Earlier I commented on how the Dead movies are kind of set in an “ever present now”. Diary of the Dead kind of flips that on its head. Diary of the dead is a found footage approach to Romero’s Dead World. All told through footage from the cast of characters camera, it explores the early days of the zombie outbreak. It jumps to the beginning, and the beginning is now.
The film starts out very strongly. A young woman explains that this movie is compiled both from her boyfriend’s footage and footage from the internet. The voiceover is spoken as we watch a news report being conducted in front of a crime scene. As bodies are being loaded into an ambulance, the bodies begin to attack the paramedics. It is a very effective scene followed by news shots covering the riots and looting. We then move to a college film crew making a horror movie. There is an argument regarding whether a monster is supposed to be slow moving or not (which becomes echoed in a far later scene).
The film follows the group as they travel in an RV to make their way to one of the film crew’s homes (he lives in a remote mansion). They meet survivalists, farmers and National Guardsmen as they work towards their final destination.
One of the biggest changes to the traditional Romero formula is that the zombies in this film are much faster. They leap on people, jump out from behind doors and tackle people. They are not as fast as Zak Snyder’s zombies from his Dawn of the Dead remake, but still, they are faster than his earlier films. After a while, the film kind of meanders. But it picks back up when they reach the mansion and everything gets even worse. The characters also get a bit frustrating, behaving in some questionable ways. At one point, one guy films one of his friends being stalked by a zombie and really does not lift a finger to help her.
Overall, this is a decent film. It is interesting that it turns it’s sympathies back towards humans, but it also mirrors the darkness of the original towards the end when we get scenes that are similar to the final moments of the original Night of the Living Dead, asking pretty much the same questions about humanity.
It helps that it is presented as a finished work rather than just a series of footage strung together. This allows for there to be a stronger narrative structure. While no competition for the original three films, this is an overall interesting entry.