Director: George A. Romero
Cast: Michelle Morgan, Josh Close, Shawn Roberts, Amy Lalonde, Joe Diicol, Scott Wentworth, Philip Riccio, Chris Violette, Tatiana Maslany
Screenplay: George A. Romero
95 mins. Rated R for strong horror violence and gore, and pervasive language.
I got into the Living Dead series when around the time that Land of the Dead was released, and I was fairly certain it would be the last time George A. Romero (Monkey Shines, Bruiser) returned to his world of zombies. It just felt like Land of the Dead ended in the right place, but only a few short years later, Romero decided to pick up his camera and make a movie about the first night when the dead rose, this time present in found-footage.
A team of film students making a horror film in the woods are shocked to hear the news reports claiming that the dead are rising and feeding on the flesh of the living. Director Jason (Josh Close, The Exorcism of Emily Rose, Anthem of a Teenage Prophet) and several of the others go looking for Debra (Michelle Morgan, Deep Space, TV’s Heartland), Jason’s girlfriend, and then, the group heads out in search of safe refuge, along the way learning the hardness of life in the apocalypse, while Jason follows along, camera in hand, ready to capture as much of the carnage as possible.
I was extremely excited for Diary of the Dead, and I brought a copy of it home to host a watch party, and while the film is overall fine enough, it was clearly the least-impressive film of the five release at that point. I get the feeling Romero was disconnected from both the youth of 2007 but also the medium of found-footage filmmaking, and there’s several breaks in logic that become noticeable. The film works still but his writing kind of creates flat archetypal characters that are not easy to connect with. It’s more the journey of the film that’s so interesting. So much of Romero’s Living Dead series is confined to a single location. It’s fun to revisit the beginning of the zombie apocalypse in this way.
The performance Michelle Morgan is fine as the lead, but I connected more to Shawn Roberts (Resident Evil: Afterlife, Undercover Angel) as Tony, the brutish foil to Jason, and Tatiana Maslany (Stronger, Destroyer) as Mary, a member of the film crew clearly struggling to understand the situation.
None of the Living Dead films are truly connected, and their timeline is always murky. For example, in Day of the Dead, we see a Stephen King book onscreen, but if the apocalypse started in 1968, Stephen King would probably not be writing. Each film can be placed on a zombie progression timeline but exists on its own. So yes, this film is intended to be set during the events of Night of the Living Dead, but also during 2007, so don’t take it too intentionally, as this has always been the case.
Diary of the Dead is fine overall, but upon release it never was able to reach the level of Night, Dawn, Day, or even Land. It’s okay for fans and creates some interesting narrative around technology and social media sharing, and the cameos are really fun to try and catch (just try to guess the major voices behind the many news recordings), but it isn’t for new fans of Romero.
-Kyle A. Goethe
For my review of George A. Romero’s Night of the Living Dead, click here.
For my review of George A. Romero’s Dawn of the Dead, click here.
For my review of George A. Romero’s Day of the Dead, click here.
For my review of George A. Romero’s Land of the Dead, click here.
For my review of George A. Romero’s Monkey Shines, click here.