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Diary of the Dead is the fifth film in Romero's highly acclaimed Dead series of zombie films. It is not a direct sequel to previous films in the series, but "a rejigging of the myth" according to Romero.
The plot of Diary of the Dead is set around the same time as the initial zombie outbreak in Night of the Living Dead (1968), the first film in Romero's Dead series. Diary of the Dead follows a band of people making a horror film at the time of the first outbreak who decide to record the epidemic incident documentary-style and end up themselves being chased down by zombies. It is also the first film in Romero's series to explicitly reveal that the zombie epidemic is a not a localized event but a worldwide phenomenon.
Plot[edit | edit source]
A group of young film studies students from the University of Pittsburgh are in the woods making their own horror film about a mummy along with their Faculty Advisor, when they hear on the radio the news of apparent mass-rioting and mass murder. Soon, these reports include cannibalism and the fact that the recently deceased are inexplicably awaking and walking.
Ridley and Francine decide to leave the group, while Jason, who wants to film the events documentary-style, heads to the dormitory of his girlfriend Debra Monahan. She does not succeed in contacting her family and they travel in Mary's Recreational Vehicle to the house of Debra's parents in Scranton, Pennsylvania. While driving her RV, Mary sees a car accident and runs over a highway patrolman and three other zombies trying to escape from them. Thereafter, the group stops and the apparently despondent Mary, tries to commit suicide, shooting herself in the head with a pistol. Her friends take her to a hospital where they realize that the dead are indeed awaking and walking and they need to fight to survive while traveling to Debra's parents' house. When they arrive they find that Debra's family have died and become zombies. They escape the house and decide to travel back to Ridley's mansion, they arrive to find that all the staff and family at the mansion are zombies and the deranged Ridley is soon to become one. Also becoming one at this point is Elliot, the technology expert who thought the house was safe and let his guard down. Tracy, storms off after Jason chose to film a zombie attack on her, rather than help. After Jason is attacked, the remaining survivors then seal themselves in the family's Safe room|panic room. After an undisclosed amount of time, we see the last video Jason downloaded before he is bitten and then shot. It is a video of two men tying zombies up and using them as targets. Jason wanted to make the video so he could help people and maybe even save a few lives. Debra's final words after we see the zombie target shooting video are...
"Are we worth saving? You ask me."
Detailled plot[edit | edit source]
The movie begins with news reporters filming a story about the death of an immigrant couple and their child. As they are wheeled out of their apartment building on a gurney, the mother and the child suddenly wake up and attack the emergency services crew on site. Both are shot in the head, but not before biting quite a few of the people.
After an introduction to the zombie documentary ('The Death of Death') mostly filmed by Jason Creed (Joshua Close), a film student at the University of Pittsburgh, the film cuts to the group of students filming a mummy horror movie in the woods in the middle of the night, with Jason directing. The actor playing the mummy, Ridley Wilmot (Phillip Riccio), is lectured on the way a corpse moves and the make-up artist, Tony Ravelo (Shawn Roberts), on not doing a good enough job on the make-up of the zombie. While the group argues, another student, named Elliot Stone (Joe Dinicol), declares that something strange is on the news. All the students, and their supervising professor hear the reports of the dead waking, and Tony scoffs at the news. After hearing the report, Ridley decides to head to his home in Philadelphia, along with his girlfriend Francine Shane (Megan Park), another student.
The group gets into their Winnebago and heads over towards the university dorms to pick up Debra Monahan (Michelle Morgan), Jason's girlfriend. Entering the abandoned dormitory, he finds Debra in her room, attempting to get through to her parents, but to no avail. On the laptop computer next to her is the news report that was shown at the beginning of the movie. They get on the road once more, and Jason requests that each of the people introduce themselves to the camera, because he believes what is going on will be a part of history, and wants to document everything. Each of the group members introduce themselves hesitantly, starting with Mary Dexter (Tatiana Maslany), the driver, and moving to Debra, and Tony, then to Elliot, Gordo Thorson (Chris Violetti), his girlfriend Tracy Thurman (Amy Lalonde), and finally their professor, Andrew Maxwell (Scott Wentworth). While they drive, they encounter a car accident on the side of the road, where a State Trooper slowly stumbles towards the caravan. The students are frightened as he looks as though he has been fried from the fire of the accident. He begins to pound on the door, and the group quickly drive off, running over three other zombies as they escape.
Mary falls quickly into depression as she realizes that she has murdered three people. Stopping for a break outside, Mary shoots herself with a pistol she was carrying, prompting the group to panic. Discovering that she still has a pulse, they rush to an abandoned hospital, looking for help. The group splits up, and Gordo hears a chaotic radio transmission. The group eventually find a doctor hidden behind a curtain. They call for his help, only to discover that he is a zombie. After firing shots into his torso, they realize the only way to put an end to him is to shoot him in the head. After killing him, an undead nurse starts to stumble towards them. After losing its eyes due to Debra zapping her head with a defibrillator, Gordo puts an end to her by shooting her in the head too.
Running out of battery power for the camera, Jason opts to stay with a comatose Mary while it charges. He hears Debra screaming, but remains where he is, not wanting to leave his camera. Debra comes back, with another video camera in hand, and lectures Jason about his documentation being more important than their lives. Mary suddenly groans as she begins to turn into a zombie. The professor confiscates the pistol from Gordo's hands and kills Mary. On their way out of the hospital, a zombie patient bites Gordo in the arm before Elliot stabs the patient in the head with an IV pole.
A few hours later it is dawn. The group bury Mary, and Gordo is dead. Tony prepares to shoot him, but Tracy stops him, pleading for him to wait and see whether he will turn. Gordo then does wake up as a zombie, and Tracy kills her boyfriend herself. They get on the road again, only to have the caravan break down due to a broken fuel line. They find a barn and its deaf owner, Samuel, an Amish man. After repairing the fuel line, the group prepares to leave. But several zombies appear from out of nowhere and attack. Samuel is bitten and stabs himself in the head with a scythe, thus killing the zombie behind him in the process.
Another few hours later, the group encounters a band of rugged African-American survivors who have stocked a fortified warehouse with supplies. Jason uploads the footage he has shot so far on the Internet, and gets 72,000 message replies within eight minutes from around the world. Debra receives a text message on her cell phone from her little brother, claiming they are safe and heading home. Just before leaving, Ridley calls Jason via webcam and invites him over to his mansion in Philadelphia saying that he and Francine are safe. The group gathers some supplies from the warehouse after Tony kills a zombie and proving his worth to the rugged survivors.
The group then sets out again to Debra's home. When they arrive, they find Debra's parent's car in the garage with the passenger window smashed and bloody. As they search the house, Debra is ambushed by her undead brother, who is quickly killed by Professor Maxwell with a bow and arrow. Debra also finds her zombie mother who had been chewing on her dead father. She is also killed by the professor, who claims that they need to leave.
As night falls once again, the group decides to head over to Ridley's home hoping to find santuary. Before they get there, the group encounters two jeeps with four soldiers from the National Guard, who stop them. While the other three soldiers stand guard around the trailer, the colonel (Alan Van Sprang) enters the camper asking where they are going. After ordering Jason to turn the camera off, the four rouge soldiers quickly steal all their supplies, save for their weapons, and drive away, leaving the students with no food or water.
A few more hours later, the group finally arrives at Ridley's home, only to find the front door open. Searching the home, Ridley surprises them as he comes out of a panic room in the library that has a two-foot thick steel door and is filled with video camera monitors eyeing the whole grounds. Tracy and Jason go and unload the caravan while Tony films Ridley going through the kitchen, looking for some food. His strange behavior alarms both Tony and Debra, who ask where Francine and his family are. He claims that they are all dead, and that he has buried them. He shows the two their bodies, who have been carelessly dumped into the swimming pool, but not before Tony noticing a bite wound on Ridley's hand. Ridley quickly turns, and goes outside where Jason is filming Tracy unloading the caravan. The zombie Ridley suddenly attacks her, but she manages to run. Jason follows them with his camera, and distracts Ridley as Tracy smacks a stick into Ridley's back, knocking him out.
Angered that Jason simply filmed her as her life was in jeopardy, Tracy takes the caravan and drives off on her own. In the bathroom, Elliot dries his hair with a blow dryer as he is ambushed by the undead Ridley, causing him to fall into the tub and killing him from electrocution.
Professor Maxwell suggests they head into the panic room after seeing Elliot's death on the TV monitors, but Jason refuses, claiming he doesn't want to be shut off from the rest of the world. He lies that he'll go into the panic room, and while the rest of the group are busy stocking up, he sneaks away, only to run into Zombie Ridley. The group hears the commotion and find Jason being bitten by Zombie Ridley on the ground. Zombie Ridley's head is sliced in half by the professor, leaving Jason lying on the floor. He begs Debra to shoot him, which she does.
The next morning, vowing to continue his movie, Debra uses the camera and takes Jason's place and begins to record their actions. Debra, Tony, and Professor Maxwell spot hundreds of zombies breaking into the mansion from all directions and a dead Elliot walking around the house. The professor quickly closes and locks the panic room door as the zombies move inside the house sealing the three survivors inside the panic room... with no hope of escape or rescue. The movie ends with Debra explaining how inhumane some humans are, and questions whether the human race is really worth saving.
Cast[edit | edit source]
- Shawn Roberts as Tony Ravello
- Joshua Close as Jason Creed
- Michelle Morgan as Debra Moynihan
- Joe Dinicol as Eliot Stone
- Scott Wentworth as Andrew Maxwell
- Philip Riccio as Ridley Wilmott
- George Buza as Tattooed Biker
- Amy LaLonde as Tracy Thurman
- Tatiana Manslany as Mary Dexter
- Laura DeCarteret as Bree
- Martin Roach as Stranger
- Daniel Kash as Police Officer
- Tino Monte as Newscaster
- Megan Park as Francine Shane
- Martin Roach as Stranger
- Alan Van Sprang as Colonel
- Matt Birman as Zombie Trooper
- Laura DeCarteret as Bree
- Janet Lo as Asian Woman
- Chris Violette as Gordo Thorsen
- Todd William Schroeder as Brody
- Alexandria DeFabiis as Zombie
- Nick Alachiotis as Fred
- George A. Romero as Chief of Police
- Boyd Banks as Armorist
- Gregory Nicotero as Zombie surgeron
Quentin Tarantino, Wes Craven, Guillermo del Toro, Simon Pegg and George A. Romero lend their voices as newscasters on the radio. Shawn Roberts also appeared in Land of the Dead, making him the tenth actor to appear in at least two of Romero's zombie films, after Simon Pegg, Joseph Pilato, Tom Savini, Gregory Nicotero, Boyd Banks, John Amplas, Alan van Sprang, Taso N. Stavrakis and Romero himself. Of the aforementioned ten, Romero and Nicotero have made appearances in three films, with Alan van Sprang set to join them upon the release of the next installment, Survival of the Dead.
Re-establishing the Dead franchise[edit | edit source]
The film is the fifth film in Romero's Dead series and there are some notable references to earlier Romero films. One example of this is the same news track from Night of the Living Dead (1968), is used in the scene where the cast is in the garage of Ben.
However, the film is not a direct sequel to any of Romero's films or nor is it line with their continuity. The film was "an attempt to re-establish a profitable franchise," the film is "a rejigging of the myth" says Romero, and is meant as a side story during the same timeframe as Night. Even though the fourth film, Land of the Dead (2005), was studio-produced through Universal Studios, Diary of the Dead was produced by Romero-Grunwald Productions, formed by Romero and his producer friend Peter Grunwald, with Artfire Films. The film was produced by Romero's company and many might say it fulfills Romero's modern Dead film better than the mixed reviewed Land of the Dead. That being said, many stylistic conventions of previous Romero Dead films are absent. The film has virtually no musical soundtrack which has been a Romero staple (Specifically Dawn of the Dead with Goblin). Since the film is captured by internal sources (within the film and narrative) Romero's long still shots and crafty moving cranes are virtually absent. Since the film is taking on a different concept, and "re-establishing" a legendary horror tale, this all makes sense.
Production[edit | edit source]
Romero announced the film in August 2006 after signing a deal to write and direct it. Filming began its four-week shoot in Toronto on October 19, 2006.
Despite the low production budget, somewhere around 2 million dollars, director George Romero made extensive use of computer-generated imagery, because it allowed him to shoot the film quickly and add the effects later. Also, the film's style, as if shot with hand-held cameras, necessitated a shift from his usual method of working, which involves filming multiple camera angles and assembling scenes in the editing room. Instead, Romero filmed much of the action in long, continuous takes: "The camera was 360, so everybody was an acrobat, ducking under the lens when the camera came past you," said Romero. "The cast was great. They had a lot of theater experience. I think they could have gone from scene one all the way to the end of the movie, all in a single shot."
The film had its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF), Midnight Madness on September 8, 2007. According to a poll taken by the Toronto Star, it was one of the most anticipated films at the Festival. Just four days later, The Weinstein Company announced that it had purchased the rights to distribute Diary of the Dead in the United States and Mexico for $2.5 million. There, Dimension Films are distributing the film.
DVD release[edit | edit source]
The DVD was released by The Weinstein Company and Genius Entertainment on May 20, 2008. Special features include a feature-length documentary, an audio commentary, deleted scenes, Behind the Scenes featurette, and five short films that came about via a MySpace contest. It was released the same day as a new edition of Night of the Living Dead.
The film was released on Region 2 on June 30, 2008, in single disc, double disc and blu-ray editions. The double-disc and blu-ray both contained a UK exclusive interview from Frightfest 08, and a feature length documentary entitled One for the Fire - The Legacy of Night of the Living Dead. The double-disc edition was released in limited, numbered steelbook packaging, and online retailer play.com sold an exclusive edition in a slipcase. On October 21, 2008, a Blu-ray version was released in the United States.
Reception[edit | edit source]
George Romero won a 2008 Critics Award for Diary of the Dead. The film received mixed reviews, with some feeling the film brought nothing original to the genre. Most of the mixed reviews were however positive, with most reviewers reiterating that Romero is still the master of the genre and that film was enjoyable as any of Romero's other films, and also retained Romero's hallmark social commentary of contemporary issues and social topics of the United States within the film as in his prior films. The film currently has a "fresh" rating of 60% on Rotten Tomatoes.
References[edit | edit source]
- Hollywood Gothique: "Talking about 'Diary of the Dead'"
- TIFF '07 - Films & Schedules George A. Romero's Diary of the Dead
- Romero's 'Diary' breathes new life into the dead - USATODAY.com
- Single disc dvd on amazon.co.uk
- Blu-ray release on play.com
- [https://web.archive.org/web/20100516045125/http://uk.rottentomatoes.com/m/diary_of_the_dead/ Rating on rottentomatoes.com (archived)