Diary of the Dead (2007)

Diary of the Dead (click for larger image)Starring Nick Alachiotis, Laura DeCarteret, Amy Ciupak Lalonde, Shawn Roberts and Todd Schroeder

Directed by George A. Romero

“The dead aren’t supposed to move fast!” yells the director of an amateur horror film in the opening minutes of Diary of the Dead, showing for the fifth time in this legendary series that George A. Romero remains the undisputed master of the zombie movie.

When it was first announced that ol’ George was going the route of the fake-documentary there was a collective groan from the entire fanbase. The idea of more post-Blair Witch antics didn’t excite much of anyone and the approach sure as hell didn’t seem right for a Dead film. But fear not, folks, for all those doubts have been put down with a bullet to the head. Diary is an uncompromised return to the indie roots that made this series great. Whatever your opinion of 2005’s Land of the Dead, there’s no argument that this installment is a big step up and shows Romero back in his element.

Diary of the Dead review (click to see it bigger)Here the walking dead once again play host to a dense commentary on society. Above all else, the Dead series is Romero’s view of our twisted world, and he’s torn into everything from consumerism to class struggles to good old fashioned human stupidity. Diary takes on the media, satirizing everything from government-controlled news networks to the online world of video blogging. It’s made all the more impressive that Romero – a guy in his late sixties – has more than a solid grasp on the younger generation’s attachment to viral media.

The story takes us back to the first night of the zombie outbreak where a group of film students decide to record their survival story with their documentary “The Death of Death.” The reluctant group is forced into action by director Jason Creed who, not unlike the Loose Change whack-jobs, is obsessed with broadcasting his version of “the truth” – no matter what the cost. It’s here that Diary introduces a whole new spin on the zombie metaphor: Anyone who picks up a camera becomes “infected” with their leader’s obsession. As the narrated documentary winds on, it’s clear that the group is more fixated with telling a story than their own safety until the lines between truth and sensationalism collapse.

Diary of the Dead review (click to see it bigger)Even with its cinema-verite style, nothing about Diary feels gimmicky, quite the opposite in fact. Romero’s documentary approach completely immerses you in the world of his characters (portrayed by a solid cast of unknowns) and at no point does it recall other films before it. In many ways, it’s the perfect platform for his thematic brand of storytelling. There are moments when Romero goes overboard with his ideas, with some heavy-handed bits of narration and atrocious one-liners that snap you out of the reality of the story, but these are small things that could easily be fixed with a few trims.

Diary is a return to form in more ways than one. The pulp action stylings of Dawn, Day, and Land have been jettisoned in favor of a bleak nihilistic tone similar to that of the original Night. The scale is smaller and the story more intimate, so Romero is more concerned with minimalist thrills this time around (it’s doubtful this will cause a stir with the MPAA). But rest assured the man hasn’t run out of crazy ways to kill zombies.

Ending with a haunting final shot, Romero poses a single question that perfectly brings his creation full circle. Whether or not Diary of the Dead is the last installment remains to be seen, but it’s hard to imagine a more fitting send-off to what is arguably horror’s greatest series.


4 1/2 out of 5

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  • Johnny Butane

    Yeah, Zombie Diaries was okay, not as good as I had hoped but better than this, in that I could stand to watch it again if I had to…

  • Terminal

    Night of the Living Dead Discussion.

    Every time you think they’re dead, they just rise again.

    Every person’s bit of bile against this is warranted. I can definitely see why people would hate this, but I LOVED it. I absolutely loved it. The statement, the symbolism, the satire, I loved it.

  • Kryten Syxx

    There were parts I was entertained with. Zombies VS Dynamite; Rich kid goes crazy; and … well that’s about it.

  • thedudeabides

    Heavy message, smartest movie ever made, pulse on America, pretentious meandering over rated hype piece comments aside…

    How is the movie based on entertainment value?

    A good zombie movie? Lame horror movie?

    People still watch movies to be entertained, right?

  • Fireflyfan

    Also, let’s be honest about it now, in defense of Romero: I find much of his liberal ponderings forced and ham fisted and quite, quite silly, but he’s ALWAYS been as subtle as a sledgehammer in regards to his messages, and in the other movies like Night, Dawn and Day it worked. I can’t speak for this movie as I haven’t seen it, but it seems a little late in the day to slam him for being on a soap box when that’s what he’s done for all his other movies.

  • Fireflyfan

    The reviewer seems blissfully unaware that a little movie called zombie diaries did the whole zombie flick on handheld camera thing quite a while before Diary, so it’s not quite as original as he makes out.

    It’s called Zombie Diaries, a low budget, indy british flick and is rather good.

  • Sirand

    Here’s a little something fun for everyone who say Diary of the Dead was badly made. Go right to YouTube or google videos and just surf the internet blogs. Hell, just look up some Diary video reviews if that’s what you want. Better yet, go watch that whacko Loose Change documentary online. Pay close attention to the details of what you’re seeing…and you’ll realize just how dead-on Romero was with his satire.

  • green eyed monster

    See above. I pretty much stopped watching after the girl shot herself and the Professor started on his post war trauma crap, that is when I realized the movie is a sad attempt at a political message.

  • The Woman In Black

    I seem to be one of the few who are smack in the middle with regard to Diary. I didn’t love it, but I certainly didn’t hate it either. My main issues were the repeated use of the voiceover (a couple of times would have been more than enough) and the lack of any sort of connection with the primary characters, especially Deb (god, was she annoying!). I really have to seriously question anyone who preferred this group of kids to those in Cloverfield. But I found a lot to like as well: the imagery, the message (even if it was driven home way too many times), and all the peripheral characters. I think George intentionally beat us over the head with his message as a sort of simile to how inundated we are with news and videos and blogs, etc., in today’s society. He was basically just doing the same thing but in a different way that will hopefully lead people to question the things they see and hear. I don’t know — maybe I’m just as pretentious as he is — lol. I’m really looking forward to watching it again on DVD to see if it holds up, improves, or deteriorates with repeated viewings. At any rate, Diary gets a solid 3 from this Woman.

  • The Buz

    I declare this film to stand tall. In fact, it stands taller than any movie I’ve ever seen. Because it is on the biggest fucking soap box ever created by man kind.

    This movie was awful. Simply awful. I have never disagreed more.

  • FanClubOfEvil

    So apparently you multiplied the actual review score by 4.

    There was no way in hell this pretentious, self indulgent crap deserved more than a 1. I wish I could claim this movie was at least decent with how it had a message. Unfortunately this movie felt the need to repeatedly slap its message about the nature of the information age in the face of the viewer, without resorting to anything close to eloquence or subtly. The heavy handed approach was not edgy nor cleaver. All in all this piece of crap was nothing more than a soap box for George Romero which he gladly used to sucker me into wasting 2 hours of my live.

    Oh.. look at how clever I am, my message much makes this post art.

  • conundrum

    Horrible. How this movie got such a rave review is as much a mystery to me as how you gave “30 Days of Night” a great review. This movie had so much against it, and so very, very little going for it. I sure hope George can pump out another decent one, because this would be an abysmal way to end things.

    Overbearing, poorly edited, bad acting, there is way more wrong with this movie than right. I really cannot recommend it unless you happen to find being hit over the head with a club every 15 minutes to be the ideal 5th date.

  • Kryten Syxx

    Sorry, but there was hardly anything good about Diary. The script was awful and the characters were about as plain a blank sheet of paper. Hardly a single member of the group showed one ounce of emotion. “My boyfriend is a zombie and I’ve got to shoot him … oh well.”

    Did the whole message have to be pounded into our heads over and over? It was like reading some Emo kid’s badly written blog about the evils of the world. Sayings were recycled to no emotional effect and certain character interactions just popped up for no reason or explanation (J’s girlfriend and the national guard leader in the warehouse for one example).

    I have been a long time fan of Romero, but this was just a laughable outing. Diary of the Dead was pretentious, dull, cliched and had only one shining moment thanks to the ridiculous scene involving a scythe wielding Amish man. That’s a sad state of affairs right there.