DIARY OF THE DEAD
Directed by: George A Romero
Written by: George A Romero
Featuring: Michelle Morgan, Joshua Close, Shawn Roberts, Todd Schroeder, Amy Lalonde, Joe Dinicol, Philip Riccio, Scott Wentworth, Tatiana Maslany, Chris Violette, Megan Park
University of Pittsburgh students making a horror film in the woods, with their drunken professor in tow hear, whilst filming, that the dead are reanimating all around the USA. Rich-boy, Ridley skedaddles with crew member Francine back to his parent’s palatial house, whilst the rest of the crew go back to the university dormitory to make sure his girlfriend Debra is safe. The youngsters, with the drunken professor still tagging along, decide to head out into the country and get back to the parent’s homes and be safe. Unfortunately, the situation is worsening by the minute and the decisions they now make could end in disaster for all of them.
This will be a short opinion but before that I must apologise to my wife, Christine, who I took the cinema to watch this drivel when it first came out 15 years ago believing that Romero was making a sequel of sorts set in the same world and timeline as Night of the Living Dead and Dawn of the Dead, thereby expanding on it all. If it were set in these universes, it would be at about the same time as Night of the Living Dead, clearly, it is not 1968 when you start watching it and I believe in interviews since Romero said it was standalone from his previous and much, much superior work. Dairy of the Dead is garbage and I dragged my long-suffering wife along to the cinema to watch it. Poor her – bad me.
The premise, and social commentary that Romero’s massive sledgehammer is smashing us over the head with is the need for us to film and record everything even whilst terrible things are happening, instead of helping people. This is driven into our skulls from the opening minutes and then every ten minutes or so from then on. Within this conceit we lose all logic. Who is Creed the main protagonist loading up the film to the Internet for – it is happening all over the world and for characters we see it went from ‘we’re making a film’ to ‘yup zombies exist and we have to kill our friends’ in the space of half-an-hour and so surely it is the same for everyone else? Therefore loading videos to the Internet that ‘tell the truth’ is redundant. Also, I am not sure surfing the Internet would be my priority, but you can let all of that pass – just.
The story could have worked. It did not need to be a hand-held camera POV Blair Witch film, which was a gimmick to keep up with the latest thing at the time, like Blair Witch, Cloverfield and all the others in that genre. Unfortunately it soon falls apart due to the utter silliness of the storyline. No one, not even in today’s YouTube-obsessed world, would film their friends being attacked, potentially devoured or worse still leave yourself alone in ‘Ghoul Hospital’ to charge up your camera’s batteries. It is lazy, and really stupid and all to justify the premise and rack up tension.
Worse still this film looks cheap and tacky. The screenplay is poor, it does not deliver anything new from a zombie film or even just a Romero zombie film, society breaks down, mighty quickly, and equally as quickly we end up with a set of us versus them outlooks – including some National Guard who become rogue robbers after about two days, nobody but nobody seems to want to band together and help each other.
The acting in this film is bad and unconvincing, with Michelle Morgan and Joshua Close less than compelling leading characters, US actor Scott Wentworth, hamming it up with the only English accent that seems to exist for Americans, is a sort of Alexander Dane character, only not as funny or well-acted – ‘By Grabthar’s Hammer’ indeed. Make no mistake if the rest of the characters had left him somewhere to be devoured by zombies, that would have been realistic. The Amish Farmer is not funny, and in fact grates with what goes before and after in the ‘story’. The way he sacrifices himself to save the Scooby Gang must have been written by an over-excitable 8-year-old it is so stupid.
Mysteriously Tatiana Maslany, soon to be She-Hulk and late of Orphan Black, a good actor with screen charisma, is halfway down the cast list and is virtually not in the film. In fact, it is not a spoiler to say, she shoots herself which is an effective way to get out of this mess of a film.
Hopefully the other cast members have improved in the following 15 years and our making good money in better projects.
Diary of the Dead tries to raise some interesting issues about the truth, the compulsion to record everything, which has got a lot worse since the film was made, but stirring it into a mix of a zombie-horror movie does not work. It is dull but made even worse by some of the most stupid nonsensical set-ups and an utter lack of any logic from the start. Add in poorly acted characters who within ten minutes you could not care about, and this really is the disaster it seems.
This is an extremely poor zombie film, it felt more like the cheapo ones made on the coattails of the Romero films, rather than a Romero film, which shockingly it is. With uncharismatic, unlikeable, idiotic characters, unfunny comic relief, decisions and ideas that characters make that beggar belief and overplayed social commentary that you get and understand ten minutes in, and you have an irritant rather than entertainment.
You would be better off scything yourself through the head, whilst breaking the laws of all known physics, rather than watching this film.
I have watched it twice now, three is not the charm.