Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Jason watches "George Romero's Diary of the Dead"

At the fabulous Parkway Theater, meaning with pizza and beer. Yummy, if only they made a pizza with braaaains! I'm a huge George Romero fan. To the point that I understand the zeitgeist of the decades by looking at the "* of the Dead" movies:
  • 60's--"Night of the Living Dead" = Race issues (first horror movie with a black hero)
  • 70's--"Dawn of the Dead" = Rampant consumerism
  • 80's--"Day of the Dead" = Military buildup
  • 00's--"Land of the Dead" = Class warfare, the gap between the haves and the have-nots widens (also the one where "the zombies are us" is most telling)
  • 00's, part 2--"Diary of the Dead" = New media, and distrust of all media.
A group of film-school students, along with their professor, are shooting a cheesy horror film (and taking a dig at fast-moving zombies) when the dead come to life. As they witness what happens--and the official news cover-up ('they're not dead, they're illegal immigrants with exotic diseases!')--they decide to document it all and upload it on the Internet so everyone can know the truth. By cutting back on the technology, Romero throws a lot of ideas into this movie, and makes the best Dead movie since "Dawn" (the original, of course).

So I want to say something to all the people who compare this to "Cloverfield" with zombies. You guys are completely missing the point. In "Cloverfield" (which was technologically impressive), the hand-held effect is meant to make it feel more immediate and real, like a home movie (the fact that there were such ridiculous plot holes sort of destroyed that effect, but that was definitely the intention). In "Diary of the Dead", Romero isn't going for realism, he wants you to question what you see--not just in this movie but in everything. In the beginning, the character named Debra tells you that she's the editor (i.e., this was edited!), what the movie was shot on, even that she added music to intentionally try to scare you (incidentally, this faux-documentarian inserting herself into a movie would be unheard of pre-Michael Moore). And it doesn't just use the student's footage, there's security cameras and news stories, too. So it's wrong to compare it to the home-video style of "Cloverfield". It's more akin to Brian DePalma's "Redacted", which makes similar statements about mistrusting news reports. Rather than using a home video style to make you believe in the reality more, George Romero uses a variety of footage--mixed media, if you will--to point out the unreality of everything you've ever seen, including this movie.

George Romero has long had a reputation as the nicest guy working in horror. With this movie, I wonder if he's final become a cynical, misanthropic bastard who actual believes humanity doesn't deserve to survive. As for me, as long as humanity can make movies like this, I'll let it keep going.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Oh, btw... Thanks for the pizza and beer, dude...