When George Romero made his first Night of the Living Dead in 1968, in which the dead suddenly rise and consume the living, it was a truly frightening experience with implicit metaphorical and political overtones. Since then, Romero has been directing (and spawning) numerous sequels and remakes that explicitly repeat variations on the same theme. In George A. Romero's Diary of the Dead, the effect is now akin to beating a dead corpse.
As with Night of the Living Dead, this latest installment opens on his home turf of Pittsburgh. A small crew of college students is shooting a horror film in the woods of Pennsylvania when they hear that the dead are rising everywhere and stalking the living. They pack up the equipment and decide to head home to safety. On the way, they encounter the carnage everywhere and try to survive. However, the director, with his digital camera, decides to make a movie of their trek to document the horror around them, which he hopes will belie the version of events being spun by the government and media outlets.
Romero is obviously attempting to comment on the impersonal way we consume, and interpret, the images we have unlimited access to in this age of disaster and the war on terror. But Romero doesn't allow those themes to emerge out of his story, rather imposing them on the movie like bumper stickers. George A. Romero's Diary of the Dead tries to tell us that we've become so attached to our technology that we've lost touch with the sting of death, but his movie contributes to that numbness. While his audience is supposedly digging the "profound" message, they can also cheer on the bloodshed and carnage. Given the uncritical eye of some of his fans, Diary of the Dead proves one thing: It's the audience that's becoming the zombies now.
Cast: Michelle Morgan, Joshua Close, Shawn Roberts and Amy Lalonde
Director/Screenwriter: George A. Romero
Producers: Peter Grunwald, Art Spigel, Sam Englebardt and Ara Katz
Rating: R for strong horror violence and gore and pervasive language
Running time: 95 min.
Release date: February 15, 2008 ltd.
Reviewed: 2007 Toronto International Film Festival