Saturday, February 16, 2008

Diary of the Dead (George A. Romero, 2007)


It was a pleasant surprise watching this and realizing the film's not working under the same conceit of raw "found footage" like Cloverfield and The Blair Witch Project. It is in fact edited, working under the premise that a main character has edited together their footage into the film you are now seeing. It is a mockumentary of sorts. Spliced throughout is footage from an assortment of modern-day video imaging devices. The film is part zombie movie, part non-fiction "essay film," by way of an undergrad student trying her best at a Chris Marker account of the Zombie Apocalypse.

The film is at times clumsy and goofy, and in the end it doesn't quite build to a satisfying whole, but it does cohere, miraculously, even while Romero pulls out all the stops to cram in all his musings about the contemporary world in this one film. Many times it is quite inspired and effective: political impudence is yoked under one single line, the inevitability (and arbitrariness) of social frisson withheld in a single scene (when the all-white lead cast run in with an all-black commune), critiques of characters communicated through one single set-piece... all impressively deft. And even with the handheld camera schtick, Romero finds ingenious ways to offer us striking, expressionistic imagery, like in one surreal scene where the director lead character's horror movie is finally brought to life, his juvenile notion of genre filmmaking finally coming to sleazy fruition, with the cute blonde finally, after being stuck wearing it for the entirety of the film, getting her virginal white anachronism of a dress ripped off.

The last scene of the film is also rather evocatively Chris Marker-esque in its narratively unconnected particularity. It's hard to know what to make of it, because for one, it is, on the surface, rather mundane nihilism that's straight out of his previous four 'Dead' movies. One might roll his eyes at it. But it works far, far better when you see it less as Romero saying "My, humans are quite the transgressive creatures" for his 5th time, but as "the last thing Jason uploaded" - it asks us what horrors (as a culture characterized by progressive information dissemination but for some reason not by actual progress) are we so determined to expose ourselves to - must we have to witness and take up burden of - in order to feel "plugged in" to the world around us, so full of it as it is.

'Diary of the Dead' - 7/10

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