Diary of the Dead

George A. Romero showed us the first of a growing zombie invasion in Night of the Living Dead.  Ten years later, he brought us Dawn of the Dead, a zombie movie in a mall, with an underlying message of even after death, consumerism rules all.  Seven years after Dawn, Romero followed up with the social commentary of Day of the Dead, and 20 years later he showed us the struggles of one of the last remaining strongholds of human civilization – where zombies are evolving and might eventually replace humans as the inheritors of the earthin Land of the Dead.  This time, Mr. Romero brings us a prequel of sorts.  It assumed that it takes place during the events that take place during Night of the Living Dead, as the zombie revolution is just taking place.  We thought that this would be the perfect place to finish our themed “Zombie Week 2008” with the most recent chapter in the “dead” series… Diary of the Dead

While filming a student film about a mummy in the woods, Jason Creed (Joshua Close) and a group of other students hear a strange news report over the radio that corpses are getting and walking again.  The group decide that if this news is in fact true, they want to get back to their families while they still can, so they pile up in a Winnebago and drive around to pick up Jason’s girlfriend, Debra (Michelle Morgan).  While on their way to pick up Debra, one of the group, Mary, comes under a deep depression after seeing a car crash on the road and an undead state trooper.  She attempts to commit suicide by shooting herself in the head, but by some strange consequence she is still alive, and in a panic the group takes her to a nearby hospital, where they encounter more of the walking dead.  Little do they know, it’s just a taste of what’s to come.

Romero decided to take this film in a different direction.  It’s filmed through the illusion of a handicam, where it appears that a few characters are actually filming the movie, documentary style.  The effects, with the exception of makeup, are mostly computer generated.  The entire presentation is filmed on the road, and almost exclusively through the eyes of the characters holding cameras.  It’s also pieced together through clips from the internet, where people all over the world provided their own film and experiences with the new threat against mankind.

Monkeyface: Being a big zombie movie fan I was pretty geeked to see this movie.  I’ve always thought that Romero could do no wrong in the zombie genre, but when realized that the movie was shot as a mockumentary I was a little concerned about what I was going to see.  I’ve never liked the fake documentary movies like Blair Witch Project, so much that I refused to see Cloverfield.  But after seeing Diary of the Dead I may have to reconsider my stance.  Romero did it right once again in my opinion.  He didn’t just use one hand held camera, or one person to tell the story, he used multiple people with multiple cameras and even incorporated some security camera shots so you didn’t feel like you were following the same poor sap around the whole time.  Also, the characters involved explain why exactly they are taping everything, instead of just getting the HELL out of dodge… I thought that was a nice touch.

Jenny: I still think the mockumentary style here was a bit lame, but it didn’t really detract from the movie too much.  If zombies are trying to eat me, I am going to throw the camera at them and run. However, the use of the multiple cameras do not interrupt the flow of the movie, but I still found Jason Creed’s (Joshua Close) insistence of filming no matter what for the sake of information a bit annoying.

Sean: I don’t think it was lame at all.  I thought it was pretty cool that Romero was willing to go in a different direction with his film, instead of doing the same thing over and over.  Maybe he was dealing with a limited budget, but the guy is almost 70 year old, and it took a lot of guts to buck the mainstream knowing full well that some people would love it and some people would hate it.  He gave us a different story, and the result is a good combination of action and story.  Do I think a real person would have reacted differently?  Sure, but it’s a movie, you should expect to go into it expecting to suspend your belief a little.

Moneyface: All of the scenes were shot very well, with exceptional special effects for a movie that probably had a small budget compared to other Hollywood films.  The acting was even above par for people I’ve never seen in other movies.  I was a little confused by the “Black Panther” gang which the students ran into.  It just seemed unnecessary and a touch on the racist side to say that they were the only ones who would stick around and fight the zombies, but I’m sure there was a reason for it, which just escapes me.  The weird thing is I always remember Sinbad saying that if black people were in horror movies, and a ghost in the house yelled “GET OUT”, that they would get the HELL OUT!

Jenny: Wasn’t that Eddie Murphy in reference to the Amityville Horror? I don’t think that the black militia group was meant to be racist, but political.  Here is a group of people who clearly felt as though the old order had let them down and abused them and now they were seizing their chance to not only survive but thrive under a new order.  I liked these guys as they really had their stuff together and they were fair to these students once they got to know them.  I agree that these actors were a bit above par for this type of movie.

Monkeyface: I have to say I was pleased with this movie.  It was not a classic by any means, and not the action packed zombie remakes that we have been accustom to lately.  But it was very entertaining and gave a different perspective into the “…Living Dead” series of movies.  This one is definitely for zombie fans or anyone who likes a good horror flick!

Jenny: I went into this one with no expectations so I was pleasantly surprised.  I like zombie films, especially ones that take an established idea and add to it.  However, true to form, the people in the movie have never seen a zombie movie.  If zombies suddenly start swarming your town, get out of town and find a safe area, preferably one that has barbed wire and is protected by the military.  Make sure you get guns.  Shoot the zombies in the head.  Burn them.  I’m sorry if your family has turned into zombies, but kill them. Kill them all.

Sean: I’ll add my side and say that I too was pleasantly surprised by the movie.  I did have some above average expectations, and this wasn’t what I thought it would be.  It was actually better than what I thought it would be.  I think it’s a good refresher for the series, stirring up some of the stagnation that it picked up through Land of the Dead.  People always say they want something new, they don’t want to see the same idea over and over.  While this is obviously not a new idea, it’s a nice twist on that idea.  While it’s not the best film in the series, it definitely deserves to be considered with the others (and it was definitely better than Land of the Dead).

Diary of the Dead is available on both VHS and DVD from Amazon.com

8 thoughts on “Diary of the Dead”

  1. What? Diary of the Dead was by far the weakest in the Romero series. The fact is the series had gotten progressively worse much like George Lucas in his Star Wars series. George Romero returning to zombie films after so many years showed he has truly lost his edge. While I do like the concept of making it a gritty documentary style film this movie got lost in bad dialog, horrible acting and generally an uninteresting plot line with unnecessary voice-over. I mean case in point the narrator at the beginning says that she’s added in spooky music for effect. WHAT?!
    Oh look the one dude that was a mummy is now a zombie chasing her in the woods like the first scene. lame. I’m a huge zombie film fan and this was one of the biggest disappointments. I have much higher hopes when world war Z gets adapted to film. Diary had no broad sense of pending doom and apocalypse. I didn’t give a darn about these characters they were annoying. The only interesting character was the Amish guy. It’s a sad day when the Amish have to make a zombie film more interesting.

    Retroman Steves last blog post..Elvira, Mistress of the Dark

  2. I guess that’s the great thing about opinions – everyone has them, and they’re all different!

    I really don’t see why you’re saying the acting is so bad. This is primarily a b-movie review site, and I’ve seen a hell of a lot worse. Maybe you didn’t care about the characters, but when I watch a zombie film, first thing I’m looking for is total zombie destruction. I want to see people get ripped to shreds and eaten alive. I want to see the zombies get taken out in new and interesting ways. I think this film had that.

    Like I said above, if you want to see the same old thing over and over again, then rewatch the other movies in the series ad naseum. They’re great movies, and you know exactly what you’re going to get after you watch them.

    Since this is a collective review, we all decided that the new twist on the story with the documentary film style was enough of a reimagination on the idea to say that it’s better than Land of the Dead.

    I also think it’s pretty ridiculous that we’re arguing about which is the worst film in the series.

  3. oh yeah don’t get me wrong I love the b-movies and so bad it’s good type of films. such as Gymkata, Troll 2, StarCrash. If it was going to be that sort of campiness of a zombie film like Dead Alive he should have taken it to that level. The problem is that George had set the bar for himself so high with Night, Dawn and Day. Then returning to the genre 20 odd some years later he had lost his edge. I can really admire him for taking a fresh perspective with it but in my opinion it tried to straddle a balance between camp and social satire and never succeeded at either. Sorry if I came off strong about this film I was just so let down by it. if you get a chance read the insanely amazing comic the Walking Dead. Now that is how Land and Diary should have been in my opinion. Word War Z Novel is also an excellent take on the genre which has been purchased for movie rights.

  4. No, I totally understand. We’re both enthusiastic about it, we just have differing opinions :). I agree that Romero has lost his edge, but I still thought the film was entertaining. It’s good to see an old dog learn some new tricks every once in a while. Maybe he’ll recapture a little more of the essence that made those older films so great in the Diary sequel.

    I agree though that The Walking Dead is an awesome series. Anyone who’s a fan of zombies should check that out. I’m only up to the 40’s, but I hear there’s a big surprise waiting around issue 50, so I’m working my way towards that. I’m just a Robert Kirkman fan in general. You should check out his comic Invincible if you get a chance. It’s not zombie or horror related, but it’s just a good series.

  5. I’ve been meaning to watch this for a while, glad to hear some people liked it. I’m not expecting all that much from it so perhaps it’ll fit the bill.

    I usually hate these hand-held fake documentaries too, but I watched [REC] a while back and thought that was very good. Check it out if you get the chance. I have no idea if Quarantine will be as cool, but my guess would be no.

    Lurples last blog post..Killer Klowns from Kansas on Krack

  6. I really want to read your review of this movie but I can’t until I finish mine. Ironically, I watched this movie this weekend and just happened to see that you guys reviewed it as well. I promise once mine is up, I will be back to read yours. I’m really curious to see your opinions.

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