This movie is a bit nostalgic to me. Back near the beginning of Movie Night, we had a friend who supplied us with a plethora of cheap horror DVDs. Shout out to Tim, who I’m not even sure knows this blog exists… Anyway, Diary of the Dead was one of those movies we watched something like over a decade ago, so I only remembered a few details. Forgotten was that this was directly created by Mr. George A Romero, which makes the fact that it’s bad found footage all the more sad. Welcome back to October of the Living Dead.
The movie begins with a guy named Jason (Joshua Close) filming a mummy movie with friends, classmates, and his drunk professor. News comes out that the dead are rising and attacking the living, causing them to largely scatter. A smaller group–including Deb (Michelle Morgan) who is our monotonous narrator as she edited the final product, this film–travel around and have episodic interactions. They try to take a friend to the hospital after she shoots herself because she ran over some zombies and felt bad about it, but she turns and they have to put her down. The scene of her just plowing over three shambling figures without even attempting to slow down or swerve was funnier than it should be, by the way. Next they meet a deaf Amish man, the best character in the film. Motherfucker was killing zombies with sticks of dynamite and a scythe, the latter of which he used to pierce his own skull AND the skull of the zombie that bit him. Unrealistic? Yes, very. Cool? Hell yeah! They meet a militia led by an unnamed guy played by Martin Roach (who was the best actor in this), they get to Deb’s house and find her parents are zombies, get robbed either by the National Guard (or people pretending to be them), and then meet up with a friend who is that asshole that doesn’t tell people he got bit. He was wearing his mummy costume when he turned, which means the movie ends more or less where it started, even if that doesn’t actually matter or add anything to the story. Jason gets bit and asks Deb to shoot him, but he means with the camera because he’s a fucked up person. Deb finishes his movie and uploads it to… whoever is still out there.
A lot of these Romero zombie movies are political, but this one had the politics more in the background. You of course had guys with guns being racist assholes–this time cops–but it’s mostly snippets of broadcasts in the background. There’s a lot of talk of orange alert levels, wondering if this was biological warfare, and some good ol’ blaming of immigrants. How very George W Bush era, which I personally was not a fan of; not that I’ve been a fan of any era in recent history, but the post-9/11 world was a special kind of fucked up. Then there’s the fact that this is Romero trying out the found footage format, really making this a relic of the 2000’s. And I was already feeling that from one of the trailers on the DVD ending with, “Rent it exclusively at Blockbuster!” It just doesn’t land and now I know why Tim was able to steal this and no one cared. Uh, I mean, he acquired it at such a low price! Or something. I honestly don’t remember how he got this, but now it’s my burden to own it.
And to remind people that this isn’t a reboot, one of the news clips is actually audio taken from the original Night of the Living Dead, suggesting that the zombie apocalypse started more recently on a sliding timescale. I talk a lot what a sliding timescale means a fair amount over on my comic blog, Chwineka Reads, shameless plug shameless plug.
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