Diary of the Dead (2007)
By: Devon B. on March 16, 2009  | 
Madman (Australia). Region 4, PAL. 1.85:1 (16:9 enhanced). English DD 5.1. English Subtitles. 91 minutes
The Movie
Cover Art
Director: George A. Romero
Starring: Joshua Close, Scott Wentworth, Michelle Morgan, Joe Dinicol
Screenplay: George A. Romero
Country: USA
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While genre stalwarts Wes Craven and John Carpenter helmed some utter crap, George Romero at least kept his work engaging. I'm not saying Creepshow or Monkey Shines are the best movies of all time, but they're fun. The only movie of Romero's I really dislike is Season of the Witch, and that's a pretty good track record for a man that's been making movies for four decades (albeit not making a lot of movies in that time). However, Romero's last zombie entry, Land of the Dead, was not one of his stronger efforts, but I put that down to the fact it was leftovers from the original Day of the Dead script. So, I was fairly optimistic for Diary of the Dead.

The film begins with voiceover narration, a bad sign even in a Romero film. A group of college kids are filming what appears to be a knock-off of Dawn of the Mummy. After criticizing movies where the dead move too quickly, the filming is interrupted by the announcement that the dead are waking up. The group split up, some going to a well secured home, some heading in a different direction to search for family and shelter. The director of the student film continues to record the events as they occur, and it is this film, The Death of Death, that we're supposedly watching. This enables Romero to comment on media, media control, and the consequences of a lack of media filters.

A recent comparison for Diary would be Cloverfield, and the films have similar flaws. For example, the characters can be very annoying as they try to grasp the situation. Diary also owes a bit to The Blair Witch Project, with our documenter continuing to film for some of the exact same reasons as the woman in Blair Witch. There're also a few big asks for disbelief suspension like the fact that TV and mobile phones go down, but electricity and the interweb are still running fine. But Diary's main problem is a feel of familiarity. There've been a lot of the mockumentary style horror movies of late, and as I said some of the running themes are similar to stuff that's come before. So, in order to tell if I was slightly underwhelmed by the film because it had a bit of a "been there, done that" kinda vibe, I watched it again to reassess. On the second viewing, I did find the film more entertaining, and on both viewings, I certainly found things of value, but Diary is still not in league with Romero's first three Dead films.

Romero has come up with a few new innovative ways to dispatch zombies, which are amusing even if the FX are CG or CG enhanced. Of course the film has the expected social and political commentary (it's about as subtle as a splinter to the eye), and the script has some great black humour running through it. The finale is suitably bleak, but doesn't resonate as much as the finale in Romero's first zombie movie. If nothing else, Romero deserves huge accolades for the farmer character, one of the most awesome dudes ever.

Watch (and listen) for cameos from some iconic people.
Diary of the Dead is meant to be a film shot on college equipment, and honestly looks a bit too slick. There're a few spots, which may be intentional, and some of the alternate footage sources look too clear, as well. Yep, the print is too good for the material.
The mix is 5.1, which seems a bit silly for a film like this. Only a few sounds utilise the surround sound, but a 2.0 probably would've been better and made the film seem more realistic.
Extra Features
A fair few extras on the DVD, but sadly no commentary. I'm not too big a fan of commentaries, but always appreciate ones involving Romero. But there is a hefty making of, divided up into five subsections. The first runs about 13 minutes, and is about Romero. This features some of the usual on set fluff, but it's Romero, and if I was asked about him I'd probably spout drivel, too. The remainder of this section is an interview with Romero. Then there's a 17 minute section on the cast which is more fluff. 11 minutes about the makeup FX is far more interesting, with Greg Nicotero discussing some of the challenges of the shoot. Finishing things off are a 19 minute section on visual FX and a 20 minute piece on the design of the film. A clip of Romero in Toronto discussing his work and influences runs about 15 minutes, and while it doesn't present lots of new info for Romero fans, is still nice to have. 20 minutes of "confessionals," those annoying bits from reality TV where people talk to the camera, were wisely excised from the film, but for some reason put on the DVD. There's a short (like under five minutes) film about the first week of shooting, and a brief snippet about how Romero's returning to his roots with this film. A small feature on some of the cameo voice overs is fairly amusing, but only reveals some of the cameos. Rounding things out is the film's trailer, a small still gallery, and a collection of Madman trailers.
The Verdict
Scoring Diary of the Dead is tough. It's better than most of what will come your way, but it's still missing a bit of spark. Romero doesn't make movies often enough, but I'm still hoping he will top some of his earlier stuff, and Diary is a step back in the right direction after Land.
Movie Score
Disc Score
Overall Score

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