‘Diary of the Dead’ Blu-ray Review
‘Diary of the Dead’ is the ambitious latest entry of ‘Dead’ films by George A. Romero, but this title is not a part of the quadrilogy. ‘Diary’ is set to be a whole new take on the zombie invasion using a more surreal like filming experience following the filming style that was also used in ‘Cloverfield’. While ‘Diary’ received a very limited run in theaters only bringing in under $1 million dollars, the film was a huge gamble by Romero. Weinstein/Genius would releases the film on DVD under the Dimension Extreme label which has totaled nearly $4.5 million dollars in sales. With the film set to release on Blu-ray in less than two weeks, this will be Weinstein’s first title under the Dimension Extreme label to be released on the Blu-ray format.
‘Diary’ is about a film crew that is in the woods shooting a horror movie for a class project. They are shooting a mummy movie with the students and their teacher. Things are going awry on their set to begin with due to Ridley Wilmot (Phillip Riccio) and Tony Ravelo (Shawn Roberts) arguing with each other. Reports break through that the dead are coming back to life as their friend Elliot Stone (Joe Dinicol) is first to hear this and he informs the group. Ridley decides to head back home in Philadelphia, along with his girlfriend Francine Shane (Megan Park). Student director Jason (Joshua Close) decides that he needs to find his girlfriend Debra (Michelle Morgan) and film this adventure to show people what is really happening since the media is taking their twist on this epidemic. While the group splits, this culminates in the students editing the film footage that they recorded off of their camcorder, professional camera (they found), cell phone, and the security tapes in the home and warehouse. The film would be titled ‘The Dead of Death’ and uploaded to YouTube for the world to see.
I am happy to say that Romero sticks to his formula of why the zombies have come back to life in the present era, and never looks back to try and explain the dead walking the earth. A lot of it is left to your imagination, but it is better left unexplained than trying to bring science into the mix. ‘Day of the Dead 2’, which was released a few years ago by a different directing team tried to tie Romero’s universe into their film as a sequel and going the lengths to give a horrible explanation as to why the dead came back to life. To me, that is a big no-no for the Romero universe.
Earlier I mentioned that Romero sticks to the formula about the zombie’s origin, he also sticks with the formula on creating undertones and the social issues that are currently occurring at that time. From ‘Night’ to ‘Land’, each movie has had undertones which at first your average Joe would not get because they are so well a part of each movie’s plot not sticking out like a sore thumb. With ‘Diary’, Romero decided to go a little bit of a different direction and instead of making the tones underlying we get hit right in the face from start to finish. The social issue in ‘Diary’ which some may get and others may not, even though it sticks out as a sore thumb is our growing obsessions with the YouTube, MySpace, Blogging, and community based internet product.
It goes to show that it has become an obsession to see how others are living out their lives and what they have to talk about. Many of us fall into that category that read blogs, have MySpace pages, or blog for others to read our thoughts and understand where we are coming from. In ‘Diary’ the obsession was to film the events and then get the edited final product to the internet hoping that people can save themselves and others from being zombified. Surviving for the cameraman a few points throughout the movie was something that wasn’t as important at a few points in the movie due to his obsession with trying to film even when in danger. Even so obsessive that instead of Jason comforting his girlfriend many time throughout the movie, he is just plain obsessed with filming. This is where it also makes you think that someone like Jason’s character is selfish due to his obsession.
While I thought that this was a great angle and idea for ‘Diary’, we were hit with the social commentary way too much throughout the movie. This is very unlike Romero as I stated earlier, Romero uses underlying tones in a way that you have to think for the past ‘Dead’ films. I’m not too sure if he did this intentionally or he felt from experience that in the previous ‘Dead’ movies that people just didn’t understand his social commentary. He was pimping his message like a pimp pushing his whores to make a buck. If I could go through and edit the movie myself, I would remove the black and white ‘news’ scenes as there was no need for them.
I am glad to report that the film work in ‘Diary’ is done in a way that you won’t get sick like in ‘Cloverfield’, but also makes it feel a bit unbelievable due to the HD camera’s being used. I liked ‘Cloverfield’, but the shaky camera just got a bit annoying and I am glad that this didn’t happen here. The camera work was between ‘Blair Witch’ and ‘Cloverfield’ where it wouldn’t make you sick. The camera work comes together fairly well, but there was no real need for some of the music that was used throughout, killing the real world feel. That is something that I’m not too sure if Romero was going for here with the real world feel or trying to hit the middle ground.
One thing that bugged me the most had to do with the editing of the film that was happening along the way. Jason, the lead cameraman was finding time to make edits, which in a situation like this would be hard to do in general. I guess this goes back to the obsession.
Romero doesn’t lose his step with the kills this time, and even takes a page out of Fulci’s ‘Zombi’ which had some awesome zombie kills. The two that stood out the most without spoiling things had to do with ‘Samuel’ and taking the reaper like weapon to kill a zombie and then the ‘defbulator’ scene was just plain awesome. Funny thing that I will say is that the zombie at the beginning of the film in the newscast looks almost like the zombie from the apartments in ‘Dawn’, except with no hair.
The print is presented in 1080p/AVC-1 with a 1.85:1 aspect ratio. ‘Diary’ is yet another Weinstein release that has an upgraded picture quality over the DVD. The print is rather clean with much less apparent grain than the theatrical and DVD version. I do miss some of the grain though since it gave the film a more realistic amateur film making experience. The clarity though helps bring much more details to the film than there was before. There is a bit of softness throughout the print and again another Weinstein film where the yellow tint/crush is found throughout the film. I will say that overall I am very satisfied with the print on Blu-ray.
The audio is presented in a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 mix that doesn’t disappoint either. You hear a lot through the surround speakers in this film with the zombies moaning, groaning, and hissing their way for food. The sound effects during the tense scenes sound very good and dynamic. The dialogue is clear and crisp through the center channel.
- Feature Commentary by Writer/Director George A. Romero, Adam Swica and Michael Doherty
- For The Record: Feature Length Documentary on Film’s Cast, Crew, & Creation
- The Roots: The Inspiration For The Film
- The First Week: A Visit to the Set
- Familiar Voices: Cameo Outtakes
- MYSpace Contest Winners: 5 Zombie Films From Filmmaker Fans
- Character Confessionals
In no way did I dislike ‘Diary’ and I am ready for Romero’s next installment in the original ‘Dead’ quadrilogy series which is said to release next year. There are flaws in this movie and things I wish that would have been conveyed differently to the audience. I understand that the real world cam was used to get his message across and will probably not be the focal point in his next film. Many of the reviews that I have read are giving Romero too much flack for this direction, while in some respects I agree, in others I disagree. I think the acting could have been better, that is one area that just really needed some work, but I found Michelle Morgan whom played the role of Debra to be the best out of the entire crew. The Blu-ray version of the film is very strong in video and audio quality, I highly recommend the upgrade from the DVD.
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