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The Reeler Blog

Who Is the Monster Here?

George Romero at Wednesday night's New York preview of Diary of the Dead (Photo: Ixiana Hernandez / Museum of the Moving Image)

By John Oursler

The fine folks at Museum of the Moving Image invited zombie guru George A. Romero to preview his latest horror/satire, Diary of the Dead, last night in Times Square, where a lively crowd called out to the screen as viewers grasped their partners and provided a running commentary of exactly who would die and how. And these were just the people in the press area.

Coming 40 years after his iconic Night of the Living Dead, Romero's latest is a prequel of sorts, going back to that grisly night when the dead first returned to life. Diary focuses on a group of student filmmakers making their own horror opus. An opening monologue alerts the audience that what they are about to watch is nothing more than a film of a film -- the students' own recording of a national disaster. They fight, drive, shoot and steal their way through three days of survival, but to hear Romero tell it Wednesday night, the story isn't really the point. "My films don't have stories," he said. "They have ideas. The story always comes after the idea."

True to Romero style, there are plenty of scares and gore. But unlike his disappointing previous effort, Land of the Dead, Diary (opening Feb. 15 in New York) revives the biting social commentary that made him famous. Advertised as a horror film for the MySpace age, Romero addresses the pervasiveness of technology, the compulsion to document "events" and the government's lackluster track record responding to tragedies. The issue sparked Romero to explore "an emerging media octopus" that elicits the question, "Where is the line of humanity?" On his deathbed, the young filmmaker inside the film asks his girlfriend to record his transformation from human to monster. But who is the monster here, anyway?

This might have something to do with why Romero, while keeping things thematically fresh, doesn't exactly group himself in with the new generation of horror filmmakers like Eli Roth. "Is there even a reason for that torture porn?" he asked. "If there is, please let me know, because I just don't see it. It's almost as if these new directors are afraid to add a human element to the whole thing. There is no purpose to the killing, just blood. That isn't scary to me, it's pointless. I'd rather go home and watch Beauty and the Beast."

Posted at February 7, 2008 11:29 AM

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