Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Diary of the Dead Review

I would say the most pleasant surprise in Diary of the Dead is that the format (first person participatory camera) doesn't feel anywhere near as stale as I expected. Directed by zombie master George Romero (Night of the Living Dead, Dawn of the Dead, Day of the Dead, Land of the Dead), Diary marks Romero's attempt to put a slightly different spin on the zombie formula. Having already seen this limited filming style used once to surprising success in Cloverfield this year, I didn't expect to particularly enjoy Diary, especially considering the horrid misstep that was Romero's recent return to the zombie genre, Land of the Dead.

The acting, from a bunch of unknowns, is unspectacular but well suited to the genre. A zombie movie doesn't need a great thespian in the lead to be successful. The 'active-camera' POV helps achieve a sense of immersion and immediacy to the material. Considering people put various fight videos (and worse) on the internet - an idea this year's Untraceable interestingly delved into - it doesn't seem all that unbelievable that in our youtube obsessed society people have become perhaps too obsessed with filming life around them and the suffering of others (a point Romero beats us over the head with).

The film's biggest achilles heel (and, perhaps, the biggest issue in all zombie movies) is that it doesn't seem to quite know how to end the picture. Our surviving protags spend most of the last act locked in a futuristic house (seemingly rejected from the first Resident Evil film) before the film peters out to a weak climax and denoument. There is something intrinsically disheartening about the idea that everyone who dies will come back as brain-dead zombie which often makes it difficult for these movies to end in a satisfying way, they often feel like an exercise is sadism. Diary, unfortunately, is no exception.

Somewhat more interesting than the typical horror or zombie film, I found Romero's use of the gimmick 'active-camera' far more effective than I would have expected. Unfortunately due to the success of Cloverfield we can assuredly expect a tidal wave of these Blair Witch-esque films to invade theaters (Quarantine with Jennifer Carpenter, for example, which comes out in October); I can only imagine the quality will continue to decline with each use of this inherently limited style.

Overall Score: 6/10

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