May 22, 2008

Diary of the Dead (2007)

After having seen Diary of the Dead at the theatre I was anxious to catch it again. I had left the theatre feeling a little underwhelmed by the movie, this may well have been down to the fact I was incredibly tired, regardless though I did want to give it another chance once it hit DVD.

Having seen it again I will say that I am happy that I have; I still don't think it is a great movie, I did enjoy it more though, plus I think as a movie it is more suited to the small screen.

The movie itself is shot as a home video style affair that follows the initial outbreak of zombies. So, in effect, if you want to follow the chronology of Romero's zombie flicks, this movie would in actual fact take place before Night of the Living Dead. This isn't really part of that mythology though as the technology in Diary, computers, cell phones etc. didn't exist in the time of Night, so I'll just take this as a stand alone movie.

Back to the story though. Diary opens with a voiceover, by Debra, explaining the movie you are about to watch. It was shot by her boyfriend, and aspiring filmmaker, Jason to chronicle the events of the outbreak as they unfold. Debra explains that she has added some music here and there for effect, but other than that it is just a video journal following the two of them, along with some friends, as they try to make their way home after the shit hits the fan.

One thing I did notice on a second viewing is how polished this movie looked with regards to the fact it is shot in the home video style. If you are expecting shaky camerawork and what-have-you fret not as there isn't really any. The fact one of the characters conveniently finds another camera also adds to the feeling that this is more a movie than a documentary, allowing as it does for the point of view to change through the course of event. Add in to this some none too subtle CGI effects and the feeling of watching some lost tapes was lost on me.

As you might expect from a Romero undead movie there is a ton of social commentary during the course of Diary, so much so that it feels at times as though it is being rammed down your throat. There isn't the subtlety that accompanied Night or Dawn, here it is flashed up on the screen at just about every possible moment. Which, is fine, but I would have liked to have seen a little more restraint shown.

Also lacking here is the inclusion of any really sympathetic characters to get behind. All of them have some really annoying traits, which makes it hard for you to build any kind of relationship with them. Saying that though, the character of the University Professor that accompanies the friends on their journey was wonderfully dry in the delivery of his script, playing as he does an Englishman with a penchant for liquor. Liquor I might say that seems to have no effect when he is aiming a Long Bow, but that's a minor gripe.

Despite all of this seeming negativity towards Diary it is an enjoyable movie, especially if you take it purely as a zombie flick without all the frills. As usual the zombies look great, most of the gore is cool to watch and there is a wonderfully sense of inevitability surrounding the events.

At the end of the day, as a documentary/home video style movie it isn't nearly as raw or pure as in movies such as Cannibal Holocaust or [REC], and as a commentary on society it falls behind Romero's earlier work due to its lack of subtlety. Indeed Cannibal Holocaust may not have been a subtle movie, but the social commentary was in comparison to Diary. However, if you can get past some of the plot holes, as a good old fashioned zombie flick Dary of the Dead is damned good fun, with blood, guts and an incredibly funny Amish fella named Samuel.

I just hope that Romero can iron out the problems and inconsistencies, that let this movie down, for the upcoming sequel. The idea behind Diary was a good one, and I see no reason why the sequel shouldn't be a far more fulfilling experience.

Diary of the Dead is flawed, but enjoyable with it.

Rating 2.5 Stars (out of 4)


JD said...

It's flawed, but highly enjoyable for some reason. I liked it, but I kind of liked Land Of THe Dead too, but this was better in the end.
Great review.

Anonymous said...