Thursday, December 4, 2008

Review: Diary of the Dead

Holy Crap! Creepy Kitch is doing an ACTUAL movie review?!

I just popped Diary of the Dead into the PS3 last night to give it a whirl. And I figured I might as well give it a review.

Now a little background on my taste. I am an avid zombie movie fan. Its my favorite sub-genre in horror. I am a fan of fast AND slow zombies and feel both of them have a place in today's society (lets not fight, fellas! We can all get along!). I also have a ton respect for George Romero and feel he was the one who really launched the genre into what it is today. He is the "zombie grandaddy" and we should pay homage to him by leaving fresh brains on his doorstep in his honor!
(To all the psycho stalkers reading this blog...I didn't mean it seriously. Please do not leave bio-hazzards on Mr. Romero's doorstep.)

After watching Diary of the Dead I only have one question.

Oh George, why?

Diary of the Dead is the latest installment of Romero's "...of the Dead" series. While all the movies in the series aren't necessarily related directly to each other they all have a flow through line and kinship that keeps them linked together. The Plot of Diary of the Dead is as follows: A group of college film students find themselves in the middle of the zombie apocalypse and they decide to document their experience a' la Cloverfield/Blair Witch Project style.
Here's the Trailer:

Now I thought that sounded like a good concept. I'm a sucker for the "shaky cam" style and I love zombies. This looked like a good match! Unfortunately, I felt that Romero really didn't have much of a grasp on what the whole "shaky cam" concept was about.

My main complaint with this film was how it was shot. While I can understand that the character with the camera was a film student and knew how to handle one, everything seemed too well done. The camera work was very steady, the cuts were very clean and the angles were always spot on perfect. This, unfortunately took me out of the moment. Now I don't think every "Shaky cam" movie need to induce nausea but the fact that this movie looked SO polished made my suspension of disbelief completely shatter. I found myself constantly asking: Why are they doing this? Why do you have a camera? What is the point! Put down the camera and HELP someone! This combined with the other footage from security cameras and cell phones, all which was also shot in a far too professional matter, came across less as a raw film and more as a reenactment from Unsolved Mysteries. Another complaint involves the dialog. Once again, for a movie that was supposed to come across as raw, it felt completely scripted. The characters spent so much time waxing poetic about their predicament that I wanted them to get eaten just to shut them up! The message the script was offering was a jumbled mess. I wasn't sure what Romero was trying to say here. I narrowed it down to the following: The media of today is desensitizing us, the youth of today is too reliant on media, Today's generation is not worth saving from the undead, and don't mess with Texas. Yes, movies can have more than one message but these were all so vague that I wasn't sure what the hell this film was trying to tell me.

The general impression I received from this film was that George Romero set out to make a film about today's youth and media but had no idea what today's youth and media was about. I visualized poor George trying to figure out how to do a hand held camera then getting frustrated and screaming 'Fuck it! We'll shoot it the old fashioned way and I'll just punch the camera man from time to time to shake him!" The movie would have come off a lot better if it was shot as a traditional film using only wacky editing tricks and odd footage to shake things up a bit.

Now the style it was shot in and the script weren't my only complaints here. The zombie attacks were pretty damn lack luster as well. The movie had your traditional shambling slow moving zombies. I have no problem with slow zombies. I LOVE slow zombies! But what I find frightening about slow zombies are the sheer volume of them. One zombie? kind of freaky. Hundreds of zombies? Down right terrifying. Romero was always able to convey the constant relentless onslaught of the undead in his past films. Unfortunately, Diary of the Dead didn't have that feeling on volume that Night of, Dawn of, Day of, and Land of had. Zombies attacked the characters much like ninjas attack Chuck Norris. One at a fucking time. Zombies are slow but they're not THAT slow. These zombies were not scary. The characters would convey their horror by staring at them slack jawed for a while, discussing what they were as the undead shambled on over, then lazily shoot them a few times until they realized a head shot worked.

There were some decent Zombie death gags here and there. The defibrillator on the face and the bottle of acid smashed over a zombie's head were really great ideas and vintage Romero. Unfortunately they suffered from overuse of CGI and looked not as gory and fantastic as they could have.

I could go on and on about why this movie was no good. But its greatest crime was being boring. Yup. It was extremely dull. While Romero's films are not action packed thrill rides of explosions, he does have a wonderful knack of building tension and creating interesting characters trapped in that tension. Diary of the Dead had neither. It wasn't even so bad it was good. It was just boring as hell, then over. I wouldn't even call it a flaming bag of dog poo. It's just a boring, easily forgotten film.
If you want a good zombie film in the "shaky cam" style check out [REC] instead which is far superior. You can probably find it on google video.

Unless you're a die hard Romero fan and are determined to see all of his ...of the Dead films, I would suggest skipping this one. If you're REALLY determined to see them, here is a very short list of highlights you can skip to:


-A zombie getting a defibrillator in the face.

-A zombie getting a bottle of acid broken over his head

-a zombie getting pinned to the wall with an arrow in his head.

-Samuel, the deaf Amish guy.

-Samuel killing a zombie by shoving his own scythe through the front of his head and the back of the zombie's head that's biting him.

-Zombie water garden in a pool.

And that's pretty much it. And you may be able to find most of these clips on YouTube.


John said...

this movie just plain sucks!

thats my full review

Cins said...

THAT would be my short review. I am so glad I didn't see this in the theater.

Stac said...


You've peaked my curiosity! I say we watch this next time I visit, and get good and plowed at Baha Betty;s before hand.

John said...

and by the way, you guys missed out on the create your own christmas flick contest! I'm ashamed! wanted to see what you'd come up with

Metal Mikey said...

Your gladness for not seeing this in the theater was well-placed. It's not often that I check my watch during a movie, to figure out how much time has passed, but I did that a few times with "Diary". I could look past a few of the faulty technical points of the movie, but hot DAMN, those characters were complete TOOLS! They made the cast of "Burial Ground: Nights of Terror" look like a deep character study. They were so annoying, I wouldn't even want zombies to eat them, because not even zombies deserve to stomach that.

Tom G said...

I'm a huge fan of Romero. I even loved Land of the Dead, which many fans seem not to like. I hated Diary of the Dead though. I went out of my way to catch it in a theater too.

I know George isn't perfect. I sat through Bruiser in a theater too. Within minutes of Diary starting I said to my friend, "Uh oh... I'm getting that Bruiser feeling." That was optimistic. Diary makes Bruiser look like a masterpiece. Theough they both have that muddled message problem.

I wrote a review of it a while back, summing Diary up as a "aging confused hippy beating a long dead horse and babbling stuff you can't really understand."

The only part of the movie I liked was the amish guy. I wish the movie could have been about him instead.

PJ said...

No, this movie definitely was not up to par with the Holy Trilogy. I wasn't that much of a fan of Land of the Dead either. But, I've watched much worse zombie movies. So Diary has that going for it.

The first time I watched this movie I was lying on the couch, holding my 2 week old sleeping baby. I was zoning and it was nice to have anything entertain me while she slept!!

Cins said...

Stac>> WAY Liquored up. We're talking 4 Baja Betty margaritas a piece and you being drunk to the point where you're showing your panties to everyone again. THAT liquored up to enjoy this movie!

John>>I know! I was hoping that Stac and I could catch eachother on chat to discuss ideas but we both got busy. I am saddened. You're going to have to have another contest like it someday just to read the twisted crap that Stac and I could come up for you. ;D

M&M>>Yeah, I almost did see it in the theater then desided against it. I'm glad I did. The characters were GOD AWFUL! I didn't care for a damn one and they did some of the most bonehead moves I have ever seen in a zombie film. Not to mention they were all arrgogant know-it-alls. Ugh. And I don't remember the name of a damn one other than Samuel the deaf Amish Guy.

TomG>>I actually liked Land of the Dead. Its not my favorite of the three but it had some heart and I loved the zombies in that film.
I LOVE the aging hippy comment. I think it fits nicely. If the movie was all about the amish guy I would have LOVED it.

PJ>>Oh I'm sure there are worse. The thing is I had much higher expectations from Romero as a film maker which is what made this movie so disappointing. If this was a SciFi Channel movie of the week or a student film the badness would have been more expected.
But the good part is you got bonding time in with your baby which means the movie was good for something. :)

Stac said...

Cins, you LIE!

I showed everyone my BRA. I only showed my panties to your husband. And Beth. And Joe. ;) It was a point of pride; my panties WERE cooler than Beth's!

And I personally loved Land of the Dead, but apparently me and two other people on the internet are it for that opinion.

Metal Mikey said...

Heh! I completely forgot to mention that I really enjoyed "Land of the Dead", as well. (That was one theater trip I did NOT regret!)

Stac said...

Metal Mikey: that's because you are a GENTLEMAN of CLASS and DISTINCTION. The haters are plebes, plain and simple!