“God had changed the rules on us. And surprisingly, we were playing along.”
Take one my favorite sub-genres – found footage – and put one of my favorite directors at the helm, and you should have a recipe for gold in my eyes. Unfortunately, Romero puts in some terribly boring, unrealistic characters and decides to stray from the series as we know it at this point, and the result is a below average film that feels like it doesn’t belong in this franchise.
Diary of the Dead actually takes place the same night as the original, but in 2007 instead of 1968. So here we are seeing, again, the start of the zombie apocalypse. This time, though, we’re seeing it through the eyes of a group of film students, along with their professor, as they make their way from the University of Pittsburgh to their homes across the state of Pennsylvania. The result of this taking place at the beginning, but set in a modern time, makes it feel like a generic zombie film that we’ve been seeing so much lately. There’s virtually nothing special about Diary because of that, and that’s a real shame.
Romero talks about how he had full creative control over this, and it was shot as an independent film. I appreciate that, but this makes it even more difficult to swallow because one of the more disappointing aspects of this is how on-the-nose the moral message is. I would argue that his last films were more about the evil that is man more than anything else, but this one is all about how the over-saturation of media has desensitized everyone from everyday horrors. That’s a fine message, but there’s nothing subtle about it at all like in the other films in this franchise, which makes it feel amateurish, and even more generic than it otherwise would.
This is from 2007 and apparently we were still in the era where the characters had to constantly discuss why one person was filming during found footage movies. I’m so glad we progressed past this, because Diary is a great reminder why it’s incredibly annoying to hear this banter an entire film. We’ve also progressed to the point where – in good found footage films, anyway – the filming is more easily justified, and makes more sense. Here, I just wanted the jackass to put the camera down and help his girlfriend. I use the term “girlfriend” only because that’s what she’s referred to as in the film. You’d never get that relationship from the way these two interact.
Diary has fine acting for the most part, but with a generic story, a message that’s forced, and characters I didn’t want to root for at all, Diary of the Dead is a bust that does not really belong in this rich and detailed universe Romero created to this point.