Of all the Dead films, Diary of the Dead is by far one I enjoy the least. Not a sequel, but occurring at the same time as the original film, as you can hear some of the broadcasts over the radio. It feels disjointed with the other films as it feels like more a reboot than sharing any form of canonical order with the other films in the series. Another big issue I have is the found footage/documentary approach that the film takes. As it claims to be for us, to help us survive. The worlds ended and the internet would have been one of the first things to collapse. How are we seeing this and by the point that we would have seen it, chances are we already know all of this anyway. Rendering the very concept of film pointless.
The film opens with a newscast about a man killing his teen son and wife before taking his own life. While the bodies are being wheeled out, they reanimate attacking and killing the news corespondent before being killed by police. A voice over by Debra Moynihan (Michelle Morgan) explains that footage was uploaded by the camera so the truth would be known. Elsewhere, while making a low budget B movie for his senior project in the woods, Jason Creed (Joshua Close) along with his friends, Mary Dexter (Tatiana Maslany), Tracy Thurman (Amy Lalonde), Gordo Thorsen (Chris Violette), Eliot Stone (Joe Dinicol), Francine Shane (Megan Park), Ridley Wilmott (Philip Riccio), Tony Ravello (Shawn Roberts), and their faculty adviser Andrew Maxwell (Scott Wentworth) get the news of mass hysteria and murders. At this point Ridley and Francine decided to leave for Ridley’s place as it has a sealed panic room where they can ride this out and extends the innovation to everyone there. Which none of them take him up on, Jason afraid for his girlfriend Debra goes to the dorms to find her. Where he finds her safe and unharmed, though she understandably concerned about her family whom she has been unable to reach. So they decided to go check up on them, taking along everyone else… because the film needs characters? While en-route Mary runs over a group of zombies, though not believing the dead have returned to life stops the motor-home and attempts to kill herself by shooting herself in the head. Surviving the gunshot, the group rushes her to the hospital, which they find deserted. Where she dies and reanimates after it becomes apparent that the dead are indeed coming back to life. While leaving Gordo is bitten and dies by the following morning from it. The group stops at a rural farmhouse to repair their Motor-home in the barn of a deaf Amish man, Samuel (R.D. Reid). Who dies when zombies overrun his farm, helping the others escape. The next come across a group of human survivors who have gathered all the important supplies in the area lead by a member of the national guard. He helps them, giving them gas and supplies for them to reach Debra’s parents home. When they arrive they are attacked by her now zombie family and after killing them leave for Ridley’s. On the way, they are stopped by Sarge (Alan Van Sparng) and his fellow national guardsmen, who rob them of all their supplies…
First of all the zombie effects takes a serious step down from Land of the Dead. With a fair amount of blatant CGI, mostly when it comes to bullet wounds. The special effects long for their hay days of Dawn and Day of the Dead.
The characters are simply awful and not enjoyable to watch. They feel paper thin, such as Tracy who’s only defining trait is she’s from Texas. Though this level of one dimensional-ism applies to the entire victim pool. With only Andrew Maxwell and that’s a very shaky statement.
My main issue is in the other Dead films, the core aspect of what the movie is about it subtle. Here the message is not only blatant, but straight up repeated over and over. It doesn’t happen if it didn’t happen on camera, along with the constant need to point out Jason is disconnected by viewing the events through a camera. Going so far as to watch his friends nearly die because he refuses to set down the camera long enough to help.
Final thoughts, Diary of the Dead is mostly a hot mess. Nothing the film tries to do congeals all the well and what few good parts it has are quickly passed over. Samuel being one of these aspects, how the Amish survive or handle the zombie Apocalypse is an amazing thing to cover. But the character is written off as quick as he’s written in. This films only saving grace is that it isn’t the final in the series. 4/10