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Sunday, 31 May 2009

The Thin White Dude's Reviews - Diary of the Dead

Once again, another one of the Cloverfield-cam films, this time exploited by master zombie film-maker George Romero in his latest zombie horrorpiece, Diary of the Dead. Once again, it never ceases to amaze me how this method of film-making still can have an effect and not go dry. I mean, this is my fourth one of these film's this year. As a fan of the original zombie trilogy of Night, Dawn and Day, I always find it enjoyable to watch a zombie movie, especially if directed by the master. However, Land of the Dead went over on me. Personally, I thought that it was a very poor film, as though Hollywood had given Romero a budget to make a "Hollywood" zombie film by the master. A wise move maybe, to gain financial independence once again, but it nonetheless doesn't change the fact that it was a poor film. If anything, it is Diary which is a representation of his return to form. This time using the whole Cloverfield-cam technique, Romero proves that he is one of the most adaptable of the old horror film-makers, a man who is clearly up to date with modern technology and film-making. This is a man who remains young with regards to his film-making style. Anyway, this film does not remain consistent to the Dead franchise, so consider this a stand-alone story. Anyway, things are going on normal as usual in the world, whenever for some unspecified reason, zombies starts to run amuck. As mentioned above, Romero is a man who is a very wise technical filmmaker, who shows great flair and grit in this film for a man pushing seventy. He clearly relishes making this kind of film, and that much is obvious in the end result. Also, as is the case with many of the films of this type, it is a great technical achievement. Romero certainly knows how to use the technique well, with the opening news segment working particularly well as a genuinely shocking scene. The cinematography by Adam Swica is certainly up to standard with what is expected from a George Romero zombie film. Also, Romero is wise once again to not use name actors as lead cast members. The anonymity involved here made the characters easier to relate to on a human level, and if it was vital in the past, it is even more so the case with this film. Anonymity is one of the things usually involved in the characters of this type of film, and with Romero able to pull performances out what are literally zombies, pulling decent performances out of unknowns is not really a problem for him. You would think from looking at this review here that this is a complete return to form for Romero. While it is certainly better than the sloshy Land of the Dead, you would be sadly mistaken if you were led to believe that I would be absolutely praising a new Romero masterpiece. This unfortunately is not the case. While the afformented news segment as the beginning of the film is genuinely scary, Diary fails to deliver many scares, and that scene at the beginning is one of a bare few scenes which really make you feel tense in any way. In that sense, it is weaker than REC, another horror film which has used this technique to greater effect with regards to true scare tactics. Personally, I think it may be thanks to 28 Days Later that Romero's zombies have begun to lose their effect on the audience. Expectation levels have become higher from audiences, and they are also becoming more accustomed to overly violent horror films, of which this is one of them. Also, as mentioned, the anonymous actors help create more realism in the piece. While this may be the case, some of the characters involved give very dull performances which fail to convince the audience of the true urgency of the predicament involved. Also, the script, while strong in a number of different points, fails to deliver in other respects. For example, Romero's zombie movies are famous for their social commentaries and delivering a specific message that is the underlying point of the entire film. The underlying point of this entire film is about how we as a post-modern society are obsessed with capturing everything on camera. While I believe that these messages had the potential to deliver something as powerful as Night's message on racism, Dawn's on consumerism and Day's on slavery, this fails to bring across the point well, instead relying more on the cheap pops that we have come to expect from this type of film. Now, as far as an effective nuts-and-bolts zombie film, with a little bit of something original with regards to film-making style, dive right in. I believe that you will enjoy yourself. However, for fans of the genre and fans of the master himself, it is more comparable to a packet of cheese and onion crisps. There is a little bit of the familiar messages that Romero tries to send in each of is zombie films. However, you will either like it or you won't in that respect, and I can't say I do. It fails to convince to the degree of the original three. It suffers from being a bog-standard horror film with some flashy new film techniques. Romero once again is the star of the show, directing the film with the pace and freneticism of many younger directors of horror. I believe that Romero has at least one more masterpiece, maybe a zombie masterpiece, left in him. However, Diary of the Dead, and certainly not Land of the Dead, is ever going to be that last masterpiece.

The Thin White Dude's Prognosis - 6.0/10

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