OnePlusYou Quizzes and Widgets


Diary of the Dead (2007)

I've finally come around to watch this Romero output, and I have to say: I'm pleased. I am truly and absolutely pleased. Mostly because I think that Professor Andrew Maxwell, played by Scott Wentworth, is one of the most awesome characters ever in a zombie movie. I could easily imagine a zombie movie with him as the actual protagonist (living, not dead, or undead, or some sort of death-dependent status of existence).


Anyways, on to the plot: A group of film students from the University of Pittsburgh (cunningly pronounced as "Pittsberg", as the proper pronounciation - see for example "Edinburgh" - is beyond the American public and its grasp of English) are trying to survive in a world in which zombies are everywhere... and make a documentary about it. The whole movie is set up as a documentary - "The Death of Death", by Jason Creed. I want to note here that the initials "JC" have a creepy similarity to those of another famous JC, who also wanted to bring truth (even TRUTH) to the people/mankind and sacrificed himself for his message. Makes me wonder what Christianity would be like if that other JC had had a myspace and a blog...
The students film how they survive (more or less), use other material they downloaded from the net or from surveillance cameras or from the news to show how the media is distorting the truth (no, not the capital Truth)... and living an obsession with documenting the terror and cruelty that invaded their lives.

As always when it comes to Diary of the Dead, the Professor Emeritus puts it way better than I could. Witness the following dialogue, with a bit of background:
JC is constantly filming. Pretty much everyone is a tad annoyed at this, especially since he isn't much help with his camera practically glued to his face. A friend gets attacked in an abandoned hospital (they clearly forgot one of the rules of surviving a zombie apocalypse: One of the worst places to hide in case of a zombie apocalypse is a hospital - for obvious reasons), and he just stands back and shoots what's happening whilst his friends hysterically cry for help.

After the situation is resolved, the Professor is shooting him a look of pure disgust, and the following gem of dialogue is produced.

Andrew Maxwell: "There will always be people like you, wanting to document, wanting to record some sort of ...diary."
Jason: "Me? You're the one who put the camera in my hands. You're the one who made me want to do this!"
Andrew Maxwell: "Not this. This is a diary of cruelty. And in wartime, when the enemy can be marked as this son of a bitch or that son of a bitch, then cruelty... becomes justified."

A diary of cruelty. It's exactly what this movie portrays, and damn, whilst it isn't flawless, it is a solid zombie movie in the tradition of The Master (no, not the one from Doctor Who) with the social commentary we came to expect from his works.

Another scene that demonstrates how sick we, as human beings, can become is close to the end of the movie, when JC refuses to help Tracy (the Texan girl) when she is chased by a zombie - in order to grab the perfect horror movie footage. It is actually slightly sickening - not because of any gore or terror or suspense, but just because you realise how fucked up and sick JC's reaction is.

Diary of the Dead doesn't only explore the media's reaction to something like the zombie apocalypse happening, but intrinsically deals with today's society and its possible reaction. Especially with the rise of the internet and its importance in our everyday lives (hell, try living without your email for two weeks, you'll know what I mean... you practically miss EVERYTHING) and the speed with which information is travelling through the world... it is an interesting concept, and Romero surely made a lot of this very basic idea.

Something that is repeated sometimes is the phrase "if it isn't on camera, it didn't happen". It strongly reminds me of the internet meme "pics or it didn't happen" - in an age where you basically can't trust ANYTHING due to the new nature of information (or maybe it was always the nature of information to be generally untrustworthy, due to human nature, failure and our inherent... well, I'll cut the philosophical stuff short and just say that it is due to the conditio humana that we all suffer from). Read somewhere on the net that vaccinations are making people sick and are only used because companies want to suck the very lifeblood from the people? Well, either you accept it as truth, as a lot of people these days seem to do (predominantly in the US, I might add), or you try to find your own truth (usually done by thinking).

"What gets into our heads when we see something horrible? A horrible accident on the highway - something keeps us from just driving on. Something... pulls us. But we don't stop to help. We stop to look."

Thought provoking, isn't it? The essential voyeurism of the human race. We get excited by the cruelty and suffering we see. We call friends and family to inform them that we just witnessed an accident, and they are as eager to hear all the details about it as we are to elaborate on those details. What is it with our obsession with cruelty, with suffering, with violence and death and pain? Okay, this directly ties in with "why do I watch horror movies", but... seriously. Give those questions a thought and try to find out for yourself.

I want to add at this point that I totally approve of zombie destroying deaf Amish guys. Say hello to Samuel, the bravest, most courageous and most awesome deaf Amish you'll ever meet.

Samuel - officially coolest Amish ever. Could YOU impale your brain with a scythe whilst a zombie is nibbling at your brain? I don't think so.

The dialogues aren't bad; the tension in the group of survivors, especially at the beginning, when things are still new and JC's obsession with filming everything that happens is still a novelty to the others (an annoying novelty, I might add). Generally, the pacing is a bit on the slower side, but it doesn't fail to deliver its premise of the zombie apocalypse in the age of the information superhighway and media control. It's not about the zombies and the gore, it's about the social implications.

Also, myspace.com gets screentime: "72.000 hits in 8 minutes!" - one of the reasons why I wonder how that other JC would have fared with myspace. Then again, in modern times, he would be dismissed as one of those whacky Near Eastern crazies, not necessarily thought of as the messiah / Son of YHVH.

Going back to the dialogues for a second - the best lines are, of course, coming from the Professor:

(Referring to the radio transmissions talking about the rising dead, clarifying some misconceptions his students appear to have with the concept) "The problem doesn't seem to be that people are waking up dead, but that dead people are waking up."

(Referring to his flask filled with delicious alcohol) "I'm running low. I'd like to make it to a state store before they all shut their doors forever. God, there's a terrible thought. A world where a gentleman can't buy a bottle of bourbon."

I truly enjoy every single line that man utters.

The gore isn't bad, either. We get one zombie whose intestines are falling out of his stomach cavity, one whose brain is being eaten away by some sort of very cool acid, headshots, gut-munchings, scythe action, arrows to the brain sticking teenage zombies to walls (or rather, nailing them to walls)... not too much, not enough to make me salivate all over the keyboard, but still good.

My major criticism of this movie is how idiotic the students are and how idiotic they react. At least they had enough exposure to culture to know that you best exterminate dead people who don't behave dead by shooting them in the head, aka destroying the brain. Have they never watched a zombie movie? If I heard on the news that the dead are rising, I would run to the next store, stack up on canned foods and bottled water and sturdy objects to make my home into a fortress, run back home, and hide. Well, at least for a while. But definitely not try to find my relatives and hole up together. Then again, I'm not exactly known for my great zombie survival scenarios, if you catch my drift. Still, the students are idiots, at least in the beginning (they wisen up a bit).

But the Professor is awesome. VERY awesome.

7/10 Professors who appreciate books, are masters of archery , have a taste for good alcohol and fancy themselves a swashbuckler.