'George A. Romero's Diary of the Dead" isn't the best thing the legendary horror filmmaker has ever done, but next to "Cloverfield," it's a work of art.
I should explain that, just like that queasy monster flick that, for some reason, made a lot of money recently, "Diary" is also a film where someone captures a horrific, catastrophic event all on camera. But whereas "Cloverfield" literally nauseated audiences into submission, attempting to pass along some flimsy message about our video-recording-crazy culture in the process, Romero does it right with "Diary."
First, the camera is always in focus, so you'll keep whatever is in your stomach -- at least, until the first goriest thing you see in the movie happens. Technically a movie-within-a-movie, "Diary" has a bunch of college kids shooting a horror flick in the woods. When flesh-eating zombies start surfacing, their plans are halted and they all hop back on their camper so they can head to their respective homes. But the young, opportunistic director (Joshua Close) is still intent on shooting everything he sees, even his cast and crew fighting off these zombified humans. (That's another beautiful thing that makes "Diary" superior to "Cloverfield": everyone in the movie points out how absurd -- and cowardly -- it is for this guy to film everything during such a deadly crisis.)
Supposedly, a "rebooting" of the whole "Dead" franchise, Romero wakes up the dead to wake up the viral-video generation. With the movie itself shot on everything from digital cameras to camera phones to security cameras, Romero uses mixed media to lay out how new media can be both a blessing and a curse. It can oversaturate us with images and information that can be heavily manipulated, but it can also give us the truth. (It's in this instance that I find that "Diary" is not only better than "Cloverfield," it's also better than Brian De Palma's Iraq war mess "Redacted.")
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Of course, I would be remiss to not mention that what's really cool about this flick (and, probably, what you really care about): all the different, ghastly ways people go about cranially taking out zombies. Bullets, arrows, acid, a scythe: you gotta love the myriad inventive techniques Romero comes up with for his zombies to take it to the head. It's great to know that, even at 68, that guy is still one sick freak.
Even when he thickly lays on the social commentary (that forever-shooting director's girlfriend mostly narrates the movie, hipping you to all the deep stuff you've already figured out), as well as the always-persistent subtext of who are really the true zombies, "Diary of the Dead" is still a much more potent -- and much more entertaining -- bit of thought-provoking terror than, you know, that other film I'm tired of mentioning.
Let's just say that when it comes to movie massacres with a message, I'd rather deal with an old pro, like Romero, who knows what he's doing, than some hipster doofuses who just end up making you vomit all over the necking couple in the next row.