|Title:||Diary of the Dead|
|Director:||George A. Romero|
|09.20.07||Alamo South Lamar||This Screening is part of event: FantasticFest 2007|
Fantastic Fest 2007.
There are a few immediate differences this year with the opening night that I liked. Firstly, the opening night film was in the 7 spot rather than the 9, so there's no extraneous first film to see before the "big" event. Secondly, the opening party was held in the parking lot behind the theater before the first movie, so you come early to pick up your badge and crap then it gives you an opportunity to hang out for a bit and meet up with old friends and not have to miss a movie to do so. Plus in typical Alamo fashion, there were morbid attractions like a challenge of eating chips sprayed with pure capsaicin extract or watching Zack take a cannon filled with blood and guts directly to the groin or seeing Tim League beat the everloving shit out of a pinata stuffed with raw meat and guts. Yet while all this went on, waiters carried around trays of fancy schmancy hors d'oeuvres.
Every year I come to this thing I feel more entrenched as a local filmgoer. It's strange and uncommon for me to be amongst a large group of people and know more than three of them. Movie geeks unite!
Anyway, George Romero officially gets extra points because when I showed up more than two hours before his film was scheduled to start, he was already out in the crowd hanging out and talking to his fans. Plus he said "fuck" during the Q&A but more on that later. Actually let's talk about it now. After the movie, he gave a really great Q&A that included his definitive... definition of the rules dealing with zombies. Paraphrasing, he said "It has nothing to do with infections or viruses or anything like that, if you get bit that just speeds along the process of dying and anyone who dies comes back because God or whoever the fuck's up there won't let them stay dead!" He was loose and open and gracious and very appreciative of the enormous amounts of fanboy love vibes being sent his way and it was awesome.
So when the lights went down, this year's Fantastic Fest impressed me once again. Thanks to the young filmmakers challenge, they actually had real FF bumpers this year instead of stealing from the various shorts, and more than that, they're good! and funny! Then they showed trailers for upcoming festival films (thus sealing Flight of the Living Dead's absence on my schedule for good) (and I saw different trailers with each film of the night), a new bit where veteran waiter Devin explains to the new folks how ordering food works, a new menu cover with breakfast specials, red bull, and illustrated guide to ordering (i guess someone tried walking into the kitchen the other day because he didn't know how it works), and George Romero's no-talk spot from when he was here last (playing to many many cheers). Then the movie started.
So... I don't want to be a negative nelly, but I'd heard beforehand from multiple people that Diary of the Dead was supposed to suck, then I heard from multiple other people who'd seen it that it did suck, so my expectations were on the floor. With that in mind, I walked out of the theater thinking it wasn't as bad as everyone said.
Diary of the Dead is sort of a "reboot" (ugh, if i was less tired I wouldn't use that term I swear) for Romero, taking the timeline back to the day the dead stopped dying. It's told as if we're watching a film student's documentary edited together by his girlfriend. Basically it's a group of friends who start off filming a movie when the news reports start coming in and try to make it to the girlfriend's parents house then to other forms of safety while all hell breaks loose.
Now, when I say it wasn't as bad as everyone said, that doesn't mean there aren't a lot of things I had a problem with. Like main characters and the structure of the whole film - kind of major problems to have with a movie - but when I wasn't cringing (the canadian girl from "San Antone... that's in Texas!" and the british drunk professor who is inexplicably... inexplicable are the two main perps), there was some stuff to like. Most of the actual zombie stuff was good, some of the gags were great (although it sucks that so many effects are digital nowadays), and although I thought the message was a bit on the nose, I respect that the message was there. I also can't decide if I liked the whole beginning conversation where Romero uses his film school characters to air his grievances over the genre he defined ("They can't run, they're dead! If they ran they're ankles would snap!") or if I found the self-awareness too much to bear.
I think the strongest aspect of the film (and Romero has always been really really great with this) was the sound montage of background news reports, radio broadcasts, and whatnot. I remember the ending of Martin how he zoomed out with the radio chatter clouding in and how effective that was... and in this film it establishes a lot of your basic zombies-are-here awesomeness that I can never get enough of. You know, news guys looking at the camera saying the dead are walking, scientists warning that you have to shoot them in the head, pundits arguing about the apocalypse... I don't know why but that stuff NEVER gets old for me. And this time around (as uncovered during the Q&A) Romero got a bunch of his "old buddies" to come in and supply voice work for that stuff. Buddies like Guillermo Del Toro, Simon Pegg, Stephen King, Wes Craven, Quentin Tarantino, and more. They're all mixed so well you may not recognize all of them, but it's cool when you do.
So... yeah, not as bad as everyone says. Give it a chance!