It is often said that the late George A. Romero is the father of the zombie film, and rightfully so. Prior to his first 1968 feature film, Night of the Living Dead, the term ‘zombie’ was much more synonymous with the mindless Haitian-voodoo slave type rather than the rotting flesh-eaters that have become one of the key monsters in both cinema and pop culture over the past half century. Now, Romero’s version of the zombie are as recognisable as the vampires or werewolves that have come before them, and it is to writer/director Romero that we must send thanks for creating such a beloved sub-genre.
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6. Diary of the Dead (2007)
Romero’s films are known for their social commentary, with each one reaching varying degrees of subtlety. Diary of the Dead sees the director operating at the minimum end of the subtlety spectrum as he sets his sights on humanity’s recent need to live through lenses and screens.
Made at the beginning of the found-footage horror boom, Diary is framed as the film-within-a-film “The Death of Death”, a collection of footage documenting the encounters of a group of film students with the undead at the start of their uprising.
Debra, our narrator, tells us that she has added music to the footage in an effort to scare us and add more drama to the film. It’s an element normally absent from found-footage films, and for good reason, as it spoils the “authenticity” of what is intended to be a more realistic style, leaving you with the feeling that Romero couldn’t quite make the movie work by means of natural tension alone.
Undoubtedly the weakest of Romero’s Dead films, Diary of the Dead suffers from bland characters, poor acting, and a message so heavy-handed that, much like the featured zombies, you feel like you’ve been beaten over the head with it.
5. Survival of the Dead (2009)
Romero’s last directorial effort before his death in 2017 follows Diary of the Dead’s briefly seen Sergeant “Nicotine” Crockett and his gang of rogue soldiers as they get wrapped up in a war between two Irish families on Plum Island, a potential safe zone off the coast of Delaware.
Though Survival of the Dead’s characters are simply written and broadly played, they are at least characters, automatically giving this film an edge over Romero’s prior Dead entry Diary of the Dead. Kenneth Welsh (‘Twin Peaks’) in particular adds a few moments of humour as Patrick O’Flynn, the patriarch of the O’Flynn family with an accent to match his name.
While the central story is fairly fresh, there still isn’t much to keep you engaged at this end of Romero’s franchise besides a few new inventive kills (including the creative use of a fire extinguisher). Even then, these are hampered by unconvincing digital effects and a lack of zombies to execute them on.
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