Diary Of The Dead (Alliance, 2007) D: George A. Romero, w/ Michelle Morgan, Scott Wentworth. Rating: NNNN; DVD package: NNNN
Until now, George Romero has struck me as an average director at best. Check out Two Evil Eyes and you’ll see what I mean. Beside Dario Argento’s The Black Cat, Romero’s The Facts In The Case Of M. Valdemar is drab and clunky: master shot, alternating close-ups and lots of coverage.
Diary Of The Dead changes all that. It’s far and away Romero’s best movie since Night Of The Living Dead 40 years ago, and one of the top six great zombie movies of all time. The road-trip structure clears away a ton of zombie-flick clichés. The fake documentary device develops character and lets Romero explore ideas involving information, trustworthiness and the Web. The long, complicated hand-held shots and remarkably fluid pacing give the movie a feeling of freedom even as it generates a growing sense of unease.
The story returns to the first night when the dead come calling and centres on a group of student filmmakers making a horror movie. Jason, the director, keeps shooting through some outstandingly gruesome zombie attacks.
Because the characters are together for a reason and all have an emotional investment in movie-making, the cast gets something to do besides the usual panic-and-scream. Michelle Morgan is energetic and thoughtful as the director’s girlfriend. Scott Wentworth as the middle-aged film professor with the plummy, boozy voice adds depth and contrast to the younger characters.
Along with the extensive and informative making-of material, there’s a selection of zombie flicks by MySpace contest winners. They’re not bad, particularly the one that features NFN Teller of Penn & Teller.
EXTRAS Director, cameraman and editor commentary, five-part making-of doc, deleted scenes, video production diary, more. Widescreen. English, French audio. English, French, Spanish subtitles.