George A. Romero Double-Shot - Night of the Living Dead and Diary of the Dead
Tomorrow, two George A. Romero
films are coming out on DVD, maybe. I have it on good authority that Diary of the Dead
is coming out on DVD tomorrow. However, It's not on Amazon's list. It's not there for a different day, it's just not there. You can't order it from Amazon, but I'm sure you'll be able to pick it up in your local brick and mortar store. (Update: It has been added and can be found here.
Night of the Living Dead - Buy from Amazon
The original and first of the franchise, and still the best. In many ways it helped create the zombie genre and is a major inspiration for a number of films made over the past 40 years. It was pivotal, not just for the genre of the low-budget horror films, but it was important in helping establish the custom of using horror for social commentary.
The film is considered a classic, and with good reason. However, it is not perfect, nor has it aged exceptionally well. The acting can be a little weak at times, and some of the parts of the film that seemed so shocking at the time are less so now. For instance, no one should be shocked at having an African-American man in the lead of a movie. On the other hand, the female characters in the movie are not shown to be strong. (Additionally, some of the effects look really dated, but that seems like a petty complaint since the film is 40 years old.)
Due to an oversight by the original distributor, this film slipped into public domain and has therefore been released on DVD about a billion times. Okay, that's overstating things, but it has been released on DVD a lot. This is arguably the best DVD release. Not only does it have the two audio commentary tracks from the millennial edition, it also has a feature-length documentary, a Q&A with the director, and the last interview actor Duane Jones ever gave. (There are other extras including trailer, images, and even the original script.)
If you do not have this movie in your DVD collection, now is the perfect time to rectify that situation. Even if you have a previous DVD release, it is worth the double dip and I can enthusiastically recommend Night of the Living Dead Buy from Amazon.
Diary of the Dead - Buy from Amazon
The latest entry in George A. Romero's Dead Series, this one was greeted with the most apathy by the critics. It didn't earn bad reviews, but at 60% positive, they were the weakest in the franchise so far. And it is hard to argue with that.
The film starts in the woods of Pennsylvania where a group of students are making a low-budget horror film when they hear the first reports of the dead starting to rise and attack the living. One of the students, Jason, decides he must film the events and upload the footage to the internet to let people know the truth. Consider it a zombie flick for the YouTube generation. It does have the social commentary that George A. Romero's previous films in the franchise have had, but it's a little too heavy-handed to be effective. Additionally, the handheld format of the movie was used very recently in Cloverfield, as well as other films, which hurts the its originality.
The film opened in limited release with just a middling per theater average and never really expanded, but the distributor hasn't skimp on the extras on the DVD. Things start off with an audio commentary track featuring George A. Romero, D.P. Adam Swica, and editor Michael Doherty. There's enough information and very few dead spots here and it is worth checking out. Next up are 20 minutes of confessionals, which feature four main characters on camera, solo, just talking about what's happening. Clearly they were made to fit in at certain points of the movie, and I'm not sure they completely work when separated. The First Week is a making-of featurette, but it's a little light at just over 4 minutes. The Roots is even shorter at just 2 minutes and talks about the origin of the franchise and where this movie fits in. Familiar Voices has audio clips of three of the cameos in the movie, most of which were voiceovers during video montages. For the Record is a five-part making of featurette that runs just over 80 minutes, which is almost as long as the movie itself. This has significant replay value. Finally, there are the five winners of the MySpace zombie film competition.
Compared to the average low-budget zombie movie, Diary of the Dead is very good. Compared to the previous entries in the George A. Romero's Dead Series, it is clearly the weakest. So your enjoyment of the movie depends quite heavily on your expectations and if you go in expecting Night of the Living Dead you will be disappointed. That said, it is still worth checking out for most, and the DVD is clearly worth picking up for fans.