a review by Elizabeth Vinton
Big thanks to Madman Entertainment for submitting Diary of the Dead for review! I am a huge fan of George Romero’s, especially Night of the Living Dead and Land of the Dead. I enjoy the fact that his zombie films explore the human aspect to the zombie mythology and are socio-political/political satires – they add intelligence to the horror genre.
I approached watching Diary of the Dead with excitement, pseudo-documentaries being a style I enjoy when it comes to thrillers/horror. The plot is very basic, a group of filmmakers led by a very enthusiastic man by the name of Jason Creed, are filming a B grade horror film, when the zombie apocalypse begins and they get caught up in the drama as they try to reach their homes and respective families. Naturally they see and do terrible things in the quest to survive and the question is, how many of them will survive?!
I found I did not have emotions invested in the safety of all of the characters, finding some of them to be rather cliché and frankly a bit underdeveloped. The character of the professor, Andrew Maxwell, is intriguing. He seems to have an interesting past that is hinted at, higher intelligence than those around him and his quotes from various sources add eeriness to some of the situations the group find themselves in. I guess I found him to be more my kind of zombie fighter!
The tension in the group mainly revolved around Creed constantly filming the people and events around him in conversations very similar to those between Heather and Josh in The Blair Witch Project and many other films of this nature. Of course when your movie is reliant on a character constantly using a camera or you don’t have anything to show, it can become difficult to justify why the character would do that in some situations where frankly I think I would just be running for the hills! It seemed like Romero anticipated when the viewer might ask “Why is he still filming??” and try to address it, which got repetitive very quickly.
The visual tricks used by filming in the documentary style are not new and have been used many times before by films preceding this one. None the less they are still effective in telling the tale of a zombie escaping road-trip. Gore fans will be satisfied, there is plenty of it, and there are a few scares of the ‘jump out’ nature, but I must say I didn’t find any of the themes explored new or especially disturbing (after all I have seen most of Romero’s previous films and other zombie based flicks).
All the socio-political/political explorations are there, and somewhat updated to discuss media/social media and their role in information sharing in an emergency situation, which had some interesting opinions to express, but nothing that Romero hasn’t explored before. You will be able to anticipate a lot of the horror/zombie in-jokes which are very old and sadly come across as a bit pretentious.
What I did find curious was the sentimentality that was very blunt throughout. It read almost like a survivor tribute, and despite it being appropriate when the characters find themselves in some very tragic circumstances, it was slightly overdone and I believe unnecessary at times.
Ultimately Diary of the Dead was an entertaining film, combining Romero’s winning zombie formula and commentary in a new format of pseudo-documentary (a format I don’t think he explored to its full potential). It is not ground-breaking or with something new to say, and certainly for me did not have the impact that Night of the Living Dead did, or even Land of the Dead, but if you are a fan, I think it’s worth watching.