Managed Scare: Romero?s latest zombie film makes some obvious points.

Sign up for our free newsletter

Free D.C. news, delivered to your inbox daily.

People who videotape their lives and upload it to YouTube are fucking jackasses. That’s the primary message of George A. Romero’s Diary of the Dead, the fifth installment of the auteur’s zombies-can-teach-us-anything series. There’s more, ostensibly—Romero is, after all, famous for soaking his films in as much social commentary as blood. But for moviegoers who may find searching for yet another parable about our post-9/11 world tedious, Diary wields its “criticism” of bloggers and MySpace addicts as if it were the bludgeon and you the brain-feeder. The problem isn’t so much Romero’s lack of subtlety as the emptiness behind the bile. The sequel isn’t a continuation of 2005’s apocalyptic George A. Romero’s Land of the Dead, in which survivors adjusted to coexisting with a zombie majority. Instead, Diary is the original Night of the Living Dead by way of Cloverfield: Corpses are suddenly walking again, and film student Jason Creed (Josh Close) and his generic pals are making their own mummy movie in a Pennsylvania forest when they hear the news. Most of them go all Chomsky, believing the news is exaggerated, and even once they’re proved wrong and hunker down in an RV, Jason insists on filming it all—so that the world, at least the parts of it where WiFi still works, can learn the “truth.” This does not go over well. “If it’s not on camera, it’s like it never happened, right?” sneers Jason’s annoying girlfriend, Debra (Michelle Morgan), about every five minutes. “There will always be people like you!” Jason’s alcoholic, British caricature of a professor (Scott Wentworth) says with unjustified disgust. And so on, as the gang encounters empty hospitals, a power-hungry black militia, and a mute Amish dude who’s handy with a stick of dynamite. Also: zombies, of course, and though Romero doesn’t really do anything new with them—he even recycles a shot from his Day of the Dead—he does come up with some bloody/cool disposal ideas, including a murder-suicide. Plus, Diary won’t make you spill your own guts; its hand-held camera feels wielded by a professional and not, as in Cloverfield, a spastic 8-year-old. It’s even edited: Debra, as she explains in droning voice-over, had a change of heart and helped Jason put together the project we’re watching, The Death of Death, including not just their own footage but images of Katrina, riots, and other moments of real-world chaos they grabbed from the Internet. The visuals are interesting; Debra’s constant analysis of humanity, video-obsessed or otherwise, is not. “It used to be us against us, now it’s us against them,” she intones, meaninglessly. “Except they…are us.” Whatever. Could someone eat her already?