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.
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."
- Shawn Roberts as Tony Ravello
- Joshua Close as Jason Creed
- Michelle Morgan as Debra
- Joe Dinicol as Eliot Stone
- Scott Wentworth as Andrew Maxwell
- Phillip Riccio as Ridley Wilmott
- George Buza as Biker
- Amy Lalonde as Tracy Truman
- Tatiana Maslany as Mary
- Tino Monte as Newscaster
- Megan Par] 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
- 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 Surgeon
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 franchiseEdit
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.
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.
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 29, 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.
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.
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