Friday, March 28, 2008

Diary of the Dead

George Romero is back, completely changed (well, not completely- this is still a zombie movie after all). Fortunately he learned from the terribly glutenous Land of the Dead and has returned to low budget roots. The sort of guerrilla film-making found in Diary of the Dead is how zombie movies should be made. It's exactly what made 28 Days later one of the best zombie movies ever. Sadly, despite the good idea behind Diary of the Dead, the acting is so bad that it almost completely ruins the movie.

The premise is just like any other zombie movie- the dead come back to life and start terrorizing the populace. Like the best of them, this movie features a small band of very confused survivors just trying grasp the situation. This time, they are college film students who were in the middle of making their own horror movie. Their movie shifts gears, however, and becomes a documentary. They are torn between staying alive, and capturing everything on film.

Romero's films have always been much more than just horror flicks. They all have some sort of not-so-subtle commentary in them. And his style is to not just tap you on the shoulder with them, but hit you over the head. This is fine, it plays well with the genre. Previous themes in his movies have included militarism, mob mentality, and consumerism (all which play very well using zombies). Again he revisits the idea of blind actions by commenting on our obsessions with media fed blood lust. Even as society is crumbling, fortunately they at least still have internet access.

The major draw-back in this movie is the acting. You may say "it's a low-budget B movie, who cares about the acting," but in a movie like this, it's the most important thing. The documentary illusion is completely shattered when they don't act natural. The long-winded monologues, the strained arguments between them, and the self-righteous clumsy voice-overs all took me out of the movie. And the character of the professor? What was with him? I found myself getting angry at his very inclusion.

There was so much self-congradulatory philosophizing by the narrator that I found it irritating. "It's us again them, except, they are us." Lines like this and "If it didn't happen on camera, it didn't happen," just started to pile up and bug me. I wish they hadn't taken the time to add in the voice-over musings and the slow motion recaps. I realize this plays into the glorification of violence that he's trying to convey. but it doesn't help the movie. And why oh why did he put in some of the music he did? That completely threw away the intent of the movie.

Diary of the Dead is a interesting blend between Blare Witch style realism, and very aware and conscious editing. This combination sums up the entire message of the movie. The movie is essentially stating that the media, as dressed up and overly produced as it is, attempts to pass itself off as raw news. The hypocritical situation is reflected very overtly by Romero. It's debatable about whether this works, but his intention is certainly there. Despite the very poor acting, and the sometimes annoyingly blatant preaching, this is still better than your average zombie movie.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

As you said, the acting really made this movie worse than it could have been. Monotone Massacre had better acting than this movie did.