I saw George Romero’s new movie DIARY OF THE DEAD. It’s basically “NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD meets BLAIR WITCH PROJECT” or “CLOVERFIELD with zombies” or “CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST – cannibal + zombies but not ZOMBIE HOLOCAUST.” It’s not a sequel to the living dead movies but kind of a do-over with the zombie plague beginning in the present day and depicted in documentary form. Some film students are working on a crappy mummy movie (come on George, this is 2008, only Rob Cohen makes mummy movies) when they start hearing news about the dead coming back to life, and their director is compelled to keep filming. We’re told at the beginning of the movie that his footage was edited by another character along with clips they downloaded from youtube, some news and security cam footage. Also she admits that she added music. And, I’m afraid, she narrates it.
I feel bad saying this but since nobody is reading this and it’s only a diary I will come out and say it: this movie isn’t very good. I enjoyed watching it and will list many of the good things about it right here on these pages, in the interest of balance. And in case Harry reads this because he got real mad at Quint for not liking it and I pretty much agree with everything in Quint’s review. But in my deepest, most personal secret opinion this is a failed experiment for old George.
This is Romero back doing low budget independent movies, but it looks real nice. Especially in the parts that show the larger world outside of the documentary, the clips from the news and youtube where there is total chaos going on, cars crashing into each other, zombies hanging on nooses from freeway overpasses, and various madness. In NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD the characters were constantly trying to listen to news reports to get some kind of information about what’s going on. In DIARY we see news reports (sometimes edited to hide the truth), we hear talk radio, CBs, all kinds of communication. All those different fuzzy broadcasts add a realistic texture to the movie and I think Romero is right that if something like this were to happen now (God forbid, because I bet it would be a huge pain the ass) the young people would in fact be the ones spreading information about what’s going on. Because they have all their god damn cell phones and little handheld video games and all that stupid shit they always play with, and they spell worse than me because they write in some kind of moronic gibberish from writing on phones and they also wear their pants too tight now and wear those white belts and they look almost as stupid as their older brothers did wearing those giant clown pants.
In CLOVERFIELD you had to kind of accept that they would keep filming for some reason, in this one it’s actually a major theme and a point of contention for the characters. The other characters kind of think this guy is crazy, even an asshole, for having to tape everything. They get mad and sarcastically offer to re-enact things that happened off camera because “it didn’t really happen if it was off camera, did it?” In one scene they’re exploring a dangerous zombified hospital and he stays behind because his battery is dead and he needs to plug into the wall. Dude, that’s when you know you have a problem.
So for Romero the documentary format is not just a gimmick, he’s trying to say something. And I like that. The problem is that there is no subtlety involved. This movie is corny and preachy even for Romero. In his best movies he’s willing to let the points come across in the story, in this one he has somebody narrating them, and that’s just hard to take. The last shot of the movie is a really disturbing and powerful image, and if it was left to speak for itself I think people would be able to find a good interpretation of it. Instead we hear this character narrating about her disappointment in humanity, making a point that is earned in the other Dead movies, but not in this one. And even if he wasn’t hammering it too hard, any movie that has somebody repeatedly narrating about “bloggers” and “uploading” and even “hackers” is gonna make me squirm.
(You know, even in real documentaries I prefer no narration. More than anything this movie proves that film schools should teach about the Maysles Brothers in the first semester in case zombie holocaust breaks out before they get to that shit.)
Here’s an example of the kind of thing that bothered me. There’s a scene late in the movie where, by weird coincidence, the scene we saw them filming for their mummy movie is sort of re-enacted. Only this time the mummy is a real zombie chasing the same girl for real. You think a ha, clever, until the girl actually says something like “This is just like in your stupid mummy movie!” Come on George. I guess you’re making this for the brain damaged cell phone generation, but what about me? Can you make a version where I don’t have to be talked down to like that?
Also, these characters don’t look like real people, they look like movie characters. One is a blonde model type with cleavage, which is intentional because she’s the star of their movie. (wow, bout time somebody stuck it to the blond bimbos who starred in horror movies 25 years ago. Way to hit ’em where it hurts, George.) But the others don’t look like regular people either and the documentary format just emphasizes their phoniness. They’re mostly college students but for variety they happen to have their professor with them, and he’s a ridiculously cliched prick whose character is mostly just that he has an accent (to show he’s a snob) and that he swigs from a flask all the time (because he feels guilty for not teaching them about the Maysles Brothers). Fortunately later he gets a bow and arrow so he mostly shuts up and shoots arrows, then all the sudden he seems more worthwhile. Bows and arrows have made a comeback between THE HOST, RAMBO and this. Way to go bows and arrows, it’s been a long time coming.
The sad thing is that there are some much more interesting characters in the movie, they just don’t appear for very long. I don’t want to go into too much specifics because somebody might steal my diary and read it and the movie would be spoiled and they would deserve it for reading my private review of this movie however I believe the Lord would ask that I still not give it away. Leviticus, page 3, lower right corner. So I will just say that there is an Amish character who is great, but only appears in the movie briefly. And one of the best parts of the movie is when they come across some “looters” who have a great set-up in a warehouse, a much more organized operation than we’ve seen in previous Dead movies. Their leader has a strong presence and you kind of wish you could just follow them and find out what happens to them instead of the college kids.
I’m not sure how other people will react to this movie. I have been called a moron more than once for liking LAND OF THE DEAD. So if my standards are low for liking that one, and this new one didn’t cut it, it must be pretty bad, right? On the other hand I’ve seen so many rave reviews and many of them mentioned that thank God it was way better than LAND OF THE DEAD. So your mileage may vary. Some restrictions apply.
To try to figure out the score here I went back and watched LAND again. I guess now that I’ve seen it a few times and now that it’s not a fresh bite of Romero zombies after a decades long drought it’s easier to see the flaws. On DVD the digital stuff is way more noticeable than it was on that first viewing, and with the stylized landscapes they show sometimes it just has a less raw, more artificial look than the others in the series. And as funny as Dennis Hopper is in parts of it, he is clearly Dennis Hopper. It feels more like a Hollywood movie than the other ones do. And one thing that really stuck out more than it used to for me was how many of the themes have to be underlined by the characters in the dialogue.
I think the problem there stems back to DAWN OF THE DEAD. Romero thought the line about why the zombies came to the mall was too obvious. (I think it’s fine.) He recently told the Fangoria horror magazine that he thought “I may have hammered the point home too obviously” so in trying to make up for that in DAY OF THE DEAD “I went the other way and was too subtle with my themes of paranoia and mistrust.” So I guess now he’s swinging the other way and making these movies less subtle than ever. Just to be safe.
To me it was a much bigger problem in DIARY. It’s bad enough when the dialogue is too obvious but when the person is actually narrating, directly talking to the audience, it goes into corniness overdrive.
And LAND added so many new details to the world. The organized crews of soldiers going out scavenging. The use of fireworks to distract the zombies (something that works literally and as symbolism). The rich people who’ve been able to be so sheltered they just scream when zombies show up. And I know alot of people hate it, but I like that Romero actually moved forward with the story of the zombies. He didn’t just repeat himself, he added this element of the zombies beginning to learn even more than they did in DAY OF THE DEAD. Learning not to be distracted by the pretty lights in the air, instead following the pretty lights on the Fiddler’s Green tower. Some of them are real characters with their own subplot. Okay, I could do without Tom Savini doing fight moves in his zombie cameo, but most of it works for me.
Since DIARY is skipping back to the beginning, there’s not as much progress. It’s mostly just variations on what Romero’s done before, and not shown in much detail. I loved seeing how organized the guys in the warehouse were, but whenever something like that comes up the story just gives you a glimpse and then moves on.
Maybe part of the problem is that I don’t really want to see the beginning again. How many fucking beginnings do we need? He began it perfectly in 1968. One of the reasons DAWN and DAY are so great is because they begin and end in that world of chaos. There’s no status quo at the beginning or the end.
But also when you just look at the basic elements of the movie I don’t think it delivers the way the best Romero movies do. For example, I don’t like the main characters very much. I don’t even hate them like I do Rhodes in DAY OF THE DEAD. They’re pretty forgettable. Except for the Amish dude. And every flaw in their characters or every fake thing they do is amplified by the “diary” gimmick. For example, the scene where the computer expert (you will recognize him, because he has glasses) types a few keys in a lap top to tap into the security cameras so they can get some alternate angles for their documentary – that shit would be laughable in LAND OF THE DEAD, but it’s double-laughable when it’s shot like a documentary and your brain is trying to play along with the idea of it being reality. I’m not even sure what Romero is trying to pull here exactly because he even said in that Fangoria article that he wasn’t trying for realism. “My style is arch and theatrical, where BLAIR WITCH went for ultra-realism. I’m trying to maintain the artifice and make potent comments about the observer–while still supplying lots of nasty zombie stuff.” Okay, sounds good. I don’t get it though.
You know what? Here’s what it is. If you watch NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, DAWN OF THE DEAD or DAY OF THE DEAD, you don’t even have to get any meaning out of them. They are still some of the most kickass horror movies you’ve ever seen. And then behind all the mechanics of surviving disaster, of creative ghoul mayhem and spectacular special effects, there are all these interesting things being communicated about human nature and about the world and what not. If you’re interested.
In this movie you get a fun horror movie, but not as kickass as those other three by any stretch of the imagination. And covering some pretty similar territory. And then you get the commentary too, but it’s poking through the horror movie surface in about ten or fifteen different spots, reaching out trying to nudge you. So the balance is completely off. And some of it’s material that has been covered in alot of other movies and that I kind of would rather not hear about anymore, especially in the form of a fake student film. Even if there are zombies.
In fact, I must admit, I’m even kind of sick of hearing about zombies. Yes, they are great. Shut the fuck up about them, nerds. Let’s keep it a silent thing, never said out loud. Don’t ever talk to me about zombie this and zombie that. Just look at me, nod, I will nod back. Everything is understood. Also, Romero should be the only one allowed to make zombie movies for the next ten years. Otherwise we’re on a moratorium here fellas. Thank you for your cooperation.
So those are some pretty fundamental problems that some people won’t be able to get past. I mean, if you had a problem with LAND OF THE DEAD I can’t see being more forgiving of this. But if you did like LAND OF THE DEAD like I did I think this is at least worth checking out, if you can lower your expectations. There is plenty of good zombie fun, lots of clever zombie mutilations and some cool new twists on how people deal with them. There are a few too many digital head shots for my tastes (I want real fake blood) but for the most part the effects are good, the zombies look cool and really do seem inhuman. That’s is one thing Romero will never forget how to do. The guy works well with ghouls.
I hate to say it diary. Romero is one of my favorite directors. I’m so glad that he’s making independent movies again, and zombie movies. But the truth is, I enjoyed it, but I don’t think it’s very good. And I really wanted it to be good. I think people are yearning to be blown away by a new Romero masterpiece. BUT DO WE REALLY DESERVE ONE?
well, gotta go record myself reading this on my cell cam so I can upload it on youtube for all the bloggers and hackers to download for their blogs
Originally posted at Ain’t-It-Cool-News: http://www.aintitcool.com/node/35521
View the archived Ain’t-It-Cool-News Talkback
Feb. 6, 2008, 5:14 p.m. CST
I’ve fulfilled one of my new year’s resolutions already.
Feb. 6, 2008, 5:14 p.m. CST
Feb. 6, 2008, 5:15 p.m. CST
Feb. 6, 2008, 5:16 p.m. CST
by Stereotypical Evil Archer
Feb. 6, 2008, 5:21 p.m. CST
I checked out Grey Gardens and Salesman after hearing you namedrop them all the time, and really loved them. Glengarry Glen Ross was pretty much a fictional adaptation of Salesman.
Feb. 6, 2008, 5:21 p.m. CST
Feb. 6, 2008, 5:23 p.m. CST
That said, the concept was a horrible idea. Also, Land of the Dead was a complete shitfest.
Feb. 6, 2008, 5:24 p.m. CST
“Don’t stop, believing”
Feb. 6, 2008, 5:28 p.m. CST
If it hasn’t changed much from what i saw at TIFF then I stand by my enjoyment.
Feb. 6, 2008, 5:39 p.m. CST
I am with you on LOTD, I liked it. Okay, so it’s a little too polished and the lead guy is clearly a foreigner putting on a terrible American accent, and yes, compared to the previous DEAD films, it is a deathly pale bastard and exceptionally redheaded stepchild.
But, when compared to the bullshit PG-13 Asian Horror Remake, or to the bullshit Classic Horror Remake or Retread or whatever, or to the bullshit Torture Porn (i.e. let’s see what happens when we let the gore do the talking), then it’s a pretty darn watchable and satisfying escape.
Feb. 6, 2008, 5:43 p.m. CST
at least I can watch a trillion different versions of his good (= 20 years old) movies on DVD.
Feb. 6, 2008, 5:48 p.m. CST
he just didn’t keep a good grip on it. I liked it better than BRUISER though.
Feb. 6, 2008, 5:48 p.m. CST
You didn’t have to “kind of accept” that they would keep filming in Cloverfield. The guy said people want to know what happened, and he did it to create a historical document. Plain and simple and spelled out for you.
Feb. 6, 2008, 5:50 p.m. CST
this is the most disgusting of all the disgusting things (regenerating hymen included) this site put on home page. I could forgive it if another shitty Scoobydoo movie was coming out; but I’d rather have a logo bashing Clovershit. THAT would be fitting.
Sorry for the rant guys. I’m done bitching.
Feb. 6, 2008, 5:51 p.m. CST
I stopped reading after “Only Rob Cohen makes mummy movies” and had to talk back right away. You, of all people, should have seen Bubba Hotep by now. You, the guy who got me to finally rent “Stone Cold,” you for whom no schlock is too deep to wade through, can’t possibly have never seen this. It’s not a good movie exactly, so much as a terrible movie that’s been elevated by outstanding acting, screenwriting, and direction. Isn’t that more or less what you’re gunning for, bud?
Feb. 6, 2008, 5:52 p.m. CST
When you are about 14 or 15 and you are driving in the car with your friend and their parents who think that it is cool that they listen to the same music you do when in reality it just makes them not seem cool at all.
Feb. 6, 2008, 5:52 p.m. CST
but it seems to me like this is the first time he’s trying to appeal to a younger audience rather than make a film because he has a good story or something to say. Like it or hate it, the “found footage” thing is a gimmick and I think using it only makes it harder for a filmmaker to tell a good story. In the right hands, it can work really well but if you don’t have the talent and a good story to back it up, you generally end up with a mess. I’ll probably check this out on video like I have most of his movies but it’s sad to see someone like Romero slip like this after being given a rare second chance to do what he loves.
Feb. 6, 2008, 5:52 p.m. CST
The black box is MIIIIIIINEEEEE.
Ooops. Sorry again. Gotta take those pills on a daily basis.
Feb. 6, 2008, 5:53 p.m. CST
What are you talking about? Britney was released from the hospital today. Don’t you know THAT’S the biggest news story right now?
Feb. 6, 2008, 6:01 p.m. CST
before I finish the review!
just kidding, Vern. we love ya!
Feb. 6, 2008, 6:01 p.m. CST
No way will it be better than the Night, Dawn, and Day… Mission impossible IMO, but it should be better than Land, which is probably my most DISAPPOINTING zombie movie ever. I do agree tho that movies nowadays treat their audiences like their complete morons and I hate that. Still a lot of the scenes described in this review seem interesting. Either way, it should be a good z-flick to add to the genre…
Feb. 6, 2008, 6:03 p.m. CST
Why should Romero be the only one making zombie movies if his last two were mediocre at best?
Feb. 6, 2008, 6:03 p.m. CST
this sounds terrible
Feb. 6, 2008, 6:08 p.m. CST
I’ve always shared Vern’s opinion 100%, down to every last little point in every review he’s written…but dammit, I loved Diary. Yes, a lot of his complaints are valid, like the lack of subtlety…but, c’mon…every Dead movie is painfully blatant about its subtext. There’s always a point where a character would give some giant monologue about the dead and their connection to humanity…yada, yada, yada. Here its just spaced out into little segments over the course of the film. Romero isn’t subtle and I can forgive him for that. I still think Diary says some relevant things to say even if ol George spells them out in big bold letters.
Feb. 6, 2008, 6:11 p.m. CST
Jesus Christ. So, basically, you’re saying avoid this movie like Chernobyl.
Feb. 6, 2008, 6:25 p.m. CST
as opposed to those sad horror movies we always get?
Feb. 6, 2008, 6:30 p.m. CST
Man I was really pumped after getting picked in capone’s Valentine’s day contest, so tis makes me want to shut me eyes and cover my ears and go NANANANANA LALALALA and hope for the best. It’ll be my birthday so if anyone else is going, hit me up, we’ll party. Good, bad, or ugly, I’ll still be there.
Feb. 6, 2008, 6:30 p.m. CST
I almost feel sorry for them they suck so much. A bunch of self-obsessed, narcissistic whiners with terrible fashion sense, and even worse taste in music. Gen X was the last generation that was cool.
Feb. 6, 2008, 6:36 p.m. CST
But its nowhere near as good as NIGHT, DAWN, and DAY which for me are the best horror films of all time. I did enjoy it though, and I enjoyed the socio-political commentary (class war!), and I thought it did an admirable job of moving the story forward… I just don’t know if the story needs to go much farther than it did in DAY. I always reckoned that was pretty much it, the dead have won, and this little group of people is gonna hang out on this island and maybe have some babies, but maybe not, and then slowly fade out of existence whilst enjoying the pleasant surroundings…
Feb. 6, 2008, 6:43 p.m. CST
Loved it and I agree that it was good for moving the story forward and evolving the zombies past the one-dimensional drones they’ve always been known as.
As for this one, yeah, I’m not big on how it went back to the beginning, although I am interested. Hearing that there is a narrator who slams insightful speeches into your face is really disappointing, I enjoyed the other movies because they atleast asked you to put SOME thought into the actions on-screen. Damn.
Feb. 6, 2008, 7:04 p.m. CST
by otm shank
They never give a bad performance.
Feb. 6, 2008, 7:22 p.m. CST
It’s not in the same league as the other DEADs, but it’s a solid action horror type thing. Kinda reminded me of a John Carpenter movie.
Feb. 6, 2008, 7:32 p.m. CST
thats the only romero film that I filed in the not good section of my brain (though I never finished watching KNIGHTRIDERS), I really hope I like DIARY and I also really hope this fabricated documentary thing dies down. Even though I liked CLOVERFIELD I can’t support the technique and it seems like more and more people are doing it. It’s not as bad when they don’t try and pass it off as “real life footage” but it’s still not a film. The first person technique is more like those universal rides like T2 and the muppets where they make special versions of the films to give you a first person experience. It’s just lame, even if it’s exciting at the same time it’s not art.
Feb. 6, 2008, 7:35 p.m. CST
doesn’t include DIARY (yet) because I haven’t seen it
Feb. 6, 2008, 7:40 p.m. CST
Feb. 6, 2008, 7:43 p.m. CST
Crystal Pepsi and yellow caps!
Feb. 6, 2008, 7:49 p.m. CST
What’s with the Harry-pooch working up a good froth licking his own ballsack? Strange choice.
Feb. 6, 2008, 8:07 p.m. CST
“A bunch of self-obsessed, narcissistic whiners with terrible fashion sense, and even worse taste in music.”
Yeah pretty much what I have heard stated about Gen X’ers. I am not sure if you were trying to be ironic but it worked out that way.
Feb. 6, 2008, 8:23 p.m. CST
by Spandau Belly
I don’t have a problem with other people making zombie features. I also don’t feel like I’m bombarded by them. I realize DTV is chock o block with this genre, but DTV doesn’t really count when it comes to feelings of genre oversaturation.
Feb. 6, 2008, 8:24 p.m. CST
As much as you may have bought the people in Cloverfield filming at the beginning, it was a real stretch by the end to believe they would have kept filming through all the destruction (I’m trying not to be spoilery here, in case ppl haven’t seen it). Especially the final scene. Total reach. Here’s my problem with the whole found footage thing… it does lend a sense of realism, but there’s a reason we don’t want realism is some kind of flicks (ex: disaster, monster). People panicking as they actually would = severely annoying.
Feb. 6, 2008, 8:26 p.m. CST
Night of the Living Dead was first, and still stands out as among the best horror movies ever. It can’t be a fluke if you create the genre. Keeping up with it, that’s another thing entirely…
Feb. 6, 2008, 9:15 p.m. CST
I thought the corner animation was about the Sutherland version of INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS. Now I feel like an old fart.
Feb. 6, 2008, 9:15 p.m. CST
by Allfather Starr
I thought it was from the ’78 Bodysnatchers.
Feb. 6, 2008, 9:21 p.m. CST
You should check out [REC], a Spanish horror-zombie movie that uses the same found footage gimmick as Cloverfield, and this one (minus the youtube and security cameras back-up). It´s pretty much what you think it is, and even though I was very skeptical about it, I must confess I was pretty close to shitting my pants. It is very clever and has a great attention to detail that I’m sure you’ll appreciete. Although I must warn you there’s a bit of exposition there through the use of newspaper clippings pasted on a wall, a narrative device I know you hate a little. I hate it myself too, but I forgive them. I won’t spoil it, so do check it. Cheers.
Feb. 6, 2008, 9:47 p.m. CST
I love the original zombie trilogy but Land of the Dead was just awful. I remember hearing about the Dead Reckoning concept since the start of the internet. I always imagined a Road warrior type monster truck. When Romero got the chance to build it, we got an RV piloted by “The Pest” that shot off fireworks. You shouldn’t have George, no really you shouldn’t have.
Feb. 6, 2008, 10:26 p.m. CST
I submitted it with the subject line “Don’t tell Harry this, but I didn’t think DIARY OF THE DEAD was too hot either.” I meant that to be directed at Quint, who didn’t like the movie very much and got dissed by Harry for it. But literally every other review I’ve seen of the movie has been positive. So I do not mean to imply that most people “didn’t think it was too hot.”
JFP – yes, of course they gave an explanation for the camera in CLOVERFIELD, but you have to accept that they would still keep filming as they have close calls, as their friends die, as they call their moms to tell them their children are dead, etc. That is some disbelief you have to suspend. In DIARY the preposterousness of him still filming is the main theme of the movie and something the characters argue about.
I wasn’t criticizing CLOVERFIELD either, I thought it was pretty good. I think what Romero is trying for is more interesting, but CLOVERFIELD is better executed overall.
Feb. 6, 2008, 10:27 p.m. CST
by future help
George Romeros MASH.(Altman) and that’s cool with me.
Feb. 6, 2008, 11:55 p.m. CST
by half vader
he obviously made this one for the Zombies. Nice way to give back, George!
Feb. 7, 2008, 12:07 a.m. CST
i couldnt even get passed the first scene when they call fireworks, “Sky flowers”, thats so fuckin cheesy.
Feb. 7, 2008, 12:08 a.m. CST
Feb. 7, 2008, 12:25 a.m. CST
I’ma still see this one. Old-school Romero fans gotta come out and support the master, even when he’s got tater salad on his pants.
Feb. 7, 2008, 12:53 a.m. CST
Coz, you know, it aint really a zombie movie unless a biker gang shows up and starts throwing pies around.</p>
Is that what you alluded to in the warehouse? I hope so.</p>
PS Vern, sorry for reading your diary. But I did relate to last Tuesday’s entry about accidentallly backing up onto your thumb in the shower. I’ve done it too. Just goes to show how important it is to trim your nails.
Feb. 7, 2008, 1:05 a.m. CST
-I just can’t see this being something I’d like. Too gimmicky, and I wish he would’ve just made another post apocalyptic horror flick instead of doing something like this. Day of the Dead is my favorite of the original trilogy by the way…
Feb. 7, 2008, 1:42 a.m. CST
Feb. 7, 2008, 2:10 a.m. CST
You know, to be really current.
Feb. 7, 2008, 2:14 a.m. CST
Feb. 7, 2008, 2:18 a.m. CST
heck, I even like the dark half.
Feb. 7, 2008, 2:20 a.m. CST
I loves me some Chollo.
Feb. 7, 2008, 2:52 a.m. CST
And I’m sick to death of em. We need more original material in the genre, just like the brilliant Cloverfield, which is the bestest, film I’ve ever, ever seen in my little life. Actually that too was utter gobshite, should have called it Godzillacam the movie.
Feb. 7, 2008, 3:03 a.m. CST
You are not alone, Vern.
Feb. 7, 2008, 4:36 a.m. CST
by Lost Jarv
but I am going to avoid this like the plague- I fucking hate that stupid hand held documentary footage device.
Feb. 7, 2008, 5:37 a.m. CST
I don’t quite agree with the filmschool/Robert McKee school of thought that pretty much dictates “No voice-over ever!” Films like The Shawshank Redemption, Sunset Boulevard or American Beauty wouldn’t be have as good without their narration. I even love the voice-over in Gattaca. That said, in a movie like Diary of the Dead, it sounds like a terrible idea. This does not look promising.
Feb. 7, 2008, 5:40 a.m. CST
Not ‘have as good’. Because that’s just stupid.
Feb. 7, 2008, 5:52 a.m. CST
Haha! Yeah, I realized after I wrote it that it could come off as ironic since the same things were said about GenX. The key difference being that GenX actually did cool stuff, had cool music, and generally ruled. (Yes, I’m an aging GenXer, can you tell?)
Can anything touch the coolness of underground 80s music? Nope. And kids today are just wankers. Their music sucks, boring, tepid, faux-punk, tone-deaf lazy hiphop, and whiny-ass singer-songwriter crap. Oh, and cell phones. Lots and lots of camera cell phones and texting and videos of kids on YouTube being totally boring. You know its sad when youth culture goes from cutting edge to boring. B-O-R-I-N-G. GenX was the last time that youth culture mattered.
Feb. 7, 2008, 6:13 a.m. CST
Maybe they’ll do a quick edit and take out the voice over like Blade Runner. One can only hope.
Feb. 7, 2008, 6:19 a.m. CST
by Lost Jarv
I always thought that GenX was a mindset defined by Douglas Coupland.
But today’s you-tube generation is fucking horrid.
Feb. 7, 2008, 6:45 a.m. CST
How about putting up a huge spoiler warning about the Mummy thing or deleting it all together? That’s a great payoff moment and had the crowd I saw the movie with cheering. Here you are spoiling it for everyone to make some vague point about how you are smarter than George Romero or something.
Feb. 7, 2008, 6:52 a.m. CST
This movie was originally conceived as a series of short viginettes with a vague thru-line that would gradually appear online as though it was actually happening. When the financiers decided that they wanted to do it as a feature, a stronger narrative had to be incorporated via narration. It may not be subtle but it hardly ruins the experience and, without it, this WOULD be little more than The Blair Witch Project with zombies – which nobody wants.
Feb. 7, 2008, 7:26 a.m. CST
by Spandau Belly
Lots of people are doing new and different things with the zombie genre. Shaun of the Dead made a funny romantic comedy in the zombie genre. Planet Terror was a funny modern spoof and the Dawn of the Dead remake was a fun Rambo style cannon fodder feature. And you can even go further with movies like The Decent and I Am Legend, maybe they don’t call them zombies in those movies, but they’re still creatures that used to be humans that no longer have humanity and feast on the living so I’m not going to split hairs, and I liked both those movies.
I didn’t like the one Resident Evil flick I saw, but it wasn’t very Romero-esque until the bleak ending. The rest of it was more of a ninja infiltration movie. I also didn’t really like 28 Days Later, but thought it was a fresh take on the genre at the time.
Anyway, I don’t think zombies are tired or that only Romero can save this genre. Sure, I’d love it if some genius like Pedro Almodovar made a zombie movie and there’s definately a lot of unoriginal Romero rehashes out there, but there is also a lot of entertaining and original work.
Feb. 7, 2008, 7:26 a.m. CST
I love George and I was looking forward to this one, as I am anytime he comes out with a new Zombie movie. But i trust Vern so I’ll try going into this less excited. Is it also true that they are planning a direct sequel to this movie? I thought I had heard that before
Feb. 7, 2008, 7:45 a.m. CST
by Lost Jarv
But I was skeptical as soon as I heard about the stupid “documentary” thing.
Feb. 7, 2008, 8:03 a.m. CST
by half vader
and media snippets essentially serve that function anyway. I’m saying that having not seen the film but it seems to me that if you really went to town with the media thing as background noise for the events being played out it’d serve as a great and maybe deep narrative device for not only comment but juxtaposition and contrast as well. Ah well. Braaaaiiiiiiinnnnsss!
Feb. 7, 2008, 9:07 a.m. CST
is like watching your dad get beat up. Come on, George, you can do it! Get up!
Feb. 7, 2008, 9:43 a.m. CST
I really liked LOTD, it actually grew on me the more I watched it. However, and I don’t know if you caught this as well, but I was really distracted by how much they talked about Dead Reckoning. It seemed like every 6 seconds someone mentioned it. That’s really the most irratating part of it. I just feel so bad for Romero for the most part. I mean the guy has made one of the most classic series of movies in the horror genre and yet people like Michael Bay can just trash a classic and make millions and millions of dollars off of someone else’s property. I agree with you that there are WAY too many Zombie movies out there now. It’s starting to bug me too. I mean, they are just starting to become a joke and have lost most potential to be scary anymore.
Feb. 7, 2008, 10:05 a.m. CST
I should’ve taken a Dramamine before I went to see that.
Feb. 7, 2008, 10:20 a.m. CST
Even your diary wishes this post was shorter, I read a few paragraphs – nodded out, woke up – read a few more paragraphs, took a nap. Ate dinner. woke up – read for a few hours…and finally just couldn’t finish reading this post.
Try to be short. Concise. Make your point in a much quicker fashion.
Feb. 7, 2008, 10:25 a.m. CST
He is making a movie HE wants to make. He doesn’t have studios and suits telling him what to do this time. For that reason alone I will watch this movie and give it a fair shake. Does it mean it’s going to be good? no. BUT – at least it’s George doing what George wants to do. I’ll take a crappy George Romero zombie movie ANY DAY OVER ANOTHER PG-13 ASIAN HORROR REMAKE/ OR TORTURE PORN MOVIE. Any day of the week….even Hump-Day.
Feb. 7, 2008, 10:26 a.m. CST
get rid of Vern and hire me. heh. j/k.
by the way Harry – we haven’t heard from you since that whole Wolfman controversy – I hope the readers didn’t hurt your feelings too bad.
Feb. 7, 2008, 11:02 a.m. CST
by The Bandit
I dont think Romero is down for the count yet, Vern made a good point. I dont think he lost his grip, its just not as tight. And compared to all the other purely retarded shit out there passing for horror these days I’ll take a so-so Romero flick over that garbage any day of the week. I’m not sick of Zombies, they are and always will be my favorite of monsters, but I do agree that its being done to death right now. Zombies have become the new vampire. Before the flood of zombie movies we had pant loads of retarded shitty movies with vampires. Then 28 Days Later hit and its a new zombie age. I dont even think its the flood of zombie movies per se, rather that the majority of them are just fucking terrible and makes us want them to go away that much more. LOTD was not perfect, but it was a good movie. The major problems were that it was to slick, to clean looking, and half the cast was just fucking awful. Dennis Hopper and John Leguizamo were so wrong for LOTD that it hurt. However the progression of Romeros world made sense and was a cool way to go. It wouldve been pointless to just retread old ground, and we wouldnt want to see that so kudos to Romero for moving the world along. Zombies were still zombies, but they were changing. That was cool. The way the city was set up, the rich set up vs that of the poor, how the city is supplied by the raiding parties all that shit. The ideas were there, the story, the set up was there, just some of the choices in the execution werent what they shouldve been. I think it wouldve been better to continue on where LOTD left off and Rileys trek north, theres lots of potential there. Like fighting/seeing zombies in wilderness, theyd have to ditch that damn vehicle sooner or later and go on foot. Anyway the potential was def there to correct for the missteps of LOTD. But it was still a solid Romero flick. Havent seen Diary so I wont bash it, but my gut feeling isnt good.
Feb. 7, 2008, 11:23 a.m. CST
His execution isn’t always great, though. I love the original Night of the Living Dead, but I have to say that Tom Savini’s remake is better in my opinion, and that’s not just because I have a HUuuuUUuuge crush on Patricia Tallman, or because Tony Todd is the man. I liked it better because the mood seems more dire, and the characters are less two-dimensional than the original. Barbara is a real person in the Savini version; She freaks out, but she girds herself and deals with it. In the original, she screams and screams and screams and dies. End of story. She spends the entire movie stammering and screaming. She’s quite unlikeable. I almost wish Ben would bitchslap her a few more times to shut her up.
Savini’s Barbara, though, goes through the full range of emotions. She doesn’t get stuck on any one of them for long.
Now, Romero’s shining moment was Dawn of the Dead. This was his best work; His loveletter to zombie fans and his most accurate, biting social commentary. He brought his A-game to Dawn of the Dead, and while I do like the remake, it doesn’t improve on what Romero did. It only expands upon it (and I choose to see it as ANOTHER group of people in a different mall, where the ghouls are perhaps a little different (running- a temporary thing) but the outcome is much the same: Everybody dies because society is fucked. The original is superior in tone and story quality, but the remake has the advantage in character interaction.
Day of the Dead never impressed me. I always saw it as more of a preachy exploitation flick than a true ghoul flick. Romero gets kind of heavy-handed in this one, and he loses the narrative about halfway through. It’s good, but I think it’s the least of his films thus far.
Land of the Dead was a nice update for Romero’s ghoul flicks. I hated Dennis Hopper being in it (he’s always a complete ham that chews the scenery and plays himself; Not a character) but I liked the character progression for the ghouls themselves. They grew. They moved forward, and become more than just shambling horrors. The social/political commentary was a little obvious (proletariat fighting against a fascist regime) but the neat twist was that this was the first of his films where the zombies were the true protagonists; The humans were mostly bad guys, or at best, tolerant oppressors and rebels. However, as in most of his films, his character interaction is loose and falls apart. Romero’s dialogue is good enough, but sometimes feels forced, and sometimes feels too sparse. He never seems to find that sweet spot.
So with this new flick, I’m going to have to take it with a grain of salt. Romero is great and all, but he’s got flaws and I’m aware of them as a fan of his, and the ghoul genre in general (check the screen name). Even the worst parts of a Romero flick are better than the best parts of some other directors’ mvoies, and so he doesn’t fail– He just seems to fall short of the goals he sets for himself. You can see the end point, but you also witness him not quite making it there with each attempt.
Give the guy a budget, a good DP, and someone to help punch up h is dialogue, and you’d see something special.
Feb. 7, 2008, 11:26 a.m. CST
closed there. Imagine this in the right place, and pray to the AICN gods for an edit feature some time in the 21st century.
…a temporary thing))
Feb. 7, 2008, 11:47 a.m. CST
the train going with Return of the Living Dead. The first one is a classic. The second one was good camp that parodied itself. The third, forth, fifth, and whatever else came after that (without Dan’s input) were utter tripe.
I think the problem with horror movies IN GENERAL today is the fact that writers and directors are trying to cater to the wasted youth of this current YouTube generation. People with the attention spans of gerbils shouldn’t be your main audience for horror. This is why we’re getting all these hip, urban characters with a complete lack of gravitas. They’re cartoons compared to even Jason or Freddy’s first victims.
This is why horror movies are quickly losing the “horror” part in favor of jump scares, and why gore-porn is popular. The kids are jaded. They’ve seen videos of actual murders and suicides online. They’re hard to scare with the reality and finality of death, or the act of killing in and of itself. For them, the scare has got to SURPRISE them, or be so ridiculously gross that it’s overblown and cartoonish.
The rash of movies with hip, young people doing stuff with their camera phones and on MySpace are going to look silly to future generations. An entire generation being defined by their ability to send poorly-phrased IMs to each other is NOT good movie-making material.
Even the comic book re-imagining of EVIL DEAD has me upset, because they’re changing the characters around to please the YouTube/Social Networking sheep. Cheryl is no longer Ash’s sister; She’s just some vague friend of Linda’s. Scotty’s just some jerk of a guy Ash knows who can get him laid. Linda’s not the love of Ash’s life, or even the loyal girlfriend, but a piece of ass he’s just trying to fuck while they’re at the cabin. Instead of it being two best friends with their girlfriends and sister having a nice weekend getaway in the cabin, it’s a cheeseball opportunity to get laid (which they say more than a few times) and a fast-forward through the character interactions. The professor was transformed into a young man, and his wife was made into a young, hot woman (they look like they’re Annie’s age, and not old enough to have an adult daughter).
Why was this raping of EVIL DEAD undertaken? So the short attention spans of today can get the story on some primal level. As if writing out the characterizations will make young people (who consider “friends” to be those 2,895 people on their MySpace page) say, “Oh, I get it. They were there to get laid! Awesome!”
The BEST characterization of Ash in comics is the current Freddy vs. Jason vs. Ash series, which portrays Ash as the wise-though-brash “chosen one” and the modern college-age kids as inept, low-patience dolts with untapped potential. They make fun of Ash, treat him like crap, and then get their asses handed to them old school style by Jason and/or Freddy, while Ash rolls his eyes, says “I told ya so, kid.” and takes care of business in his own way.
Now THAT is horror done right.
Feb. 7, 2008, 12:30 p.m. CST
I gotta point out that this is really the movie he wanted to make. If you read any of his interviews about it he never mentions appealing to a younger audience or tapping into the zombie fan market or any of that type of shit. He just starts going off on his feelings about modern communication technology. He made the movie independently and without even securing theatrical rights until afterwards. Apparently he thought he might have to release it straight to DVD.
So I do think this is a movie he’s making from the right place, it’s not a cynical cash grab, and he says that working independently again has recharged him. I don’t think there’s any reason to be mad at him for making it. I just personally thought it didn’t work overall for the reasons described above in too much detail for some people. But those people are sissies.
Feb. 7, 2008, 12:45 p.m. CST
it’s always makes me happy (even though it sucks that it isn’t fair to George) that even though he doesn’t get the back-up he deserves that he still has the passion to make something that is his vision. So many people are in it just for a quick buck, at least he’s doing what he loves and doesn’t give a fuck what anyone else thinks about that. The guy gave us The Dead movies, Creepshow, Knightriders, we owe it to him to give the man his dues. I see so many people on here just trash Romero up and down, sure he has made some bad movies, but what director hasn’t. The man is a legend of Horror and don’t forget that.
Feb. 7, 2008, 12:56 p.m. CST
by Jaws Wayne
Hate to say it because I LOVE the original trio of Dead movies but I really think old George is nowadays making these films only for the money and nothing else. I hated Land of the Dead and if Cloverfield indeed is a more thrilling movie (I saw it at the cinema yesterday and thought it sucked a lot, shoulda picked I Am Legend instead I guess) I’m in deep shit. Everytime I read or see an interview with Mr. Romero it’s very clear he really doesn’t give a damn about any of his Dead movies (incl. the uber-classics) so maybe I should just give this a rent and pick another film next time we decide what film to see at the cinema.
Feb. 7, 2008, 1:13 p.m. CST
by 300 monkeys
dramamine is an over-the-counter motion sickness medicine, and you’re a flaming asshole.
Feb. 7, 2008, 1:17 p.m. CST
To be coming from Vern
This movie must of really fucked you all up. I’d recommend you go and watch Marked For Death immediately to perhaps get your groove back.
Feb. 7, 2008, 1:35 p.m. CST
Don’t be ashamed to hate it. You spend a lot of time covering your ass for seemingly no reason whatsoever.
Feb. 7, 2008, 1:59 p.m. CST
by Samuel Fulmer
The John Cassavetes of horror.
Feb. 7, 2008, 2:13 p.m. CST
Bad timing for this movie to come out with Cloverfield being similar in style. Now they just compared to each other non-stop.
Difference being: George did not want to work with a big studio. He wanted his own piece of art – the way he wanted it. Period. Just b/c some people think it’s not good – doesn’t mean it’s crap or that he sold out. yeesh.
Feb. 7, 2008, 3:44 p.m. CST
It’s not completely unheard of for directors to distance themselves from their work… they use the alias Alan Smithee when they feel their vision has been compromised and don’t want to be associated with the flick. I remember Tony Kale putting up a hell of a fight to get his name taken off American History X.
I love the Romero of old, but apart from Night and Dawn, I don’t think he’s produced anything remarkable. I’m not knocking him, as I stated earlier, he basically created the zombie movie as we know it. But as far as I’m concerned, his other work has been decent at best.
Feb. 7, 2008, 5:08 p.m. CST
I’ve seen Martin, I’ll give you that. It was a pretty innovative take on the vampire story, although I don’t think I’d consider it horror in the typical sense. I really wasn’t feeling Season of the Witch at all, and I haven’t seen the other two. Now that we’re on the topic though, Monkey Shines always gave me the willies. I know it’s not great horror (I can’t even remember if it was a good movie, I saw it so long ago), but that insane little helper monkey got to me.
Feb. 7, 2008, 5:16 p.m. CST
i liked land of the dead just because it was an b-movie with bmovie actors and a bmovie script. it didnt try to be teen horror movie #440. it was just a simple human story with zombie and human bad guys :) and it didnt have fast zombies or shakey cam. as for dairy of the dead , i’ll skip this cow of a movie. narration is balls ugly. how many movies has it worked in? the princess bride? evil dead/army of Darkness? some people might even say blade runner. also agree with ya vern, ‘blogger’ and ‘uploading’ dont really belong in a movie (cept independence day, uploading virus!!!! WOO!)
Feb. 7, 2008, 5:27 p.m. CST
Some well-respected critics have praised the film… Film Comment has a nice write-up – here’s the link: http://www.filmlinc.com/fcm/jf08/deaddiary.htm
Feb. 7, 2008, 6:06 p.m. CST
This sounded lame when I first heard about it and that review solidifies my opinion. Some films you just don’t have to see to know they suck.
Feb. 7, 2008, 10:20 p.m. CST
that review you linked to was shite. — “The original Night of the Living Dead was welcomed or repudiated as a schlock horror film; Diary will probably be welcomed as an art-house movie.” — this guy has his head way up his ass.
Feb. 7, 2008, 10:30 p.m. CST
…i hear you, sister, and have opined in too many talkbacks past about g.a.r.’s great run from _night_ to _dawn_, with _season_ especially worth a re-look. it’s a lost amerindie 70’s classic, drab, downbeat, unnerving. and, yeah. zombies. hasn’t george had enough? sure, and i have. i realize he won’t get _turn of the screw_ greenlit, but as vern reinforces here, george is not the deftest screenwriter, ever, anyway. maybe such red lights aren’t entirely bad things. and yet…jesus, the “elite critical establishment” (TM?) seems to be losing the testicles they never had over _diary_. e.g., robin wood’s just unbelievable essay in the latest _film comment_ – good looking out, bmkz – calling _diary_ a masterpiece. ditto nathan lee in the _village voice_, time out uk raves “wise and witty, finding him still, in the fifth of his zombie movies, drawing fresh blood while leaving ample meat to chew on…” please chew on these while your people call richard price, or someone. anyone. jesus. please. no more. _the death of death_, on the real, anyone?
Feb. 7, 2008, 11:30 p.m. CST
I’m not “covering my ass,” I’m being honest. I’m not gonna choose OWNZ or SUX for every single movie. Some movies are in between. There is plenty to appreciate in this one, but overall I don’t think it works, and I explained why.
Romero is one of my favorite directors, not just because of the DEAD movies but because of KNIGHTRIDERS, which might as well be my manifesto. So the fact that it doesn’t OWNZ is a huge disappointment to me. But I’m not some asshole who’s gonna pretend it’s worthless just to go on a righteous warpath. It’s not worthless. It’s just a failure. I don’t hate it. I just don’t like it very much.
Feb. 8, 2008, 8:42 a.m. CST
Is there really a white belts tight pants thing going on out there now? Up here in my Unabomber pad I don’t get to see a lot of the new trends right away. Please tell me that Vern is making that up and youngins are NOT wearing tight pants and white belts.
Feb. 8, 2008, 11:46 a.m. CST
Feb. 9, 2008, 1:39 p.m. CST
NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD’s horror was akin to Matheson’s “I Am Legend” novel: average Judys and Joes plunged into total nihilism. By the time that Romero cranked-out LAND OF THE DEAD, there was no grey (i.e. flawed characters)–only black and white: Dennis Hopper’s character is a political caricature. Summarizing DAY OF THE DEAD, Romero insists, “I went the other way and was too subtle with my themes of paranoia and mistrust.” Too subtle? That lousy movie is ripe with stereotypes and belabored messages. The worst line in a zombie movies is likely the concluding dialogue from the NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD remake. The heroine watches rednecks turn a rustic landscape into a zombie shooting gallery. She turns to the camera (!) and muses, “They (the zombies) are us and we are them.” I remember sinking in my seat until my ass hit the popcorn-stained floor.