MOVIE: Diary of the Dead (2007)

I can predict how this is going to go.  I’m about to tell you how much I HATED this movie, after raving like a madwoman about the awesomeness of Cloverfield.  And you guys are going to flood the comments with disagreements, saying Cloverfield sucked and this movie ruled. 

Except for Trip, of course, who will flood the comments with movie quotes about the undead.  Bring it, Trip!  (Here, I’ll get you started:  “Grandpa’s fallen and he’s getting up!”)

But I will not be persuaded to alter my positions, no matter how logical your arguments may be!  THIS MOVIE WAS TOTALLY LAME!  And I was surprised by that, too, because it’s the first time in history that I’ve ever not enjoyed a George Romero zombie movie. 

Maybe that was the problem, though: high expectations.  Going into Cloverfield, I literally had NO expectations.  No idea if it would be good or bad — I’d carefully avoided reviews and commentary on that one.  But this one — I know Romero’s work and even when he’s not at peak form, he usually has something moderately interesting to say about human society, right?

In retrospect, however, I think that may have been my biggest problem with this installment — I found George’s point unfocused and disorganized, and it seemed like he was trying to argue both sides simultaneously, which soon made it impossible for me to care what he thought either way.  But more on the theme after I give you the plot. 

This movie takes us back into hand-held shaky cam territory again, but this time it’s about a bunch of film school students, so the cam is not nearly as shaky as it was in Cloverfield.  As the story opens, a group of the students are working on a horror film for their class (about mummies — real original, guys!) when they are distracted by a news report about a dead person coming back to life and biting someone to death.  Intrigued, they decide to head out and see if they can get any similar footage themselves.  They load up into a big Winnebago-type deal, bringing along their professor (who was, incidentally, one of the most inane characters OF ALL TIME).  

At first their plan is to try to capture some scary footage for their movie, but it soon becomes clear that the world’s rapidly becoming dangerously undead, and they decide their best bet is to try to get to the huge mansion of their friend Ripley, who seems to be safe and sound in Philly, surrounded by security cameras and panic rooms.

Which reminds me — one of the things I liked about this movie was that it didn’t just consist of the video the students were filming, but also incorporated video downloaded from the web, images captured by cell phones and Ripley’s security cameras, and some TV news reports too.  Unfortunately, the characters showing us this footage were so incredibly LAME that no matter how hard I tried, I just could not sink into this film at all.  I mean, seriously — think of every college student stereotype you can come up with and then hire a group of ridiculously bad actors, and voila, you’ve just replicated this movie’s cast.  Argh!  What were you thinking, George?

Then again, even bad acting wouldn’t have stood in the way of my enjoyment of this film had it not been so brainlessly unfocused at the same time.  And here’s where I’ll take you back to my previous comments about George’s social commentary. 

In my opinion, if you’re going to use your horror movie to make a point about modern society, you have to at least take ten minutes to sit down and draft out what your point ACTUALLY IS.   And at first, I could see where Romero was headed and I approved. The group begins to compare news reports from TV with footage on the Internet taken on the video cameras of witnesses at the same scenes, and they begin to notice serious discrepancies.  The mainstream media, in other words, is manipulating the news in order to keep the public in the dark about what’s going on (possibly to prevent a panic, but as we all know, ignorance is pretty detrimental when it comes to fighting zombie wars — hence everybody aiming way too low with their guns).

So, as the character named Jason points out (he’s the man with the cam), it’s vitally important for those who want to know the truth to be able to get that truth from somewhere.  If they can film how you kill a zombie, for example, and then they load that footage onto the web, they can teach everybody all over the world how to protect themselves. 

Okay, this argument I can go along with — not that I distrust the media as a whole (seeing as how I’m married to a newspaper reporter), but I do think getting your information from a variety of sources is your safest bet, as long as you view all those sources with a critical eye.

But just as I started nodding my head in agreement, Romero turned this on its ear and started to demonstrate to us that the “grassroots” videos are no less “constructed,” and that the people who make them are actually just sick voyeurs with messed up priorities.   Jason can’t put the camera down, even when his friends are being attacked, and he routinely instructs his pals to back up and enter a room again, or repeat something they’ve just said, so that he can get a better shot of it on camera.  Well heck, Jason, that’s not pure unadulterated reality!  That’s MSNBC all over again!

And then, as if that weren’t enough commentary to chew on, in the final moments of the movie, Romero inserts a totally unnecessary scene that takes us back to Ye Olde Zombie Movie Theme:  how it just doesn’t seem to take much to turn humans into animals.  It was like he suddenly got to the end and thought, “Oh crap!  I forgot to make sure everybody knew humanity’s only one crisis away from turning into a pack of rabid dogs!”  (Well, to be honest, he’d also had the Inane Professor periodically interject drunkenly-wistful comments like, “I remember the war. . . When it suddenly became so easy for us all to shoot people. . .” but since the everything the Inane Professor said was completely INANE, I confess I’d long since started to tune him out by that point.)

The final line of the film asks us, “Are we worth saving?” 

Answer: Not if we can’t make movies more original and interesting than this one!

But hang in there, kiddies, because there is hope for us yet!  My next review is going to tell you all about another shaky-cam horror movie (not sure how I ended up with three of those in a row!), but this time, it’s one that actually SCARED THE EVER-LIVING HOO-HAH OUT OF ME.  I need at least another day to process it mentally, though, I think.  When my husband asked me what it was about the other night, after he discovered me sitting stunned in front of the screen, all I could muster was, “It was about . . . um. . . it was about. . . this . . . and the fire station guys were all. . . and in the attic was this. . .  Hey, do we have any vodka?  I need to get drunk RIGHT NOW.”

[Netflix me | Buy me]

Genre: Horror
Cast: Nick Alachiotis, Joshua Close, Laura DeCarteret, Joe Dinicol, Megan Park

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18 Responses to “MOVIE: Diary of the Dead (2007)”

  1. Melinda Says:

    Oh. Meg. Meg, Meg, how could you. This movie was so. Brilliant. And Cloverfield sucked the big one. I can’t. believe you could write this. review. If I ever watched. either. film I would completely. disagree. Since you were expecting it!!

    Oh, and in a related vein, I am a proud member of the Post Zombie Apocalypse Survival group in the Ravelry online knitting community! We now have potential enclaves arranged at several point around the country and routinely discuss topics such as “Animal zombies?, “What will you take with you?,” “Specialties and Careers?” (what will you be contributing to the community?” and potential commune structures. I tell ya, I am *woefully* unprepared.

  2. Melinda Says:

    Ummmmm, I should note that the first paragraph was supposed to have and around it, excepts the last sentence!!!

  3. Melinda Says:

    Curses! Okay, manually them, the first freaking paragraph is supposed to be a boring monotone!!! Epic joke fail!

  4. megwood Says:

    Hah, despite your technical difficulties, I started to snicker as soon as I read your first sentence, knowing you were kidding, so no worries! Dude, no way about the Ravelry group. I must join! I’ve been on Ravelry for a while but haven’t used it much yet — keep meaning to get more into it and this sounds like just the inspiration I needed.

    Remember: AIM FOR THE HEAD!

  5. Verna Says:

    I suppose now I must see this movie that I was steadfastly avoiding. Hmmm, what does that say about me? I loved Cloverfield, you loved Cloverfield. You hated Diary of the Dead, and now I have to see it? S&M, baby, bring it on.

  6. megwood Says:

    Hah, the funny thing is if I read this review and hadn’t seen the movie, I’d be all, “Damn, I gotta SEE that!” myself. Dude, we never learn!

    Let me know what you think, Verna! 🙂

  7. Liz Says:

    I feel better now, because I NEVER LEARN EITHER! I had to put “Cloverfield” on my Netflix queue, and now I have to add this one! I have a lot of work to do, as I’m only now about to see “Scarecrows!” And I’ll admit: my judgment about “The Mist” was somewhat addled, and I was very disappointed by “I Am Legend,” but, as I say, I don’t seem to learn!

    BTW – missed you this weekend, Meg. Hope you had a good one!

  8. Trip Says:

    This movie is the VERY NEXT ONE in my Netflix queue, damn it! I need to go in with a clean, objective mind, therefore I will refrain from reading further into this post until I can spew forth my cents of two.

    Oh, and “World War Z” by Max Brooks will become a major motion picture in 2010 BABY! The next great zombie flick cometh, and that right soon.

    “Ok you primitive screwheads, listen up! You see this? This… is my boomstick!”

  9. Anonymous Says:

    How about this one: “Shoot ’em in the head – like in the movies!”

  10. Liz Says:

    As Melinda said: Curses! That wasn’t “Anonymous!” That was ME, trying to use my Mac, that, apparently, doesn’t know who I am!

  11. megwood Says:

    Ooh, “World War Z” would make a GREAT movie. I loved that book! Sweet — can’t wait for 2010!

    “When I was a kid, we f_ckin’ respected our parents — we didn’t f_ckin’ eat them!”

  12. Liz Says:

    Hey, Meg! Was that quote from the “Zombies in the ‘Hood” movie (I’ve forgotten the “real” title)? Mine was! 🙂 Or was it “Fido?” Geez, so many good zombie movies, so little time!

  13. megwood Says:

    It was from “Undead,” which is REALLY bad in a totally awesome way. 🙂

    The “Grandpa’s fallen and he’s getting up!” quote is from “Fido,” though. That flick’s pure genius!

  14. Trip Says:

    Well, I’m only 29 minutes into this flick, and I’m already annoyed and frustrated by the bad acting, the exceedingly weak dialogue, the unpleasant characters, the unscary zombies…it’s so bad, it’s distracting.

    There’s no dread or tension, just dumbass college kids remarking very seriously that “I just shot another man. I’ve killed three men and a woman, in the last half-hour”, and looking very distraught. WEAK!

    I’m totally rooting for the zombies at this point. And Meg is right…the professor sucks, and I’ll go a step further – he’s completely unnecessary.

    This is a far, far cry from Dawn…at least with that movie, the characters were aware of their situation and had some fun holing up in a mall and grooving on the irony of their plight.

    I’m confident in stating that Cloverfield is your better bet for shaky-cam first-person horror at this time.

  15. Trip Says:

    OK, Samuel the deaf Amish dude and the zombie clown was cool. But this movie still sucks.

  16. samuel davis Says:

    movie might suck – but take you frustration out with a Zombie Face maker created for this flick

  17. Liz Says:

    OMG! A deaf Amish dude AND a zombie clown! I totally have to see this movie! Again I’m thinking: it CAN’T be that bad! (But “Scarecrows” was, so who am I kidding?)

  18. megwood Says:

    Yeah, I loved the Amish guy (*BOOM* “Hi, I’m Samuel!”), except that it was such a comedic moment it felt really out of place. That only fed into my discombobulation regarding the theme of the movie — is it supposed to be “authentic” or ridiculous? Or both? BOTH?

    Thanks for the Zombie Face Maker link, samuel! That was fun. Here’s me as a card-carrying member of the undead:

    Braaaaaains! Gimmie braaaaaains!

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