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Feature: Diary of the Dead

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Shivers met lgendary Horror director George A Romero to discuss his take on Zombies, and culture…

For the fifth time, Horror icon George A Romero uses his favoured Zombies to air his cynical views on current society. As usual, he hits the nail on the head in a bleak slice of gruesomely amusing nihilism similar in tone and scale to the one that started it all, Night of the Living Dead. In that 1968 classic, the Zombies represented a Vietnam weary, racially bigoted America. 1978’s splatter landmark Dawn of the Dead had rampant consumerism at its exposed heart. Day of the Dead in 1985 put Reagan era paranoia on the visceral agenda. And Land of the Dead in 2005 indulged in a post-9/11 allegory about the Bush administration.

Now the Zombies have become viral media. “Diary of the Dead is about the explosion in alternate media we have seen over the past decade”, says the tall, silver-haired, 66-year-old legend. “The buzz jargon is four-screen, and everyone is suddenly a reporter. There is just so much information out there now and people are obsessed and captivated by it. They have become Zombies because of it, slaves to a new method of recording the truth, or their version of it, anyhow.”

Shot on location in Toronto, Canada, for $5 million over four weeks, Diary of the Dead finds film students caught up in a Zombie outbreak recording their survival story. Romero explains, “It starts on the very first night of the Zombie happening. It was the only way I could do my idea of students out shooting a Horror film when the Living Dead phenomenon just begins. I didn’t know how much further I could go with the concept after Land of the Dead. At the end of that, there’s this truce between the Humans and Zombies, which I felt a good place to leave it alone. Diary of the Dead is a parallel story. The students are out there, they have this camera and they begin to shoot. If this was three years into the phenomenon I don’t think they’d be filming in puzzlement. They’d be buying guns and hiding.”

He continues, “So it’s a new beginning, not an official entry in my core series, but a necessary re-jigging of the myth back to Ground Zero. It was also an opportunity for me to go back to my film-making roots, with an independently financed low-budget. I just love working that way. I wasn’t forced to use star names. I was able to make a small film under the radar the way I wanted. I like the idea of starting over. I don’t know whether I’m going to continue in this genre, we’ll see what happens next. Maybe this Diary story will continue as I feel I can do a lot more within the all-encompassing new media context.” In fact, a sequel was announced in the wake of Diary of the Dead’s ecstatic festival reviews.

by Alan Jones

Read the full interview in
Shivers #137

Photo © The Weinstein Company
Feature © Visual Imagination 2008. Not for reproduction

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Shivers #137
March 2008
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