Diary of the Dead [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray ALL - America - The Weinstein Company / Genius Products
Review written by and copyright: Pat Pilon (18th December 2008).
The Film

Preceding movies like 'Cloverfield' and 'Quarantine', 'Diary of the Dead' is shot from the perspective the characters by the characters, in the hopes of making the movie more immediate, personal and the atmosphere more pressing. It works well, based on the story told. The movie takes place during the outbreak of a zombie infection and attack. One aspiring filmmaker Jess (Joshua Close) decides to document the unfolding events, partly because the media is not telling the truth and partly out of desire to be famous (though he'd never tell the latter reason to his girlfriend Debra (Michelle Morgan) and other friends he's travelling with). Hence, the title, 'Diary of the Dead'.

Despite what the box cover says, this movie is not a masterpiece. It's a zombie movie missing the punch of director George A. Romero's earlier flicks. Gone are the days of mindless zombies losing their heads while walking around in a shopping mall. 'Diary of the Dead' is more about survival. There are some none-too-subtle lines of dialogue about the media and how they distort the message. On a more personal scale, ambition and voyeurism are explored by various characters. However, these aren't the subtlest messages and don't seem as well thought out as, say, some ideas in 'Dawn of the Dead'.

Gorehounds will also be a bit off-put by the lack of violence. Oh, there are tons of gunshots to various parts of the body, but zombies dismembering people and getting their heads completely blown off are strangely absent from this movie. Perhaps Mr. Romero didn't want to shock the viewer as much as he did and wanted us to concentrate on the human story at the core of the movie.

This would be a lot more convincing if the acting were somewhat better. 'Diary of the Dead' is star Michelle Morganís first movie (and first starring role, no less) and her inexperience shows. She seems slightly uncomfortable talking straight to the camera and some slight self-consciousness shows through. That's not to say she's completely ineffective, but some scenes stand out more than others. The rest of the actors are much the same, though people taken in by the human story will not likely mind the average acting. On the other hand, fans of horror will get a real kick out of the newsreaders coming in the background or over the radio. Wes Craven, Simon Pegg, Guillermo Del Toro, Quentin Tarantino and Steven King lend their voices as news announcers.

There is, however, much to like about the movie. Zombies are zombies, and tons of dead bodies abound. The action is well done and shot very well. There are some genuinely scary moments, as the point of view is always first person. There's never any time where you see something you shouldn't. The characters' eyes are your eyes and this makes for some intense little moments.

Being shot completely in this way, also, there are some technically very impressive scenes. Some shots go on for much longer than you expect them to, given that at times only one camera is used to record the action. The scene in the woods near the start of the movie especially impressed me. Looking at the editing, Mr. Romero seamlessly weaves from camera to camera, never jumping to a spot he's not supposed to. It took a lot of thought to do this, and it's well done.

If you can get past the acting, the human story is also nice. It's typical survival fare, but it's done much better than in a few other movies I've seen ('Zombie Honeymoon', 'War of the Living Dead', for example). It can be engaging and the drama is there for people who want it.

The movie has its flaws but it's a nice watch. Mr. Romero, as of this writing, is making the third part of this new trilogy (if that's what it ends up being, though in the extra he talks about it being a re-energizing of a zombie series, while 'Land of the Dead' was the fourth part of a series so I'm not sure what's going to happen), and it will be interesting to see how he handles things. 'Diary of the Dead' isn't as good as his earlier efforts, but there's something to like in it. If nothing else, at least Mr. Romero's touch can be seen in this movie, and that should be enough for some people.


1.85:1 widescreen, using the MPEG4/AVC codec. The picture here is not limited by the transfer, but limited by the cameras used. The movie was shot on high-def video, and the cameras are actually mentioned in the movie. As such, the picture is clean and clear, but isn't perfect. During the darker moments, some noise creeps through. Colours are good, but slightly dull. This is due mostly because of the lighting, though. The contrast is a bit thin, as well. However, the picture looks appropriately creepy and gives the look the director wants.


The main audio track is an English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 track. There are also Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks in English and French, as well. The lossless track is very nice, showing good range. There are plenty of small little quiet noises coming from around the people, especially outside. When the zombies jump at you, the music kicks in, loud and clear. The dialogue is always clear, though sometimes it's a bit too loud. This, however, is never a problem. The movie has a nice, creepy atmosphere and the audio only amplifies this. It's a good mix.
English (HoH) and Spanish subtitles are here.


The Weinstein Company and Genius Products were very nice to this movie, giving fans a plethora of great extras. First up is an audio commentary by writer/director George A. Romero, director of photography Adam Swica and editor Michael Doherty. These three have a very good time explaining their movie to you. They talk a lot about the editing and how they cheated some of the edits. They point out where some edits don't make sense and where hidden cuts occur. It's a very interesting talk. They also talk about the different aspects of the filmmaking, like the subjective camera work and how the movie evolves from that style of shooting. They mention the CG shots. It's an intelligent discussion of the movie, as they justify every decision made, whether good or not. They knew what they were doing when they shot something this way or that. The gore and its place in the movie is also mentioned briefly. Some of the themes are also discussed here and there. Fans of the movie will definitely enjoy this track, and it's a very nice listen.

Some Character Confessionals are next. In characters, the actors talk about their feelings just as all hell breaks loose. It's probably more of exercise in acting to help the actors more than anything else, but it's interesting to watch. There are confessionals for Debra (5:22), Eliot (6:07), Tony (4:07) and Tracey (4:11).

A pair of very small featurettes are next. The First Week (4:23) is about the first week of shooting, shot by indie filmmaker from Toronto Michael Felsher. It's too short, but very nice to watch. The Roots (2:06) is essentially an interview with the director as he talks about how 'Diary of the Dead' came about. Familiar Voices (5:14) is next, and is the celebrity cameos in the movie. It's composed of the recording sessions from Guillermo Del Toro, Simon Pegg and Steven King.

Next is a very nice documentary. For the Record (80:54 total) is shown in five parts (though annoyingly without a Play All option, unlike the character confessionals). The parts concentrate on the director, the cast, the make up effects, the visual effects and the photography and design of the movie. It's wonderfully informative as various cast and crew members talk about the movie and how it was utlimately created. Again, this will please fans of the movie, and the director, very much.

Some Myspace Contest Winners finish out the disc. There are five short movies: 'The Final Day' (3:02), 'Deader Living Through Chemistry' (3:05), 'Opening Night of the Living Dead' (3:16), '& Teller' (3:00) and 'Run for Your Life' (1:43) are featured. Though I really like the title of the second short, it has nothing to do with the documentary that inspired the name. The rest of the shorts are good, though only 3 minutes long.


The Film: B Video: B- Audio: B- Extras: B Overall: B


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