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Diary of the Dead(2007)
Jason Creed and a small crew of college filmmakers are in the Pennsylvania woods making a no-budget horror film when they hear the terrifying news that the dead have started returning to life. Led by Jason's girlfriend, Debra, the frightened young filmmakers set off in a friend's old Winnebago to try to get back to the only safety and security they know: their homes. But there is no escape from the crisis, nor any real home for them anymore. Everything they depend upon, all that they hold dear, is fractured as the plague of the living dead begins to spread. Jason documents the true-life horrors in a tense, first-person style that heightens the reality of each encounter. Even as his friends die, even as they are attacked by ravenous walking corpses at every stop along the way, Jason keeps filming, an obsessive, unflinching eye in the midst of chaos. The government first denies, then promises to quell the crisis, but can’t. Technology fails. Communication with the rest of the world becomes impossible. Jason and what remains of his crew end up on their own, a handful of lucky survivors, reliant on no one but themselves to stay alive. They take final refuge in a fortress of a mansion, but their sanctuary turns out to be a trap from which there is no escape. Throughout it all, the cameras keep rolling, recording every detail for future generations--if any survive.
For more about Diary of the Dead and the Diary of the Dead Blu-ray release, see Diary of the Dead Blu-ray Review published by Martin Liebman on March 12, 2009 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.0 out of 5.
Starring: Michele Morgan, Joshua Close, Shawn Roberts, Amy Lalonde, Joe Dinicol, Tatiana Maslany
Director: George A. Romero
» See full cast & crew
Diary of the Dead Blu-ray Review
George Romero's fifth 'Dead' film disappoints.
Reviewed by Martin Liebman, March 12, 2009
Who's going to be left to watch?
Legendary Horror filmmaker George A. Romero now has attached to his directorial credits a quintet of undead-centric pictures. Generally, the films have been a success, offering both social commentary and excellent Horror filmmaking that have been embraced by legions of fans the world over. His first two films, Night of the Living Dead and Dawn of the Dead, enjoy practically universal praise; the films heralded in an era of Horror filmmaking that only continues to gain momentum as the years go by with tales of the undead in film, literature, and video games cropping up faster than a corpse with a nasty bite to the neck. The middle films, Day of the Dead and Land of the Dead, have not been embraced by the Horror community in quite the same way as their predecessors, though each film enjoys a loyal and vocal fan base for a myriad of reasons, particularly as they both continue on with the legacy of the first two films, logically progressing the story lines and embracing Zombie lore in unique Romero fashion. Unfortunately, the latest film, Diary of the Dead, is a Dead movie in name only; it seems to be a reboot of sorts, following the exploits of a group of twenty-somethings as they document the initial outbreak of a zombie infestation. The film features a lackluster story, uninspired acting, minimal gore, and a noble yet ultimately underwhelming take on modern society that tries to be more haughty and self-important rather than satirical, the latter of which represents the trait that propelled its quartet of predecessors, particularly Dawn, into the stratosphere of Horror movie lore.
Dairy of the Dead follows a group of University of Pittsburgh students as they document an outbreak of the dead rising from the grave. The movie opens with Jason (Josh Close) directing a Horror film that will serve as his senior project for film school. Soon enough, they begin hearing reports of the outbreak on the radio. Panicked, some leave, some remain, and what follows is a film edited by Debra Moynihan (Michelle Morgan) based on Jason's footage entitled The Death of Death, a raw, uncensored, and horrifying document of one small group's account of the first days of the zombie outbreak. As the students traverse country roads in an RV, they capture on film the stress of the situation and the strain it places on their friendships, not to mention countless encounters with the undead along the road, in an abandoned hospital, and in their own homes. As members of the group succumb to the terror -- one way or another -- it seems that the camera, perhaps the only thing left that may document what has happened in brutally honest and uncensored form, is the only friend they have left.
Diary of the Dead is another in an ever-growing list of Horror pictures that capture the action in a first-person perspective, where the cameraman is both director and participant in the film. This "guerilla style" of filmmaking may be seen in films of varied quality, from the complete success of the style in Cloverfield to the good but somewhat unoriginal Quarantine, not to mention the love-it-or-hate-it The Blair Witch Project. Diary of the Dead is easily one of the lesser of the crop, both unfortunate and disappointing considering the legacy of its director. The film often feels like nothing more than a gimmick, but the novelty of the first-person, shot-on-video perspective just doesn't work quite as well here as it may have. Both Cloverfield and Quarantine are proof-positive that this style of filmmaking may not only work, but may work wonders in creating a tense, terrifying atmosphere where Horror is no longer confined to lavish sets and actors with well-rehearsed lines and movements. This style of filmmaking allows for a raw, disturbing look at what it may be like for any member of the audience to experience firsthand whatever terror may be present on the screen, be it a giant creature destroying New York City or an infestation of zombies across Pennsylvania. It then becomes somewhat difficult to judge the performances in such a picture as the primary cast is not supposed to be "acting" per se, but rather portraying real, everyday people caught in an extraordinary situation where they are expected to react and speak as not someone reciting a Hollywood script but rather emoting their own instincts, beliefs, and thoughts. Nevertheless, the film is scripted, haphazardly so, and littered with annoying characters and generic dialogue. Populating the film with a slew of little-known cast members adds to the realism of the experience, but there seems to be a disconnect between "rehearsed" and "real life," with the film never feeling at all real, but never playing as a straight Hollywood picture, either.
Where Diary of the Dead may prove most disappointing is in its failure to build on the legacy of the previous "Dead" films. Night, Dawn, Day, and Land witnessed the devolution of society coinciding with the increasing evolution of its undead inhabitants, but the series of developments as seen in those pictures seems to have been tossed aside for this entry. As mentioned above, Diary is more of a reboot of the Dead series rather than a true fifth entry. It certainly does not pick up where Land left off, that film showing a world attempting to cope with an established and semi-controlled outbreak of zombies. Here, the film witnesses an initial outbreak and continues to show the rapid decline of civilization and ends with what seems to be the message of the film, asking if modern society's reaction to the outbreak justifies mankind's further existence, postulating that perhaps mankind is a lesser creature than even the zombies who kill out of need rather than pleasure. Diary of the Dead is also a commentary on today's fast-paced, high-tech world and the dangers of failing to disclose the truth, no matter how ugly it may be. It does so by examining the role of both popular, mainstream media as well as the proliferation of "alternative" newscasters and venues across the world via the Internet where, it seems, information is divulged not only more quickly, but also more honestly, though still with its own biases. Still, Diary attempts to showcase the need for such outlets in showing the world as it is, not as media moguls and politicians wish it to be seen. It's an intriguing message, and leave it to George Romero to lend his brand of social critique to a zombie film; it's just a shame that the end product isn't nearly as fulfilling as it may have been.
Diary of the Dead Blu-ray, Video Quality
Diary of the Dead comes to Blu-ray with a 1080p transfer framed in a 1.78:1 window. As explained at the beginning of the film, the majority of footage was captured with a pair of high definition video cameras, and therefore the strength of this transfer is only as good as the equipment allows. Generally, the results are fine when taking into account the nature of the picture. Still, the video is occasionally all over the map, beginning with a hard green tint that is reminiscent of The Matrix and going on to feature a rather standard-looking HD video appearance while intercut with cell phone footage and stock imagery that looks like it was shot off a television, featuring scan lines and all. The film doesn't present excessive noise, save for some of the darker shots where it becomes very noticeable. These darker shots often reveal fairly nice and deep blacks that only occasionally stray towards a shade of gray. The video is dim in general, with mostly dull colors and average levels of detail. There is really little to the experience; a few brightly lit daytime scenes fare the best, as expected, with the highest levels of clarity and texture, but generally, this is a drab-looking film, and the Blu-ray captures the intended look nicely.
Diary of the Dead Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Weinstein delivers Diary of the Dead to Blu-ray with a generally lackluster Dolby TrueHD 5.1 soundtrack. In this case, the sound design works, for it never feels too powerful compared to the (intended) shoddy visuals seen throughout the movie. Therefore, it never allows for a video/audio disconnect, providing a clear soundtrack that doesn't completely overshadow the film's visual style. Dialogue is presented with a slightly less-than-adequate volume at reference level, but it's generally clear and precise and delivered well enough via the center channel. Sound effects are minimal but pan across the soundstage when called upon to do so; a speeding car moves from the center channel and straight through to the right both efficiently and effortlessly. Still, most effects, particularly gunshots, offer little in the way of a major sonic impact. The track is generally front-heavy and sufficient, and it's certainly not an eardrum-busting experience.
Diary of the Dead Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Diary of the Dead features a handful of additional materials. First up is a commentary track with Writer/Director George Romero, Director of Photography Adam Swica, and Editor Michael Doherty. This is a nice track that Romero fans will appreciate. Romero discusses the ideas behind the film, including its take on the "emerging media." He and the other participants discuss more mundane details behind the shoot, too, including heavy discussions about the edits, the flow of the film, the strengths of the cast, and more. Character Confessionals (480p, 19:47) features "Debra," "Eliot," "Tony," and "Tracey" speaking directly to the camera as they address the horrors of the experience and send messages to their friends and family, among other things. The First Week (480p, 4:23) features Independent Filmmaker Michael Felsher providing viewers with a lighthearted glimpse into the first days of the shoot, discussing the reboot of the Dead series, the look of the film, the weather during the shoot, the making of various scenes, and more.
The Roots (480p, 2:06) is a brief piece where Director George Romero discusses the differences between this film and the other Dead films. Familiar Voices (480p, 5:14) features a glimpse into the special guest stars that lent their voice work to the film, including Stephen King, Simon Pegg, and Guillermo del Toro. For the Record, the Making of 'Diary of the Dead' is a five-part, feature-length documentary that examines the process of bringing the film to life. Master of the Dead: Writer/Director George A. Romero (480p, 13:20) features a plethora of participants sharing their thoughts on the legendary filmmaker, in addition to interview snippets with the director himself. Into the Camera: The Cast (480p, 17:07) takes a look at the various actors that appeared in the film and the characters they portrayed. You Look Dead: Make-Up Effects (480p, 10:58) examines the film's grisly special make-up effects with Greg Nicotero, Kyle Glencross, Chris Bridges, and Neil Morrill. A New 'Spin' on Death: Visual Effects (480p, 19:03) looks at the production of many of the visual effects with Steven Lewis and Colin Davies. Finally, Myspace Contest Winners showcases five award-winning fan-made Zombie short films.
Diary of the Dead Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Diary of the Dead represents a good idea gone somewhat awry. True to the spirit of the Dead films, it offers a social commentary, but it's presented with more of a heavy hand rather than with a more satirical, less in-your-face edge. Untrue to the other Dead films, this one is unconnected to the other entries in that it seems to veer off into its own timeline and begins the franchise anew by featuring an initial zombie outbreak. With rather uninteresting characters and situations, not to mention only a few fleeting scenes of gore, Diary of the Dead may very well disappoint longtime Romero fans. Weinstein's Blu-ray release of Diary of the Dead is about as expected. Obviously, the video quality varies and is only as strong as its source. The lossless soundtrack is a bit subdued, though it is more fitting to the visuals than is the thunderous track accompanying Cloverfield, for example, which is fantastic but seems overkill for the style of filmmaking. Lastly, the studio has seen fit to include a fine selection of bonus materials. Diary of the Dead is worth checking out, particularly for those hardcore Romero and Zombie film fans; most will be best served by giving this one a rental.
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Diary of the Dead Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Diary of the Dead Coming to Blu-ray - September 10, 2008
In an early announcement to retailers, The Weinstein Company has revealed that they will bring the latest George A. Romero film 'Diary of the Dead' to Blu-ray on October 21st. As this is an unofficial announcement, no additional details regarding technical specs ...
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