Length: 95 minutes
Director: George A. Romero (Night of the Living Dead; Dawn of the Dead)
Writer: George A. Romero (Night of the Living Dead; Dawn of the Dead)
Starring: Joshua Close, Michelle Morgan, Scott Wentworth, Shawn Roberts, Megan Park, George A. Romero, Amy Lalonde, Wes Craven, Stephen King, Simon Pegg, Quentin Tarantino, Guillermo del Toro
While it pretty much goes without saying that George A. Romero’s second entry in his “Dead” series, “Dawn of the Dead” is his masterpiece, there is no disputing that the original “Night of the Living Dead” is the scariest. It’s low budget worked for it and added urgency and realism that still has the power to scare the hell out of you forty years later. After taking a hiatus from the series following “Day of the Dead”, Romero returned with “Land of the Dead” a few years back and it was generally heralded as a disappointment (It was flawed, but I still liked it). After years and years of every horror filmmaker wannabe ripping off his zombie formula, it seemed like the master had fallen into his own by-the-book zombie approach himself. He even advanced on the most unsuccessful element of “Day” with the theory of zombie intelligence evolution. Like I said, I liked it, but I can see how fans were disappointed. “Diary of the Dead”, the fifth installment, arrives after a much shorter wait and delivers one hell of a punch. With everyone praising “28 Days Later” and blasting “Land”, this seems to be Romero’s answer. It is, without a doubt, the best zombie movie since the original “28 Days”. Filmed on a low budget like it’s original predecessor so long ago, the urgency and realism are back. Not only is it the best zombie movie since “28 Days”, it’s also the scariest. Chronologically the film doesn’t fit in well with the rest of the series. Instead, Romero brings us back to the beginning of the zombie attacks and this time applies up to date technology. A group of student filmmakers are making a lousy mummy horror movie when the attacks break out. The director (Joshua Close) decides that it is up to him to document the events and to never shut off the camera (they post their footage on a website claiming it’s the only place the people can get the “truth”). It seems like a forced plot point, but it actually works very well. Needless to say if the shaky camera work of “The Blair Witch Project” or “Cloverfield” bothered you, it may be best to take some Dramamine before watching. Of course, it wouldn’t be a Romero zombie movie without a social message either- and while many critics and fans point at the media as his latest target, I found that he was ripping on the world’s obsession with reality television. Characters in the film are so concerned with getting live “real” footage on camera that they let human life lay on the line. At one point, a cameraman watches as his girlfriend fights off a zombie and doesn’t bother to set the camera down to help. One of the major gripes, it seems, of the film is the “bad” acting, but I think that that’s kind of the point. The acting on reality television is just about on par with the acting here. Romero has his characters so jaded by what they’ve seen on television that zombies eating human flesh (of their own friends) right in front of them has surprisingly little effect. “28 Days Later” and it’s sequel, “28 Weeks Later”, brought the zombie genre back to life. George A. Romero wants to let you know who’s it’s daddy.
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