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Master of horror George Romero returns for the fifth time to the zombie genre in which he reinvented. Romero’s observant eye hasn’t formed any cataracts in 40 years. His zombie pictures capture the eras in which they were made very well. Though LAND OF THE DEAD was released in 2005, Romero planned to make the rich get richer and the poor get poorer parable in the ’90s. So DIARY is truly his first statement on the first decade of the 21st century.
A group of film students are shooting a horror film in the forest. Jason Creed (Joshua Close, THE EXORCISM OF EMILY ROSE) is man behind the camera, the director. He wants to be a documentary filmmaker, but feels a horror film is an easier way to break into the industry. We are watching his story in retrospect as a documentary cut by his girlfriend Debra Moynihan (Michelle Morgan, TV’s HEARTLAND). During their shoot, they watch an Internet clip of dead people coming back to life and attacking the living. Tony (Shawn Roberts, LAND OF THE DEAD), the cynical make-up man (cynical because he wants to direct) doesn’t believe the news reports, believing its media and political fear mongering. But as the crew tries to get back to their homes, they learn more about what is really happening. And Jason is determined to film it all.
While his first four zombie films followed a loose continuous timeline, DIARY brings the story back to the beginning of the undead walking the Earth. As a new phenomenon, the zombie outbreak puts the students on the ground level of a world-changing event. They’re part of the YouTube generation where lives are recorded and shared with the world. Debra’s “The Death of Death” documentary is cut in the style of real life conspiracy videos, which are commonly found on the Internet and passed around from one doubting youth to the next. Whether the students are sharing a less filtered version of the truth than major media is even put up for debate. While the faux doc style has been used many times before and DIARY traverses many of the same points, it’s Romero’s attention to how and why the video is being used that makes it special.
While DIARY isn’t as scary as some of his other work, it’s the social commentary that has always made Romero’s films unique anyways. That said, he still has a knack for setting up tension-filled horror gags and weaving in ironic humor. If CLOVERFIELD’s doc-style was used to help make the narrative more believable and raw, DIARY’s style is the message. The whole movie within the movie is about the younger generation recording their own version of the truth, unfiltered through the establishment that they can no longer trust. It’s exactly what Romero’s film is staying about the current state of the world.