PITTSBURGH MADE: Diary of the Dead (2007)

While filming a horror movie about a mummy in a forest, some University of Pittsburgh — yet this was shot in Toronto — students and their professor learn from the news — with the soundtrack taken directly from Night of the Living Dead — that recently dead are awaking and walking.

The fifth film in Romero’s series of Living Dead films — it’s actually a prequel to Land of the Dead — Diary changed the way he shot films. It used computer-generated imagery which allowed for the film to be shot quickly with just a few handheld cameras instead of the multiple angles, long filming sessions and extensive editing he was known for. Personally, I understand the experiment, but I don’t want to see a master like Romero making a found footage movie.

Romero told Cinemablend, “I had this idea that I could use film students out shooting a school project and zombies begin to walk and they document it. I wanted to do this subjective camera thing before I knew anybody else was working on it. I didn’t know about Cloverfield or anything else. I thought we were going to be the first guys out there with one of these.” He still used a cinematographer to try and keep the shots looking less like the shakycam that most found footage makes me nauseated with.

I’d like to report that this film is good but I struggled through every scene. What always worked for me — at least in the first three Living Dead films — is that you find characters to feel for and get to root for. None of these students seem as if they can come close to that. If anything, the subtext has become full text and even more ham-fisted. Seriously, if you think that defibrillator to the zombie’s head is awesome, that’s what the messages in this movie are doing to your brain. Where Dawn hinted, this screams in your face, “Do you get it?”

The effects are pretty good but this whole thing just made me sad. I realize that people need to keep working, money needs to keep being made, but I started to feel like I do when I watch a later Argento movie. I want it to be great, I keep rooting for it and then I just feel this tremendous wave of sadness. I want more from the directors I love and I realize in no way is that fair. They’ve given me enough.

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