Diary Of The Dead (2007)

Diary Of The Dead is a bad zombie movie, and a pretty bad movie in general. It’s sad that, knowing George Romero’s pedigree and knowing that this is a continuation of his famous, and infamous, ‘Dead’ franchise, it’s both disappointing and saddening to see what sort of disoriented crap he’s churning out these days.

The film follows a group of young students who, while making a horror movie in the woods, learn of an alarming epidemic that’s sweeping through their town. The recently deceased are returning to life and attacking their friends and neighbours in shockingly bloodthirsty fashion. Hearing this, they decide to take to the road in a bus, hoping to reach safety in the form of their friends’ secure mansion. Throughout the entire ordeal one of the group, Jason, decides to continue filming in order to document the events and to show the World what’s really happening.

Each of Romero’s zombie movies contains a partially disguised social or political statement so Diary Of The Dead was his natural, logical next step. A cutting indictment of our cultures’ increasingly extreme obsession with reality TV and voyeurism in general. In that respect, it works, but in every other, it fails with such ferocity that it’s almost impossible to believe that this came from the same man that gave the World Night Of The Living Dead and the original Dawn Of The Dead.

The script is butt-puckering awful, utterly obvious and thoroughly hackneyed from beginning to end. It’s also delivered by the actors in such a way that it recalls the naïve horror movies I used to make with my High School friends a good 15 years ago. That’s how bad it is. No-one involved seems able to muster the slightest bit of enthusiasm and each one of the characters is two-dimensional and clichéd. The worst example being the students’ professor; a plummy English souse who quotes famous literature and dispenses nuggets of wisdom at regular intervals. There seems to be a complete disregard for character depth as well as the need for likeable protagonists. Not to mention, most people’s tolerance for the lead characters insistence to film everything, even when his friends are being treated as canapés by the undead masses, would have dissipated long before it actually does. It’s hard not to imagine why one of them wouldn’t have attempted to insert his video camera into one of his orifices just to have done with it.

The lead actress (Michelle Morgan) narrates the proceedings but sounds like she’s popped a couple of Valium and is merely passing time before they take hold. She sounds utterly knackered and her voice lacks any emotion or passion, giving us no reason to even want to attempt to sympathise or relate to her horrifying situation. I understand that it’s all told in retrospect and she’s supposedly World-weary but it just comes across as lazy.

The kills, while reasonably inventive at times, are riddled with piss-poor CGI and almost seem inferior to those in Romero’s 80’s opus Day Of The Dead, despite there being more than a 20 year gap between the two movies. Tangible gore effects always work better in zombie flicks and this is no exception. The bright red, cartoony blood splatter is distracting and ruins any potential realism. The zombies themselves are a little too ‘human’ looking meaning that there’s just not enough difference between ‘us’ and ‘them’ to afford them much scare value. Unlike the shuffling, bumbling, terrifying zombies of Romeros previous fare, Diary Of The Dead’s zombies are a little too exaggerated to lend the movie any real feeling of impending terror.

On the plus side, the medium of hand-held camera does give it a real sense of immediacy, in the same way that Cloverfield achieved so successfully, but it lacks any real tension and fails to be as gripping as it rightfully ought to be with such a recognised master at the helm.

As a fan of Romero, it’s difficult for me to slate one of his films so mercilessly but Diary Of The Dead is a truly terrible addition to his list of directorial jaunts. It lacks any of the magic of his previous efforts and one can only hope that he is given an opportunity to redeem himself with the forthcoming Survival Of The Dead later this year.

Rating: ★★★★☆☆☆☆☆☆

2 Comments on “Diary Of The Dead”

  1. The Scullion says:

    I totally agree. I felt the narration was so patronising and unnecessary, and was smacking the audience in the face with the already obvious message that reality television is a security mask against actual reality. Such a shame for a director I respect so much. He’s doing a Carpenter, damn it!

  2. Louise M says:

    What I really hated about this film (from a very long list I have compiled, entitled “Things I Really Hated About This Film”, which is too long to include here) is this:

    All the bloody explanations.

    Okay, so they’ve gone for the hand held camera route. Only they added in a soundtrack for heightened tension. So, get-out-clause-ahoy, they include a little aside where the character says something like “I’ve added in a little soundtrack for added tension”. Then they use a camera angle from a warehouse CCTV, so they include a little aside where the character is shown editing it in, and explaining “I’ve used a camera angle from the warehouse CCTV”. The bone crushing banality of it all offended me.

    That was my biggest problem with the film. That and the plot, characters, acting, dialogue, make up, and direction.

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