A group of student filmmakers are shooting a horror movie when word comes through that the dead are rising. Director Jason (Close) and his girlfriend Debra (Morgan) decide to make for Debras parents house, and lead the company in a cross-country drive t
After returning to the fold with Land Of The Dead, a compromised mini-epic, George A. Romero gets back in the trenches with a micro-budget footnote to his ongoing zombie saga. It’s worth remembering that the original 1968 Night Of The Living Dead was part inspired by Richard Matheson’s novel I Am Legend and a slew of headlines about Vietnam. Land Of The Dead had its jabs against the Bush era, but Diary goes further in tackling the way that the War On Terror has turned America against itself, while giving the lie to the most recent bastardisation of Matheson’s text. Here’s a world in which an apocalypse doesn’t stop the authorities spinning every situation.
Diary’s hook - Blair Witch-style found footage chronicling a zombie outbreak - has been used a few times, putting Romero in competition with the low-budget Brit pic The Zombie Diaries and the high-energy Spanish effort [•REC] - not to mention Cloverfield’s monster twist on the style.
He matches the former two for horror, but trumps them in crazy inventiveness and humour. An early sequence finds student director Jason failing to get his cast to make anything of a conventional horror scene in which a mummy stumbles after a scream queen who contrives to fall out of her clothes as the monster attacks. This sets up a disturbing climax in which the principles restage the scene for real, with the now-demented director filming as his undead star persecutes a tough Texas chick (Amy Lalonde) who refuses to die quietly.
Though Romero still has his character weaknesses (a film studies professor with survival skills?), he remains unmatched for thumbnail characterisations which emerge during suspense-horror sequences. The mostly young characters here are as heroic, irritating and credible as earlier ensembles, and he retains a knack for coming up with high-pressure scenes we’ve not seen before.
A raw, vivid despatch from the frontline, this melds content with frights in classic Romero style. An outstanding exercise in showing the kids how to do it.