This past week I decided to open up a Netflix account. I've been talking about getting one for ages, but it took Netflix to have instant streaming on the Wii for me to finally make the plunge and sign up. And after blowing through the first two seasons of Dexter instantly on my gaming console (in just three days), I'm so glad that I am now paying nine dollars a month for the unlimited privilege of never having to leave my couch to watch a movie. Not only can I get instant streaming, but I can also get movies the old fashioned way by DVD through the mail, one at a time.
Zombie Thursdays is a weekly feature with guest blogger, Miranda. You can read more about her here.
So what was the first movie I had delivered to my house? George Romero's Diary of the Dead. It may shock you to learn that I hadn't previously seen this amazing film! It was released to limited theatres back in February of 2008 and had pretty favorable reviews. And after seeing it, I have to say that it may be my favorite Romero film, concerning the Dead Series.
Diary of the Dead is a film within a film. It begins with narration stating that what the audience is about to see is the truth of what happened in the form of the film, "The Death of Death." The footage follows a group of students and their drunken professor who begin by making their own horror film (about a mummy) for a class project. During filming, they hear reports on the radio of the dead rising and violently attacking the living. Although they aren't sure what to think or believe, they all agree they should leave and try to get to their respective homes and families. The rest of the movie is their footage while on the road and trying to deal with the reality of what is happening around them.
I won't give away the rest of the plot or the story, although what specifically happens isn't all that important (and is fairly predictable for a zombie movie... lots of people die, can you believe it?). Romero is often hailed as being a pioneer in the area of social commentary in his films. And certainly that commentary has been incredibly apparent in the first four 'Dead' installments. But this was the first Romero zombie film in which I really appreciated the commentary because (in my opinion) it spoke more to my generation than any other zombie film yet. And I don't just mean "my generation" as in age or decade of birth-- I'm talking more along the lines of the cyber generation, the blogging generation, the iGeneration. For those of us who get our news from Twitter or Facebook, for those of us who hear about the deaths of famous people from 'Trending Topics' beginning with "RIP ____," this movie is for us.
The whole film is shot in more of a first person way. We're not watching what is happening to these students, we're there with them. When the outbreak first occurs, news reports flood the televisions, but much of the footage is doctored and changed to show the world what those with the money and power want them to see. What starts is an underground movement of bloggers and YouTubers who begin posting their own footage to show the world the truth of what is going on. And eventually, the outbreak shuts down the capabilities of the major news media, so the only information being distributed is by normal people who still have their cell phones and flip cameras. At one point, the students end up in a warehouse where they are able to upload some of their own footage. Within a few hours, they've had over 70,000 hits to their video. As someone who has had videos posted on YouTube for over a year, and just now they are getting only 1,000 hits... those kind of numbers are staggering. In the film, they estimate that within a day they will have over a million hits.
A zombie outbreak could happen tomorrow, or it could be years away. But what remains for us now is the fact that amateur online journalism grows everyday. Just by posting this, I am contributing to the pool of people who try to share their bits of truth with the world. Think of the Twitter reports that were being leaked from Iran after the government blocked all other sites, but failed to disable tweeting. Cell phone cameras are changing the way we see the news. Remember when that student was repeatedly hit by police tasers in a university library? If it weren't for a brave student who decided to record what was going on, the horrible truth never would have been seen. They would have tried to cover up the incident. There would have been interviews with 20 different students, all who would have had different takes on what happened. But the camera doesn't lie, and the whole world was able to be there in that library to witness what happened.
During the film, the main directing student often struggles with the fact that he can't leave his camera behind, and that if it doesn't happen on film, it's like it never happened at all.
So in a time of crisis and emergency, at the beginning of the end, where will you be? And what will you be doing? Struggling to survive, or struggling to show the truth? Stirs up some deep thoughts for only being just a small budget film about zombies....
And, just so you know, the fifth installment of the Dead Series, Survival of the Dead, is now in select theatres! I know it opens this week in Chicago at the Music Box Theatre, so check around your local independent theatres to see if it is playing near you. The newest film takes place about six weeks after the events of Diary of the Dead, so I can't wait to check it out!