Diary of the Dead (2007), the fifth movie in the Living Dead Series written and directed by George A. Romero, marked his return to making independent films after Land of the Dead. The movie is followed by Survival of the Dead.
The movie is mostly made up of footage from the two portable cameras the characters carry, with occasional shots from surveillance cameras and video clips downloaded off the Internet. In a clever section of the movie they show the characters editing the section of the movie the viewer has just seen.
The movie opens on a news report, being narrated by the Final Girl, explaining the reasoning behind the movie itself. The main story line starts of with a group of film students, along with their sardonic boozing professor, making a classic cliched horror movie. When the group hears escalating radio reports of people coming back from the dead, the shoot falls apart, with monster-player Ridley departing in his sport cars as the rest of the group leaves in a Winnebago.
The cameraman/director, Jason, decides to return to their university to pick up his girlfriend, Debra, but the Winnebago plows through a group of zombies on the road along the way; still skeptical that they are in fact the walking dead, the grief-stricken driver, Mary, shoots herself. The others take her to a hospital, which turns out to be abandoned — at least by the living. The remaining survivors are quickly forced into the realization that the Zombie Apocalypse is indeed upon them.
Heading for Debra's home, they have encounters with the zombie-movie equivalent of Wacky Wayside Tribes: a badass mute Amish farmer, a group of black people who have set up a survivalist-type fort, and (briefly) a gang of National Guard deserters. When they finally reach their destination, they find that Debra's family are all either dead or zombiefied, so they decide to go to the mansion owned by Ridley's family.
The group finds Ridley alive, but come to the painfully belated realization that the rest of his family is dead or walking dead, and he has been bitten. Still wearing his mummy movie-costume, he ends up reenacting the opening horror movie scene; Tracy, the "victim" in the horror movie, becomes disgusted and drives off in the Winnebago. Ridley kills two of the group, including Jason, and the movie ends with Debra, the professor and Tony watching from a "panic room" as a growing horde of zombies slowly breaks into the estate.
Contains examples of the following tropes:
- Abandoned Hospital: The first place our main cast goes to after Mary attempts suicide over believing she ran over people and not zombies.
- Action Girl / Badass Bystander / Heroic Bystander: In the opening scene, a female paramedic karate-kicks a zombie in the head.
- A House Divided
- Apocalyptic Log: The movie is the log.
- Artistic License Statistics: A radio broadcast says that the number of deaths caused by the zombies will quadruple. It then says that it will increase by 100%, even though quadrupling is to increase by 300%.
- Autopsy Snack Time: In the opening sequence, the cameraman filming some body-collecting EMTs grouses about how one of their crew is eating his lunch off-camera, despite the gore.
- Badass Grandpa: The Professor starts off drunk and looking pretty feeble. He turns out to be a war veteran and a crack archer. Also Samuel, the mute Amish toting sticks of dynamite. And a scythe.
- Better to Die than Be Killed: Presumably why Samuel scythes himself in the head when attacked by a zombie. No chance of coming back, at least.
- Boom, Headshot!
- Bottomless Magazines: Mary's .380 automatic pistol.
- Broad Strokes: Arguably an Alternate Continuity, this film rolls the clock back to the original zombie outbreak, but is set in modern times instead of the late 60s. This applies to all of Romero's Dead previous dead movies of course, being part of the same continuity but each filmed in a different decade.
- Broken Heel: Lampshaded twice in the movie.
- The Cameo: Stephen King, Wes Craven, Simon Pegg, Quentin Tarantino and Guillermo Del Toro all voice radio announcers, and Romero himself has a small role as police captain.
- Camera Abuse
- Clothing Damage: Lampshaded.
- Dead Line News: The film opens with a TV news crew covering a murder-suicide in an apartment complex. During filming the corpses reanimate, then begin attacking the EMTs moving them out of the building; one of them then turns on the TV reporter and cameraman.
- Department of Redundancy Department: The movie made by Jason Creed about the Zombie Apocalypse is called "The Death of Death".
- Distressed Damsel: First played straight then subverted.
- The Documentary: The film itself is presented as one on the recent zombie outbreak.
- Doesn't Like Guns: After giving one of their colleagues who's turning into a zombie the coup-de-grace, The Professor hands the pistol over to someone else, saying it's too easy to use. Later however he picks up a bow saying that it "feels friendlier" (we later discover that he's a former member of the archery team at Eton).
- Driven to Suicide: Poor Mary; worse when you consider she didn't even do it right and instead of dying a quick, painless death, she has to suffer through a gaping head wound until she finally dies.
- Eye Scream
- Final Girl: Not played entirely straight. Debra is the narrator and protagonist (and survives) but while she isn't The Millstone she doesn't actually contribute much to killing zombies or keeping the group safe (even her quick thinking use of a defibrillator doesn't truly finish off a zombie).
- Handicapped Badass: The Amish farmer Samuel kills himself some zombies and offs himself and the zombie who bit him by shoving a scythe through his and the zombie's head.
- Hero of Another Story: "Nicotine" Crockett and his fellow National Guardsman deserters, who are more of Villain Protagonists since they rob the heroes of this picture.
- Humans Are the Real Monsters: "Are we worth saving? You tell me," are the last words spoken in the movie, over a viral video of two men using a tied-up zombie woman for target practice.
- Idiot Ball: Honestly, half of the victims pretty much deserved to die due to their terrifying moments of stupidity. Special mention goes to the guy who gets killed because he can't hear a zombie approaching while blow-drying his hair.
- Improbable Aiming Skills: All the characters are able to pull off headshots as the plot demands.
- The Jaywalking Dead: Subverted. The first encounter with the undead involves their Winnebago driving over several zombies walking on the road. Thinking she's committed vehicular manslaughter, the driver shoots herself in remorse.
- Jitter Cam: Averted, the only times the cameras get shaky are during zombie attacks. Otherwise, the shots stay stabilized.
- Just Before the End: This film reboots the apocalypse at a much later date and the documentary begins minutes before the zombies start hunting.
- Lonely Rich Kid
- Mirror Scare
- Mixed Archetypes
- Monster Clown: The recording they found of a zombiefied clown biting someone at a child's birthday party. Crossed with Incongruously Dressed Zombie.
- Not Using the "Z" Word: In tradition with the previous films, the word zombie is never used.
- Phony Newscast
- Raised Catholic: Mary keeps a St. Christopher medal in her possession.
- Room Full of Zombies: The pool house has zombies at the bottom of the pool. They're corpses at first... but then they reanimate.
- Sanity Slippage: Ridley. Possibly Jason.
- Screw This, I'm Outta Here!: Pretty much Tracy's attitude at the end of the film.
- Shout-Out: A radio host mentions Orson Welles' War of the Worlds during the initial reports of the zombie outbreak.
- Show Within a Show: "The Death of Death"
- Take That!: Jason's criticism that dead things are slow.
- Taking You with Me: The Amish farmer's solution to having a zombie bite him on the neck from behind, is to swing his scythe upwards, straight through his own head and that of the attacking zombie.
- Too Dumb to Live: Played with. Jason is too busy filming to get involved most of the time, but almost everybody else is pretty useful in fighting the zombies. But as he points out to Debra at one point, his documentary being uploaded to the internet is showing pretty much anyone around the world who watches it exactly what they need to do to survive themselves. Debra's voice-over mentions that she agrees with this point in hindsight.
- The Undead
- Useless Protagonist
- Wacky Wayside Tribe: As noted above. A common complaint about this movie is that most of these "tribes" are more interesting than the main characters. The Guard deserters become the protagonists of Romero's later movie Survival of the Dead.
- Zombie Apocalypse
- Zombie Gait: Although Romero's zombie children never seem to be affected.
- Zombie Infectee: Averted for the most part. There is a few exceptions, but the characters honestly didn't know any better.
- When Gordo is bitten and dies, Amy insists that he might not come back like the others (even though, yes, he will). So they go by her wishes and wait to see if he will or won't (which he will). When he does, they position her several feet away with a gun for when he inevitably does.