Movie Review: "Diary of the Dead" (2007)
DISCLAIMER: This review may contain spoilers.
"Diary of the Dead" opens up to a good start with a couple of corpses reviving during an ambulance call shown on live television, but it quickly falls apart after that.
Instead of following the 'Dead' timeline after "Land of the Dead", Romero backtracks to the beginning of the problem but from the perspective of new characters -- A group of idiotic student filmmakers who find themselves knee-deep in zombies when the crap hits the fan.
Then we must follow them on the road in an RV as they travel from location to location to location. Hmm... Maybe he would have been better off making "Road of the Dead" to begin with?
"Diary of the Dead" takes a shot at the 'found footage' genre of film, but with zombies instead of an invisible witch, a demon, or a giant monster. Not a bad idea at all but, as with everything else, it has to be done properly.
George A. Romero Raped My Childhood
As if being tortured by George Lucas wasn't enough. After a long and seemingly endless twenty year wait, "Land of the Dead" finally shambled its way onto the big screen, but the end result was more or less mixed than positive.
That film ended with the survivors making way for Canada in the Dead Reckoning vehicle. Ever since, it was highly rumored that the fifth 'Dead' film would be the first to follow the survivors from the previous. A working title was "Road of the Dead". So... what happened? Money? Perhaps.
That's probably why George A. Romero decided to bring it back to the beginning of the zombie epidemic, albeit from a different perspective and a different story. There's absolutely nothing wrong with that. Execution-wise, however, is another story. Man, I thought "Land of the Dead" had some problems.
One of the main issues with George A. Romero's more recent zombie films (including this one) is that he's spending too much of his script commenting on the flaws of today's society instead of focusing on the story and atmosphere, letting the social commentary reveal itself naturally on its own. Big mistake.
For example, the themes of consumerism in "Dawn of the Dead" were never forced upon us at any point during the film, it was just sort of... 'there'. The story and the atmosphere were at the forefront.
It is because of this film, "Diary of the Dead", that the 'Night of the Living Dead' franchise has officially... died. While it may have returned back to life in a series of half-assed remakes that have zero connection whatsoever, there was never really any attempt to 'reboot' (Thank God!) the entire franchise.
It is in this film that George A. Romero falls victim to Lucas Syndrome, making all the classic mistakes from bad dialogue to awkward tones.
Diarrhea of the Dead
I may not have the exact quote, but when "Diary of the Dead" opens, the film's main character narrates something along the lines of...
"Everything documented in this film is real. I've added music for effect to scare you because aside from telling the truth, I'm trying to scare you."
Oh please, that's perfectly fine, don't bother... Because the music friggin' sucks! Might as well left it out. Seriously, if your name is not Dario Argento or John Harrison, or at least somebody who has appreciation for them, don't go anywhere near the soundtrack of a zombie film.
Everything in this film looks, sounds, and smells like diarrhea. Maybe that's what the uncensored version of this film is called, "Diarrhea of the Dead". Because George A. Romero basically flushed everything that made the other films great down the toilet all in one shot.
What kind of a screenplay is this? The dialogue is enough to give you the runs. In one scene, the characters visit a deserted hospital and encounter both a zombified doctor and nurse. One character says in a frightened tone, I quote on quote...
"Dead doctor, dead nurse. Kinda makes sense, doesn't it?"
Hmm... That's sort of like... bad screenplay, bad film... Kinda makes sense, doesn't it?
There's plenty of cringeworthy dialogue bits throughout "Diary of the Dead". In fact, a good chunk of the dialogue is very, very preachy in an attempt to cover Romero's social commentary message (here we go again with that crap).
In other places, it's also very whiny, the characters all act like a bunch of no-brain teenagers. Whatever happened to the more interesting characters we used to get in the other 'Dead' films? Why did they have to settle for the ancestors of "Project X"?
The World's Ending? Who Cares...
As soon as the news track begins with reports of the zombie epidemic, I don't give two craps because the characters suck and so does the dialogue. There's never really a sense of dread or that the world is really coming to an end in "Diary of the Dead".
The first three films ("Night of the Living Dead", "Dawn of the Dead", and "Day of the Dead") all captured this effect very nicely, eventually culminating in the epitome of sheer desperation and sadness in the third film. I really felt for the heroes in "Day of the Dead", their predicament seemed genuinely hopeless. The soundtrack was a big plus.
But you won't find anything like that in "Diary of the Dead". It just feels like a bunch of retarded students making a film about retarded students making a film about zombies.
Random Things That Make No Sense
- In one scene later on in the film, one of the characters persuade the group to stop by her house to see if her parents are alright. When they arrive, she and everyone else go searching for some stupid doll... for some reason. But what about her parents?
- When they reach the mansion towards the end of the film, the camera guy is the first to enter. Before the rest of the group can come in, he immediately stops them and tells them re-enter one more time so that he can get a good establishing shot of them coming in. Really? No, I mean REALLY!? I know this is supposed to be a found footage film about idiots making a documentary about what's happening to them, but... R-E-A-L-L-Y!? They just had to go to this extreme.
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