Storyline-wise, Romero’s Diary of the Dead would take place somewhere between Night of the Living Dead when the zombies first appear and Dawn of the Dead when they’ve all but taken over the planet. It’s told from the point of view of Jason, a cameraman obsessed with recording all that transpires. “If it’s not on film it didn’t happen,” are the words he lives by. The entire film consists of footage of Jason’s movie crew running from, killing and getting killed by blood thirsty zombies (with some added security camera footage used to supplement). This may be construed as a lame excuse to release a shaky-cam, low-budget horror flick but because it is George Romero, we’ll give it the benefit of the doubt.
Romero knows his way around a splatterfest and this film can be declared a triumph based on the gore alone. Some wonderfully vomit-inducing highlights include a zombie’s head being melted by a jar of acid and a host of creative kills by deaf/Amish scene-stealer Samuel. But Romero doesn’t have the luxury of making a purely entertaining zombie romp (such as Flight of the Living Dead). He has the added responsibility of providing his patented social commentary. In the case of Diary he explores the age of YouTube and focuses on the manipulation of truth by the mainstream media. When it comes down to it, who can you trust to find out what’s really going on? He raises some thought-provoking questions but never actually takes a stand and this is the film’s ultimate undoing.
But the biggest reason to walk away dissatisfied is Deb the heroine who narrates the entire film in a bland monotone. I understand that the world has gone crazy and as the most responsible one Debbie Downer needs to run a tight ship lest mistakes cost lives – but would it kill you to smile just once?
On the plus side there’s a character who appears 1:13 into the film who looks almost exactly like 50 Page McGee. I remember giggling about it with JPX when we originally saw it in the theater and it was even funnier this time around. As I recall, 50 Page refused to acknowledge the (positively uncanny) resemblance.
Be that as it may, Diary is clearly the worst of the 5 but worthy nonetheless.