Friday, November 21, 2008

The Zombie Diaries

Of all the standard set-ups of the horror film, the zombie holocaust is probably the most used in recent years. Scarcely a week goes by without a new zombie-centric release. This is because the faithful horror fan such as yours truly snaps them up as soon as they are released. Despite the overall negative tone of our entertainment of choice, the horror fan is relentlessly optimistic that the next zombie movie will be a good one, even if the last 43 sucked. Having just seen The Zombie Diaries, I can tell you that you will have to wait at least another week to break the streak.
The concept is interesting enough, I suppose. A number of “found” videos document the infection-caused zombie outbreak in Great Britain. Instead of following one single camera POV throughout the film, as with Cloverfield, The Blair Witch Project and the like, the story here is seen from several different cameras, following different characters, until all the threads converge in the end. In the hands of capable filmmakers, this might work, but the crew here just can’t pull it off.
The first concern in any of these movies filmed with a “handheld camcorder” is the quality of the footage, which has been a big source of complaint in other movies of this type. If Cloverfield’s camera work made you seasick, this one should make you puke blood. The camera relentlessly bobs, and there are frequent scenes where the character holding the camera runs away, giving a jolting views of the ground during the run. The night scenes are so chaotically shot, it is difficult to tell just what the hell is going on.
There also seems to be a rule that in each of the separate groups we follow, one person is a completely useless dick, including one where an Englishman taunts the groups American (who has the only gun) about America’s lax gun laws. Please. No matter where you stand on the gun control issue, when the dead rise to eat the living, you’ll want to be armed.
There is also a bewildering change of focus in the third act, when the movie suddenly stops being about zombies and becomes a standard psycho-killer story, which I suppose is intended to be a plot twist, but comes off as confusing.
Most of the characters are poorly fleshed out (ha ha – zombie movie poorly fleshed. Well, I thought it was funny) and hard to distinguish from one another, although I give one credit for continuing to film even while he is being eaten.
One criticism of the film which seems unfair is that it is a rip-off of George Romero’s most recent release, Diary of the Dead. Actually, The Zombie Diaries began production first. It isn’t as good as Diary of the Dead (which had its moments) but it doesn’t rip it off (although all zombie movies rip off Romero in some way).
If you’re the sort of person who takes quotes on the internet and the boxcover about movies at face value, this might leave you disgruntled. It has quotes around such as “The best zombie movie ever made!” and “Better than Diary of the Dead!” Allegedly, the filmmakers conducted a stealth campaign to fill the web with glowing reviews under false identities. That seems the only rational explanation for positive comments about this mess.

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