Thursday, October 22, 2009

Film Review: DIARY OF THE DEAD (2008, George A. Romero)

Stars: 4.3 of 5.
Running Time: 95 minutes.
Notable Cast or Crew: Martin Roach (here playing "Stranger," and he's a very talented actor usually confined to 'prison guard,' 'cop,' and 'doctor' roles- TOTAL RECALL 2070, WHO IS CLETIS TOUT?, THE LOOKOUT), Scott Wentworth (the awesome arrow-slinging Professor Maxwell here, THE ICE STORM, KUNG FU THE LEGEND CONTINUES), Michelle Morgan, Joshua Close (K-19 THE WIDOWMAKER), Amy Lalonde, Joe Dinicol (the EERIE INDIANA episode, "The Phantom"), Alan Van Sprang (LAND OF THE DEAD), and voice cameos by Quentin Tarantino, Stephen King, Guillermo del Toro, Wes Craven, and Simon Pegg. Special Makeup Effects by Greg Nicotero.
Tag-line: "Shoot the dead."
Best one-liner: "Don't bury dead. First shoot in head."

DIARY OF THE DEAD is a fast-paced, creative zombie thriller, with spectacular makeup effects and excellent performances. It’s a work as hilarious as it is disquieting.

There's haunting imagery of underwater zombies, a Shakespearian lush of a Professor, sharp commentary on class and race, some terrifying National Guardsmen, and the greatest Amish character in film history (I will say no more about it).

So why did so many people, including seasoned Romero zombie fans, not just dislike it, but outright HATE it? Well, in a way, Romero purposely stacks the deck against himself, but it's completely necessary for delving into the material he wishes to cover:

#1. The shaky cam. People bristle at this. But in an era where the dogged documentation of self-experience has proliferated to sickening levels, it becomes necessary. On a more positive note, this is also meant to function as a document of the thankfully increasingly prevalent outsider media- look at TROUBLE THE WATER, for example.

#2. The students are generally selfish, pretentious, and self-important: a lot of people look at the surface commentary here with the same disdain they hold for certain characters.

But that's doing Romero's meta-meta commentary a cruel disservice. It's easy to mistake the students' perspective for the film's because it is so frequently and overtly referenced (i.e., the voiceover narration). But Romero's commentary covers both the events depicted AND the students' commentary. Which leads me to:

#3. No one likes to be called an idiot. A mindless, self-absorbed numbnuts who fiddles while Rome burns. This is the number one reason the people who dislike this film react so negatively. Because, that's right, Romero is calling YOU out. Yeah, you asshole. You're the same fuck-mooks who wildly film yourselves in Times Square, harass celebrities for autographs, or fumble for your cell phone camera after a car accident. You're the same people who conduct yourselves as what Herzog calls 'perpetual tourists' instead of 'citizens of the world.'
Kindly old George is calling you out from behind those ginormous spectacles, and you don't like that.

I can’t say I blame you, but it’s a pity you didn’t learn anything from it.

-Sean Gill

2009 Halloween Countdown

31. PROM NIGHT (1980, Paul Lynch)
30. PHENOMENA (1985, Dario Argento)
29. HOUSE OF WAX (1953, André de Toth)
28. SILENT RAGE (1982, Michael Miller)
27. BASKET CASE (1982, Frank Henenlotter)
26. THE DEADLY SPAWN (1983, Douglas McKeown)
25. PELTS (2006, Dario Argento)
24. ANGEL HEART (1987, Alan Parker)
23. KILLER WORKOUT (1986, David A. Prior)
22. FREDDY'S DEAD: THE FINAL NIGHTMARE (1991, Rachel Talalay)
21. THE ABOMINABLE DR. PHIBES (1971, Robert Fuest)
20. FRANKENHOOKER (1990, Frank Henenlotter)
19. HELLRAISER (1987, Clive Barker)
18. GEEK MAGGOT BINGO (1983, Nick Zedd)
17. ALLIGATOR (1980, Lewis Teague)
16. LIZARD IN A WOMAN'S SKIN (1971, Lucio Fulci)
15. THE CARD PLAYER (2004, Dario Argento)
14. SPASMO (1974, Umberto Lenzi)
13. C.H.U.D. (1984, Douglas Cheek)
12. FRIDAY THE 13TH PART III (1982, Steve Miner)
11. SWAMP THING (1982, Wes Craven)
10. DIARY OF THE DEAD (2008, George A. Romero)


The Bloody Pit of Horror said...

No arguments from me. I loved this movie and think it's the best thing Romero's done in ages. Nice write-up.

DJ Random Brotha said...

People just don't understand satire/social commentary, they want blood, guts & cheesy one-liners.