Diary of the Dead

So a few months ago I started doing stand-up comedy at a local bar on open mic nights with a few friends of mine. Most of the time the audience either laughs hysterically, groans in unease, or doesn’t pay me any attention at all because they’re only there to drink. However, one thing I’ve noticed is that my cruelest jokes are the ones that get the biggest laughs. I learned a thing or two about desensitization a few weeks ago when I was doing a set that was going particularly downhill. I was going over my list and dishing out a few planned jokes that received average responses. Then I decided to improv a joke. I said, “They say laughter is the best medicine…but I can’t figure out why the children in the cancer ward keep dying after I visit…” The crowd went apeshit with laughter and I decided to end my set there, horribly confused by the fact that the “children dying of cancer joke” was their favorite of my entire routine. This leads me back to desensitization. Around that same week, I had the privilege of seeing George Romero’s latest entry in his epic Living Dead saga, “Diary of the Dead”. This film has been bashed more than a black zombie breaking into a Georgia plantation and I can’t figure out why. “Diary of the Dead” is stellar fun and a great achievement to Romero’s series. Perhaps these naysayer critics are forgetting the point of horror in the first place. The point of this film is that we’re desensitized as a culture and I guess some people don’t like being reminded of that.

Taking place during the original zombie outbreak started in “Night of the Living Dead,” the movie follows a group of friends filming a horror movie for college credit. Along with their professor, they’re shooting in the woods when they hear news of the strange outbreak on the radio. The gang hops in their RV and decides to return to their respective homes until things blow over. Well for those of us who have seen the rest of the series, we know how that goes. Needless to say our filmmakers find themselves caught in a state of mass confusion when they begin encountering the living dead at every turn. It’s like starting from scratch. They don’t know about headshots yet. They don’t know that bites cause infection. They also don’t know how to properly shoot a horror film, but that’s not the point. As many former survivors have done, our team tries to find safe shelter where they can fend off the hordes of zombies lurking about.

One thing that I particularly liked about the film that others seem to hate was the use of first person shooting in the movie. Everything is filmed from the perspective of the student horror film’s director so he can document the mayhem for those who don’t know what’s really happening. Though many fans are against this “Blair Witch” approach to a Romero film, I think it was a great step for his series. One, it helps push the film’s subtext that we’re attracted to violence. We’re so desensitized by the things we’ve seen that we have no hesitation to film the problem instead of trying to fix it. Two, it also shows how reliant we’ve become on technology. Amidst the outbreak, the lead character uploads his footage to MySpace so that people can see the truth that’s happening. Within minutes he has thousands of hits. Instead of boarding up the windows like our classic heroes and heroines did back in the day, our technologically-advanced culture is logging onto a friendship community to find out what’s happening. But as this film shows us at times, when the technology is gone, so is our confidence.

Like the last few zombie flicks we’ve seen, “Diary of the Dead” utilizes mostly CG blood to pull off its violent scenes and as usual I think it works just fine. In terms of scares, I think the film succeeds as well. The first person perspective really adds a lot of dramatic tension to certain scenes and even has you screaming at the guy to put the fucking camera down and help. In terms of realism, the film also succeeds pretty well. The camera’s battery doesn’t last forever and they have to sometimes stop to charge the camera or film with the AC adapter plugged into it. The film not only uses the main camera but others like security cameras to add tension. Though “Diary of the Dead” is supposed to be a finished film, it still works because the characters explain to each other during the movie that they’re using the security camera’s signal to add it to their footage. So for the most part, all of the bases are covered.

All in all, I really dug this film. Don’t trust the negative reviews and see it for yourself. If you’ve stuck with Romero for this long, you’re sure to enjoy this installment. I personally think it’s better than “Land of the Dead” and I still thoroughly enjoyed that one as well. So suck it up, admit you love watching people being murdered and that you rely on technology for information and guidance and enjoy the film.

Andrew’s Hidden Message: I mean hey, if you didn’t love violence and trust technology, you wouldn’t be on this website right now reading this would you?

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~ by exploitnation on April 17, 2008.

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