George Romero’s ‘Diary Of The Dead': A Sundance Review

What’s better than watching a George A. Romero zombie flick with a packed house at a midnight showing? Having the man himself in attendance of course, with a spankin’ new film in tow.

“I’m a little drunk,” the 67-year-old maverick told the enthusiastic crowd, introducing his eagerly-anticipated “Diary of the Dead.” “We’re in a cold place, and you’ve gotta stay warm.”

Once again revisiting the genre that has served him so well, Romero’s “Diary” is a modern-day take on what his film-within-a-film calls “The Death of Death.” Some will find the flick’s references to YouTube, MySpace, and the like refreshing; others might feel it’s all a bit forced. But either way, the flick has enough big scares, big laughs and bad dialogue to remind us that Romero hasn’t changed a bit.

“Diary” follows a group of college students shooting an independent film alongside their burnt-out professor. When all hell breaks loose, the Pittsburgh-area crew panic, jump into an old Winnebago, and set off on the road hoping to avoid the walking dead. Naturally, the director of the film brings along his camera, intent to document everything.

The film is made up largely of “real footage” from his efforts, with all the dizzying handheld action that implies. Romero has a lot of “Scream”-like fun spoofing his own movie cliches (after an actor complains that his dead character walks too slow, he later becomes a real zombie – and limps along at a snail’s pace), and wades into fun new territory with such characters as a zombie clown at a kid’s party, and a deaf Amish man who dispatches zombies with dynamite.

But really, when the professor witnesses someone’s death and makes a comment about him “flunking out,” you’ll want to moan as if you were a zombie yourself. The victims may be uploading their footage to YouTube this time around, but you’ll already know the drill.

“This is a small film,” Romero said to the enthusiastic midnight crowd. “But it’s one from the heart.”

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