MONKEY REVIEW: Diary Of The Dead

June 13, 2008

I once heard a friend of mine, Raphael Shargel, a noted film scholar and critic, complain about movies that don’t let you forget that they are in fact movies. He was talking about The Blair Witch Project specifically, a movie I actually enjoyed, but he could have just as easily been talking about George Romero’s latest zombie movie, Diary Of The Dead, which arrives on DVD fully forty years after his seminal zombie classic, Night Of The Living Dead. Diary Of The Dead is a movie I tried to enjoy, and sometimes did, but the artificiality of its technique kept getting in the way. It’s supposed to be a record of the first few days of the zombie outbreak, as seen through the video lens of a student filmmaker named Jason (Joshua Close). His girlfriend Debra (Michelle Morgan), as she tells the audience at the beginning of the movie, has thoughtfully edited his footage together and even added music because she wants the result to “scare” audiences with the actual truth of the zombie epidemic, which has been covered up by the media and government. And it does work up some scares, occasionally, anyway, and it even works up some suspense, that is, until someone inevitably starts complaining about Jason taping everything, which results in either him justifying it or someone else doing it for him. Lame. Romero tries to work some thoughtful and pointed observations about how the Internet currently acts both as a tool for and against truth, but also as a repository for the worst of human behavior. “Are we worth saving?,” the movie eventually asks, and you get the feeling Romero isn’t so sure. Cheers to Romero for trying, but this is an awful lot of intellectual and philosophical weight for a movie about flesh eating zombies to carry, and too often Diary Of The Dead isn’t up to the task. The zombie parts work as well as they ever have, and Romero comes up with some creative ways to dispatch them. There are a few visually arresting moments, too, including an indoor pool with some unexpected contents, but all in all, this is one of the weaker entries in Romero’s zombie series.

MONKEY RATING: THREE (ZOMBIE) MONKEYS

(For a brief explanation of the Monkey Review rating system, click here.)

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