Diary of the Dead
I had enjoyed Land of the Dead, although I had realised that it wasn't a huge dramatic piece, it was entertaining and presented the audience with some interesting points of view, however shallow it's exploration of them, there was some good stuff to be had.
So I was interested to see how Diary of the Dead turned out, after all George A. Romero was behind it and everyone screams about how great he is. Plus there was an interesting take to come from this story, the filming of the outbreak as it happened.
Fancy a slice of social commentary between two bricks? You know, two bricks disguising a bit of social commentary. The bricks are extremely unsubtle, get it? The bricks are just big, unwieldy and are used for smashing windows, the social commentary is supposed to be subtle and clever. You see the two aren't compatible, and by saying two bricks I'm suggesting that the unsubtlety is even greater. Get it?
Now you feel like I did watching the film. With everything explained out loud and often covered a couple of times, I felt like a child being preached to. Even things spelled out visually were explained again, just in case we didn't get them.
I failed to keep track of the rolling eye moments, the snorts of unbelieving laughter, the shaking head moments.
The incredibly bad dialogue coupled with this complete lack of subtlety killed what good the film was doing, and there was some good coming of it. However in the end It was reduced to effects and moments of gore, which were also failing to shock or scare by the latter half of the film.
There were some clever things said and looked at with the idea of the film and through the filming of the event by normal people, there were some interesting glances into how people would behave and what social groups would emerge, and keeping the view personal through this small group was a good viewpoint.
There were even some great moments, the girl shooting herself at the enormity of it all, the Crazies moment with the old people protecting their family, there are some cool sequences, but that dialogue and the flat, uncomfortable delivery of the lead female were a struggle.
Is George A. Romero really all he's cracked up to be? With this film I would suggest he isn't. There's even a Uwe Boll moment for me with the totally deaf Amish farmer who has no car but dynamite, and his introduction piece to camera is just plain painful.
Then there was the forced "film no matter what" factor, something I referred to recently in Cloverfield (Filmstalker review). At some point, no matter what was going on, people would put that camera down, especially when it just doesn't make sense and you need to help you friends.
Although there are many put down moments there's one sequence near the end that is just so incredibly absurd I thought we were in Scary Movie territory - in fact doesn't Carmen Electra act out such a scene in the first Scary Movie?
The scene shows the guy with the camera filming one of his friends being chased, and at one point grappling with, a zombie. Does he do anything to help her? No, he just keeps filming. Of course I get it, not only is it a parody of our culture but also a joke of the opening scene, but there are those two bricks again and they're pounding at the sides of my head.
This forced feeling really does hurt the film as there are a number of times that really go against the grain to keep on filming. Sure they have to make it exciting, but is he really going to keep filming while is friends are getting attacked, while he's getting attacked, and while a zombie leaps from behind him to grab his friend six feet in front who happens to be perfectly framed?
The film really did stretch the concept of filming the events too far for me.
It does fast become a parody of itself rather quickly, moving from a low budget film with some funny moments to something much, much worse.
Away from the story and the dialogue for a moment, and let's look at the characters. The problem with them is that they were as stereotypical and see through as the lines coming from their mouths, and it was a real struggle to connect with any of them. Perhaps it was only Jason, played by Shawn Roberts, that had a glimmer of humanity and believability, the others were two dimensional and seemed as though they were taken out of the stock cupboard of an old disaster film.
Michelle Morgan, who played the female lead, was a bit of a struggle as her lines seemed flat and unrelenting. For me though it was the performance and character of the Professor, I think that was Maxwell played by Scott Wentworth. He was funny, if also two dimensional and cardboard, he still had some laugh out loud absurd lines and cringe worthy moments.
However there are some good points through this, and those are the zombies and the effects. Whenever we see a zombie on screen you know that you're in for something special, something so blisteringly realistic it eclipses the rest of the film.
It seems that the film, and Romero, lives for these moments. The zombies look fantastic, and when they're killed or falling apart they look even better. There's a great scene where a zombie is hit on the head with a bottle of acid, and the slow melt through to his brain is a great moment to watch.
In fact it is fair to say that the film excels in the area of the blood and gore effects, but yet it never really feels like eighteen territory to me, perhaps that's because of the rest of the film and how it makes these scenes seem.
There are a couple of cool death scenes and it does look as though Romero has worked hard to bring something different to these. The two for one kills with the scythe and the shotgun are perhaps the best, and there's some real imagination and dare I say love gone into these. They provide for the best parts of the film.
Overall I have to say that I really didn't enjoy this film. It was good to see a few scenes, the short clever moments sandwiched between those huge bricks, the great effects, and the rather enjoyable Professor.
Yet none of it salvaged the film from the very poor script, the flat, unsympathetic characters, and the way it treats the audience as though they have no intelligence themselves, spelling out everything for us, often multiple times just to make sure. Perhaps though that was the intention. We are the zombies that are being beaten about the head until we get the message.