The Review at a Glance: (max score: 5 )
Audio/Video total rating:
( Max score: 100 )
Studio and Year: The Weinstein Company - 2007
MPAA Rating: R
Feature running time: 96 Minutes
Disc Format: BD-50
Video Aspect: 1.85:1
Audio Format(s): English Dolby TrueHD 5.1, English/French Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
Subtitles: English & Spanish
Starring: Michelle Morgan, Tatiana Maslany, Amy Lalonde, Shawn Roberts, Joe Dinicol
Written & Directed by: George Romero
Music by: Norman Orenstein
Region Code: A
Blu-ray Disc release Date: October 21, 2008
"Shoot the dead"
Legendary frightmaster George A. Romero continues his influential "Dead" series, this time focusing on a terrified group of college film students who record the pandemic rise of flesh-eating zombies while struggling for their own survival.
Zombie films have been around some 40 years now and I think it is safe to say that George Romero is the undisputed king of the genre. While I am not a true fan I have the utmost respect for their place within the horror genre. Diary of the dead seems to revert back to Romero’s roots and is reminiscent of his first zombie film classic, Night of the living dead. This film surrounds a group of University of Pittsburgh film students that are making a horror film of their own. Late one night while filming in a wooded area near the campus, they discover via a news broadcast that something is taking place in the surrounding area. Dead people are coming back to life and are feeding on the living. The student film is Jason’s (Joshua Close) project and after seeing what is happening he decides to document it utilizing his friends and camera equipment. The story follows them as they and one of their professors make it back to the school to find that everyone is gone or dead. They take off in an old Winnebago and head for each of their homes and of course run into a multitude of zombies and situations along the way.
The use of handheld camera work was never intrusive with respect to the telling of the story. There were quite a few references to the media and how it is used only to show the public what it wants us to see rather than what is factual. The effects that stress and the continued insistence by Jason to record every aspect of what was happening had on the characters was interesting, especially early on. As things progress it becomes apparent that perhaps his instincts were correct but the question of whether or not anyone would be around to see his creation loomed. There were few surprises and I didn’t find the film to be particularly frightening. The special effects were vintage Romero and I liked the freshness of the young cast as well as the updated aspects of the plot. There was an appealing rawness to the story’s portrayal that overcame its unoriginal idea of using the handheld first person camera perspective. In the end I thought the film had merit and I suspect that Romero fans will appreciate its nostalgic feeling that harkens back to his earliest work.
The rating is for strong horror violence, gore, and pervasive language.
AUDIO/VIDEO - By The Numbers:
REFERENCE = 92-100 / EXCELLENT = 83-91 / GOOD = 74-82 / AVERAGE = 65-73 / BELOW AVERAGE = under 65
**My audio/video ratings are based upon a comparative made against other high definition media/blu-ray disc.**
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)
- Low frequency extension:
- Surround Sound presentation:
- Dialogue Reproduction:
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)
- Black level/Shadow detail:
- Color reproduction:
Diary of the dead comes to Blu-ray Disc from TWC featuring 1080p VC-1 encoded video that has an average bitrate of 29 mbps and lossless Dolby TrueHD 5.1 channel audio that has an average bitrate of 3.2 mbps.
The video has a stylized look that utilizes a de-saturated color scheme and slightly scaled back contrast which gives images a flatter less dynamic appearance. Blacks are fairly strong and detail in dark areas and shadowy backgrounds is excellent. Grain is present in fine even layers during bright scenes. Grain structure becomes more pronounced during many but not all dark sequences. Resolution was good overall however due to the nature of the photography definitive sharpness and fine detail perception ebbed and flowed. These instances didn’t completely inhibit the ability to visually resolve the structure of objects within the frame but did slightly diminish it. Conversely there were times when images had excellent three dimensional depth and sparkling clarity. I noticed some minor digital noise in a few backgrounds but it wasn’t problematic. I thought that the look of the film mated quite well with the nature of the story.
The lossless audio presentation had no trouble conveying the elements present in the sound recording. Dialogue reproduction was strong with clear intonation and fair room penetration. The mix did a nice job of handling the various directional cues associated with the hand held camera’s perspective and near field simulation. Atmosphere creating sounds mixed to the surround channels created a neatly balanced rear soundfield that seamlessly blended with the front soundstage. This generally consisted of spatial ambience however discrete effects were present and appropriate based upon the events transpiring onscreen. Dynamics were potent enough that sound effects such as gunshots had crispness, solidity, and well defined bass. The presentation as a whole was solid.
- Feature commentary with Director/Writer George A. Romero, Editor Michael Doherty, and Director of photography Adam Swica
- Character confessionals - Actors in character with adlibbed dialogue
- The first week: Shooting begins in Canada
- The Roots – 3 minute documentary featuring George Romero
- Familiar voices – Short segment that features (celebrity/special guest) telephonic voice recordings used in the film
- For the record: 5 Making of featurettes
- Master of the dead – George A Romero
- Into the camera – The cast
- You look dead – Makeup effects
- A new ‘spin’ on death – Visual effects
- A world gone made – Photography and design
- Myspace contest winners – 5 short zombie film contest finalists
Diary of the dead marks the return of Director/Writer George A. Romero to his roots. The film features first person camera work and fresh talent that potentially sparks a renewed interest in Romero and the genre for fans. The Weinstein Company has brought this film to high definition Blu-ray Disc in a respectable package that includes competent audio/video quality and all of the bonus supplements from the earlier DVD release. Fans can feel free to pick this up. Casual viewers might want to give it a rent first.
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