Saturday, April 03, 2010

Day Six: The Zombie Diaries (2006)

So, after watching these films, I'm going over to Netflix and rating them. The only problem with that is there are no half stars. It's all or nothing, 1, 2, 3, 4, or 5.

Because of this, more films are being ranked at 3 stars than actually deserve three stars. I'm giving 2.5 and 3.5 star movies 3 stars.

This is one of those cases.

The Zombie Diaries is a low-budget, independent British horror film shot entirely on hand-held cameras. It functions, as the title suggests, as a video diary of people going through a zombie plague outbreak in England.

It's not a bad idea. Hell, George Romero himself used the exact same idea for Diary of the Dead, which was released at about the same time as this film.

Zombie Diaries is a very quick exercise in nihilism at only 80 minutes long, so it's definitely worth the time to watch, however, be warned. It's really only the last 40 minutes or so that are anything interesting or original.

Which is why I'd rank this at 2.5 stars on an actual scale.

The set-up is slow and boring, as we follow around characters that we don't really get to know, thanks to the limitations of the plot device of filming with hand-held cameras. You see, our camera work is coming from a news crew on their way to interview a farmer about having to kill all of his chickens in response to an oncoming virus. Of course, everyone in the farmer's town is dead and zombified, but for some reason they wait until dark to come out and chase our "heroes" out of town and into the woods.

That occurs in one of the recurring annoying "I'm running through the dark carrying the camera" sequences.

At the same time (sort of), another group of people are trying to survive, and as luck would have it, videotaping the whole thing. This second group is even less compelling than the first, as the actors are less successful with their improvising. Oh yeah. A lot of this film is improvised dialogue, according to the Wikipedia site.

After putting off several urges to stop the DVD and go to bed, Dr. Girlfriend and I were rewarded with the back half of the film.

We discover another group of survivors; this time a group that is organized and trying to make a life for themselves. This is where the other two narratives converge and we find out what's happened to those characters.

And what's happened is pretty messed up. This is what raised this from a 2 star film to a 2.5 (or 3, according to Netflix). I'm not going to tell you too much about it, and be warned, the Wikipedia page spoils the ending (which is why I'm not linking to it).

But I'll just say this. Of all the films we've watched so far, this is the most nihilistic and the one that takes itself the most seriously. There really isn't anything humorous about anything in this film. None of the characters have any real personality beyond reacting to the zombie situation. We don't know who these people were before and we don't find out. The only character with much personality is a dick.

The whole thing is bleak and boring until you get to the last half. Then it's bleak and interesting and decidedly disturbing.

Which almost makes up for the first half.

So if you've got a little over an hour to waste, this is an okay way of passing that time. But there's really not much here you haven't seen before, the gore effects are okay, and the acting is passable at best. There's a kernel of a good idea here, but the urge to use hand-held cameras and justify it in-narrative kind of spoils the whole thing.

I'd much rather have seen a traditionally structured and filmed movie with this plot.

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