In Diary Of The Dead, a bunch of college film students and their alcoholic professor, making a horror film in the woods, hear about some strange, violent, goings on in the city so they get in their campervan and drive places. Along the way they run into nasty living dead people who can only be made dead dead people by inflicting some sort of major head trauma. One of the students decides to film the adventure and, despite the fact that everyone else thinks it’s a stupid idea, they all help him anyway. Like The Blair Witch Project and Cloverfield the film is completely shot from the point of view of the protagonists.
George A. Romero is like a preacher who hasn’t got the faintest idea about what he wants to say. All the characters in Dairy Of The Dead are two dimensional mouth pieces that prattle on about new media, the internet, government cover-ups, and anything else George thinks might fool viewers into thinking he has something contemporary and relevant to say. But, considering this is his fifth film with the words “of the dead” in the title, I think it pays to be a little cynical.
The fundamental problem with Diary Of The Dead is that it talks a lot but never actually says anything. This is probably best epitomised by the two dumbest lines of dialogue in the film. Actually, they’re probably the two dumbest lines of dialogue ever uttered in any film, ever:
‘It used to be us against us. Now it’s us against them.’ – Jason.
‘He was right, “us against them”, except they are us.’ – Debra.
Hang on, if they are us then it’s us against us isn’t it? But he just said it was us again them, not us against us. It reads like the start of a Laurel & Hardy “who’s on first…” sketch, but the actors deliver these ridiculous lines with a level of seriousness usually only reserved for eulogies.
If the words “what”, “the” and “fuck” don’t involuntarily blurt out of your mouth when you hear or read those lines then maybe this pseudo-intellectual hokum will be to your taste. But if you, like me, realise that it makes absolutely no sense what so ever, then you’re well on the way to understanding why Diary Of The Dead is such a pretentious flop.
I could forgive the failed attempts at poignant social commentary if the film worked on some other level, but it doesn’t. Sure it’s bloody (CGI bloody, not corn syrup bloody BTW), but Romero’s slow moving ghouls ceased being frightening a long time ago, and because all the characters seem like emotionless video camera sales people there isn’t the slightest bit of suspense on the rare occasions their lives are in peril. I defy any viewer to care about any character in this film.
With Diary Of The Dead, Romero really only proves, like another famous George who has milked his initial success for all it’s worth, that the “…of the dead” well is now completely dry.