Diary of the Dead, George A. Romero's first independent zombie film in over 20 years, follows a group of student filmmakers who, making a low-grade horror film in the woods, drive back to civilization ... only to find it isn't there anymore. We watch the film unfold as footage they shoot travelling through desolate and deadly buildings, neighborhoods, towns, cities -- coming to grips with the fact that the dead are walking and hungry and everything they knew is over. Shot outside of Toronto, where Romero now lives (but, as tradition demands, set near Pittsburgh), Diary of the Dead played both the Toronto and Sundance Film Festivals; Scott Weinberg's review from Toronto can be found here, while Jette Kernion's review is here.
Writer-director George A. Romero spoke with Cinematical about his zombie film legacy that stretches back to 1968's Night of the Living Dead, his concerns about the possibilities and perils of user-generated media, which Presidential candidate he thinks would have the best handle on attacking armies of the dead, and the undying popularity of the undead he created. " (If) I created anything ... it was the "neighborhood zombie" ... the guy with Nikes and a sweatshirt. ... Neighbors are scary, and when they're dead they're a bit scarier. But once you have that, it's idiomatic ... I half expect the zombies to show up on Sesame Street hanging out with The Count. ..."
Cinematical: I've read several notes and quotes from you saying that Diary of the Dead essentially felt like a new beginning.
George A. Romero: For me, it was a new beginning; I made four zombie films before this, and they sort of tracked, they were along a single storyline, even though they were 10 years or more apart, each of them. And they were just getting too big. The last one (George A. Romero's Land of the Dead) was a studio-supported film, which, you know, I turned around and looked at it: They let me make the film I wanted to make, I loved working with Dennis Hopper and Leguizamo and people like that, but I felt the film and I had sort of lost connection with the origin of the series, which was a little guerrilla movie that a bunch of amateurs made in Pittsburgh all those years ago. And I wanted to go back to ... I wanted to see if I had the chops and the stamina to make a little guerilla movie. I happened to have an idea that I wanted to do something ... all of my zombie films have had this kind of socio-political satire underneath them, and I've always used them as snapshots of the time in which they were made.
I got an idea that I wanted to do something about emerging media, with the mainstream losing its power and Joe Blow from Oshkosh taking over on the blogosphere. And it all sort of fell into place. And I thought 'Well, I can make a little film, do it pretty inexpensively, about students who are out shooting a student film when the sh*t hits the fan, when zombies sit up and start walking around.' I said 'We can go back to the very first night, and we can try to pretend ' -- even though that was 1968 and this is now --- 'that this is the same first night, when this phenomenon first begins to happen.'