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Film / Diary of the Dead

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"We made a film - the one I'm going to show you now. Actually, Jason was the one who wanted to make it. Like that cameraman from Channel 10, he wanted to upload it so that people, you, could be told the truth. The film was shot with a Panasonic HDX-900 and an HBX-200. I did the final cut on Jason's laptop. I've added music occasionally for effect, hoping to scare you. You see, in addition to trying to tell you the truth, I am hoping to scare you so that maybe you'll wake up. Maybe you won't make any of the same mistakes that we made. Anyway, here it is, Jason Creed's The Death of Death."
Debra Moynihan

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 Andrew Maxwell (Scott Wentworth), 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 (Philip Riccio) departing in his sport cars as the rest of the group leaves in a Winnebago. Going on a harrowing road trip and encountering the Zombie Apocalypse equivalent of Wacky Wayside Tribes.

Contains examples of the following tropes:

  • Abandoned Hospital: The first place our main cast goes to after Mary attempts suicide.
  • Agent Scully: Tony is the only one to really dismiss the idea of zombies when they hear it on the news, accuses Mary of running over living people when she's already feeling pretty conflicted, and even after realizing there are zombies, he spends a long time confident in the government's ability to restore things.
  • Always Save the Girl: While he averts it later, Jason does hurry to get Debra from the dorms as soon as they find out something is wrong.
  • Ambiguous Situation:
    • The survivors don't know if Law Enforcement is lying to the public about the dead, or if The Government is lying to Law Enforcement about the dead.
    • Whether or not Jason wanted to die by not wanting to go into the panic room.
  • Apocalyptic Log: The movie is made and edited as a fake video 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 Bystander: In the opening scene, a female paramedic karate-kicks a zombie in the head.
  • Bait-and-Switch: The trooper who is bitten by the zombies that the old couple were hiding says not to shoot them when his comrades are getting angry. Then he clarifies to not shoot them in the head, so they wake up dead, and caps his own top after giving the instruction.
  • Bald Head of Toughness: Samuel is one of the toughest survivors, being a lone Amish who still managed to survive on his own and save the skins of the main characters twice in his short presence. Although his baldness is hard to tell given the hat he usually wears.
  • Beauty Contest: Tracy says she was Ms. San Antonio in the Confession Cam featurette.
  • 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.
  • Big Damn Heroes: Samuel stabbing a zombie that was trying to drag Tracy out from under the van, and Maxwell putting and arrow through Billy's head as he's attacking Debra.
  • Big Guy Fatality Syndrome: Gordo is a relatively muscular guy, who is one of the first to start fighting and killing the zombies, but gets bitten early on.
  • Big Sister Instinct: Deb is highly concerned about her little brother for most of the movie, and doesn't take it well when they find him dead and instantly trying to eat her.
  • Boom, Headshot!: Aside from disposing various zombies, Mary commits suicide this way.
  • Break the Cutie: Tracy and Gordo are both fairly sunny, helpful characters early on, but end up with a lot to leave them scared or sad throughout the story, with Gordo suffering from having to shoot people, and Tracy being especially affected by Gordo's death.
  • Broad Strokes: This applies to all of Romero's previous Dead movies, being part of the same continuity but each filmed in a different decade. Diary of the Dead, however, takes it a step further, being set in an Alternate Continuity; the film rolls the clock back to the original zombie outbreak, but is set in modern times instead of the late 60s.
  • Broken Heel: First it's played for laughs when the students are making a Horror Comedy project. The second time it happens for real when the exact same girl is chased by an actual zombie and she angrily quips about it.
  • 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: To keep with the general aesthetics of amateur video log, a lot of shake cam, hits, falls and bumps to the camera happen.
  • Can't Stop The Signal: Jason is the most obvious example, but the cameraman from the opening scene also uploaded the video of the attack when it was being suppressed, and various newscasters are heard giving warnings even as the authorities continue to deny everything.
  • Clothing Damage: As part of a Brick Joke, Tracy ends up being chased by zombified Ridley, still in his mummy costume, and gets her dress torn, exactly as the script of their original project called for it.
  • Daddy's Girl: Tracy. It's only referenced in one line of the movie, but gets more focus in the Confession Cam bonus features.
  • Damsel in Distress: Tracy is playing as one in their film project. When a later situation eerily similar to their script happens to her for real, she not only rescues herself with ease, but chews Jason out for just filming it, instead of helping.
  • Dangerous Deserter: Zigzagged. The protagonists encounter two groups of deserters. The first group fortified itself in a warehouse with food, but not only exchanges survival tips with the protagonists, they also give the protagonists guns and other supplies. The second group, still in their National Guard uniforms, does rob them, but leaves them alive, and with some of their supplies - most notably not even touching weapons and ammunition.
  • Deadline News: The film opens with a TV news crew covering a murder-suicide in an apartment complex. During filming, the corpses reanimate and begin attacking the EMTs moving them out of the building. One of the corpses then turns on the TV reporter and cameraman (although the later escapes).
  • Department of Redundancy Department: The movie made by Jason Creed about the Zombie Apocalypse is called "The Death of Death".
  • The Documentary: The film itself is presented as one on the recent zombie outbreak.
  • Doesn't Like Guns: Professor Maxwell, after giving one of their colleagues who's turning into a zombie the coup-de-grace, 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 learn 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 for few hours.
    • Depending on your interpretation, Jason could count by not wanting to go inside the panic room with Deb and the rest.
  • Dropped a Bridge on Him: Elliot makes it pretty far into the movie, but then gets ambushed and unceremoniously bitten and electrocuted while coming out of a bath.
  • Dude, Where's My Respect?: Tony is another directing major, but is stuck doing the makeup for Jason's film.
  • Et Tu, Brute?: Maxwell quips this once Deb finally starts filming.
  • Everyone Has Standards: Lampshaded after the National Guardsmen rob them from most (but not all) of their food, yet otherwise leaves them be. Maxwell muses that they're thieves, not murderers, and they wouldn't have gone as far as to leave people unarmed with the dead wandering around.
  • Eye Scream: How about eyes exploding out of cranium due to electrocution?
  • Final Girl: Not played entirely straight. Debra is the narrator and protagonist (and survives), but while she isn't The Load, 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. Aside from that, Tracy is still alive and well, just stormed out as far as possible for a group that continuously endangers her life.
  • Functional Addict: Maxwell is all but called outright an alcoholic. He's one of the most effective and reasonable members of the group, and while constantly drinking, never gets fully smacked.
  • Good Samaritan:
    • The Stranger and the others at the warehouse are looters, but they do provide shelter and supplies to Deb and the others without asking anything in return.
    • Samuel, the Amish farmer, has absolutely no stakes in the group and by default is an Actual Pacifist. But he helps them without as much as a second of hesitation and ends up committing Heroic Sacrifice for them.
    • Ridley provides a downplayed example when he makes it clear to the others that they can feel free to seek refuge at his house before taking off.
  • Graceful Ladies Like Purple: Debra has a purple tank top on for most of the film.
  • Handicapped Badass: The Amish farmer, Samuel, is one of the most efficient zombie killers in the story. He also had a stroke few years prior and can't talk because of it, instead using a small board and a piece of chalk to communicate.
  • 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. Other characters such as Samuel, the troopers, a Japanese woman seen hiding and trying to give advice on a youtube video, Brody the cameraman, and the stranger also apply.
  • Hidden Depths: Samuel is able to help repair their vehicle despite his Amish lifestyle.
  • A House Divided: The group doesn't really like each other before zombies come into the equation. Over the course of the film, they keep dividing into smaller and smaller groups of interests, which has predictable consequences.
  • 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.
  • Improbable Aiming Skills: All the characters are able to pull off headshots as the plot demands. And only when it demands it - otherwise people are all graduates of the Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy.
  • Improbable Weapon User: Deb is brandishing a trophy like a club when they find her in the dorms, and later she knocks down a zombie with electro-shock paddles to the head. In that same scene, Elliot stabs a zombie with an IV pole. Tony does it by accident, when a can he smashes over a zombie's head turns out to be full of acid.
  • Informed Ability: A somewhat justified example. The Confession Cam featurette has Tracy claim to be a champion skeet shooter and an avid horseback rider, but no horses appear in the movie, and she doesn't use a gun (although they mainly have pistols, not shotguns).
  • The Jaywalking Dead: Subverted. The first encounter with the undead involves their Winnebago driving over several zombies walking on the road. Thinking she committed vehicular manslaughter, Mary shoots herself in remorse.
  • Jitter Cam: Averted; the only times the cameras get shaky are during zombie attacks. Otherwise, the shots stay stabilized.
  • Jump Scare: Given his inability to talk properly, Samuel initially looks like a zombie to the main characters when he walks up suddenly.
  • Just Before the End: This film reboots the apocalypse at a much later date and the documentary begins minutes before the zombies start hunting.
  • Justified Criminal: Colonel Crocker and his National Guardsmen seem to think that Deb and the others are looters when they are robbing them, and view it as just taking what was taken from someone else.
  • The Knights Who Say "Squee!": Maxwell's reaction to seeing Ridley's families collection of first edition novels, actually hugging a copy of A Tale of Two Cities to his chest.
  • The Load: Maxwell starts off looking like an alcoholic Jaded Washout, while appearing to be pretty feeble old man. Subverted, as he turns out to be a war veteran and a crack archer, along with the beacon of reason for the whole group. He still likes to drink, though.
  • Lonely Rich Kid: Ridley, who even during apocalypse is left alone in the mansion, with no sign of anyone else.
  • Men of Sherwood: The military as a whole doesn't do well, but one video the protagonists watch online shows a group of men in riot gear efficiently, albeit ruthlessly, moving from house to house and clearing out the undead. The one man they lose doesn’t go down easily.
  • Mirror Scare: When trying to locate a survivor with a heart condition, when the survivor finally shows up as a zombie, he's revealed by a sudden appearance in a mirror.
  • Monster Clown: The recording they found of a zombified clown biting someone at a child's birthday party. Crossed with Incongruously-Dressed Zombie.
  • Nerd Glasses: Elliot wears a pair, just as an icing to the cake of having Geek Physique and generally being ineffectual group member.
  • Not Using the "Z" Word: In tradition with the previous films, the word zombie is never used.
  • Not What It Looks Like: The biker robbing the college dorms smugly asks Jason what he's doing in the girls dorm with a video camera.
  • Offscreen Teleportation: The zombies in this movie have a tendency to appear out of nowhere, unseen by security cameras until they’re right up close.
  • Only Sane Man: Two of them, but still counts, as they eventually part ways: Tracy is this for her age group and Maxwell turns into voice of reason as the story progresses.
  • Pint-Sized Powerhouse: Elliot is the shortest male member of the group, but during the hospital scene shoves a zombie back with his bare hands, then grabs an IV pole and stabs it several times.
  • The Remnant: Averted with the two pairs of deserters, who seem to have firmly rejected any notion of maintaining order (although the warehouse group does invite in refugees). Played straight with a group of people who downloaded a video who are wearing hazmat suits and plexiglass masks and are credited as Troopers, who uploaded a video of going from house to house, killing zombies and evacuating refugees, with one of them angrily killing a pair of people who'd been hiding zombies (one of which bit him) with some egging on from one of his companions as the other two stare indecisively.
  • Room Full of Zombies: The pool house has zombies at the bottom of the pool. They're contained at the bottom... until they figure out the ladder.
  • Sanity Slippage: Ridley, which might or might not be related with being bitten. Jason's Skewed Priorities about continuously filming everything eventually turn into this, with clear obsessive behavior and disregard for danger - his or anyone in the group.
  • Say Your Prayers: Deb admits to doing this in one of the Confession Cam featurettes.
  • Scary Black Man: Most of the group at the warehouse, particularly their leader, whose credited as The Stranger, and is introduced leaping out of a bush, knocking someone down with the butt of a rifle and holding them at gunpoint briefly as he asks questions.
  • Scholarship Student: Hinted at with Tony in the final Confession Cam featurette (and the only one where he says much) when he recalls delivering papers with his father, and thinks back on it fondly.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here:
    • Upon finding out the first news about Zombie Apocalypse, Ridley is the first to take things seriously enough to get out of town and head home in his sports car. He asks the others if they're coming, but only Francine takes him up on it.
    • Being fed-up with her idiotic group, Tracy eventually Rage Quits them. Considering Jason was busy filming zombie!Ridley trying to rip her to shreds, rather than help, it's hard to blame her.
  • 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".
  • Southern Belle: Tracy is a subversion, being somewhat tomboyish in her behavior, but due to her costume and looks, everyone assumes she must be the case.
  • Stepford Smiler: Ridley, who tries to smile and be cheery even as he admits how everyone else at the mansion is dead and reflects on his parents and one servant who was nice to him.
  • Take That!: Jason's criticism that dead things are slow doubles as a jab against Zombie Apocalypse movies with fast zombies.
  • 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 into that his undead attacker.
  • These Hands Have Killed: Gordo has this reaction after shooting the zombies at the hospital (causing Maxwell to gently take the gun from him), as does Elliot after killing another zombie, according to a Confession Cam bonus feature.
  • Token Minority: Inverted with the group in the food warehouse, who are all black save for a single white man.
  • 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 voiceover mentions that she agrees with this point in hindsight.
    • This being said, every male character from the main cast that ends up dead dies thanks to almost impossible levels of stupidity and Skewed Priorities. One wonders how people like Ridley or Eliot managed to survive up until the film starts.
  • Useless Protagonist: Jason is the cameraman. And as the plot unfolds, he becomes unstable and obsessive about continuing to film everything, which starts to be more and more dangerous for people around him, as he just stands and films.
  • Wacky Wayside Tribe: As noted above, a common criticism lobbied against the movie is that most of these "tribes" are more interesting than the main characters. The Guardsmen deserters become the protagonists of Romero's later movie Survival of the Dead.
  • We Need a Distraction: As useless as Jason is to Tracy when she's being attacked, he does yell out to Ridley to try and distract him.
  • Wrench Wench: Tracy is a fairly attractive young woman who serves as the groups mechanic, and mentions that she learned it from her father, a NASCAR pit crew member.
  • Zombie Advocate: One of the Troopers in a video they watch at the warehouse was bitten due to an old couple keeping their zombified relatives locked up and hidden from them when they reached the house.
  • Zombie Apocalypse: Unsurprisingly, given the series.
  • Zombie Gait: Although Romero's zombie children never seem to be affected.
  • Zombie Infectee: Averted for the most part. There are a few exceptions, but the characters honestly didn't know any better.
    • When Gordo is bitten and dies, Tracy 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.

"Are we worth saving? You tell me."