Rebooting his Dead series right back to moment zero, George Romero delivers the first chapter of a new era: When Zombies Attack 2.0. It’s the present day, and corpses have only just started rising. A group of students shooting “a horror movie with an underlying sense of social satire” (wink, wink) jump into their Winnebago and head for safety. Debra (Morgan) is the sensible one, Eliot (Dinicol) is a nerdy hors d’oeuvre–to-be, and their professor (Wentworth) supplies the alcoholic bons mots and archery skills. As for Jason (Close), he’s the guy who’s been documenting everything we’ve been watching, more concerned with keeping a chowing cadaver in his camcorder’s frame than preventing catastrophe.
If you sense that a metacritique about new media’s stranglehold is being mounted, you’re dead right. Diary knows its currency resides in creative kills (when one character picks up a scythe, you can hear Fangoria subscribers holding their breath), but the movie doesn’t bother hiding its subtext. Romero lays out his disgust of the compulsion to record atrocities rather than directly engage, and like Brian De Palma—another angry graybeard who’s recently discovered YouTube—he’s unafraid to use the medium of consumer video to attack the mind-set. Regrettably, the director hasn’t figured out that substituting undigested chunks of On Photography for real dialogue simply equals didacticism. There’s so much food for thought to feast on, however, that Diary’s crude jabs don’t lessen the sting. “Are we even worth saving?” asks one cynic at the film’s climax. According to Romero, the jury is still out.