Having made fans wait the guts (no apologies) of 20 years for a follow-up to 'Day of Dead', George A Romero's 2005 return to all things zombie with 'Land of the Dead' should have been everything the faithful wished for. Instead it was a so-so action movie: strong visually but weak in terms of characters and way too short. The feeling for some afterwards was that the franchise was now dead and buried (ok, apologies for that one) and that Romero should look elsewhere. But now, just under three years later, he's back with 'Diary of the Dead', a film which sullies the 'Night...', 'Dawn...' and 'Day...' trilogy and opens Romero up to criticism for flogging a dead zombie.

Taking its narrative drive from the rise of citizen journalism online, and presented as a documentary, 'Diary of the Dead' begins with a group of college film students (Morgan, Roberts, Lalonde, Dinicol, Maslany) shooting a horror out in the woods. When the dead start to rise for chow time, the group and their lecturer (Wentworth) hop in their on-location motor home and try to make it to safety - their every move filmed by auteur-turned-crusading documentarian Jason (Close).

Those of us who said that a man of Romero's stature shouldn't be hanging around in the 'Blair Witch' neighbourhood are proven right by this slapdash and dull zombie movie which does so few things right that 'Land of the Dead' deserves another viewing.

Whereas Romero's three classics ratcheted up the tension by being set in one location, 'Diary...'s on-the-road approach never works and makes the film feel like a load of scenes thrown together because the Winnebago was due back at the rental place shortly. It could be the work of a rookie director and you've seen far better from far lesser talents.

Having been so successful at mixing character and carnage in the past, Romero lets himself down badly here. The cast don't form a bond with the audience like his previous heroes or anti-heroes and being asked to 'act naturally' proves beyond a lot of them - far too often they deliver lines like bad actors rather than real people being filmed as civilisation goes belly up.

The points Romero was trying to make here about misinformation in the information age aren't as strong as his points about race and consumerism in the past because the script isn't strong enough and he's in such a rush to get to the ending that the message loses impact. As for the ending, well, it's a disgrace.

This should've gone straight to DVD.

Harry Guerin