Rogerâ€™s Diary of the Dead Review
Tonight I saw a preview screening of Diary of the Dead. What follows is a review containing very mild spoilers and a strong bitter taste.
This review was brought to you by Tylenol PM and two bites of a fried catfish filet that smelled and tasted like my fish tank when I’m too lazy to clean it. You know that Dallas BBQ place across from the AMC 25 on 42nd street? STAY AWAY.
Now on to the movie.
Those of you who have attended films with me know that I am an absolute stickler for noise discipline. If your popcorn is making too much noise I will fix that by pouring my drink over it. If your nose is whistling like Garrison Keillor’s, I will quickly pinch it off. Of course, I hold myself to the same rigorous standards.
So you will understand when I say that I disliked this movie so much that halfway through it I turned to my friend and whispered as softly as possible, “I really dislike this movie.”
Here are my two big issues with it:
#1 – GEORGE ROMERO HAS A MESSAGE FOR US.
George, nobody knows this better than we do: the first three Dead films had a lot to say about the times they were made in, about your social and political views, and about the human condition in the face of adversity.
However, in Land of the Dead, it was pretty apparent that you had a message for us and you felt that you had to point it out to us in dialogue. Now you have added the additional dimension of narration, so that if we’re not getting it in dialogue, the friendly offscreen voice will gently push us towards the mental goal posts that you’ve set up.
You really don’t have to do this for us, or for the newbies who came to experience a Romero film for the first time. It really gets in the way of the movie. And we got it back in 1979, “they’re us.” You don’t have to repeat yourself.
Introduce us to the characters, tell the story that you want to tell, and the theme will take care of itself. You’ve done this before, and I think you can do it again.
#2 – YOU NEED TO SHAKE UP MORE THAN JUST THE CAMERA.
Take someone who has never seen a movie like Julien Donkey Boy, or a TV show like The Shield, and the first thing they will notice is that the camera shakes. Cinema verite! You are there! I love it!
However, that’s not all you need to do to pull something like this off. Shaking the camera is just part of it. You need to tone down the sets. You need to make the dialogue flow more like real conversation. And you need to hire actors who can ratchet back their performances and just be themselves. Unfortunately, none of this happened.
The comparisons to Cloverfield are going to be inevitable. Movie geeks like us know that the two films were developed completely independently of one another, but it’s very hard to watch this movie without comparing them.
There are some things that I honestly loved about this movie: an unforgettable Amish character, a couple of novel ways to dispatch zombies, and a very funny gag involving a home movie found in a camera. There are some wonderful moments where Romero deliberately pokes fun at the film, himself, and the audience that generate some genuine laughs, it’s just that after you’re done laughing you’re unsure whether or not they belong in a movie like this.
The bottom line: If you had issues with Land of the Dead, you will have the same issues with this film, and probably a few new ones. Don’t take my word for it, though, definitely see it and judge for yourself, preferably on opening weekend. Uncle George could use a warm fuzzy, and you pretty much owe it to him for every time you saw the original Night of the Living Dead and he never got paid for it.