You know, there are times where I really hate The Blair Witch Project because of how it made the whole “first person view” movie so popular. That being said, there are times where that point of view can actually work for a movie, particularly in horror movies. For instance, Cloverfield is a great way to use that style of filming because it allows people to really feel what it would be like to be trying to run while a giant monster attacks the city. Today’s movie is another great use for it because it provides a unique look to zombie movies that keeps it from becoming stale. So let’s see how good of a job Romero did with his latest film, Diary Of The Dead (2007)
The plot: A news reporter and her cameraman are covering a story about an immigrant family, where the husband shoots his wife and son, then kills himself. As the reporter starts to talk, the cameraman notices the woman’s corpse start to move and as he has the reporter get behind him, they see the woman suddenly grab one of the EMT’s and bite him in the neck while the son also gets up and tries attacking a second EMT. The police start shooting and manage to shoot both of them in the head, but not before the woman grabs and bites the reporter in the throat. Debra Moyniham’s voice is heard talking about how they found the footage on the internet and downloaded it, then starts explaining how her boyfriend Jason wanted to make a movie to show the truth about what was going on. The movie then cuts to October 24th, where Jason, along with several of his fellow film students, along with their faculty advisor, are in the woods shooting a horror movie. During a break in shooting, Eliot tells them something strange is being reported on the news and they all listen as the news anchor says that 6 reports have come in about the dead rising up and attacking people. Tony believes the news reports are exaggerating but Ridley gets nervous and decides to head to his parent’s mansion and invites everyone else to come with them but Francine is the only one to take him up on the offer. After they drive off, Jason decides to head to the dorm to check on his girlfriend Debra. After running into a looter in the dorm, Jason finds Debra and comforts her but as he watches the footage she found of the earlier incident, Debra is tries to get in touch with her parents and but is unable to so they decide to head there. Driving in the RV with Mary, Tony, Tracy, Gordo, Eliot, and Andrew, they make their way out of the city and Jason starts filming them saying he wants to document what is happening but several of them get irritated with him about it. When they come to the scene of an accident and witness a burned state trooper coming towards them, Mary is forced to run over him and three other zombies and when they stop to rest, Mary tries to shoot herself. Rushing the wounded Mary to a hospital, they find it deserted and as they look for a doctor, Gordo manages to get the radio working and they hear the chaos that is going on outside. They see a doctor and nurse and are forced to kill them and then they go looking for a doctor but Jason stays behind to charge his camera. As he is talking to the camera, Jason hears a scream but refuses to leave the camera to see what is happening. Debra enters the room with a second camera that she found and starts filming Jason, making him see how it feels and then tells him what happened. When Mary dies and starts to turn, Andrew shoots her and they go to leave the hospital but Gordo ends up bitten by another zombie. The next day, they bury Mary and when Gordo dies and starts to turn, Tracy shoots him. When their car breaks down, they manage to push it into the barn of Samuel, a deaf Amish farmer, and Tracy fixes the problem and, with zombies surrounding the barn, they go to leave but Samuel is attacked and kills himself while they drive off. Making plans to get some gas, they encounter some armed men who lead them to a warehouse where they have gas and food stored up so they can survive. Jason and Eliot get online and begin editing their footage to post online, having seen how the media is re-editing the news reports to cover up what is really happening and he gets a video chat from Ridley and Francine, saying they should come to his parent’s house. After dealing with a dead guy inside the warehouse, Debra manages to convince the leader to give them some supplies and they continue towards Debra’s house. Along the way, they manage to see a video blog post from Tokyo but the internet service goes out and Eliot notices that the TV has gone out as well. Reaching Debra’s house, they head inside and find her parent’s car in the garage but notice blood on the passenger window. Heading back inside, Debra is attacked by her little brother but he is killed by Andrew, who kill’s Debra mother as well, and they head back on the road towards Ridley’s house. As they head down the road, the have a run in with some national guard soldiers, who steal all their supplies, and they continue traveling until the finally reach Ridley’s house. Feeling nervous that the door is open, they go looking around and Ridley scares them when he bursts out of the panic room he was in. Ridley tells everyone that his parents and Francine are out back and then Jason and Tracy go to get their stuff from the RV, leaving Tony with the camera. Tony and Debra follow Ridley, who is acting strange, and are shocked to learn that Francine, as well as Ridley’s parents and the staff, are zombies and that Ridley trapped them in his pool. When Ridley disappears, Tony thinks that he had been bitten as he noticed blood on his arm. Ridley stumbles and collapses into the house, and then rises back up and starts stumbling around. Outside, Ridley attacks Tracy and Jason and after she manages to get away, Tracy gets back in the RV and drives off. Debra and Tony see her drive off and run into Andrew, who tells them that he saw Ridley killing Eliot on the monitors. Debra, Tony, and Andrew want to get into the panic room and hide but Jason refuses to be shut away from the world. When he ends up being bit by Ridley, Andrew kills Ridley and Jason hands his camera to Debra before she kills him. Debra says that she is going to keep making Jason’s movie but as more zombies start gathering around the house, the three survivors lock themselves inside the panic room. As the movie ends, Debra shows some footage of some hunters using zombies as target practice and asks if we are really worth saving.
Diary Of The Dead (2007) met with mixed to positive reviews from the critics, holding a 62% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. The critical consensus on the site is that, “As Diary of the Dead proves, time hasn’t subdued George A. Romero’s affection for mixing politics with gore, nor has it given him cinematic grace or subtlety.” While this is the fifth film in the series, it isn’t so much a sequel as it is a side story that is happening at the same time as Night Of The Living Dead, or as Romero said, “a rejigging of the myth.” The movie did not meet with much success at the box office, only making $5.3 million off of a $2 million budget.
I know that some people give this movie a bum rap but I actually like it. The acting was really good, with the different actors doing a good job of displaying the various emotional states they all were going through, from panic to denial to depression. The story was pretty simple but the first person point of view really helped make the movie better. Showing how people were actually looking at the events in the movie made it feel a lot more realistic. The make up and effects were very well done and though there was not as much gore as in some of the previous movies, that wasn’t really necessary since the movie focused more on the humans instead of the zombies. One of Romero’s better, yet unappreciated movies.
Rating: 4 out of 5