George A. Romero's Diary of the Dead Review

Feb 15, 2008 | 10:52am EST

Diary of the Dead is shot through a handheld digital camera as though it is a private home movie. A Winnebago (that great comic device) full of film students heads into the midnight woods of Pennsylvania. The camera introduces us to the film students who un-ironically talk as though they have never seen Return of the Living Dead or Dawn of the Dead or any of the hundreds of zombie movies out there. They have no budget but they have heard that the dead have come back to life and are trying to get "home" to find their families. But no one is alive and they unfortunately have to kill their families (again). Scampering around the Keystone State putting bullets in zombies' heads and exploding one's eyeballs with electric shockers the kids take refuge in a fortified mansion's panic room. All rules have collapsed including the federal government and National Guard which has taken up machine guns and is stealing food from civilians. Casting is not the movie's strong point. Of course it's on par with what is expected--disposable characters with no depth behind their motivations other than good looks and charisma including Michelle Morgan and Shawn Roberts. None of the actors are particularly memorable but are moderately talented in accomplishing what director George Romero tells them to do. One wonders why they aren't more self-conscious about giving soliloquy speeches to a camera with all their friends in the room? Oh well. To see Romero at work is to witness one of the more practiced filmmakers around. His perspective is creative and he gets the audience to pay attention. From his 1968's seminal Night of the Living Dead to his last effort 2005's Land of the Dead  Romero has committed his life to telling stories about walking dead people using zombies as a metaphorical tool for the rest of us. Romero's execution is sharp and fluid--and most importantly scary. The first body-munching scenes are as gruesome as they can be. The weakness? Romero's heavy-handed disingenuous ideas about media and technology. They are frankly a little old-codger belonging to someone who fears the benefits of technological breakthroughs. Romero seems to think keeping video diaries can be zombie-like. Curious considering how Romero has made a distinguished career out of base elements of mass media.

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