Diary of the Dead Review
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I’m such as fan of director George A. Romero’s zombie movies—starting with the 1968 classic, Night of the Living Dead, followed by Dawn of the Dead in 1978, then 1985’s Day of the Dead, and finally Land of the Dead in 2005. Therefore, I couldn’t wait to see Romero’s recent release, Diary of the Dead. Unfortunately, it died at the theaters, so I anxiously awaited its release to DVD.

I knew from Romero’s previous work that his stories often incorporate pop culture into somewhat of a social commentary, and that was definitely the case here. An aspiring documentary filmmaker, Jason (Joshua Close), is shooting a horror flick with fellow students for his senior class project at the University of Pittsburgh. News reports air that the dead are waking up and killing the living—possibly from a virus that leads to psychosis. Jason wants to record the chaos to document it as part of history. The others just want to leave for safety, and his girlfriend, Debra (Michelle Morgan), just wants to go home to her family. The students, along with film professor Maxwell (Scott Wentworth), jump into the film van, hoping to make it to Debra’s house, but there are numerous life-threatening detours along the way. As people continue to die, Jason continues filming, despite Debra’s disgust by his seeming insensitivity. However, he becomes more adamant as he sees that the media is lying to the public. He feels that it’s imperative to expose the truth—and as they witness more killing, Debra finally is convinced of his mission and joins him in filming.

There are some hilarious, off-beat moments in the film—such as a middle-aged eccentric looting the girls’ dorm, a deaf Amish man who communicates via a small chalkboard, and the panic-stricken radio evangelist using the f-word. Of course, there’s also the ditzy blonde who’s more concerned with lip-gloss than survival. And a Tokyo woman who frantically posts on YouTube, “Don’t bury dead. First shoot in head.” Nice rhyming.

However, there are also tragic moments that expose grim aspects of human nature: gun enthusiasts shooting dead zombies for target practice, the strong taking advantage of the weak, and people who stop to look instead of stopping to help. It’s also not especially comical when you have to shoot a close friend or family member in the head before they gnaw you to death.

Then again, I couldn’t help but wonder if Diary of the Dead was supposed to be satire. If so, there just aren’t enough funny moments to keep it going. Or maybe it was meant to be a commentary on the power of government, the media, or maybe propaganda—with greed and fear leading to a state where every man just fends for himself. Or maybe the point is that technology is just too powerful—especially when it doesn’t work. I just don’t know where Romero was going with this. Even after watching his interview in the DVD’s special features section, I still couldn’t figure it out.

Diary of the Dead had potential. It could have been a sidesplitting comedy, if it had continued in that vein. It could have even been a bloodcurdling horror movie. And, by going a little further, it could have been a memorable social commentary. I really don't know what it was supposed to be, but I do know that it sure wasn’t scary.

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