Brains! Brains! Midnight Madness reads the Diary of the Dead

Before I begin, a public service announcement to the women of Toronto: wearing enormous amounts of perfume to a film festival screening is really, really obnoxious. I know you consider perfume to be a legitimate part of your cosmetics routine, but it's time to reconsider the lineup.

On to the zombies:

The undead freaks were out in force at the Ryerson Theatre for the world premiere screening of George A. Romero's Diary of the Dead. The ticket-holders line stretched so far around the block that it almost met the tail end of its own rush line... which was not insubstantial in itself. I never tire of bad zombie makeup and bargain-basement PVC corsets, and I got plenty of both.

The legions of brain-eatining wannabes were on hand to witness a personal appearance by Romero, the original architect of zombie horror, who presented his film to a packed house at midnight and received a standing ovation in the bargain.

The director described Diary of the Dead as a more "personal" undead horror movie, although how much of an artistic spin you can put on firing a longbow bolt through the forehead of a zombified 8-year-old is really the kind of question people like Romero only ever have to answer. I doubt it keeps Alan Ball up at night.

As usual, the flick is heavy with the allegory - this time it's all about how our media-obsessed culture has created a veil of distance between ourselves and our own horror, via the omnipresent video cameras, cell phones, and surveillance devices that give us our pretty pictures of bad things happening somewhere else.

The conceit, therefore, is that the entire movie is filmed as though an ad hoc student documentary crew is photographing the zombie attack as it's happening - a difficult trick to pull off, because of the sheer unreality of the premise. But then again, if you can buy that zombies are taking over the earth, maybe it's not so difficult to swallow the idea that every single relevant detail of a 2-hour narrative can be "accidentally" captured by two student video cameras with an apparently limitless supply of tape and battery life. A similar trick is about to be attempted by J.J. Abrams' posse for his upcoming (and untitled) monster attack movie, now known only as 1-18-08.

Diary of the Dead gave the fans what they wanted, and the Q&A with Romero afterwards was lively and entertaining. Nobody chowed down on any brains that I could see, but then, there's always the repeat screenings. Speaking of which:

Diary of the Dead re-screens Monday at 1:00 at the Scotiabank Theatre, and Friday night at the Varsity.

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