...the dead shall inundate Hollywood!
First let me just say, I'm a big Romero fan, after all he's the father, err grandfather, of zombie filmmaking. Last year when I first heard that Romero was making another dead film and I started seeing trailers for Diary of the Dead; I was overwhelmed with excitement. It seemed edgy, gritty, and kind of reminded me of Martin in that it was set out to be more of an experiment in filmmaking and carried itself in a kind of intellectual way.
Fast forward to a few months ago and Dimension Extreme released Diary of the Dead on DVD. First, what is it about the word "extreme" that immediately makes me doubt the intention of its very meaning? Oh I know, Tartan Asia Extreme has sullied the expression on more than one occasion; but that's beside the point. I keep an open mind because both Tartan and Dimension have put out some excellent stuff; it's just every now and then...well you know. Anyway, I'll get right to it. Diary of the Dead missed its mark for me; conceptually Romero gets an A+, as always, but he just failed to deliver in his execution.
Romero makes some of the most prolific, poignant social observations of any filmmaker I know. Subtly masked within their zombie layer his commentary has a way of creeping in and infiltrating barriers that we would normally, perhaps inadvertently, be not in tune with. In this case, sensationalized media, desensitized and habitualized society, was, and I think the biggest, comment made in Diary. "The people need to know" words that echoed repeatedly in my mind while watching this film. It could be construed as irony within a world where the term "people" and what qualifies is quickly becoming debatable. It reminds me of the adage; if a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to hear, does it make a sound? I think the real question Romero asks is does it really matter if it makes a sound? Touché, Romero, touché.
Well with Romero's good intentions aside; the film just didn't pull it off for me. I'm not sure if it was because of a low budget or what but Diary just came off as trite. The innovative third person documentary style came off as overly polished and the camera work lacked the gritty documentary feel. Maybe the HDV video look was not the best way to differentiate between the uses of multiple cameras. It simply blurred them and made it appear that the filmographer was drunk. Simply put it lacked the realism that one would expect from a documentary. However, the biggest flaw was not that Romero didn't keep up with the thread of different cameras; in fact that all pretty much made sense as we would go from one camera as its battery died to another that "coincidentally"(accidentally on purpose) was placed in another strategic location. It's just that it made no sense as to how we, the audience, happened across the masterful, edited copy of the video in question. It didn't jive with me, in fact bugged me throughout the whole film.
There is not much else left to say about the film at this point. The gamble Romero took by using this documentary style as a plot device just didn't hit therefore things like the acting is irrelevant. The effects certainly didn't make up for anything either. The CGI gore just, well sucked. Sorry I couldn't be more constructive there but it just wasn't believable and looked as though it was edited along with the fake made for TV movie that the protagonist shot.
It was certainly a great effort on Romero's part and any fan of Romero can appreciate what he is doing and has done for the horror genre. I think he is definitely, continually going in the right direction with his films. I just think he needs to let go and really get back to his roots a bit more and experiment.