Director – George A. Romero
Cast – Michelle Morgan, Joshua Close, Shawn Roberts, Amy Ciupak Lalonde, Joe Cinocol, Scott Wentworth, Philip Riccio, Chris Violette, Tatiana Maslany
Release Year – 2007
Reviewed by John of the Dead
This film is George A. Romero’s fifth entry of his “Dead” series, and is definitely his most unique installment for obvious reasons: it is told in the pseudo-documentary form made popular by films like The Blair Witch project and “REC“. I was quite surprised when I saw that this legendary filmmaker was going for this aspect of film, but he once again surprised us all and was able to give us a unique film thanks to his constant successful use of social commentary in his flicks. This film is told in the pseudo-documentary form for a reason, and watching this film will tell you why.
Diary of the Dead follows a group of film students making a horror film in a forest. One night during filming they are interrupted by a buddy listening to news broadcasts about the dead coming back to life at hospitals, crime scenes, and morgues. The group decides to end the shoot and go back to the city to see what is going on. Upon returning to their university they notice that something bad has definitely been going on and calls to their families prove fruitless due to cell phone towers going out. The young students then decide to hit the road and try and locate their families on the way but many obstacles occur and they get a taste of what has caused so much global panic.
I really do not understand why this film has gotten so much hate from horror fans. Sure this is not Romero’s most solid installment to date, but it is not a BAD film by any means. If you really look into the film’s subject matter, and the statement Romero is trying to make, you will understand why he went the route he did with this film. As you should already know, George A. Romero is known for his big use of social commentary in this film, and this film tackles the media and our current digital age, which is EXACTLY why this film is shot the way it is. I loved how we are shown the media’s focus on violence and how easily cover-ups are concocted to conceal horrific events. Pay attention to the news broadcast of the military general giving the cover-up, the military general is none other than George A. Romero himself! The use of character Jason Creed in this film goes to show how documentary filmmakers and investigative reports will take all risks to “spread the word” of atrocious events they feel they are called upon to bring to the surface. This caused much conflict in the film and I liked that because it shows how these types of people can actually do harm by having this attitude. You’ll see.
Fair warning: if you have not viewed any of George A. Romero’s previous “Dead” films, I suggest you not watch this film unless you really understand what I just said in the previous paragraph. This film is not the proper way to be introduced to Romero’s films because you simply do not have the understanding of how his films work and what to expect from this maestro of horror. If you view his earlier work then you will have something to compare this film to, it will make more sense, and will ultimately help you enjoy this film more. If you watch this film before watching his other films then do not make attempts to weigh in on Mr. Romero until you have seen his other works first, and THEN watch this film again afterwards. It will change your perception and open you up to this brilliant man.
Romero’s direction in this film is positive, and he once again doesn’t skimp out on the gore. This film being told in the pseudo-documentary fashion is unable to capture as much zombie action as his previous installments due to nearly all of the film being shown from Jason’s point of view, but we still get enough to remain fulfilled. The writing for this film was interesting, especially because this focused more on having our characters in different settings throughout the film. This is a big advancement as far as Romero’s writing goes because his previous “Dead” films all took place in one or two locations with the characters taking residence in the film’s final location about halfway through the film. The use of all these different sets and locations in this film made it a fun watch and is what really kept me into the film. One thing I noticed about this film is that there is very little firearm action, which kind of sucked. I understand that these are film students and do not have much access or knowledge with firearms, so I won’t dock this film for that. It is just that with this film following Land of the Dead, which had TONS of firearm action, it was a complete 180 in that aspect, which is actually quite cool and goes back to Romero’s original “Night of the Living Dead” which left the characters to fend for themselves without much firepower.
I did not have any major gripes with this film either, but I was a bit annoyed with the character Jason Creed, who helms the camera in this film. Some of his actions really seemed outlandish, and uncharacteristic of even the most decent of human beings. I understand he was obsessed with getting footage to “show the world what is really going on”, but for him to let this get in the way of helping his colleagues when there is no one else to help them is pretty ridiculous. Of course this is part of Romero’s point that he is trying to make about digital heroism, so it pretty much had to go down this way. My other gripe with this film is the same gripe that I had with Land of the Dead, there is no big ending! The film does have a positive climax, but it pales in comparison to the climaxes of Night/Dawn/Day of the Dead. I hope he finally comes out with an awesome climax for his newest “Dead” film, “Survival of the Dead(which I have now reviewed), which has yet to release theatrically here in the US.
Overall, this is a positive watch that I am sure some Romero fans will not enjoy because of how it is told, but look a little deeper into what this film is set to do, and you will understand why. Regardless, this gives us an interesting take in the zombie genre and once again shows that Romero is king.