Friday, 3 May 2013

Review - Diary of the Dead (2007 - George A. Romero)

This is the point in the series of films where a pleasing undercurrent of social commentary turned into a massive wave filled with all kind of sea related detritus that crashed repeatedly into my skull, causing brain pain. Yep, Diary of the Dead makes quite a few comments about all of this new fangled YouTube skullduggery. When the subtext becomes the text, everything gets a bit tiresome, as it often does. Compared to this Land of the Dead is a masterpiece.

Shot on a low budget of $2 million, Diary of the Dead treads the (increasingly well-worn, especially since it was made) path of some crazy college kids making a documentary with their camcorders. You would expect that Romero would have gone for gritty realism to make the central conceit work. Nope. 

The acting across the board is pretty dire, with the main offender being Scott Wentworth playing a professory type with an horrendous English accent. Why is it that English characters in American films and TV shows are always posh? (Except that woman in Frasier.) He's not as bad as that stunningly irritating Slayer-in-Training in Buffy, but his speech is unintelligible at points even with the volume cranked up. 

The actors aren't helped by the script with its constant ramblings on the purpose and ramifications of recording everything. Just as irritating, is the total lack of logic in their behaviour. Zombies all around, lurking about, I know, I'll charge the batteries on my camcorder. No! Leg it, sharpish! Later on they all enter a house and its door is open. What's the first thing you'd do? Shut the door and do a thorough search. No. That would be crazy. You hang around a bit, go back outside to the van and maybe even have a bath. 

The final nail in the coffin of realism are the zombie deaths. There are loads of special effects show pieces: a zombie's head gradually melts away after an acid incident, one is shot so that only the top half of its head remains (with the obligatory still roaming eyes) and yet another suffers from severe vertical head choppage. Not one of these looks remotely real and feel like they should be in a more comedy based zombie film. Then they would have been appropriate. Wait a minute, Romero wasn't aiming for comedy, was he? If so it's not particularly funny. (Saying that, Miranda is supposedly a comedy - and admittedly I've only ever seen one episode - but it didn't make me laugh once. Definitely up there with Lenny Henry and Peep Show.) I digress. The effects jar badly with the hand-held style and only serve to bring the viewer out of the film.

Dario Argento did some top films. Then lost it. Lucio Fulci did some stunningly top films. Then lost it. George A. Romero can be added to that list. This is one for die-hard Romero fans only. But I still can't help having a lot of affection for someone who has worked tirelessly with small budgets and produced some cracking results. And with that in mind I'm still looking forward to Survival of the Dead. Let's see if he can turn it around.

If you like this you could also try:
Virtually any film in our Year of the Dead season. It will probably be better than this.


  1. IMHO, Romero followed up Diary with a strong entry to the series with 'Survival of the Dead.' I recommend it. I'd like to add, that after several viewings of 'Land' uncut, I LOVE it and I'm one of those die-hard 'Dawn' fans. :) On a side note, Romero stars in my newly released mobile video game, Zombie Squash. Please check it out. This is a truly independent venture :) Thanks again.

  2. Thanks for the recommendation. I'm going to watch 'Survival of the Dead' in the next month or so. I really hope that it's better than this. Romero is a complete hero and it would be a shame if the quality keeps taking a nosedive.

    As for your mobile game, I might struggle a bit. My phone is fairly old. In fact, it's not even got a colour screen and the only game I can play on it is Snake. But for anyone out there with a posh phone feel free to give Zombie Squash a try and report back.