(US, 2008, d. George A. Romero)
In 1968, George A. Romero made a small-budget, black and white film about contemporary zombies in US cities, The Night of the Living Dead, which is now considered one of the principal horror films of the 20th century and a huge influence on film-making. Romero continued his fascination with horror, particularly the living dead, in the 1970s with Dawn of the Dead, the 1980s with Day of the Dead, a remake by Tom Savini in 1990. While there was a living dead lull in the 1990s, this present decade has seen something of an industry! Romero himself has made Land of the Dead and Diary of the Dead (with a sequel for 2009 announced) and there have been some remakes as well as experimental and 3D tinkering with Romero's original. It is as if Romero's dead films keep coming back to life.
Where this one is different is that it shows the influence of The Blair Witch Project style of film-making, handheld cameras, the audience being taken into the film-makers' confidence that they are seeing footage of real events which have been edited into a feature film. Hence the title's use of ‘Diary'. (This method was recently used to substantial effect with the rampaging monster in New York film, Cloverfield.)
This time there are very few living dead crowd scenes as in the city streets and malls of the previous films. There are a few, but the action is confined to a small group of college film-makers who are trying to make a Mummy horror film as an assignment, ridiculing the conventions of the genre (which, of course, are repeated later in the film ‘for real'). When their dormitory has been abandoned, they drive with their professor to reach the family of the main character whose voiceover tells us that she has edited the material shot by her boyfriend as a record of what happened.
There are, of course, some gory and gruesome moments but fewer than in some of the previous films. This one relies on our sharing the experiences, fears and threats with the group who are a bit more individual and distinctive than might have been expected: on the road, an eerily empty hospital, an Amish community and barn, a warehouse with survivors, a group of national guard and the final visits to the homes.
By using this kind of immediate film within a film genre and its techniques, Romero has been able to give new life to his 40 year long fascination with the living dead.