Published Feb 14, 2008When zombie creator George A. Romero returned to his niche in 2004 after nearly 20 years, horror fans went bananas in anticipation of Land of the Dead. Alas, the big budget studio flick was unfulfilling and ripe with missteps the director no doubt felt he needed to make in order to add something new to the heavily abused genre.
A conscious Romero has returned to correct his mistakes by revisiting his roots, with a much smaller budget, a no-name cast and another stab at developing the genre he single-handedly popularised. Diary of the Dead wastes no time establishing its focus: another apocalypse brought on by the undead feeding on the public. Been there, done that a thousand times, sure, but Romero sets his sights on the media and how a group of 20somethings and their gasbag of a drama teacher can convey the truth via guerrilla tactics with a digital video cam and an online hook-up.
I applaud Romeros attempt to give it another go; hes still got a lot of punch in him, mixing his message with ample gore and some amusing gags (the deaf Amish man with the scythe is good for a few laughs). But the social commentary he seems determined to bring to the film is quickly lost in a sea of appalling actors, grating melodrama and a blatant exploitation of the viral media, which at times feels like a plug for both MySpace and YouTube. (Do we really need these every day fixations to live in our cinema?) Diary of the Dead may be trying to take the zombie flick to the next generation with its technological emphasis but instead it feels like an aging director grasping at straws to stay relevant.
In the end, all Diary proves is that the zombie is currently out of brains and its role in cinema has come full circle. Romero was the man who gave birth to it, so he might as well be the one who kills it. Too bad its death had to be so lifeless. (Alliance)