Director George A. Romero has given the world four of the greatest zombie movies ever made with Night of the Living Dead, Dawn of the Dead, Day of the Dead and Land of the Dead. With his latest flick, Diary of the Dead, he resets things back to zero and shows us what the world would look like if the zombie plague happened today as opposed to 40 years ago.
Unfortunately for us, Romero chose to go the Blair Witch route on this one and turns the film into one of those First Person Shaky Cam deals.
When I first heard that old George was doing Cloverfield Zombies, my heart immediately sank. I mean Camcorder Undead is the sort of thing you’d expect from a bunch of no talent hacks trying to make a quick buck in the DVD market; not the Master of the Gut Munchers. I had enough faith in Romero to give it a shot, but it only took about 20 minutes for me to realize that this concept is totally beneath him.
The fatal flaw in Diary is not the concept itself. (If done right, all this MAY have worked, but I’m still not totally convinced.) What kills the movie is Romero’s obsessive need to talk down to the audience. He hammers every point home and throws any subtlety the previous films had out the window. Gone is the satiric jabs that made Dawn a delight; replaced here with heavy handed “commentary” being dished out by an annoying twat who says things like, “It used to be Us versus Us. Now it’s Us versus Them, only They ARE Us!” Romero beats this kind shit over the audience’s head constantly for over 95 minutes without any nuance or wit.
Consider the scene early in the film where the low budget horror crew is filming a scene where a mummy chases after an actress. Predictably at the film’s climax, the actor playing the mummy becomes a zombie and chases her again while the director films it all with the exact same kind of passion. Okay, we GET what George is trying to say here, but then the unthinkable happens. The girl turns to the camera and says, “This is just like your movie!” Duh!
Romero has gone from being Mr. Irony to being Captain Obvious.
Why George felt the need to dumb this way down for today’s audience is beyond me. I’ve always been a firm believer of if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Nothing was wrong with Land of the Dead but for some reason George must have felt that no one picked up on his messages. So for the entire running time of this flick he bludgeons every heavy handed message over the audience’s skull whether they like it or not.
Another crucial mistake was that he made all the twentysomething college students into irritating asshole douche bags that you couldn’t give two shits about. Michelle Morgan, the female lead, has to win the Twat of the Year Award hands down for being one of THE most annoying cuntrags in cinema history.
Thankfully not ALL the characters are fucking cock veins. The hard drinking professor is pretty tight, and there is this one ass-kicking deaf Amish guy who truly steals the movie. He’s so great that you’ll wish Romero had made the whole movie about Amish People vs. Zombies. (Of course Romero would probably fuck THAT up too by having the Amish people tell you, “The zombies are like technology trying to overcome us!” every five minutes or so.)
One department Romero does not skimp on is the gore. Diary features some of the best gory goodness of the entire series; good enough to make this ham-fisted horror flick worth sitting through. We see guts fall out of a zombie’s stomach, acid tossed into a zombie’s brain, arrows get shot into skulls, a defibrillator is used to zap a zombie’s noggin and cause it’s eyeballs to explode, and in the film’s best scene, someone uses a scythe in a very inventive way. It’s also fun spotting the vocal cameos of several famous directors as the voices of news reporters and sharp-eared listeners will love hearing the original news broadcast from Night as well.
After this half-baked botch-job, maybe George will finally let the dead rest in peace.