George A. Romero's Diary of the Dead

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TORONTO -- Not ready to let sleeping zombies lie, George A. Romero, who was thought to have concluded his "Living Dead" trilogy with the critically-acclaimed fourth installment, 2005's "Land of the Dead," is back for more.

The reconceptualized "George A. Romero's Diary of the Dead" is a stripped-down take on those earlier movies, which both harkens back to the no-frills 1968 original and repositions those flesh-eating corpses along today's information superhighway.

But while the Romero movies were always as much social commentaries as they were gore fests, in this case all the overt hi-tech references to uploading video and blogging are at the expense of any palpable dread or real scares.

Give him props for trying to do something different, but this "Living Dead" exercise delivers far less monstrosity and a great deal of pomposity, not to mention dull characters who aren't nearly as lively as those dead guys.

While the film was acquired at the Toronto International Film Festival by the Weinstein Co., its theatrical potential remains questionable.

Even though Romero has his loyal fan base, this would seem to be a better bet for DVD, given the recent proliferation of zombie movies which have had mixed boxoffice results.

Taking the form of a documentary being made by a group of Pennsylvania college students driving a beat-up Winnebago past all those temporary corpses, "Diary" is just that, with no-nonsense Debra (Michelle Morgan) providing a running commentary as part of the on-line blog component.

In between all those redundant observations, Debra, director Jason (Joshua Close) and their shrinking crew do manage to blow up their fair share of zombie brains, but most of the time they sit around doing a lot of navel-gazing.

There are still the occasional sparks, like when the group encounters a mute Amish farmer.

And Romero manages to get a sly jab in at all those movies with new, improved fast-moving zombies when one of the characters notes that if one of the undead actually tried to walk any faster they'd break their ankles.

But at the end of the day, Romero's most recent final installment goes nowhere, fast or slow.

No doubt, the dead will live again.

GEORGE A ROMERO'S DIARY OF THE DEAD
Artfire Films/Romero-Grunwald Prods.
The Weinstein Co.
Credits:
Director-writer: George A. Romero
Producers: Peter Grunwald, Art Spigel, Sam Englebardt, Ara Katz
Executive producers: Dan Fireman, John Harrison, Steve Barnett
Director of photography: Adam Swica
Production designer: Rupert Lazarus
Music: Norman Orenstein
Costume designer: Alex Kavanagh
Editor: Michael Doherty
Cast:
Debra: Michelle Morgan
Jason: Joshua Close
Tony: Shawn Roberts
Tracy: Amy Lalonde
Eliot: Joe Dinicol
Maxwell: Scott Wentworth
Running time -- 95 minutes
No MPAA rating
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