George A. Romero’s Diary of the Dead (review)

I hate to say this — partly because I don’t want it to be true and partly because it’s such a terrible pun — but could the zombie movie finally be dead? I mean, if the master, George Romero (Land of the Dead) himself, can’t find a truly fresh angle on it, maybe it’s time to give it a rest…? Nah, we’ll just call this a momentary downward blip on the chart. A gang of film students is in the woods shooting a low-budget horror flick when, wouldn’t ya know it, the dead start to come back to life with a hunger for brains. And thanks to our media-savvy Web 2.0 Scooby gang (played by a fresh-faced band of game unknowns), we get to see civilization fall apart as they do: first via the mainstream television news, and later, as the zombie-pocalypse hits hard, via the only ways left to get the word out: YouTube and bloggers. Oh, and the students are also filming themselves trying to survive the end of the world. The Amish interlude is pretty gonzo — obviously the plain folk will do just fine come the undead holocaust — but the rest of the flick is a tad too self-conscious about the “importance” of its “message.” (The students’ film teacher actually makes reference to an “underlying thread of social satire,” striking a particularly awkward note.) You can’t really complain that this is too Cloverfield-y without adding anything new to the science-fiction verite genre — or even coming close to matching that film’s power — because this was already showing at festivals before that other flick was even completed. But it’s actually a bit too Blair Witch-y, which was long enough in the past that we’d moved well beyond it years ago. Still, the phrase “shoot me” takes on a whole new meaning here, and, oh yeah, Romero got Stephen King and Wes Craven and Simon “Shaun of the Dead” Pegg and other horrormeisters to do voiceovers as newscasters. Hee hee.

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