>> Fantastic Fest 3: Diary of the Dead (John’s Review, 5.5/10)

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diaryofdead.jpgInstead of drawing inspiration from some well of imagination, George Romero returns to square one of the zombie genesis, drawing influence from 28 Days Later and The Blair Witch Project. This non-sequel to his Dead films (companion piece?) attempts to create horror through a psuedo-documentary in which a handful of horribly annoying film students capture their road trip through a strangely empty, newly zombified America. The film within a film is called “The Death of Death”, the first of many things Romero finds clever, that I found kind of stupid. (Amongst other things, heavy-handed tip-offs in the production design–A twisted U.S. flag, an upside-down globe. The world is upside-down! Get it??? Ugh.)

There is no thinly veiled social statement at work in this film. It’s all right there on the surface, and if you didn’t catch it the first time, wait five minutes and a character will say it again. “If it didn’t happen on camera, it didn’t happen” is probably repeated three or four times in the film, along with any dialogue that Romero happens to find especially insightful or cutesy. It’s annoying, especially as spouted by the ensemble of TV-ready twentysomethings, with TV-ready acting chops.

Romero is obviously NOT an actor’s director. I don’t think that’s really a problem with him until this film. You are asked to buy into the realism of the situation by people that sound like all the acting they learned was by watching other young TV actors. There isn’t a trace of realism in any performance, and if Romero hadn’t been in love with his own script, I think a little improvisation might’ve gone a long way towards creating the “YOU ARE HERE” effect that the film so desperately aims for.

And, oh yeah, there are zombies in this. They keep things from getting boring, for the most part, and there are some clever zombie deaths, probably a couple of the coolest put on film. The truth is there’s something vaguely sad about seeing the originator of the walking dead on film create a zombie movie that is merely “all right”, and he’s done it twice in a row now.

What’s the deal with Romero? Is he making what he truly wants to make, or is he making what he thinks people expect from him? I don’t know that he enjoys his zombie legacy. I get the impression that he thinks it’s the only thing people want to see with George A. Romero above the title, but, honestly, one more like this and it’s simply not going to matter anymore.

5.5 on a 1 to 10 scale

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1 Comment

  1. […] can read my original review of Diary of the Dead, which screened at Austin’s Fantastic Fest, here.  I didn’t care for it, and I don’t think I’d pay to see another […]


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