George Romero’s DIARY OF THE DEAD DVD Review! Haitian Zombies or American Ghouls?

Well I’ve rented a pasell of movies in the past couple weeks, and thought I’d break my blogging silence, for a quick overview of what I thought of one of them.

George Romero’s DIARY OF THE DEAD- First let me say, I’m not a fan of the so-called Zombie Movies.

I’ll follow that line up with a slight tirade: They are not effing Zombies!!

Zombi is a Haitian word, Romero’s ‘creation’ is a ghoul. Not a Zombie. The Zombie of Haitian lore, is in real ways about the incorruptibilty of the flesh, it is about a state in which you do not eat or sleep or defecate or decompose. The Zombie of Haitian Lore, in many ways a state of grace most analagous to Christianity’s Lazarus, save bent to the will of another. So think the myth of Lazarus mated with the Jewish myth of the Golem, and you begin to get an inkling of what the word Zombie really implies.

But leave it to the west, America in particular, to take a concept of incorruptibility… and make it about corruption. Leave it to a cannibal nation like America to play out in fiction, the nature of its facts.

So that is my general issue with so-called Zombie flicks, hereto referred to by their proper nomenclature… Ghoul flicks. 🙂 . Don’t worry, it’ll grow on you.

So yeah it’s a genre I can take or leave, and typically leave. NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD as the progenitor, holds up. It’s a very good movie, that is a very simple premise, but elegantly done with, for the time, a shattering ending. And its purity of vision, over five decades later, puts it head and shoulders over just about all the numerous Ghoul flicks it has spawned.

The first NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD had something to say, but said it in a very understated manner, to let you draw for yourself parables of science gone amuck, or judgement from god, or the cannibal nature of the American id. In contrast all Ghoul films since suffer either from being about nothing but gore (idiotic and juvenile), too full of its import, or just inept.

George Romero’s DAIRY OF THE DEAD suffers, to some degree, from all three issues. The plot/writing is the main issue. The films conceit is this student filmmaker is going to walk around during a walking dead apocalypse with a camera glued to his face, during scenes both intimate and horrific. Such as when his friend is being chased by the ghoul in a mummy costume (don’t ask), rather than put the fucking camera down and help, he just keeps filming. I don’t buy the conceit.

I’m not saying there aren’t such sick fucks out there who would do that, I’m saying I don’t know any such people, can’t relate to such people, and don’t want to spend hours of my life watching such a peice of garbage survive. So the protagonist was an unrelateable and unlikable character.

And that said other characters I thought their arcs and actions were likewise a bit fast and convenient, becoming quickdraw terminators, and taking their particular brand of murder/killing way too easily in their stride (“I just blew my lovers head off, but I’m from Texas yall, and am ready to make jokes in the next scene for you Mr. Romero”). There was just a lot of poor acting married to either heavyhanded/preachy dialog or inane plot contivances.

So the poor plot, bad dialog, unnatural performances makes it impossible for you to view the film seriously, but it fails also as satire or comedy because a/it’s not smart and b/it’s not funny (with the exception of the Amish line. The only memorable line in the whole movie).

DIARY OF THE DEAD attempts to jump on the discovered footage bandwagon of flicks such as CLOVERFIELD (which I found also to be an inept film, with unrealistic performances, married to a heaping dose of annoying actors and quite a bit of boredom) or REC(which I found to be brilliant. There the conceipt of a TV crew following a team of professional, is crafted believably), DIARY OF THE DEAD however is a poor jumper, and instead slips on the bandwagon, twists its ankle, and pretty much lays there like a dead fish till the credits roll.

I’m being a little facetious, the film does have some points of interest, high among them is the performance of the film/theater teacher, who just so happens to be John Rambo when emergeny requires. While something of a hodgepodge of stereotypes, the actor pulls it off and imbues his role with real charm. And the aforementioned Amish scene has a humorous beginning. And I liked them running into the Black survivalists. I thought that was a neat twist.

So the film isn’t without its strengths, unfortunately its flaws, the spliced in footage of real disasters (trying to give the film an importance and weight that its ultimately too inept and tactless to earn) the too often poor performances and situations, just smother everything else.

All in all a pretty disappointing and forgettable film from Romero, who seemingly has become obsessed with making these Ghoul flicks, in an attempt to recapture the acclaim and relavence of his first film. It comes off almost as a one trick director, remaking the same film to various degrees of diminishing returns.

DIARY OF THE DEAD may be worth a look if it is free and you’re bored, but otherwise avoid. D-.

MUMBO JUMBO by Ishmael Reed Book Review: A novel about Haiti and America and Ragtime 90 Years Ago

“It’s a way we had over here for living with ourselves. We cut ’em in half with a machine gun and give ’em a Band-Aid. It was a lie. And the more I saw them, the more I hated lies.”– Apocalypse Now


I just finished Ishmael Reed’s 1971 Novel MUMBO JUMBO, a biting, absurdist, fantastic satire, that also happens to be, like the best of satires, a cutting and revealing and true depiction of our ids and our angsts. It is for a work of fiction, far more true than are so-called “history”. It is such a rich and deep and sprawling and compelling and… brilliant novel.

I consider myself a pretty informed reader, and this 4 decade old novel had insights into not just our history but our humanity, that i had never even considered.

Example?

How it defined Museums as store-houses for Pirated/Stolen goods.

I’ve been in and out of museums all my life, and it never even occurred to me to consider them in the context of Robber-Baron’s basically raping and destroying civilizations and bringing home to the west their trophies. Their stolen goods.

And this was like a throw away line in the novel, and it blew my mind. That I who consider myself relatively afro-centric that it did not even occur to me to question the origin and rightness of Museums. And the whole novel is like this, one smashing revelation after another.

And yes it’s a work of sensational fiction, but what makes it even more sensational are the parts of it… that ring true, are true. And speak even today… of true things.

From the hidden Haitian War and Holocaust of the early 20th century, which oddly mirrors the conflicts in Haiti today, even to the search for a talking Android to lead the people astray, which without too much of a jump can be compared to today’s President Obama…. it is almost a prophetic work. Or perhaps it just illustrates how history not learned from, is repeated.

This is the type of book that school curriculums that teach children of color… should cover. Must cover. It’s the kind of book… written with brilliance, and that inspires, ignites a real fire… for more brilliance, and more questions and answers.

It’s the kind of book that inspires… real learning.

It is a challenging read, but stick with it as it does all come together. And I highly recommend hunting down the griot audio book version which is FANTASTIC! It is an essential read, and in light of recent issues in Haiti, I think a surprisingly timely and insightful one. A satire that hints at much that is true, about Haiti’s tumultuous and troubled relationship with Western Powers.

It is an essential purchase. B+/A-

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