There’s a tendency in some high and low circles to instantly enshrine any new work from classic horror-meister George A. Romero, good-natured, jocular guy that he is, as a way of validating not only his formidable zombie oeuvre but also the seventies horror movie canon itself. Always the most overt of that bunch in his penchant for toothy sociopolitical commentary, Romero has often traded in rather glib social satire since the revelation of his 1978 Dawn of the Dead; whereas Tobe Hooper and John Carpenter’s genre work has mostly been greeted with retrospective praise and analysis, Romero’s never made any bones about his intent. His easy-to-bottle concepts have always had a clever ring—the pop-allegorical purity of brain-devouring zombies shambling through a shopping mall was a great idea waiting to happen. The pitch for the latest incarnation of his series of pre-apocalyptic undead films, Diary of the Dead, in which he has a group of nattering film-schoolers wielding cameras to capture the mayhem as it unfolds, is likewise, a no-brainer.
Yet as smartly staged, and even emotionally tender as it often is, Romero’s latest, with its central and oft-repeated mistrust of the “new information age,” also can’t help but seem a little like the product of aged paranoia—like your pissed-off grandpa, a little preachy and slightly doddering. By now, criticism of twenty-four-seven news cycles, the rapidity of internet communication, and the impossibility of gleaning truth amidst so much unreality, is simply by the book, a dire prognostication of information cataclysm blind to the prospects of new forms of community building, and which does little more than demonize contemporary young filmmakers as (yawn) cannibalistic voyeurs. Click here to read Michael Koresky’s review of Diary of the Dead.