George A. Romero’s Diary of the Dead (2007) is your standard, post-apocalyptic zombie fare. As the dead begin to reanimate, a group of film students and their professor flees down the East Coast in a rickety RV. The story is told from the vantage point of the students, in particular Jason, the aspiring documentarian of the group.
Nonhuman animals don’t make an appearance in Diary of the Dead – really, there’s not one guard dog or zombie cat to be found – and yet, the movie’s ending speaks to what I’ve been feeling with increasing urgency as of late. (Cue images of the “oil” spill in the Gulf Coast, complete with hand-wringing about oil-soaked pelicans, torched turtles belonging to endangered species – and the “livelihoods” of the “fishermen” who themselves eke out a living by slaughtering nonhuman animals by the millions. “RIP Gumbo,” indeed.)
The final scene, narrated by Jason’s girlfriend, Debra (who took up his cause after he was mauled to death by a zombie; no spoiler alert needed, as she refers to him in the past tense throughout the film’s voiceover), turns the camera’s lens inward, into the heart of humanity.
Click here to watch the movie’s ending (skip ahead to 6:50; sorry, embedding disabled!), or keep reading for a transcript.
Jason once said he thought he could help. Maybe even save some lives.
This is the last thing he downloaded before he died.
[Cue: homemade video footage, downloaded from the internet.]
A couple of hometown Joes who were now shooting targets.
[Two white, middle-aged men, dressed in flannel and hunting jackets, swigging on beers while brandishing handguns…]
That day they used people.
You know, just for fun.
[…laughingly shoot at reanimated humans, i.e., zombies.]
There was one target that different from the rest.
A woman, tied by her hair to the branch of a tree.
The boys had this one set up just for kicks.
They got out their favorite 12 gauge and…
[BOOM! A shotgun blast rips through the zombie woman’s mouth, splitting her face in two. Her torso falls to the ground as her partially decapitated head continues to swing from the tree. Eyes, staring – accusatory in their blankness.]
Are we worth saving?
You tell me.
In a world in which it’s “Us” versus “Them” – “Us” and “The Other” – all manner of cruelties can be justified: Pigeon shoots. Canned hunts. Leghold traps. Farmed animals. Forced pregnancy and birth. Stolen milk, anemic babies, grieving mothers. Enslavement. Torture. An early and merciless death.
And that’s before the shit hits the fan.
Tell me: who will you become after the death of death?