This is kind of a bizarre entry in the “Dead” series because it takes place during the same time as Night of the Living Dead, just in a modern setting. That being said, it appears George Romero threw out all realistic concepts of his timeline for Diary of the Dead. This entry is also unique for the in-movie camera style that is similar to films like Cloverfield and [REC.].
As I said before, this film takes place during the events of Night of the Living Dead. A group of film students are making a low budget horror movie in the woods when they hear about the undead rising and consuming human flesh. Determined to document the events, Jason Creed (Joshua Close) continues to film the horrors that the group encounter while on the road to Scranton, Pennsylvania.
I honestly wasn’t expecting much from this movie because of the weird timeline changes and the synopsis. Well, I really learned my lesson because Diary of the Dead is a refreshing entry into the “Dead ” series. I’m not sure how many times a film maker can pump out movies in a series that follow the same basic premise and keep it interesting without changing it up a bit. Also, I have a soft spot in my movie loving heart for this kind of hand held, in-movie camera style.
This movie has some of the best suspense and shocking violent moments in the entire series. From an Amish man throwing dynamite into a group of zombies to acid burning through a zombies skull, Romero delivers awesome scenes one after another. Compared to Land of the Dead, however, Diary of the Dead might seem a little tame. I use the word “tame” just to say it isn’t quite as gory or violent as the previous entry, but there isn’t really a “tame” Romero movie, especially in this series.
Like the first three entries in this series, this film didn’t have that large of a budget and the actors were mainly unknown. Romero once again proves that you don’t need an astronomical budget and Brad Pitt to make a good movie. This is a movie that has characters that I found strangely relatable, especially since I am a film student living in Pennsylvania, and the continuing satire that has become a trademark in this series.
This time the satire deals with mainstream media and the negative effects that it has on people when it comes to information. Instead, Romero favors the more independent thinkers who are crusading for the truth, like the characters in this movie. This is a timeless notion that I think is very important presently with all of the violence in the Middle East and even on our own soil that is covered up or warped by the media for ratings or to maintain a certain agenda. There isn’t a zombie apocalypse happening now, but what if there was? If the media handles it anyway like they did in this movie, what hope would we have?
As a small side note, Diary of the Dead has the most hard hitting, thought provoking, and depressing ending in this entire series. If you aren’t shaken or left wondering at the final image, then there might be something seriously wrong with you.
Diary of the Dead was a pleasant surprise. The style and characters made this movie interesting, but the zombie horror and awesome suspense brought it to the level of “awesome.” There is probably a lot of people who don’t like this movie because it strays away from the others in form, but I found it to be an excellent addition to the series. Definitely worth a viewing.
I’ll be finishing up this series with my next review of Romero’s final zombie film to date, Survival of the Dead.