Saturday, January 19, 2008

Sundance, Night One: Diary of the Dead

Well, here we go. Last night I braved 6 degree temperatures, incoherent bus drivers, large crowds, and the dark to journey up to Park City for the first movie I had tickets for - the Premiere of George A. Romero's Diary of the Dead.

And let me tell you, I wasn't disappointed.

I came into the movie with trepidation - Romero is in his 70s or 80s or something (which is kind of old and possibly out of touch with today's horror/movie audiences). His last movie was Land of the Dead - an awful, poorly done, kinda boring, Sci-Fi Saturday movie that was too saturated with a preachy "Gulf between the rich and poor" message. And it really wasn't scary. And Dennis Hopper was in it. As the bad guy. And Dennis Hopper sucks.

But, imagine my surprise, when the movie turned out to be not only scary, but genuinely relevant, realistic, and with a thought-provoking message.

The movie is thus:

The film is the edited footage of a group of college kids who, after seven days in the isolated woods shooting a horror film (shocker - haven't I seen this setup in a million different movies), come to find out that the world has gone to hell around them. Zombies are loose and attacking. So they venture back to the city to save the Director's girlfriend. After getting her, they set out in their Winnebago to get to her home and check on her family. And zombie hilarity ensues.

The story, though visually told from the director's POV, is told from his girlfriend's POV. She has taken the footage shot - with other footage found - and edited their story together - a documentary on the end of the world. What makes this movie work so well (on so many levels) is the fact that everything we see is shot by the characters - it's all from their view. It's intensely claustrophobic and terrifying. You're never allowed to sit back and look around - you're entrenched in their nightmare.

The movie is about the danger of relying on the media (in all it's various sources) for information, instead of seeking out the truth. In the day of MSNBC, FOXNEWS, YouTube, and Blogger - this is pretty relevant and interesting stuff. And, like all great zombie movies, the movie also examines human behavior by placing humans in extreme circumstances - and questioning what it means to be human. Trust me, the end scene is chilling.

So, starting off the festival on the right foot. I give this movie an A-. At times it fell into cliche, but it managed to pull out quickly. The acting is spot on - you feel like nearly the whole thing was adlibbed (though it wasn't). It only falters when it tries to be cinematic. Great movie - recommended for horror fans and movie fans alike.

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