Diary of the Dead


When the dead begin to rise a group of film students decide to document the events in the hopes of showing the world what is really going on. The fifth in Romero’s Dead series filmed in found footage style.

You fucking voyeuristic humans and your desire to film everything. You film on cheap end video cameras, on those little piece of shit flip out video cameras, and even on your cell phones. You’ll basically film on anything that’ll take video. Just take a look at YouTube and you’ll see all kinds of videos taken of the most awful things. Thank god the internet wasn’t around when I was younger and among the living, lord knows what would have ended up on the sites like YouTube. If you were just taking videos of humans acting dumb (I thought that’s what MTV was for), humans interacting with cats (or by extension cats interacting with each other, though those are hilarious), or humans proving that mankind has a long way to go before they get used to the whole driving thing (despite how fucking simple it is people seem unaware of how to control a car, really not that hard people) I’d be fine, but no, you living assholes like to film humans being eaten by the undead as well. Do you see us peeking through your windows while you sit down to dine on the flesh of animals? Of course not, we’re more polite than that. We have manners unlike you meatsacks. Also, we don’t sneak very well so we’d likely be caught. Now, if you don’t mind I need to get on with this review because I really want to watch some cat videos.

Our fifth entry into Romero’s zombie world begins with a short video supposedly uploaded online by a news cameraman. The video shows a mom and son being wheeled out by paramedics after the dad shot and killed them both. The mother and son soon reanimate and begin attacking before a voice starts narrating. It seems that when the dead began to rise the media improperly covered it, alternating between bullshit and outright lies, causing civil unrest as no one wanted to say what exactly was going on. A group of film students who happened to be making a horror film when the outbreak started, led by director Jason, decide that they need to get on the road to escape the coming madness and get back to their families. Jason himself makes a quick stop at the college he attends to pick up his girlfriend Debra, but finds the entire campus nearly deserted, with the exception of the one he came to find. With nowhere to go, the group of film students, including film professor Maxwell, hit the road in an RV in the hopes of finding a safe haven while the undead continue to multiply. It quickly becomes apparent that the dead are starting to outnumber the living. Instead of giving up on his filming Jason decides that he must keep recording everything happening so any survivors can see the truth for themselves, but as he makes a documentary that will eventually become “The Death of Death” (their name for it not for mine so don’t blame me for how lame it sounds) his friends become more and more disillusioned as Jason’s filming puts them all in danger.


{Our film crew trying to look as badass as possible…and failing miserably}

This movie is filmed first person style like a found footage flick. Lord knows I’m not a huge fan of found footage movies, but I always give them a chance and try and go in with an open mind. This being a Romero zombie film I actually went in with more than an open mind, I went in excited to see it. Unfortunately, like most found footage movies, I finished the film extremely disappointed. It wasn’t entirely garbage, but it was far from great. There was an interesting mix of footage from different sources thrown into the mix, video from the main characters’ camera, news footage from various stations around the country, internet videos, and security cameras. It was nice that the camera was steady for the most part as well, so I didn’t have that nauseous feeling as I watched the movie. There was also some nice effects and decent zombie kills, but a poorly constructed story, the unnecessary use of CGI, and extremely annoying characters ruin what might have been a good film.

George Romero's Diary Of The Dead

{Hospitals would be the worst place to go during a zombie outbreak}

Diary of the Dead is supposed to take place concurrently with Night of the Living Dead, and I’m not sure I should take that. The timeline for Romero’s film has never been straightforward. The director has always stuck to a time that was very much his own, but they at least seemed to make sense as far as when they were taking place. By having this one go back to the beginning it almost makes all the previous films no longer make sense. This one takes place in a time not to dissimilar from our own, that means present day technology for the most part, so I can’t see this taking place anywhere near previous films. I get that Romero has had this idea for a while (he wanted to do a television show years back that would have taken place during the time period of the original Night of the Living Dead), but I think the technological differences shown in this film vs. previous ones is too great a gap to connect. That’s not actually the biggest problem with the story though. The biggest problem is Romero’s ham fisted attempt to shove his message down the viewer’s throat. He’s always been known for adding messages to his films, and this one is no different, but he goes overboard in its presentation. It’s not a bad message he’s trying to put out, showing us how today’s overindulgence in watching YouTube or YouTube like videos is desensitizing us, but he’s lost the ability to be at all subtle. He even has the characters pushing his message by mentioning it anytime they get a chance. It’s in every aspect of Diary of the Dead, and it gets old quick. It was so overly saturated that he desensitizes his audience to his message of being desensitized. There are a few minor things like how the zombies seem to just pass up whoever is holding the camera while going straight for others or why a group of college kids with no firearm experience are able to make headshots so easily, but by far the biggest problem was the lack of subtlety.


{Romero making sure you got his message}

Then there’s the characters. They are overly annoying and constantly whining. There were a few that weren’t terrible, but the majority get on your nerves within the first fifteen minutes. Jason is easily the worst. His obsession with getting everything on film was poorly handled. I get that it was supposed to show how desensitized (that’s a big focus of this movie, thus why it becomes grating) he was to everything that was going on around him, and everything only made sense to him if viewed from behind a lense, but how idiotic he was in trying to get everything on camera just became too much. It was more of that “shove the message in the viewer’s face” crap that ruined the film. I found myself yelling out loud at the moron several times throughout the film. It didn’t help that he was portrayed by a terrible actor who couldn’t properly handle the emotional spectrum. It wasn’t just him though, most of the actors are cardboard cutouts with little to no talent. Not all mind you, a few actors were very talented and managed to make you care about their characters, but for the most part they were all just awful.

George Romero's Diary Of The Dead

{Just looking at this picture makes me want to punch Jason in the face}

The one shining grace to the film were the effects, but even those were slightly marred. The practical effects were not just amazing but very creative. Some of the zombie takedowns could easily be the best in the series. A zombie’s head is melted away by hydrochloric acid, another zombie is brained by an IV stand, and an Amish farmer, once realizing he was going to turn from a bite, puts a sickle right though his own head and into the head of the zombie attacking him, and that’s just a few of them. They were all very well done and looked extremely realistic. The zombie makeup looked amazing too, with some truly grotesque looking members of the living dead. The biggest problem was in the use of CGI. I don’t hide the fact that I’m not a huge fan of computer generated effects, but they’re fine if done well and needed. The times CGI was used were completely unnecessary here. Previous dead films have done well without having to resort to CGI, in fact, there were things done here that have been done before with practical effects just fine, so I didn’t understand why Romero chose to go down this route. Worse yet, it was painfully obvious when it was used as it looked terrible, and don’t even get me started on the CGI blood. I can’t stand CGI blood and find it nearly inexcusable myself. It never looks right and always kills any kind of buildup the movie may have had going.


{What a way to go}

Personally, I wouldn’t recommend watching this one. I’d end it at Land of the Dead as it shows a more complete series and should have ended there anyways. If you do decide to watch it though, pay attention to some of the newscasters’ voices and you might hear the likes of Simon Pegg, Wes Craven, Quentin Tarantino, Guillermo del Toro and a few others.


The Undead Review


Directed By: George A. Romero (Land of the Dead, Survival of the Dead)

Starring: Michelle Morgan (Fire Serpents, A Heartland Christmas), Joshua Close (The Master, The Exorcism of Emily Rose), and Shawn Roberts (Skinwalkers, Left for Dead)

Released By: Artfire Films, Romero-Grunwald Productions, and Dimension Extreme

Release Type: Theatrical

Release Year: 2007

MPAA Rating: Rated R

About The Undead Review

When I was alive I was an asshole and after I died remained pretty much the same, if not a little worse. You’d think becoming a member of the walking dead would mellow a person out, no more worrying about awkward small talk with people, no more having to be politically correct, and the entire world is your upright, bipedal buffet. Don’t get me wrong, it’s fun as hell to be a zombie, just somewhat irritating at times, especially those times you have to watch a lame movie or read a lame book. Thankfully, when I am forced to watch these films or read those books, I’ve got places like The Undead Review to bitch and moan to my heart’s content. {When he’s not devouring the living or sinking his teeth into a good film The Undead Review (Andy Taylor) spends his time writing his own stories or hunting down the paranormal. Oh, and did we mention his blind dog once saved the world?)
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