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Diary of the Dead

The Dead Do Tell Tales

In recent years, the zombie film has spelled box office gold with films such as 28 Days Later, the remake of Dawn of the Dead, and numerous others. Many of these newer films re-imagine zombies as frenzied, fast, and unrelenting which is a far cry from the slow, staggering, doddering zombies first brought to screen by George A. Romero in the original Night of the Living Dead. Leave it to George to reboot the zombie franchise and actually give us a message along with the gore in his latest, Diary of the Dead.

Jason (Joshua Close) and a bunch of his filmmaker friends set out to make a mummy flick in the woods of Pennsylvania. Itís hard not to find yourself thinking of The Blair Witch Project or Cloverfield at this juncture given the set up. In fairly short order, things go awry as the dead start rising from the grave and feeding on the living. An ambitious filmmaker such as Jason would be remiss to not document the end of the world and quickly his mummy project is ditched in favor of the shambling undead.

Far from being a Cloverfield, Diary of the Dead is less about nausea-inducing camera shakes and more about a re-envisioning of Romeroís original Night of the Living Dead. Unlike some of the later zombie films helmed by Romero, the world of Diary of the Dead is not yet overrun by zombies, but is just being introduced to the undead. In some respects, Diary of the Dead is a story that effectively runs in parallel to the original Night of the Living Dead and is a "smaller" film in many respects than the later films.

What also differentiates Diary of the Dead from many of its zombie film brethren is the political/social subtext. Romero is clearly raising questions about the MySpace/YouTube/blogging culture we live where anyone with access to the internet and an ounce of charisma can effectively become an "expert" or an "evangelist". Jason is the personification of these fears in many respects as he passionately captures "the real story" in the midst of an undead holocaust.

While Jasonís decision to document the rise of the undead while his life (and the life of his friends) is in peril is questionable, Joshua Close is amiable enough as the media critical filmmaker, Jason. The rest of the cast and performances are mediocre to serviceable which is nothing unusual for most zombie films (Romeroís included).

What weíre left with in Diary of the Dead is a creative rebooting of the "Dead" franchise that contains the gore/violence that zombie fanatics crave and a social/political message that has been largely absent from many of Romeroís zombie film successors. The "small" feeling of this film is a breath of fresh air and lends a slow burning sense of dread and claustrophobia thatís markedly different from virtually all of the recent zombie films. This is a diary worth reading.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars