Movie Review: 'George A. Romero's Diary of the Dead'
But few things are as intolerable as schlock that takes itself seriously.
"Diary of the Dead," the latest zombie epic from George Romero, falls into that trap.
Somewhere along the line Romero took the fan boys' praise to heart and decided that he's not just a purveyor of the occasionally witty gross-out but actually an artiste. And so we get "Diary," a "found footage" movie in which a zombie outbreak is caught on camera by a student film crew.
At the outset we're told in a voiceover narration by Debra (Michelle Morgan) that what we're about to see is footage taken by her boyfriend Jason. She's edited it and added some music for entertainment value, but mostly she's intent on offering an alternative to what she claims is the government's cover up of the recent zombie incident.
With that the movie proper starts. A bunch of college kids are in the woods outside Pittsburgh shooting their own horror movie. The director, Jason (Joshua Close), is already four days into a three-day shoot and nothing is going right.
But going over schedule is the least of his problems. On a laptop the students and their alcoholic teacher, Maxwell (Scott Wentworth), watch in horror as streaming video reveals the dead coming to life and chowing down on the living.
Packing themselves into a big RV, they take off cross country, running into zombies, renegade National Guardsmen who have taken advantage of the chaos to go Balkan, and a deaf Amish farmer (!!!) who briefly provides them with shelter.
All of this is recorded by Jason, who won't put down his camera even to help kill zombies by shooting them in the head. This tees off his companions something fierce, especially his girlfriend Debra, who seems to spend half the movie griping directly into the lens. The experience is very much like having a girlfriend who hates your guts.
Jason is unmoved. Recording these events for posterity, he maintains, will be the great accomplishment of his life.
Meanwhile, Professor Maxwell keeps slugging back shots of booze and making pithy existential comments that make you wish somebody would shoot HIM in the head.
"Diary of the Dead" has been badly scripted (by Romero) and indifferently acted. Not even the violence is particularly well handled. Worse, it thinks it has something important to say about the media (although its message is unclear) and keeps saying it until we're ready to scream.
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