Romero’s Diary of the Dead came out a year or two after his last film within the Hollywood system “Land of the Dead” While LotD was pretty bad it did have some cool moments – The army of Zombies walking under water, the class struggle on what was left of the city, the raids on surrounding towns for food etc etc. But on the whole for me it was not George’s finest hour.
I recall reading an interview with Romero right before the release of Diary of the Dead asking why he was shooting the new film with hand held cameras documentary style (Think : Original Blair Witch Project) and his answer was something along the lines of – when you make a film in the Hollywood system you end up having to work with a lot of different people and everyone has a say in how the film is and you lose control on how you get to make “your film”. It is only by working outside of the Hollywood system with a cast of unknowns that you have complete control of your film making.
Fair enough – so what is the film about? The film starts off with a group of college kids in the Pennsylvania woods (actually somewhere around Toronto) shooting a horror film and inadvertently documenting the beginning of the Zombie apocalypse. While trying to travel back to their respective homes, they start a video diary documenting the carnage around them. Online blogs, you tube and myspace are all mentioned and used as part of the story as they discover more and more on the unraveling of society via these outlets (versus the traditional story with the survivors watching news broadcasts) If you remember in Romero’s “Dawn of the Dead , it starts in a TV news station as things start to fall apart.
The film has some great scenes – they get to a certain town and gang members have taken control of the town and anything of value. They get stopped by a rogue gang of National guardsmen who they think will save them and who only end up robbing them of anything of value and many gems that would pretty much happen in the advent of a real Zombie Armageddon. Some of the kills in this film are brand new too and worth looking out for, esp in the hospital with the defibrillators and when they meet Samuel the deaf Amish farmer.
Surprisingly many fans of the Zombie genre did not really rate this film – in my humble opinion it is far superior to Land of the Dead and has all the elements of a great Romero Zombie movie, (Collapse of society, social commentary, original zombie kills etc etc) I also have to appreciate the way George made this film out side of the Hollywood studios – I have always had a great admiration for directors who have done so (Robert Rodriguez etc) and this almost makes the dream of making your own Zombie film do-able (Yeah I know the budget was $ 2 million – but whatever) Do yourself a a favor if you have avoided this film cuz you have heard its bad – give it a chance and download it on Netflix one night and check it out.