind of miserable and I don’t know if he’s even named. I wish that he were Christopher Hitchens, that might have saved this movie.
I’m astonished that I remember any of the characters’ names because not one of them is interesting. The viewer is never invested in any of them so I really didn’t care when they were picked off.
Anyway, they hear the news over the radio that the dead are coming back to life. Ridley and Francine make the decision to split. The rest pile into the
I did mention that Greg Nicotero produced the effects and there were some cool kills.
There’s death by those electrical paddle thingies from the hospital.
Anyone remember the killer clown from Land of the Dead? Here’s another one!
My favorite is Samuel, the deaf Amish man’s suicide/zombie kill.
I would love to Mythbuster that kill. How much force would it take to drive through two skulls? We could recreate it with Buster and a pig’s head.
The kills were pretty much all the movie had going for it. Along the way we learn Important Lessons about racism and militarism. These issues have been touched upon so much in Romero’s work that all I could really muster was a “meh.” For a film made only three-years ago it felt incredibly dated.
Mostly, the movie felt relentlessly cribbed from Romero’s past, better work. There’s footage of some kind of army people raiding an immigrant family’s house and finding the hidden zombies of their loved ones. There’s even rednecks using zombies for target practice. Why not just reremake Dawn of the Dead if you’re going to use some of the best ideas from it?
The movie basically ends with Debra, Tony, Jason, Traci, Elliot, and the Professor making it to Ridley’s McMansion. Ridley is acting a bit erratic and the mummy from the fake movie in the movie becomes a real monster. It becomes almost worth it to see what he did with his dead family.
My ultimate verdict? The movie has its moments, it has a quirky sense of humor, but I felt like the movie was yelling at me 75% of the time. This may be because of Deb’s impassioned monologues directly at the camera. So I say skip it and watch the original trilogy instead. Also, Land of the Dead because I have a soft-spot for that movie.