While filming a horror movie of mummy in a forest, the students and their professor of the University of Pittsburgh hear on the TV the news that the dead are awaking and walking. Ridley and Francine decide to leave the group, while Jason heads to the dormitory of his girlfriend Debra Monahan. She does not succeed in contacting her family and they travel in Mary's van to the house of Debra's parents in Scranton, Pennsylvania. While driving her van, Mary sees a car accident and runs over a highway patrolman and three other zombies trying to escape from them. Later the religious Mary is depressed, questioning whether the victims where really dead, and tries to commit suicide, shooting herself 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.
Directed by: George A. Romero
. Starring: Michelle Morgan
, Joshua Close
, Shawn Roberts
, Amy Lalonde
, Joe Dinicol
, Scott Wentworth
, Philip Riccio
, Chris Violette
, Tatiana Maslany
, Todd Schroeder
, Daniel Kash
, Laura de Carteret
, Martin Roach
. Music by: Norman Orenstein
"Diary of the Dead" is part of a recent wave of hyper-re-mediated films. This is 21st century as information orgy, director George Romero taking into account the decade's staggering communication and technological changes. The film has been criticised for being badly acted, but beginning with voice-overs alluding to "hoaxes", Welles' "War of the Worlds" and people "willing to believe anything", the film's great joke is that its "documentary footage", which pretends to be real, is itself a big, self-reflexive fake.
Here, the zombies arise out of the violent media-scape, specifically the moment an "immigrant" is shot during a news report. If Romero's Zomebie's are always the "good guys", rising up to usurp an old order, here the zombies are the result of xenophobic bigotry, media-bias and a kind of sanitised political violence against foreignersaliens.
The film itself is entirely mediated, composed of multiple sources (net, radio, film, documentary, CCTV etc) improbably edited together and self-consciously theatrical. There is no truth, no ground zero real event, only a kind of annoying, incessant noise.
As in many of Romero's films, there is a reversal of conventional gender dynamics. Women (and blacks) are more competent and more able to hold themselves together than white men, whose macho posturing now manifests itself as a phallic need to record everything, regardless of risk. White male vanity thus takes on a new form in the 21st century. A kind of digital, cyber prowess.
The film highlights the way humanity increasingly outsources itself to its technology. Like "Cloverfield", the characters are concerned about, not their own memories of the event, but their ethical responsibility to "capture" and "digitally remember" the event for future generations. This mirrors real world trends, in which ordinary events are increasingly treated as history before they even occur. Think of the hordes of people walking about, eyes affixed to their tiny camcorders or phone screens rather than the live event itself. On a more graphic scale, think of the student who went on a shooting rampage at a US University. In the middle of the slaughter he stopped suddenly to mail a "press pack" to the media, then promptly resumed his mayhem. The priority is no longer to experience the event itself as it is occurring, but the recording of the event for future consumption. The storing of digital memories for future gratification.
Throughout the film, Romero implicates himself as a filmmaker, together with his characters and his audience. He recognises that the "real" world has become one with the movie world. At the same time, the video camera is equated with the gun as a tool of violence, characters remarking that they are both "too easy to use". A female character argues that her boyfriend has become too obsessed with taping everything and uploading it onto the Net, and that doing this has made him numb to occurrences around him. He responds that, since the government and the commercial media are systematically lying about what is going on, it is vital for him to get the truth out. They are both right.
The film ends with the survivors locked away in a small panic room, filled only with digital screens. They upload their experience to the Net, even though it is unlikely that anyone is alive to witness it. It's a powerful sequence: humanity trapped in a box with its computers and screens, wondering if mankind is even worth saving.
Romero recognises that we have moved from being a "society of the spectacle" to being a society of participatory and interactive media. The great unitary spectacle has been shattered, and replaced by new forms of distraction and activity in what Deleuze called the "society of control." We are no longer passive, voyeuristic spectators, instead, we actively give ourselves over to surveillance, and eagerly scrutinise both others and ourselves. We fragment, multiply, and network ourselves and whatever we encounter, this fragmentation and atomisation now prevalent in all aspects of society. This no longer falls under the dipolar schema of subject and object, but rather has the form of a network in which everyone and everything is a node. This also means that we have moved on from representation to simulation: instead of trying to capture the Real, we actively produce bits and pieces of a reality that is directly composed of images, everything micro-produced and virally disseminated. Every imaginary simulation becomes altogether real, even as every reality is dissolved in simulacral multiplication.
Romero's zombies themselves are now simulations, images that replicate and proliferate everywhere. Though one character suggests that an incident doesn't happen if it is not taped, the film recognises that everything that happens now belongs to the realm of images on screens -' regardless of whether or not a camera is present. Everything in the world has proliferated imagistically and virally, by contagion, in the same way zombies spread. With the atomisation and robotization of humanity, cameras, screens and computers becomes tools used to cope with the world and its realities. This goes along with the shift from a situation where everyone watches images on television, to one where everyone owns camerasmedia and actively capturesproduces imagestext.
The documentary within the film is symbolically called "The Death of Death". Death itself is dead, and the "undead" refuse to die, precisely because nothing is ever allowed to vanish. Everything is stockpiled and greedily retained: images, capital, data etc. We are actively solicited to produce, proliferate, and accumulate: in effect, this means that we are producing the undead, to the extent that we are struggling to stay alive and not become "them." Somebody in the film makes the point that, where human conflict used to be among groups of "us," now it is between "us" and "them", though "they" are also "us." In a crazed society of accumulation, we try to hold on to everything; and this means holding on to the dead too, with horrific consequences.
Review by tieman64 from the Internet Movie Database.