Dear Diary: Woke up, went out to the woods to shoot my horror movie, and got caught up in a zombie invasion. Considering what a bunch of unsupportive jerks my “friends” were during the filming of my own movie, I can’t say that I’m terribly upset that they keep getting picked off one by one as we drive a beat up RV to various Canadian locales disguised as Pennsylvania.
Note to self: in the future, make sure to regularly maintain said beat up RV so we don’t have to rely on a deaf Amish guy to help us fend off an army of the living dead. Still, the guy showed some nice get up and go when he took that sickle and drove it through his and a zombie’s heads!
George Romero returns zombie-like to the zombie movie genre he pretty much created with his fifth entry in a series of films where corpses start meandering around and eating people too stupid to get out of the way.
Diary Of The Dead marks a significant departure from the others in that he dispatches with the usual straight forward storytelling techniques of those films and adopts the faux-documentary style we’ve seen in movies like The Blair Witch Project and Cloverfield.
Perhaps owing to his own real-life roots as a documentary filmmaker, with Diary Of The Dead, Romero achieves better results than either of those movies. Infinitely slicker than The Blair Witch Project and not nearly as headache-inducing as Cloverfield, Diary Of The Dead straddles a fine line between being a compelling first person account of the living dead returning to life and just being a pointless gimmick that doesn’t even make sense within the story itself.
We are told from the beginning that what we are seeing is Jason Creed’s movie called The Death of Death which is his chronicle of the zombie attacks. His girlfriend is the one who edited all the footage from a couple of cameras and even added music to it for us!
This is one tough broad! Even after all she goes through in the movie, losing most of the people she ever loved, facing a world where man’s hopes dim with every bite, and ending up in fortified panic room with an alcoholic college professor who is freaking Rambo with a bow and arrow, this chick still finds time to cut and score a really professional film! That’s something for your old lady to keep in mind the next time she gives you lip about getting you another beer from the fridge!
But if the army of flesh-eating rotters is growing with every minute why is this Jason guy carting around a big ass camera and bothering his friends with stupid questions while they’re trying not to have their guts ripped out? Wouldn’t he better off if he ditched the camera for a M16?
No! That’s just what the Man wants! Without Jason to document what’s really happening, no one will know the truth! Well, no one, except everybody on the planet who’s trying to escape the millions of zombies that are suddenly camped out in their front yards!
I’ll grant Jason that when the zombie outbreak begins our government will ignore, lie, and soft-peddle the problem until there’s no government left to ignore, lie and soft-peddle the problem! That’s the government’s dang job, Jason! To protect us! If they have to use the old Jedi mind trick to convince us that all is well, then that’s what they got to do! Don’t you know that not only is freedom not free, it’s not always totally honest! Or do you support the zombies, Jason?
Clearly, the movie insists on this dopey documentary gimmick so that Romero can tack on more of that sledgehammer social commentary we never like to see in our movies. While Dawn Of The Dead was a criticism of mass consumerism and Land Of The Dead was an indictment about the growing gulf between the haves and have nots, Diary Of The Dead brings a populist message that it will be up to the non-traditional media of the 21st century to get the truth out about things since you can’t trust the government.
Of course, what is conveniently ignored is that there’s just as many liars with their own agendas prowling around on the Internet and that if anything, the Internet is the biggest breeding ground for misinformation there is.
And the whole “only a guy with a camera can be trusted” thing smacks as a little self-serving on Romero’s part. Every bit of footage shot involves a choice by the filmmaker as to what is important enough to document. It’s just another guy telling us “don’t trust anybody except me.”
Jason’s friends though are even bigger tools than he is because they actually put up with his monkeying around with a camera during all this. When the zombies roll into my neighborhood, any dude I’m with better be concentrating on keeping us alive, not getting that perfect shot of my reaction to seeing that my whole family has been eaten by the living dead! His friends should have either taken the camera from him or just ditched him entirely. None of it made any sense from a survival standpoint.
Still, the immediacy the gimmick gives the events in the movie adds to an atmosphere of hopeless dread. Without the usual scene set-ups we’re used to seeing in horror movies, there is a haunted house quality to things, where something bad could be lurking around every corner ready to jump out at us.
Romero doesn’t skimp on the gore and if he doesn’t wallow in the pig guts like in Dawn Of The Dead or Day Of The Dead, it’s because the guy with the camera is hauling ass trying not to get eaten! There’s still plenty of gory mayhem that’s always one of the fringe benefits of an undead apocalypse though and its usually pretty quick and brutal. If the documentary angle and lame social commentary don’t turn you off, go ahead and sneak a peek at George’s Diary.
© 2015 MonsterHunter