Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Movie Review: Diary of the Dead

George Romero is back and making movies again. He vanished for about 15 years. (This number includes a couple of movies you've never heard of so they don't count.) Romero is the guy who came up with what most people think of when they think zombie. As a film student he made "Night of the Living Dead" and neglected to copyright the shambling brain eating zombie. He'd probably be a billionaire by now if he'd claimed right to that. On the other hand he used that idea because he was a poor film student with no budget. By not copyrighting it he made it a gift to hundreds of other poor film students with no budget.

His latest movie is "Diary of the Dead". Much like "Casino Royale" it's a prequel to other movies in the series but somehow takes place after the other movies. So I'm ignoring the rest of the Romero's zombie flicks when discussing this.

This movie has a message. Not "watch out for commies" like some of the early work. This is more a commentary on film makers and their behavior in situations like New Orleans after Katrina or, more pointedly, their behavior in war zones like Iraq and Afghanistan. They hide behind the camera and the detachment, real or imagined, it provides from the horrors around them. They become more interested in capturing everything than anything else.

The movie is supposed to be a documentary chronicalling the rise of the undead using mostly their own footage but mixed with footage pulled from YouTube and the rest of the internet. It opens with uncut footage uploaded by a news cameraman who disliked how the press cut it up to change what happened. What they were there to cover was a three person murder/suicide. What they got was the dead rising from the stretcher as it was being taken to the ambulance. A voice over helps explain what the project is.

The movie then cuts to a bunch of film students in the woods trying to make a mummy movie. They hear on the radio about the dead rising and decide to call it a night. Upon returning to campus they decide to load up the Winnebago and try to get home as a group.

The movie is like "Cloverfield" but with people who know how to work a camera. It tries to capture some of the human element that the original movie had. It doesn't explore the ravished countryside like "28 Days Later" did but it does chronicle their trip and the people they meet or run over along the way.

"Diary of the Dead" is a good supplement to the other Romero zombie flicks but it doesn't have the gore that they do. It's "Shawn of the Dead" only without the humor or the happy ending.

I apparently see more good in the movie than many other reviewers. I'll go see the sequel but I won't get it on DVD.

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