Diary of the Dead (2007)

Rating: B+

Dir: George A. Romero
Star: Michelle Morgan, Joshua Close, Shawn Roberts, Amy Ciupak Lalonde

Bit of a return to form here for Romero, after the fairly-lackluster Land. He gets back to basics, with a group of film students having to come to terms with the dead returning to life – and, in the immortal words of Shaun’s mom, they’re a bit bitey. This is under the unwavering video gaze of Jason (Close), who is determined to document the collapse of civilization – though he is somewhat vaguer on who’ll be watching, or how they’re going to view it, after the Internet collapses and they truly are left to their own devices. Not that this stops Jason, though he at least fancies himself as an auteur, which is far more justification for keeping a camera glued to his eye, than we ever got in Cloverfield [I’m pleased to report that technical aspects are somewhat less nauseating, though Chris was still not happy with the hand-held aspects, and he does have to stop to recharge the battery].

This being Romero, of course, it comes with some not exactly subtle social commentary. Here, the prime target is the media saturation which envelops today’s culture, where everyone has their own YouTube channel, to which they can upload their own version of reality – rendering any objective decision regarding the “truth”, all but impossible. He mixes found footage [mostly from Hurricane Katrina] to his own, and the results are effective, pointing out the desensitizing effects of a world where whatever you can imagine is available for download. It was ironic to watch this at the cinema, in a row immediately in front of eight representatives of the Facebook/MySpace-obsessed generation, most of whom absolutely hated the flick [save the one who was obviously familiar with Romero’s previous output]. They were probably too busy texting their friends to notice that they were the subjects of Romero’s critique.

This being Romero, it also comes with eye-popping gore, courtesy of Greg Nicotero. The bits that stick in my mind most are the discovery that hydrochloric acid will kill a zombie…eventually, and the startling cleavage by sword. Lob in some fine impalements and this works equally well as straightforward zombie film, as social satire. I was amused by the disdain Romero shows for the new, fast-moving school of zombies, having one character claim that if the dead really moved that quickly, their ankles would snap. Not sure how true that is – any more than I am that if you apply a defibrillator to someone’s head, their eyeballs will burst – however, it certainly makes for some fine splatter, and Romero also has fun with the genre’s cliches. Early on, one character complains about how in movies, heroines always trip when being chased by monsters, and then have their tops pulled off. Guess what happens to her later on? The master is back, and he’s still capable of going toe-to-toe with the next generation.