Diary of the Dead (2007)
Director: George A. Romero
Starring: Shawn Roberts, Joshua Close, Michelle Morgan
A University of Pittsburgh film studies class finds themselves caught up in the zombie apocalypse and at least one member of the group is determined to catch it all on camera.
Now I should start this review by saying I love George A. Romero, I even stood in line and paid to meet him once. This film, however, is not his finest work. In fact, it was a big let down, dull acting, messy plot, obvious meta references and general lack of cohesion made this a diary I would have kept secret.
The film starts with out plucky young students creating a horror movie for class credit. Romero manages to get in a not so subtle dig at the more modern fast “zombies” from the likes of Boyle (2002) and Snyder (2005). After hearing about the dead rising on the news the group sets out together because one news article on the radio means absolute panic apparently. This is where my first problem arises, the pacing, the movie is not slow, however, it is jerky and ungainly. One minute the group is casually making a movie, they hear one news story and then suddenly the apocalypse has happened, Everywhere from the roads to the hospital to the university are suddenly deserted. This weird pacing continues through out the movie and while some of it is intentional (jump cuts from the found footage style of camera work, more on that in a minute) for the most part it serves to pull the audience out of the experience. The movie is also comprised of set pieces that seem to have very little bearing on the next one they are over and then the group moves on almost like the movie is comprised of small episodes.
Through out the movie, we are seeing through the camera lens of Jason Creed a passionate wannabe documentarian and possibly the biggest tool-bag to ever grace a zombie movie. Actually, I suppose this is incorrect as most zombie movies have a tool bag: Harry Cooper, Captain Rhodes, Steve Marcus, even Shaun of the Dead has David, the point im making is that we are never following these guys throughout the movie as if they were the hero. However, in this one we are stuck looking through his eyes. His insistance on filiming the apocalypse, shoving the camera in his friends frightened faces and standing by filming as they do all the heavy lifting and on several occaions causing or nearly causing the death of allies through his inaction all lend to making him out to be an ass, but it seems like we are meant to feel for this guy. When challenged on these annoying habits his response is to vehemently protest that filming it is the most important thing, anyway despite being saddled with the young Michael Moore, his companions are not much better. They are all dull characters who are ill defined, they dont even really fit into any roles within the movie they are just there, cardboard cut outs to be mown down by the zombie horde. They are also terribly acted with the female lead sounding bored by the very notion of zombies.
Now I turn to the camera which is actually one of the better aspects of the film despite the jump cuts I mentioned earlier. I normally don’t enjoy found footage style movies (except for REC (2007) which is excellent) because they feel lazy and while they are obviously meant to look amateurish they generally just get a bit confusing. Diary of the Dead, however, manages to keep the action on screen with minimal shaking around as the characters filming run from (or sometimes towards) the undead. Another plus for the movie is that it is in several places quiet atmospheric with some genuinely unsettling imagery, a swimming pool full of zombies sticks in my mind strongly.
Overall the movie is a not a great entry in the Romero’s Dead series of movies, so much so that I always seem to forget that it is from the same director or is part of those movies, It is just that different, and not in a good way. despite some glimmers of light such as the ability to not make me hate watching a found footage movie, this isn’t saying much as REC is a much better film and is more worthy of your time. The film just feels flat and its quality is more akin to some zombie show that would play on the SyFy channel. So if your looking for something casual to watch and you don’t care who the characters are or what happens to them and you just want to see zombies still don’t watch it the movie makes even zombies boring to watch!
Uncharismatic leads, boring story, bad editing, jerky pacing, Ugly effects (pretty sure they are using digital blood squibs) this move from the Zombie master came out as a bit of a cow pie!
If you liked this review or found it helpful let me know in the comments, and if you are so inclined, recommend a found footage movie I may enjoy, either in the comments or on twitter @MCMoovies. and I’ll see you next time movie fans.