It is pretty rainy and dreary down here in good old San Diego at the moment. I decided to hold up in the apartment on this Friday night and catch up on some much needed me time.
I winded up reheating some refried beans from a leftover get-together I had had just a few days ago and pulled out some rather stale, but still good, tortillas from my refrigerator and made some Americanized bean a cheese burritos while deciding which DVD to pop in the drive. Since it was cold outside and I have a bit of a soft spot for horror, I figured what better Friday night could there be than to snuggle up on the couch with some warm burritos, a tall one, and a nice Romero flick.
I had just picked up the new to DVD release of the fifth installment to George A. Romero’s ‘Dead’ series, “Diary of The Dead” and decided to give it the once over. The opening scene is the strongest of the film (which s probably why it is shown multiple times throughout) and covers the first appearances of the living dead. It then takes off in a most interesting way when you compare it to the former ‘Dead’ films. It takes the viewers back to the beginning of the mass hysteria by showing it from the perspective of eight college students and their film school professor. We find the students in the middle of the Pennsylvania woods filming their senior project (which coincidentally is a horror picture) when they hear an emergency news bulletin come over the radio stating that the dead are coming back to life. At first they assume the broadcast is some kind of Orson Wells-like prank and pass it off as nothing. But only after hearing strange transmissions over their CB radio and even more bizarre broadcasts on FM, they begin to take the matter seriously and begin their journey across the state in an attempt to get to a safe location. Sound familiar? As with all Romero’s zombie films, it is a constant chase through a labyrinth of slowly walking bodies, screaming females, and the occasional looting civilian.
The film is shot Blair Witch style through the camera of the young filmmakers. Diary of The Dead is unique in that it takes the zombie world created by Romero and slings it into the twenty first century. He scripts the entire film around technology. From the camera used by the youngsters to the broadcasts on You Tube and My Space of their recordings, it all raps around the technological advancements of today.
The film was originally slated for a straight-to-DVD release, but was made into a feature by Artfire Films upon their reading of the script. Unfortunately Romero budgeted only one quarter of a million dollars for this picture so money was tight. As he admits in the special features of the DVD, Romero didn’t have the money to waste on extra takes or editing and patching takes together. His actors did not cost much as you soon find out within a few of the first scenes.
Aside from a low budget, poor acting, and little editing, “Diary of The Dead” is one of the best looking and well written zombie films to date. Romero’s ability to juxtapose humor with suspense and terror is unmatched by any other horror filmmaker. His effects are nothing short of phenomenal, while his new take on the first days of the attacks leaves you begging for more. Although nothing will ever be as successful as “Dawn of The Dead”, “Diary of The Dead” is George A. Romero’s master work. Unfortunately due to the poor acting, this film will get shoved under the rug and forgotten by all those outside the horror film fan club. Which leads me to my quandary. How many brilliant films are we missing out on due to the simple fact that they can’t get the funding? And furthermore, how many films do we go see and enjoy merely because we are told to? Have the flashy bells and whistles of CGI and expensive props stolen our attention away from the poorly written screenplays and over tired cinematography just long enough for us to give a good review to a movie that sucked? I want to know what you the reader thinks. Visit my thread and let me hear what you have to say.