Review: Diary of the Dead
Dear Movie Industry: Please stop George Romero from making any more horror movies. He no longer knows what he is doing. Thank you. Love, Matt.
In this unfortunate fifth installment (with a sequel already in the works) of Romero’s “Dead” films, It seems the old boy has truly given in to Hollywood gimmickry. Every trick in modern horror trend is exploited, but to no real ends. I honestly had to check the credits to make sure that Romero was actually responsible for this disaster and that it wasn’t merely a tasteless rumor. Sadly, I was right.
Diary of the Dead gathers together a small band of aspiring filmmakers whose shoot is cut short by a massive zombie uprising. What does this mean for you? Well, it means that the already overstayed “found footage” premise is the means by which you get the insanely flawed story. And by flawed, I mean the single worst thing Romero has ever directed, written, and cast. Yes, even worse than Martin, which is saying something.
Everything is bad. The acting is a joke, with the delivery of a high school drama production on quaaludes. Each actor brings his or her own ineptitude to the film, ranging from apathetic to cheesy. It seems no one has a convincing reaction to, oh I don’t know, a burgeoning swarm of bloodthirsty zombies!? Somehow, I would have been a little startled if my close friend blew her brains out or if someone just dispatched my zombie-turned little brother and mom. Apparently, the actual zombies have more life to them, which is probably the best example of irony you’ll find here.
And that abomination of a script? What a stinker! The dialogue was uninspired, awkward, and inept, erasing any chance of chemistry between characters. The constant narration from the female lead was irritating, as if Romero told her to imitate Sarah Connor a la Terminator… but poorly and, dare I pun, deadpan. And speaking of “I’ll be back,” there were more than a couple of lines sounding as if they were stolen from really bad ’80s action movies. The insincerity was a cringer every time. Embarrassing for anyone involved in this production, I would think.
Desperately shoved in between these moments of struggling plot are what I can only fathom as attempts at social commentary. Romero has reflected on social issues in his past efforts, from racism to rampant consumerism, but it was never handled with such clumsiness as this. Existentialism and pathos are ham-handedly delivered in the goofiest and infantile way, provoking more laughter and facepalming than anything else. When all the audience gets is disconnected performances by half-rate actors running on a recklessly written script, somehow any sort of message isn’t going to be taken seriously. Like seeing, for example, a middle-aged man completely and cleanly cleave in two a human skull with one swing of a sword. Unbelievable! No, really… I don’t buy it, and a lot of other improbable moments in this film.
For what it’s worth, Romero pulls a cameo in similar fashion to Hitchcock, appearing in one of the many television newscasts. That’s where the comparison ends, of course. Hitch wouldn’t have created such dreck.
If this is the direction in which Romero wants to go, then the king of zombie films has been relieved of his crown and can join the likes of Wes Craven and John Carpenter in the rank and file of fallen horror directors, perhaps never to rise again.