‘Diary of the Dead’ Review

Yesterday while many people were enjoying Valentine’s Day, and showering themselves with gifts and having romantic dinners, I had taken my single ass to the theatres to see the Toronto pre-screening of the fifth installment in George A. Romero’s popular “Dead” series. Yup, instead of staying at home and feeling like I’ve had my heart ripped out, I opted to go the movies to hopefully see characters get their hearts ripped out….literally.  Since the film was filmed in Toronto, the audience was lucky to see some of the main actors of the film who came out to support it. I’ve been very excited to see ‘Diary of the Dead’ for a long time, and was hoping it would blow my mind away. Did I get what I was hoping for? Read on to find out!

General Idea: A film crew shooting a horror movie for a class project suddenly realizes the world is being taken over by the “walking dead.” They decide to document their horrific experiences of trying to stay alive on camera for the public. They later piece together and re-edit footage from their camcorders, camera phones, security tapes, and the news to make a film entitled ‘The Death of Death.’

The Good: You have to give it up to George A. Romero. The man knows how to stay consistent. Like all his movies, the zombie outbreak takes place in the Present, and the reasons why the dead walk the earth still remains an enigma. (Something I’ve always loved.)

Also, something I always admired about this man is his ability of adapting and growing with the times.  Most people know now that his ‘Dead’ movies are not just about zombies taking over the earth, but more importantly about current social issues and examining how ugly the human condition can be. In ‘Diary of the Dead,’ he makes the audience observe society’s current and ever growing obsession of blogging and social network groups like facebook, MySpace, and YouTube.  While I watched the film, I realized that the zombie outbreak wasn’t the only thing infecting the humans. It became apparent that Romero was trying to point out how we have become a generation of people that would rather watch people living out their lives on a computer screen, instead of living our own. In fact, the characters in the movie become so immersed with filming, that their need for survival starts to diminish. This was an excellent point to get across to the audience.

Additionally, the kills in this movie were fantastic! Romero has some of the most inventive and creative kills I have ever seen in a movie! (There’s a particular one involving a cardiac defibrillator that was pure gold!) The audience was cheering every time one of the undead met their demise. This to me was (visually) the strongest point of the film, so I won’t spoil all the memorably gory moments.

The audience is also introduced to the greatest character ever seen in a horror movie.  When you see Samuel, the elderly deaf zombie killing Amish man, believe me that you will have a giant smile on your face. (Too bad he wasn’t in the film more.) Honestly, if they had made the movie just about him, I would have been cheering the whole way.

The Bad:  Although Romero’s creative twist on the new “hand held” sub-genre was a fairly original concept*, (*showing us a documentary that’s been re-edited by the characters to look like an actual horror film) it unfortunately didn’t succeed in wowing me over.

While popular hand held movies like ‘The Blair Witch Project,’ ‘Cloverfield,’ and ‘Rec’ made you feel like you’re watching real-life footage because of gritty and jerky camera work and natural acting from the leads, ‘Diary of the Dead’ had sleek camera work and actors who LOOKED like they were acting. (Poorly I might add.) For the entire running time I was completely aware I was watching a movie, instead of watching an illusion of real-life events.

Also, although I can’t believe I’m going to write this, (considering this IS a zombie flick) my suspension of disbelief was definitely pushed to the limit.

Somehow, these college kids all managed to have perfect aim and gunmanship when it came to killing the zombies. (Even the drunken professor had extremely accurate bowsmanship.) They also managed to constantly make stupid moves and mistakes which frustrated me to no end. (If you were in your friend’s house and was convinced her undead family was hiding in the house, would the first thing you do is tell her to get her childhood toy to calm down? NO…I didn’t think so.)   I also found it very hard to believe that friends would not only tape, but re-edit a documentary of most of them getting picked off one by one to look and sound like a slasher film. (However, considering what Romero was trying to do with this film, this might not be a bad thing after all.)

Last but not least, one of the biggest letdowns of this film was realizing Romero’s tactful way of covering all the social commentary within his ‘Dead’ films was long gone. No longer is there any under-lining subtext for the messages he was trying to get across in this entry. Unlike ‘Cloverfield,’ which was able to demonstrate how we have become a press-whoring youtube and MySpace generation through one scene where crowds of panicked people foolishly stop running for their lives to take pictures on their camera phones of the decapitated head of the Statue of Liberty on the ground, ‘Diary of the Dead’ spends the entire running time of the movie drilling this message in our heads through many ostentatious voice-overs, and characters without the ability to retain any inner monologue, reminding us how bad our society has become.  Although, I know it wasn’t Romero’s intention at all, it still felt like he had underestimated his audience’s I.Q. Unfortunately, this was disappointing to see.

Overall: ‘Diary of the Dead’ is a movie that was beautifully directed, yet horribly acted.  Although the movie’s message was a powerful one, it would have been far more powerful if the movie hadn’t treated its audience like Wile.E Coyote and constantly hit us over the heads with ACME-sized “social commentary” anvils.   This is honestly the first time I feel horrible for not being able to like the movie more than I did.  (This is probably because George Romero just happens to be one of the sweetest and most charismatic directors alive.) However, despite the movie’s flaws, I still would recommend this for fans of the series, because it definitely delivers the goods that horror fans crave for.

I give this movie…. (GULP) a 6.5 out of 10. (I’m sorry, George! :P)

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32 thoughts on “‘Diary of the Dead’ Review

  1. When this came out in the UK I really wanted to go and see it but it was not on at many cinemas and I missed out so had to wait untill the DVD release. Now I have watched the DVD I realise why not many cinemas showed it.
    The characters are boring and uncharasmatic no matter how much they try. The acting seemed terrible and the dialogue was wooden. I was so excited about seeing this. I really enjoyed Cloverfield and the idea of a Romero zombie film in that style seemed like a great idea. The film seemd like an amateur film but not in the way it ment to.
    I love the other living dead films, I thought Land of the dead, though not as good as the others was still good and entertaining addition to the series but this is dreadfull.
    I held out till the end hoping maybe it would at least have an interesting ending, but no. The film just seemed to stop.

  2. I just read james comment now , and I think I see a sequel , with just the amish hunting the undead , while idiots take pics and update their facebooks.

  3. (Type your comment here. Make sure you’ve read the commenting rules before doing so)This movie made my head hurt. Let me start by saying ,I am a zombie flick fan , but no purist . The Dawn remake was amazing ( running undead or not ) , but this was a movie that let me down. I’m always waiting for some more info (via background radio or TV ) about how the rest of the world ( not just the survivors ) are coping in these movies. The characters only hearing bits of information helps build some of the tension in the movie.

    When I heard the plot synopsis for Diary , I thought that I would finally be getting the “world view”. Instead this movie seemed determined to make me literally angry. Angry at the poor ( and I mean poor ) acting / chemistry. I would not have batted an eye , if the entire cast was eaten in the first ten minutes. None of the characters mattered. They each had their own little monologue moment ( which were so rehearsed/ forced its painful) , to make us know them. Real cinema verite’….don’t step off your mark! Be Real NOW!
    One of the most groan worthy diatribes ( but not the last) comes from the groups teacher , who just HAPPENS to be ex-military , and oh no look he drinks! EDGEY ! He’s seen it all man no tell me more about grenada.
    I watched this movie at home , and could not stop complaining to the dvd player , hoping that some voice command or expletive combo , would unbreak this movie. I had to watch it till its conclusion to be sure , and folks it just did’nt get any better. I could practically hear George pitching the idea and setting up the different shots , but the theory failed in practice. A couple special effects, a couple shakes of the camera on cue , and one Amish dude that should have carried the movie himself.
    Sorry George.
    p.s. what’s up with Land ‘s ending ? ” Should we shoot them? ” ” No their just trying to find their way …just like us.” ARE YOU KIDDING ?! THEY JUST ATE HALF THE TOWN !! AIM FOR THE HEAD!!!YOU HAVE A TANK!!!!
    k im done

  4. Wow, ok, I’ll go against the grain here and say I really liked it. More than Land and more than Day. So there. As for the bad acting comments, um, did you watch Dawn of the Dead? There was probably only a couple actors who were ‘bad’ but they were more than made up for by the female lead and by the professor who were great. I liked him switching things up by doing the first person perspective ala ‘Blair Witch’. And one thing I always liked about his films was the underlying commentary, which is completely lacking in movies such as 28 Days/Weeks later. Finally, for the gore hounds there were same great scenes! Especially the final one!

  5. Just watched it on dvd, switched of before the end. This is one turkey of a zomie movie. how could Romero make such a steaming pile of preachy nonsense? he has really lost it big time, the remakes are making his output look very tired. pack it in George if this is the best you can do.

  6. Well ya know i really love all of his zombie movies hes made. even land of the dead wasnt too bad, coulda been better, but wasnt bad. This movie however was bad….The character’s are absolutely stupid in ways you cant imagine…and there really isnt a whole lot of zombie action, at least not for me. Also im not a big fan of “blair witch” type filming, it just bugs me for some reason. He needs to make a new zombie movie let night of the living dead….small town/ remote area being over run with slow moving, stupid zombies that you can just walk around. I like that about zombies, than being slow, weak, and stupid. I cant stand the remakes where the zombies can sprint, jump over cars and bust down doors. No, i say small town overrun with zombies and a group of survivors hiding out and fighting there way to safety, killing mucho ammounts of zombies on the way out. Throw in the random redneck hunting line walking through open fields blowing off zombie head. Thats the kinda zombie film id like to see.

  7. Wow… worst zombie flick ever. all i wanted to see in this movie was Amish guy blow up some more zombies. and wow the guy who kept filming while the girl was getting chased by a zombie needed to get eaten by a zombie and then shot in the head, while everyone pours gasoline on him and sets him one fire. i was seriously angry after i saw this movie. just kept wondering how many times i would string the main camera guy up and shoot his limbs off.

  8. Classics such of the original, DOTD, and to some extent the Day of the Dead should even be in the same breath. Land of the Dead was bad, but this movie was complete and utter garbage. The movie had little flow to it, the characters had no substance to them which just makes you not care if they were killed or not thus taking away the suspense to the film. The acting was probably the worst I have seen in some time. I have actually seen high school plays acted better than this. The visual effects were decent, but really didn’t add anything to the plot. It seemed to me that a lot of the zombies that were shot were used more to get the viewer reintersted in the film due to lack of any plot, character building, or any creative writing on the Romero’s part especially the hanging zombie. I get that he is saying were all idiots for being in a world were we like information at a click of a button and that a lot of us have phones and such, but the real idiots are those who think Romero is still creative and relevant and will drop cash anytime he puts out anything.You can now count me out of that group as of now and it’s sad to say, but if he comes out with another zombie movie I am going to skip it as I’d rather flush $10s down the toilet then to sit through another one of these so called “zombie flicks”.

  9. We seem to have a bit of a continuity paradox: if their footage has been edited and assembled, and we are watching it, doesn’t that imply that the apocalypse at the onset of Day of the Dead, nay, even Land of the Dead (see: mess), has either never occured or resolved itself so perfectly that film distributors are in business again?

    Or maybe the zombies from LoTD are now so civilized that they could find the documentary and distribute it themselves?

    I mean, how the hell are we able to be watching the film if the world has ended?

    George Romero needs some help.

  10. This film has no atmosphere at all. All the cast were dull, dull, dull. You just didn’t care about them. I particularly wanted the british professor to have his pretentious brain eaten. Samuel was great though, he should have been in kingpin.

  11. George, i’m scared to go see this. just the name scares me as it doesn’t seem to hold any water. I really thought that someday you woul end the trilogy with a banger. How about the story from The book of the Dead where the zombies had eradicated the human population. They were reproducing but the twist was the babies were human! The zombies, being in a state of bad decay had to rely on the human babies to get them nourishment. Oh the circle of life…If the story must end…end it on a masterpiece!!! I’ll see this on DVD and add it to my collection.

  12. i’m a huge zombie movie fan, even if it isn’t a Romero flick. that being said , i think this is the worst movie i’ve seen in 10 years. i walked out of the theater after exactly 57 minutes. the girl had just started another one of her tiresome , annoying diatribes in the form of a voice over about how we are all too involved in media (no, actually stupid people and film majors are the only ones compelled to film instead of help) and i just couldn’t stand it anymore. worst $14 i ever spent.

  13. I’m a huge George Romero fan but I need to be honest this movie was terrible the worst movie he’s ever made the acting was horrible this movie looked like it was made in one day it was so bad. If your into gore this movie has very little of it this could of easily been rated PG-13. I think George is getting a little old and he’s loosing his mind George if your reading this dude what were you thinking.

  14. I have to agree with all of the haters… just got back from the theater. I went with high hopes. Love Romero. Even Land of the Dead had its moments.
    But “Diary” just didn’t work. I was SO VERY bummed as I walked out of the movie theater.
    Having said that, if George makes another one, I’ll go check it out.

  15. Disapointed by the reviews, however i will be watching this movie as George A.Romero is a living legend within the zombie flick industry. Like additional comments i was disapointed with Land of the dead (apart from the great Dennis Hopper line (Oh no you really are dead) the ending really let it down. However, i beleive this is a flim true zombie addicts out there cannot miss!!!!

  16. This movie was an awesome zombie movie. Definitely better than Romero’s last one (which I also enjoyed). IT’S A FUCKING ZOMBIE MOVIE, ADJUST YOUR EXPECTATIONS ACCORDINGLY.

  17. I saw this movie in Pittsburgh on opening weekend since I am a hug George Romero/’OTLD fan. I had been anticipating its debut for months…and was sorely disappointed. What ever happened to the good old days of decaying zombies all over the screen, killing a character just when we were beginning to get comfortable again? It was such a letdown…from the terrible acting, the lack of gore, the dragged out scenes, the kinda-sorta boyfriend/girlfriend, to the total lack of zombies and political undertones. I hate to give Romero a bad rap, but this was definitely his worst film, and the first one that I will NOT buy for my personal DVD collection, although I will continue to seek out his future films in the hopes that he will resurrect himself.

  18. Alright i think i made a conclusion that everyone that goes on this website and comments has got to be a dumbass. I mean this is George A. Romero were talkin about hes a filmaking god. I personally havent seen this movie but a few of my friends have and they said its awesome if u love zombie movies. I am a huge fan of Romero and this is a must see for me and for the rest of u commented u must have problems because u have to be retarted not to like this movie

  19. I totally agree Serena.. I saw this in Chicago on Friday and I felt it just didn’t deliver. Some great kills but other than that this is a massive let down. I can really see why it didn’t get a larger release. I’m glad I got to see it on the big screen but I think most fans aren’t missing much by waiting for it on DVD.

  20. Unlike ‘Cloverfield,’ which was able to demonstrate how we have become a press-whoring youtube and MySpace generation through one scene where crowds of panicked people foolishly stop running for their lives to take pictures on their camera phones of the decapitated head of the Statue of Liberty on the ground, ‘Diary of the Dead’ spends the entire running time of the movie drilling this message in our heads through many ostentatious voice-overs

    Well said Serena. Now all said and done, I very much did like Diary of the Dead, but I don’t lump it in with the classic trilogy (Night, Dawn, Day). It’s about on par with Land, perhaps even a tad better.

    But for Samuel alone, this thing was worth a look, and all in all it’s quite entertaining despite the ham-fisted message-mongering…

  21. OK, I really wanted to love it.
    Night of the living dead is one of my all time favorite. I love zombie movies. I loved Dawn of the Dead…Even day of the dead was pretty cool. I read the “zombie survival guide” several times. I friggen love zombies.

    When the remake of Dawn came out I was in Korea…and went crazy with anticipation, as I searched for a bootleg…
    When Diary came out today…I took a bus 2 hours to go see it.

    At the end of the film…..I booooed at the screen. It was crap. Half way though the film I yelled out to everyone in the theater how dumb this movie was, and they all clapped and agreed. Horrid horrid crap. It was so bad that I can;t even begin to explain every reason, as it would take all night and require me to relive this disgusting attempt at a movie.

    All I can say is…every thing in this movie sucks. Everything…..except the amish guy. If the whole film was about him, maybe it would have been good.

    What can even be said of such a bad film, silly idiotic characters acting like morons in ways that boggle the very mind and annoying in its pretentious self righteous goobly gook…

    As you can tell I am at the point of anger over how bad this movie was (not to mention the 4 hours of riding the bus)

  22. I think some film makers forget that the reason most people go to the movies is to be entertained, not lectured. In this case (and I have not seen this film yet) it seems that Romero breaks rule #1 – scare us first. Then slide the commentary underneath.

  23. The heavy handedness is a common issue with people I know that didn’t like it. It didn’t bother me too much though. I interpreted it as how the protagonist was cutting the footage. I believe it was Romero taking a stab at doc filmmakers like Michael Moore. Doc filmmakers who set out (hopefully) to be impartial, but end up inserting their own agendas.

    Not to give anything away, but the film they were making starts off as one thing and becomes another.

    Nowhere near the calibur of the original trilogy, but I had a real blast watching it. SAMUEL ROCKS!

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