The house that I grew up in was directly in front of a cemetery, and one of the biggest questions I had to field as a kid was whether or not this fact scared me. Now maybe it is one of those things, where if you are confronted by it all time you just kind of put it behind you, but in the end I was never really scared by its proximity or its basic presence. All of that changed though, as one Saturday night I decided I was going to put on my big-boy pants a bit too early and I caught the original Night of the Living dead on Showtime, or HBO…one of those channels. I had seen worse as far as horror movies go, surprisingly my parents were quite lax when it came to letting me watch movies, but I had seen the likes of Freddy and Jason on quite a few occasions, but this movie was the first movie that actually scared the shit out of me. For a while afterwards I was a bit freaked out by the cemetery, but then I was reassured by the fact that zombies were slow as hell, and that my dad was packing some serious heat in his gun cabinet, I felt like we could fend them off. But the damage was done, ever since that moment I was addicted to zombies and Romero, as soon as I gained a personal income I went out and bought Dawn and Day of the Dead, and even though I was a little too young to fully appreciate Day, I still loved them both.
It was only a few years ago when I realized exactly why I liked Night of the Living Dead so much, when compared to all of the other horror movies I had seen growing up, it was the reality of the whole situation. Random people from different walks of life thrown together into an impossible situation with a camera there to document just how we have humans have evolved, and also how society had evolved up to that point in history. As everyone knows, the results were magic, and the start of an amazing career. This is exactly why I am a little saddened with Diary of the Dead. While it is an excellent horror movie, it just doesn’t hold up as both a Romero flick, and as an installment in the ever amazing and evolving Dead series. I wasn’t 100% on Land of the Dead either, but I still felt that Romero contained enough of that magic, wit and philosophy that made the other Dead movies amazing, and after a few viewings it bit it’s way into my heart. The acting in Land of the Dead wasn’t the best, but with the inclusion of some some-what big named actors, it was at least easy to forgive and forget. The same can not be said for Diary though. The acting and the writing is even to cliche and poorly delivered to be considered some kind of meta-cinema action. All of the characters were blatant tropes, and there seemed to be no apology for it, at least none that I could find.
While Devin complained about the overly-good production quality of the whole thing, I felt that it was justified. Films like The Blair Witch Project and Cloverfield made sense being shot the way they were. As far as Blair Witch is concerned, the digital technology they used was the best most consumers, and even prosumers, could get at the time, and while I haven’t seen Cloverfield, the footage I have seen looks like it upgraded with the times and was a logical grade of video that a college kid at a party would have. But the kids in Diary are from a fairly large college and are using cameras and equipment that a lot of college filmmakers get to put their hands on, so in the end I had no qualms, and actually I loved that aspect of the film. As far as complaints went on the overall editing and everything else that ended up in the final product, once again it was put together by kids going to a film school, so you’d hope they have at least some grasp on what they are doing, and at one point Jason even alludes to the fact that his girlfriend Debra (who edited the final film), was a good filmmaker at one point, and was better than he was.
The acting was poor, but for a while the script seemed to be going along at a decent enough pace, with only a few one-liner hick-ups thrown in here and there, mostly by the alcoholic professor, but then the movie hits the third act at the house and like the many rotting corpses in the film, it just falls apart. It goes from tolerable to almost completely embarrassing in no time flat. Also, can anyone explain to me why Jason’s flesh isn’t as attractive as everyone else’s? At two different points in the film a zombie comes from behind him to chase after someone else, completely ignoring the slow moving moron with the heavy camera in front of them. As long as I am ranting, I would also like to publicly profess my complete disgust with digital blood. It looks like shit, actually not even, shit looks better than digital blood. It looks like something out of a Tom and Jerry cartoon. I have seen video games with better CG blood than that being used in the film industry today. Is it too much to ask that somebody just takes the five seconds to mix some damn Caro Syrup and red food coloring, it might not be the best, but it’s cheap and better than what they are doing.
Besides the sub-par acting and the eventual deterioration of the writing, I do have to agree with the CHUD staffers when it comes to Romero’s delivery of his social message. Where did all of his subtlety go? He doesn’t dance around it in this installment, he just comes out social-messages a’ blazin’, and gives the audience no where to run from it. After reading the article the other day about his desire to make his next film about the idea of Tribalism I got quite excited because it is an amazing issue that I would like to see play out in his zombie universe, I just hope he can bring his wit and cleverness when it comes to it’s delivery.
As a horror movie I would rate Diary at a 7/10, as a Romero Dead movie I have to give it a 4.5/10. I have my fingers crossed for the sequel.