A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this zombie horror movie is full of bloody violence and gory effects. Expect fights, shooting, disembowelment, gruesome wounds, and flesh-eating -- in other words, all the hallmarks of George A. Romero zombie movies. There's a brief shot of a girl's bare breast, as well as some kissing and allusions to "tits." The professor character drinks almost nonstop, including while advising and rescuing his students. Lots of strong language, particularly "f--k" and "s--t." The hectic handheld camerawork may be a problem for some viewers.
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What's the story?
DIARY OF THE DEAD follows the same basic plot of George Romero's earlier "living dead" movies: The dead wake up as flesh-eating zombies, and -- while doctors and scientists scratch their heads and the media show and exacerbate panic -- people with guns take over. This time, the action centers on a group of film students from the University of Pittsburgh who are in the middle of shooting their own horror movie when they learn that the nation has been overrun by a plague of zombies. As the illness spreads exponentially, the students' cameras capture scene after scene of chaos, bloody mayhem, and their own violent resistance. Counseled by their drunken, wise, and very weary professor, the students debate their duties as journalists as they make their way toward home in a Winnebago, hoping against hope that their families haven't been infected. But each new location brings more tragedy and horror.
Is it any good?
Romero's decision to marry an old plot and a new time is a sharp one. Part of what happens -- as in 1968's Night of the Living Dead -- is division along visible difference. The zombies change into monstrous, scabby, bloody, and slow-walking creatures; but before then, they're like us, and so carry with them emblems of their lives: golf sweaters, curlers, sneakers. At one point, a powerful, gun-toting tough guy admires film student Debra (Michelle Morgan), noting their similar hardiness and determination. This brief bit of bonding and mutual admiration goes a long way in a film so suffused with brutality and betrayal.
The fact that the first instance of zombification -- which is broadcast on TV and then uploaded to the net so it becomes "viral" -- involves a Latino family suggests that Romero is making an allusion to current questions of immigration and legality. As the monsters are soon revealed to be the very families the students seek to rejoin, the issue of who's "them" and who's "us" becomes very complicated. Smartly, the students' first-person cameras only compound the problem; some feel obligated to disseminate all available information, including terrible, uncensored imagery that constitutes a kind of "truth." Upset when they learn that cable and local news and the government weren't showing everything, the twentysomethings are moved to show the world what's really happened.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how this movie fits in with Romero's other "living dead" films (the first came out in 1968). How does this one update the earlier movies' themes or ideas by using the Internet and digital technology to record the devastation? What is the movie saying about the media's role in large-scale disasters? What is the larger message here? How does having that message set Romero's movies apart from other zombie flicks?
- In theaters: February 14, 2008
- On DVD or streaming: May 20, 2008
- Cast: Josh Close, Michelle Morgan, Shawn Roberts
- Director: George A. Romero
- Studio: Weinstein Co.
- Genre: Horror
- Run time: 95 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: strong horror violence and gore, and pervasive language.
- Last updated: September 21, 2019
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