Diary of the Dead (2007)
The final few George Romero zombie films went under my radar. Even though this had mixed reviews, I didn’t believe Romero could make a complete dud. This one starts with film students making a horror movie in the woods who hear on the radio reports of the dead coming back to life. Director and cameraman Jason decides he will film the zombie apocalypse in as much detail as he can, putting pressure on relationships within the group in his desire to meticulously record everything that happens.
The found footage style, with the conceit of it being edited later, works well, and the zombies are slow, bordering on comical, until they get hold of someone. In one fun twist, an alcoholic old thespian turns out to be a highly skilled archer, but the other characters are a pretty standard bunch.
There’s lots of commentary on what it means to film something, how screens are a barrier to reality, and the toxic pull of hits and likes when Jason’s film goes viral (as viral as something could go in 2007). Romero made this before the iPhone was released. Now we all record and share online without a thought. And I’d forgotten that Romero’s zombies are not infected — anyone who dies with their brain intact comes back. That’s dark. This isn’t a plague, it’s hell on earth.