Diary of the Dead AKA Romero knows film school!

19 02 2008

So, my girlfriend and I were lucky enough to be slightly near an area that was showing the new George Romero film Diary of the Dead this weekend. I was excited, but also a little wary after hearing the guys on the Mondo Movie podcast rip the movie a new one. I tend to agree with them on most things, and they are great at championing harder to see films, but luckily after seeing the film I can say that I disagree with them.

Diary of the Dead is a brave new venture for George Romero. Basically he reset the time line in his collection of zombie greats (Night of the Living Dead, Dawn of the Dead, Day of the Dead, Land of the Dead) to the first night of the outbreak, and we see everything through the eyes and cameras of a Pittsburgh student film group. The film opens with pretentious narration from the girl in the group that finished the film within the film, and she talks about how she edited the footage together and added music because she wants to scare us. With that opening, I was prepared to hate it, but the movie is actually pretty good, and what I thought about more than anything is just how well Romero captured that film school vibe of being pretentious and arrogant and put it in the middle of a real dangerous situation.

The problems that these kids deal with are all about wanting to capture whats happening, and how far they are willing to go to get the truth. Unlike Cloverfield where the kids run off to go rescue the main character’s pseudo love interest, the story here deals with people realizing theres a danger, and also having to deal with the fact that if they don’t show people what is going on, no one will know the truth.

The key to all of this is that these are film students, and they all act accordingly—in spades. All the language they use is very “educated” and they are dealing with all of these existential problems like the brutal choices of “should I help people I care about or continue filming them being killed?” and the whole reason it works has to do with the fact that these are real film school personalities to the tee, and unfortunately they would have to deal with these same issues whether in the middle of a zombie outbreak, or going to Target to buy the Twin Peaks Gold Box Set (complete with the original uncut Pilot). So on that level, I liked the film a lot because Romero got that scene right, and seemed to have a great time doing it. Even though the mood is pretty dark, Romero still manages to inject just the right amount of humor into the film to keep it going, and its very obvious that he had a lot of fun shooting-which also shows. The highlight of this being an amazing Deaf Amish guy!

It’s a very different film, and really took some thought to wrap my head around, but I came away happy that Romero was excited again and I look forward to what he comes up with next. Yes, the narration is bad…real bad, and the music generic, but they only serve to strengthen the movie’s film school-ness, and work to add a weird layer of humor to everything.




2 responses

19 02 2008
Scott Burger

I look forward to it then. Will it ever come to Richmond?

19 02 2008

We’ll see. At this point I kind of doubt it. If we’re lucky, maybe we’ll get it for a week like with Sunshine or The Ten. Be on the lookout though because you never know.

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