February 21, 2008


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George A. Romero’s Diary of the Dead (R)
Pretentious college students and their drunken professor flee their zombie-infested university in an RV in search of a safe haven in George A. Romero’s Diary of the Dead, a light and silly but nonetheless fulfilling zombie movie from the king of zombies.

Diary of the Dead is a movie within a movie (sort of) about a young filmmaker who documents the rise of the zombies and the friend who finished the film so that it could “get out there” and “let people know the truth” or some such somberly intoned nonsense. Jason (Joshua Close), the charming auteur, is in the middle of making a mummy movie for his student film project when he finds out via radio report that the dead are rising. He decides to go get his girlfriend Debra (Michelle Morgan) and eventually they join some half a dozen other college students in an RV headed toward their respective homes. Their booze-soaked professor Maxwell (Scott Wentworth) pulls himself out of the bottle just long enough to aimlessly join them. Naturally, it’s not long before they have some encounters with the zombies that are soon filling the hospitals, small towns and roadways, not long before some students wind up dead, not long before they become undead. Soon, the “official” world of TV networks and the National Guard are gone and their journey becomes a tour of the informal new authorities — self-produced or haphazardly uploaded video clips and people with guns making rules for the people with fewer, smaller guns.

Oh, sure, maybe there are some deeper meanings adding sociology class-style subtext to this story but personally I think I saw more of that in Land of the Dead, which had this weird socioeconomic message under all the flesh-biting. Maybe it’s because of the very The Blair Witch Project seriousness of the voiceover or because of the borderline self-parodying dialogue — including a character who on several occasions chirpily and slightly menacingly reminds everyone not to mess with Texas (Amy Ciupak Lalonde) — but I didn’t find some deeper place to go with Diary of the Dead.

But, I didn’t want or need one. Diary of the Dead is just fine for what it is — a well-made zombie movie with moments of humor (some of it of the dark, gallows variety) and moments of gore. B-

Rated R for strong horror violence and gore, and pervasive language. Written and directed by George A. Romero, Diary of the Dead is an hour and 35 minutes long and is distributed by The Weinstein Company.