I haven’t reviewed all that many horror movies for this list. As a matter of fact, I think I’ve only actually reviewed two, Let the Right One In and Night of the Living Dead. There’s a reason for that though. A) Horror movies aren’t the kind of things that are nominated for major industry awards which is how most of the movies that are on this list got there. Also B) I just don’t like horror movies all that much. There are some that I think are great, but they are by far the exception. The movie I just watched, 2007?s George A. Romero’s Diary of the Dead, was not actually on my list, but it happened to be on Cinemax, and I sat down and watched it. Romero is one of the only real auteurs working in the horror medium. This might not be the classic that Night of the Living Dead or the original Dawn of the Dead was, but it was still a pretty interesting take on the zombie picture.
Diary of the Dead is the story of a group of college students who are out in the woods shooting their own low-budget student horror film. Unbeknownst (at first anyways) to the students making the film, the outside world is literally going to hell because the classic zombie apocalypse scenario is beginning. The basic conceit of the film is that it is a documentary captured live on film by one of the college students once they realize what is happening and that this is the footage that they have left behind. I’m a big fan of hand-held camera movies like Cloverfield so I liked that part of it. It makes the movie more immersive. So, the film chronicles the students attempts to survive the zombie apocalypse. The story might not be all that original, but I’ll get to the social commentary in a second which is what always sets Romero films apart.
George A. Romero has always stood head and shoulder above his fellow zombie movie peers by having his films be full of some sort of social commentary or another. Dawn of the Dead is the most obvious example with its stance on rampant consumerism. Thankfully, Diary of the Dead is no exception. It explores the relationship between horror films and the voyeurism of said films and our inevitable desensitization to violence and death. It also asks whether it is good that journalists and documentarians are distant and cold to that which they study if it means that are disconnected from the reality around them. The subject isn’t handled with any real subtlety as is there is a lot of narration exactly explaining the feelings you’re supposed to get from the film, but any horror movie with a message is worth something.
I liked it. It wasn’t a great movie, but for a film that I hadn’t actually intended on sitting all the way through, I ended up watching the whole thing. Since it wasn’t on my list, I could have easily turned it off and put my current obsession in my PS3, the video game L.A. Noire, but Diary of the Dead kept my attention. If you like horror movies and especially zombie films, you should check this one out. I would say that it was better than Romero’s most recent picture before this one, Land of the Dead, but not nearly as good as his original stuff.
Final Score: B