George A Romero – Diary Of The Dead

By Beth Accomando

When George A. Romero made The Night of the Living Dead in 1968, he essentially invented a genre. But potential distributors were not initially impressed. In fact, they asked him to change the film’s bleak ending. But he simply said, “Fuck you.” That pretty much set the tone for Romero’s relationship with the mainstream film industry. Like John Waters, he’s a filmmaker who has remained outside the industry (Pittsburgh to be precise) making the films he wants. This year he delivers the much-anticipated zombie outing, Diary of the Dead. 

“It’s not a continuation, it’s not sort of a fifth film in the series,” Romero explained at last summer’s San Diego Comic-Con, “It goes back to the first night when the dead are coming back. I sort of felt that I had gone far enough with Land of the Dead, and I was ready to get off of that train… There was a collection of short stories, actually two volumes, called Book of the Dead, and they were all stories about what happened on that first night. I came to realize that I could sort of keep doing stories about different people over those first two or three nights.”

So Romero scales back the epic sweep of his recent Land of the Dead, and steers clear of self-reflexive jokiness to return to the smaller scale and pointed social criticism of his earlier zombie films. At 67, he has essentially rebooted, or should I say, reanimated the franchise.

“My films are more about what’s happening today,” Romero said, “and my view of what’s happening today. The shopping mall inspired Dawn of the Dead; Day of the Dead was about mistrust, people holing up and completely losing trust for each other. Land is about the Bush Administration. And this one is about YouTube, about the explosion of the electronic medium.”

Typifying this YouTube generation is Jason Creed (Josh Close) and his small crew of college filmmakers.  They’re making a no-budget horror film out in the Pennsylvania woods when they hear news that the dead are coming back to life. 

“It’s about a bunch of college kids, film students, that are out shooting a school project when the shit hits the fan, and they just keep shooting. They basically shoot a little documentary about what they see and it’s all subjective camera. They start with one [camera] and find another, and they have a camera phone, and then the security cameras. A bit of a conceit but it was really fun to do.”


A similar conceit fueled The Blair Witch Project and the recent Cloverfield, but neither of those films was able to turn the gimmick into a successful stylistic choice. Now we’ll have a chance to see what a horror vet who cites Orson Welles as his greatest influence can do with this approach.

Though set in the present day, Diary of the Dead takes us back to the start of the zombie uprising. The government appears to be feeding lies through the media, technology seems to be failing, and society is falling apart. So Jason decides to make a documentary called The Death of Death, employing his own footage as well as anything else he can grab off the Internet. Romero’s film reflects the current generation’s ease with media and technology, and the director’s own skepticism about the government and mainstream media.


When asked about his upcoming projects, Romero would only offer this tempting teaser: “I have a balls out zombie comedy thing but that’s all I can say.”


Sounds good to me!

Diary of the Dead is scheduled to open in San Diego on February 14.