I saw Diary of the Dead the other night Oh, I'm sorry. I mean I saw George A. Romero's Diary of the Dead. I have to say I was pretty disappointed. I'm a fan of the zombie genre of which Romero is obviously the master. (The original Dawn of the Dead is one of my all time favorite movies. Not one of my favorite zombie movies. One of my favorite movies, period.) His new effort left me pretty unmoved though. I think it comes down to three factors:
1) I think zombies are officially played out. The film's opening scene which featured corpses rising out gurneys to chomp on EMTs failed to inspire any sense of dread. We've seen the zombie outbreak so many times before that it leaves the viewer unaffected. We know exactly what's going to happen and how the ghouls are going behave. It's so commonplace that we almost feel that the film's characters should know precisely how to react in the situation to protect themselves. Of course, they don't. Despite a couple of reliably imaginative killings there's very little here we haven't already seen.
2) I just saw Cloverfield a few weeks ago which used the first-person-hand-held-camera gimmick to undeniably more gripping effect. The fact that both films were released within a month of each other is surely a coincidence but Diary can't help but suffer by comparison. Romero obviously wanted to use this approach revitalize and re-imagine the genre which he pioneered and to make a sociological point. Which brings us to...
3) He makes the same point over and over and over and over again, explicitly and unimaginatively, violating the cardinal rule of "show, don't tell." That Dawn of the Dead was a film about consumerism is no secret to anyone but Romero mainly let it play out in the subtext. Here he seems to take every opportunity he can to drive home his opinions on 21-century media whether though the stilted, didactic dialog or the periodic breaks in the action for a few minutes of voice over which are distracting at best and extremely annoying at worst.
There are a few things to like in Diary, mainly the moments of humor. A bit where a character explains exactly why zombies can't run is particularly rib-tickling. However, you probably won't regret skipping this one or at least waiting for the DVD. I'll give George this: at the very least Diary of the Dead does plausibly seem like the kind of movie an opinionated but not-so-bright college kid would assemble on their laptop. Ah, the folly of youth.